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“The earliest forms of written music date back to Sumerian cuneiforms,” writes Adam Baer in the Virginia Quarterly Review. He goes on: “by the end of the nineteenth century in America, sheet music was the chief way that popular songs were disseminated. … The birth of Tin Pan Alley, the name for the stretch of street in downtown New York City where the music publishers worked, made music writing big business. A successful song might sell up to 500,000 copies, eventually more than a million.”

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It’s no surprise, then, that the Bowling Green State University Sheet Music Collection, which includes songs from the 1880s to the 1990s, contains over 50,000 pieces of music. A selection of it is now available on JSTOR. It’s free to browse and share. For even more, you can browse the full digital collection from the Music Library and Bill Schurk Sound Archives at Bowling Green.

Dearest, you’re the nearest to my heart, words by Benny Davis, music by Harry Akst. “Dearest I love you, always think of you first thing each morning and last thing at night.”
Little by little you’re breaking my heart, by Max Clay and Robert Levenson. “You haven’t said a single word, yet in my heart I know—”
Bring back those wonderful days, words by Darl MacBoyle, music by Nat Vincent. “Bring back those happy days of childhood…”
My Jo by Owen J. Murphy. “She’s the pride of my heart and she’ll break it I know…”
A bushel o’ kisses, words by Andrew B. Sterling, music by Lewis F. Muir and Matt Connes, revised by J. Fred Helf. “Mollie my sweet Colleen, Mollie my shamrock queen…”
All the world will be jealous of me, words by Al Dubin, music by Ernest R. Ball. “The roses all envy the bloom on your cheek—”
Could you learn to love? (I could learn to love someone like you), words by Ed. Gardenier, music by E. Ray Goetz. “With a lingering sigh, and a downcast eye, have you ever learned to love?”
Because you believe in me, lyric by J. Keirn Brennan, music by Ernest R. Ball. “You came like a sunbeam that follows the rain…”
Baby Rose, words by Louis Weslyn, music by George Christie. “If all my dreams were made of gold, I’d buy the world for you…”
Au revoir, but not good bye (soldier boy), words by Lew Brown, music by Albert Von Tilzer. “Though you’re leaving me today, never fear, in my thoughts you’ll always be ever near.”

Editor’s Note: This collection is no longer available via JSTOR; the links have been updated to reflect this.


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The Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 89, No. 2, The Business of Literature (SPRING 2013), pp. 194-200
University of Virginia