"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

Friday, October 31, 2008

I Hear Music

By Burton Lane & Frank Loesser
1940

This catchy tune was one of a number of Burton's compositions for Dancing on a Dime, a rare musical from Paramount Pictures. It was sung in the picture by Robert Paige, Peter Lind Hayes, Eddie Quillan and Frank Jenks. To my knowledge, the film has never been released on video, and probably hasn't been seen since it used to run on TV in the late 1950s and 1960s. Nevertheless, the popular standard has survived.

Lyrics:

I hear music;
Mighty fine music--
The murmur of a morning breeze up there,
The rattle of the milkman on the stair.

Sure thats music;
Mighty fine music--
The singing of a sparrow in the sky,
The perking of the coffee right nearby.

Thats my favorite melody--
You my angel, phoning me.

I hear music;
Mighty fine music--
And anytime I think my world is wrong,
I get me out of bed and sing this song.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Ella Fitzgerald
Chris Connor
Blossom Dearie
Bobby McFerrin

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's De-Lovely

By Cole Porter
1936

One of Porter's signature songs, its title was used for the title of the 2004 film of his life starring Kevin Kline. It was composed for the famous musical Red, Hot & Blue, and later adapted for the 1960s revival of Anything Goes. Chrysler kept the song in the popular vernacular by using it to advertise its line of DeSoto automobiles.

Lyrics:

I feel a sudden urge to sing
The kind of ditty that invokes the spring.
So control your desire to curse,
While I crucify the verse.
This verse I started seems to me
The Tin-Pantithesis of a melody,
So to spare you all the pain,
I'll skip the darn thing and sing the refrain...

The night is young, the skies are clear,
So if you want to go walking, dear,
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.

I understand the reason why
You're sentimental, 'cause so am I,
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.

You can tell at a glance
What a swell night this is for romance,
You can hear dear Mother Nature
Murmuring low,
"Let yourself go!"

So please be sweet, my chickadee,
And when I kiss you, just say to me,
"It's delightful, it's delicious,
It's delectable, it's delirious,
It's dilemma, it's delimit, it's deluxe,
It's de-lovely."

Recorded By:

Eddie Duchin
Ella Fitzgerald
Johnny Mathis
Sarah Vaughan
Dinah Shore

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Remember You

By Victor Schertzinger & Johnny Mercer
1941

Proof that even the most beautiful song can be horrifying under the right circumstances, Slim Whitman's country-style recording of this standard was used to great effect in Rob Zombie's film House of 1,000 Corpses. It was originally written for quite a different movie--1942's The Fleet's In, in which it was introduced by Cass Daley. It can also be heard in Star Trek III, and Uncle Junior even quoted a bit of it on a Sopranos episode.

Lyrics:

Was it in Tahiti?
Were we on the Nile?
Long, long ago,
Say an hour or so
I recall that I saw your smile.

I remember you,
You're the one who made
My dreams come true
A few kisses ago.

I remember you,
You're the one who said
"I love you, too," I do.
Didn't you know?

I remember, too,
A distant bell,
And stars that fell like rain
Out of the blue.

When my life is through,
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of them all,
Then I shall tell them
I remember you.

Recorded By:

Nat King Cole
Frank Ifield
Diana Krall
Chet Baker
Bjork

Friday, October 24, 2008

Temptation

By Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed
1933

Written for Bing Crosby to sing in his motion picture Going Hollywood, this song would actually get its most famous recording courtesy of Perry Como 12 years later. Como recorded it four different times over the course of his career. The exotic-sounding tune also made an appearance in Singin' in the Rain, almost 20 years after it was published.

Lyrics:

You came,
I was alone,
I should have known,
You were temptation!

You smiled,
Luring me on,
My heart was gone,
And you were temptation!

It would be thrilling if you were willing,
And if it can never be, pity me,
For you were born to be kissed.
I cant resist, you are temptation,
And I am yours!

Here is my heart!
Take it and say that we'll never part!
I'm just a slave, only a slave,
To you!

Temptation,
I'm your slave!

Recorded By:

Artie Shaw
The Everly Brothers
Charlie Parker
Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You Are Too Beautiful

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1933

This fittingly beautiful tune was written by Rodgers & Hart for the obscure early talkie Hallelujah, I'm a Bum, in which it was sung by the film's star, the great Al Jolson. The picture was an infamous flop for Jolson, and led to his three-picture deal with United Artists being cut short at only one. Nevertheless, the depression-era musical has a great deal of odd charm for those who love pre-code '30s cinema, with this song being a big part of it.

Lyrics:

Like all fools, I believed
What I wanted to believe.
My foolish heart conceived
What foolish hearts conceive.
I thought I found a miracle,
I thought that you'd adore me,
But it was not a miracle,
It was merely a mirage before me.


You are too beautiful, my dear, to be true,
And I'm too drunk with beauty.
Drunk with a feeling that
The arms that possess you
Really caress you, too.
You are too beautiful for one man alone,
One lucky fool to be with,
When there are other men
With eyes of their owm to see with.

Love cannot stand sharing,
Not if one cares.
You won't be comparing
My ev'ry kiss with theirs.

You know I care and
I'll be faithful to you,
And through a sense of duty.
You are too beautiful,
And I am too drunk with beauty.

["I am too drunk with beauty" later changed to the tamer "I am a fool for beauty"]

Recorded By:

Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane
Frank Sinatra
Oscar Peterson
Sonny Rollins
Thelonious Monk

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mr. Wonderful

By Jerry Bock, George David Weiss & Larry Holofcener
1955

The title song of a Broadway musical designed to showcase the many talents of Sammy Davis Jr., the song was introduced by Davis' leading lady Olga James. Also in the show were Davis' father and uncle. An arrangement of this song for choir can be heard be heard during the opening Lake Tahoe scene of The Godfather Part II.

