"More addictive than a goddam video game" - Balloon Juice

"One of my very favorite music blogs ever..." - Singer/Songwriter Emma Wallace

"Fascinating... really GREAT!!! You'll learn things about those tunes we all LOVE to play and blow on... SOD is required reading for my advanced students. It's fun, too!" - Nick Mondello of
AllAboutJazz.com

"I never let a day go by without checking it." - Bob Madison of Dinoship.com

"I had dinner the other night with some former WNEW staff members who spoke very highly of your work." - Joe Fay

Thursday, July 31, 2008

You're Easy to Dance With

By Irving Berlin
1942

Berlin came up with the concept of a movie musical about a hotel that only opens on major holidays. The result was the 1942 Paramount motion picture Holiday Inn, starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. This song was used, naturally, as a dance number for Astaire and leading lady Virginia Dale. It is reprised twice in the film. Holiday Inn is, of course, best known for the song "White Christmas".

Lyrics:

I could dance nightly,
Just holding you tightly, my sweet.
I could keep right on,
Because you're so light on your feet.
You're easy to dance with.

There is no doubt in
The way we stand out in the crowd.
Though it's called dancing,
To me it's romancing out loud
You're easy to dance with.

Loving you,
The way I do,
Makes you easy to dance with.
That is why I'm always right on the beat.
All those charms
In one man's arms
Makes you easy to dance with.
I can hardly keep my mind on my feet.

Let's dance forever.
Come on, say we'll never be through.
It's so easy to dance with you.

Recorded By:

Fred Astaire & Oscar Peterson
Benny Goodman
Peggy Lee
Bing Crosby
Tony Bennett

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Ain't Got Nobody

By Spencer Williams & Roger Graham
1915


Although most associated with the 1956 recording in which Louis Prima combined it with "Just a Gigolo", this song was actually written seperately--and 41 years earlier than that one. Composer Williams was a prolific blues writer, also responsible for such standards as "Basin Street Blues" and "I Found a New Baby". He traveled to Europe during the 1920s, when he wrote songs for Josephine Baker. Among the first to record this song was early pop singer Marion Harris, who sang it in 1916 (back when it was known as "I Ain't Got Nobody Much").

Lyrics:

Well there's a sayin' been goin' round,
I began to think it's true:
It's awful hard to love someone,
When they don't care about you.

Once I had a lovin' gal,
The sweetest little thing in town.
But now she's gone and left me,
She done turned me down.

I ain't got nobody,
Nobody cares for me.
I'm so sad and lonely,
Won't somebody take a chance with me?

I'll sing sweet love songs, honey,
All of the time,
If you'll only be my sweet baby, mine.
I ain't got nobody,
Nobody cares for me.

Recorded By:

Bessie Smith
Merle Haggard
Bing Crosby
Fats Waller
Leon Redbone

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lush Life

By Billy Strayhorn
1933

As rich and moving as a popular song can be, "Lush Life" has become as much a part of the jazz tradition as the pop tradition, owing to its origins with Duke Ellington's brilliant collaborator Strayhorn. Amazingly, this minor-key dirge for lost love was mainly written when the composer was a mere 16. He continued to refine the song for another five years, but didn't introduce it publicly until 1948, when he performed it at Carnegie Hall with the Ellington Orchestra and Kay Davis on vocals.

Lyrics:

I used to visit all the very gay places,
Those come-what-may places,
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life,
To get the feel of life...
From jazz and cocktails.

The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces,
With distant gay traces,
That used to be there, you could see where they'd been washed away
By too many through the day...
Twelve o'clock tales.

Then you came along with your siren of song
To tempt me to madness!
I thought for a while that your poignant smile was tinged with the sadness
Of a great love for me.

Ah yes! I was wrong...
Again,I was wrong.

Life is lonely again,
And only last year, everything seemed so sure.
Now life is awful again,
A trough-full of hearts could only be a bore.
A week in Paris will ease the bite of it.
All I care is to smile in spite of it.

I'll forget you, I will,
While yet you are still burning inside my brain.
Romance is mush,
Stifling those who strive.
I'll live a lush life in some small dive...
And there Ill be, while I rot
With the rest of those whose lives are lonely, too.

Recorded By:

John Coltrane
Johnny Hartman
Sarah Vaughan
Nat King Cole
Jack Jones

Monday, July 28, 2008

S'posin'

By Paul Denniker & Andy Razaf
1929

A bit of a pop novelty from the Roaring '20s, this tune was one of several by the team of Denniker & Razaf, Tin Pan Alley regulars who also worked as song "demonstrators" for sheet music shops. Rudy Vallee was the first to make a hit of the infectious number, and despite being relatively lightweight--unkinder critics may say "shallow"--it became something of a jazz standard during the be-bop era.

