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“Poor Butterfly”: F. Scott Fitzgerald and Popular Music


The seventy-one song titles (see chart below) and innumerable lyrics that sprinkle his works indicate the extent of F. Scott Fitzgerald's reliance upon popular music as a source of his art. Contemporaneous descriptions of him as “laureate of the Jazz Age” need not be considered derisive; Fitzgerald was thoroughly in touch with his culture, was aware of the meaning of his sources, and was a keen analyst of the effects of popular culture on American lives. Cecilia Brady, in The Last Tycoon, admits “some of my more romantic ideas actually stemmed from pictures—42nd Street, for example, had a great influence on me. It's more than possible that some of the pictures which Stahr himself conceived had shaped me into what I was.” Fitzgerald was shaped by movies, by musical comedies, and not least by popular music. Other writers of our century were influenced in the same way, but it was Fitzgerald who acknowledged his debt to popular culture, who used it with meticulous care, and who evaluated seriously its impact, for better or worse, on the American scene.

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Hughson F. Mooney , “Songs, Singers and Society, 1890–1954,” American Quarterly, 6 (1954), 221–32.

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  • ISSN: 0361-2333
  • EISSN: 1471-6399
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