Lyrics:

S'posin' I should fall in love with you,
Do you think that you could love me too?
S'posin' I should hold you and caress you,
Would it impress you?
Or, perhaps, distress you?

S'posin' I should say, "For you I yearn,"
Would ya think I'm speaking out of turn?
And s'posin' I declare it,
Would you take my love and share it?
I'm not s'posin'--I'm in love with you.

Recorded By:

Fats Waller
Frank Sinatra
Miles Davis
Dean Martin
Keely Smith

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What a Difference a Day Made

By Maria Grever & Stanley Adams
1934

Also known as "What a Difference a Day Makes". Mexican songwriter Grever originally wrote it in Spanish as "Cuando Vuelva a Tu Lado," but American lyricist Adams gave it English words not long after (Adams also did the same for La Cucaracha.) Harry Roy and his Orchestra popularized it in America, but it's Dinah Washington's recording that's the most famous. It won her a Grammy for Best R&B Performance in 1959. True to its origins, the song is in the bolero romantic style.

Lyrics:

What a diff'rence a day made,
Twenty-four little hours,
Brought the sun and the flowers,
Where there used to be rain.

My yesterday was blue, dear.
Today I'm part of you, dear.
My lonely nights are through, dear,
Since you said you were mine.

What a diff'rence a day made,
There's a rainbow before me.
Skies above can't be stormy,
Since that moment of bliss, that thrilling kiss.

It's heaven when you
Find romance on your menu.
What a diff'rence a day made,
And the difference is you.

Recorded By:

Tony Bennett
Al Martino
Eydie Gormet
Diana Ross
Sarah Vaughan

On the Sunny Side of the Street

By Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
1930

A classic Depression-era pick-me-up, this song was written by Fields & McHugh (pictured) for Lew Leslie's International Revue at the Majestic Theatre (current home of Phantom of the Opera), where it was introduced by Harry Richman. Although a flop, the show produced this standard, as well as "Exactly Like You." For years, rumors have persisted that it was actually written by Fats Waller and sold for some fast money. It has also been alleged that its lyric is a reference to blacks who "pass" for white. The upbeat number has long been a favorite of jazz musicians.

Lyrics:

Grab your coat and get your hat,
Leave your worries on the doorstep.
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street.

Can’t you hear the pitter-pat?
And that happy tune is your step.
Life can be complete
On the sunny side of the street.

I used to walk in the shade,
With my blues on parade.
But I’m not afraid...
This rover’s crossed over.

If I never had a cent,
I’d be rich as Rockefeller,
Gold dust at my feet,
On the sunny side of the street.

Recorded By:

Ted Lewis
Tommy Dorsey
Jo Stafford
Dizzy Gillespie
Keely Smith

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Manhattan

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1925

With its very witty lyric, "Manhattan" (not "I'll Take Manhattan") was written for the parody stage revue Garrick Gaieties--the first collaboration of Rodgers & Hart (in fact, this was the first hit song for the famous duo). In the show, the tune was introduced by Sterling Holloway, best known today as the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh. Although the song was typically recorded in abbreviated form, below are the full extended lyrics from the original production.

Lyrics:

Summer journeys to Niag'ra
And to other places aggravate all our cares.
We'll save our fares.
I've a cozy little flat in
What is known as old Manhattan.
We'll settle down,
Right here in town.

We'll have Manhattan,
The Bronx and Staten Island, too.
It's lovely going through the zoo.

It's very fancy
On old Delancey Street, you know.
The subway charms us so,
When balmy breezes blow,
To and fro.

And tell me what street
Compares with Mott Street in July,
Sweet pushcarts gently gliding by?

The great big city's a wondrous toy
Just made for a girl and boy --
We'll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy.

We'll go to Greenwich,
Where modern men itch to be free,
And bowling green you'll see with me.

We'll bathe at Brighton,
The fish you'll frighten when you're in.
Your bathing suit so thin
Will make the shellfish grin,
Fin to fin.

I'd like to take a
Sail on Jamaica Bay with you,
And fair Canarsie's lakes we'll view.

The city's bustle cannot destroy
The dreams of a girl and boy --
We'll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy.

We'll go to Yonkers,
Where true love conquers in the wilds,
And starve together, dear, in Childs'.

We'll go to Coney,
And eat bologny on a roll.
In central park we'll stroll,
Where our first kiss we stole,
Soul to soul.

And South Pacific
Is a terrific show, they say.
We both may see it close some day.

The city's clamor can never spoil
The dreams of a boy and goil --
We'll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy.

We'll have Manhattan,
The Bronx and Staten Island too.
We'll try to cross Fifth Avenue.

As black as onyx
We'll find the Bronix Park Express.
Our Flatbush flat, I guess,
Will be a great success,
More or less.

A short vacation
On Inspiration Point we'll spend,
And in the station house we'll end.

But civic virtue cannot destroy
The dreams of a girl and boy --
We'll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy!

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Bobby Short
The Supremes
Blossom Dearie
Tony Bennett

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How About You?

By Burton Lane & Ralph Freed
1941

Often also referred to as "I Like New York in June," this sweet number was written for the Busby Berkeley musical Babes on Broadway, in which it was introduced by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Lyricist Ralph Freed was the brother of movie producer Arthur Freed. On his 1956 album Songs for Swingin' Lovers, Sinatra famously changed the lyric "Franklin Roosevelt's looks" to "James Durante's looks."

Lyrics:

When a girl meets boy,
Life can be a joy,
But the note they end on
Will depend on little pleasures they will share;
So let us compare.

I like New York in June,
How about you?
I like a Gershwin tune,
How about you?
I love a fireside when a storm is due.
I like potato chips, moonlight and motor trips,
How about you?

I'm mad about good books,
Can't get my fill,
And Franklin Roosevelt's looks
Give me a thrill.
Holding hands at the movie show,
When all the lights are low
May not be new,
But I like it, how about you?

[Duet]
I like Jack Benny's jokes.
To a degree.
I love the common folks.
That includes me.
I like to window shop on 5th Avenue.
I like banana splits, late supper at the Ritz, how about you?

[Duet]
I love to dream of fame, maybe I'll shine.
I'd love to see your name right beside mine.
I can see we're in harmony.
Looks like we both agree on what to do.
And I like it, how about you?

Recorded By:

Tommy Dorsey
Buddy Greco
Tony Bennett
Frank Sinatra
Judy Garland

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Moon Was Yellow

By Fred E. Ahlert & Edgar Leslie
1934

This Eastern-flavored tune was popularized in the mid 1930s by Bing Crosby. Its composer Ahlert was also responsible for such favorites as "I'll Get By", "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter", "Mean to Me" and "Walkin' My Baby Back Home"; lyricist Leslie also wrote the words to "For Me and My Gal", and was the director of ASCAP for many years. Frank Sinatra thought enough of this song to record it at Columbia (1945), Capitol (1958) and Reprise Records (1965), where he used it as the coda to his underrated Moonlight Sinatra album.

Lyrics:

The moon was yellow, and the night was young.
A smile brought us together,
And I was wond'ring whether
We'd meet again some day.

The moon was yellow, and a song was sung.
That vocal inspiration
Gave me the inclination
To give my heart away!

Here we are. Is our romance to continue?
Will it be my luck to win you?
May I look that far?

My love is mellow, and my hopes are strung
Around that cupid fellow.
Behold! The moon is yellow,
And the night is young.

Recorded By:

Dorsey Brothers
Frank Sinatra
Mario Lanza
Russ Morgan
Laurindo Almeida & Charlie Byrd

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

These Foolish Things

By Harry Link, Holt Marvell & Jack Strachey
1935

Written for the London stage revue Spread It Around, this achingly melancholy love song was introduced in the show by British musical comedy actress Judy Campbell. Lyricist Marvell (real name Eric Maschwitz) apparently composed the words after leaving his great love, Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong (pictured), to return to England. The rarely sung final verse, which contains the phrase, "The song that Crosby sings," was ironically changed when Bing himself first recorded the song.

Lyrics:

A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces,
An airline ticket to romantic places,
And still my heart has wings--
These foolish things remind me of you.

A tinkling piano in the next apartment,
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant,
A fairground's painted swings--
These foolish things remind me of you.

You came, you saw, you conquered me.
When you did that to me,
I knew somehow this had to be.

The winds of March that make my heart a dancer,
A telephone that rings but who's to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings--
These foolish things remind me of you.

The smile of Turner and the scent of roses,
The waiters whistling as the last bar closes,
The song that Crosby sings--
These foolish things remind me of you.

Recorded By:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cheek to Cheek

By Irving Berlin
1935


This iconic ballad was written specifically for Fred Astaire to perform on screen in the classic musical Top Hat. Astaire also recorded it later that year with the Leo Reisman Orchestra, and the record became a number-one hit. One of the most well-known standards to this day, it has been featured in films such as Rain Man (1987), The English Patient (1996), and The Green Mile (1999). The longest song Berlin ever wrote, it's four-part construction makes it very unique. There have been nearly 80 major recordings of it to date.

Lyrics:

Heaven, I'm in Heaven,
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

Heaven, I'm in Heaven
And the cares that hang around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gambler's lucky streak
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

Oh! I love to climb a mountain and to reach the highest peak
But it doesn't thrill me half as much as dancing cheek to cheek
Oh! I love to go out fishing in a river or a creek
But I don't enjoy it half as much as dancing cheek to cheek

Dance with me
I want my arm about you
The charm about you
Will carry me through to

Heaven, I'm in Heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

Recorded By:

Listen to Martini in the Morning

Jazz News