Lyrics:

Why this feeling? Why this glow?
Why the thrill when you say hello?
It's a strange and tender magic you do.
Mr. Wonderful, that's you.

Why this trembling when you speak?
Why this joy when you touch my cheek?
I must tell you what my heart knows is true.
Mr. Wonderful, that's you.

And why this longing to know your charms?
To spend forever here in your arms?

Oh, there's much more I could say,
But the words keep slipping away,
And I'm left with one point of view.
Mr. Wonderful, that's you.

One more thing, then I'm through.
Mr. Wonderful, I love you!


Recorded By:

Keely Smith
Peggy Lee
Bette Midler
The Kinks
Ruby Murray

Monday, October 20, 2008

Autumn Leaves

By Joseph Kosma & Johnny Mercer
1947

Yet another song of French origin, this one was first written in 1945 with French lyrics by poet Jacques Prevert. Originally titled "Les feuilles mortes" ("The Dead Leaves"), it was composed for the film Les Portes de la Nuit, in which it was introduced by Yves Montand. Nat King Cole sang the American version in the 1956 movie Autumn Leaves. One year prior, a piano version by Roger Williams became the only piano instrumental to become a number-one hit. Ah, different times...

Lyrics:

The falling leaves drift by the window,
The autumn leaves of red and gold.
I see your lips, the summer kisses,
The sun-burned hands I used to hold.

Since you went away the days grow long,
And soon I'll hear old winter's song.
But I miss you most of all, my darling,
When autumn leaves start to fall.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald
Ferrante & Teicher
Miles Davis

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Good Life

By Sacha Distel & Jack Reardon
1962

Originally written as "La Belle Vie" by French composer Distel, the easy-going cabaret tune made its way to American shores almost immediately, and its English translation was turned into a signature hit by Tony Bennett. It made it to the top 20 on the pop charts, and remains part of Bennett's regular repertoire to this day.

Lyrics:

Oh, the good life--
"Full of fun" seems to be the ideal.
Yes, the good life
Lets you hide all the sadness you feel.

You won't really fall in love,
For you can't take the chance.
So be honest with yourself,
Don't try to fake romance.

It's the good life--
To be free, and explore the unknown.
Like the heartaches
When you learn you must face them alone.

Please remember I still want you,
And in case you wonder why,
Well, just wake up, kiss the good life goodbye.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Ray Charles
Shirley Horn
Matt Monro
Jack Jones

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)

By Duke Ellington & Paul Francis Webster
1941

Ellington's West Coast revue Jump for Joy contained this extremely popular composition of his. It was introduced on stage by Ivie Anderson (pictured), and recorded by her and Ellington soon after. Unfortunately, the onset of World War II contributed to the show's disappointing failure, meaning it would never make it to Broadway as Duke hoped.

Lyrics:

The poets say that all who love are blind;
But I'm in love and I know what time it is!
The Good Book says "Go seek and ye shall find."
Well, I have sought and my what a climb it is!
My life is just like the weather,
It changes with the hours;
When he's near I'm fair and warmer,
When he's gone I'm cloudy with showers;
In emotion, like the ocean it's either sink or swim,
When a woman loves a man like I love him.

Never treats me sweet and gentle the way he should;
I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good!
My poor heart is sentimental not made of wood;
I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good!

But when the weekend's over,
And Monday rolls aroun'
I end up like I start out,
Just cryin' my heart out.

He don't love me like I love him, nobody could;
I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good!
Like a lonely weeping willow lost in the wood;
I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good!
And the things I tell my pillow, no woman should;
I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good!

Though folks with good intentions
Tell me to save my tears,
I'm glad I'm mad about him--
I can't live without him.

Lord above me, make him love me the way he should;
I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good...

Recorded By:

Benny Goodman
Ella Fitzgerald
Count Basie
Tony Bennett
Bunny Berigan

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Believe in You

By Frank Loesser
1961

Based on the 1952 book of the same, the Broadway smash How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying produced this hit song. It was originally sung in the stage production by the leading man, Robert Morse, but in the film version six years later, it was given to the leading lady, Michele Lee. The show won seven Tony Awards, plus the Pulitzer Prize for drama. It was revived in 1995.

Lyrics:

Now there you are;
Yes, there's that face,
That face that somehow I trust.
It may embarrass you to hear me say it,
But say it I must, say it I must:

You have the cool, clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet there's that upturned chin
And that grin of impetuous youth.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.

I hear the sound of
Good, solid judgment whenever you talk;
Yet there's the bold, brave spring
Of the tiger that quickens your walk.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.

And when my faith in my fellow man
All but falls apart,
I've but to feel your hand grasping mine
And I take heart; I take heart

To see the cool, clear
Eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth;
Yet, with the slam-bang tang
Reminiscent of gin and vermouth.
Oh, I believe in you.
I believe in you.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra & Count Basie
Bobby Darin
Sarah Vaughan
Bill Evans
Dusty Springfield

Neal Hefti 1922-2008

Standard of the Day bids farewell to Neal Hefti, who passed away suddenly last Saturday at age 85. Hefti was a jazz trumpeter, composer and arranger who broke in during the 1940s with the likes of Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman. He arranged for everyone from Count Basie to Mel Torme, including two great albums of standards for Frank Sinatra, Sinatra-Basie (1961) and Sinatra & Swingin' Brass (1962). He also served as conductor on some of the Chairman's 1960s TV specials. Hefti did extensive composition work for films and TV, including most famously the theme songs for The Odd Couple and Batman TV series.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Always

By Irving Berlin
1925

The great Irving Berlin composed this timeless love song as a wedding gift to his bride Ellin McKay (he even presented her with all the royalties). It was intended to be included in the 1927 Marx Brothers stage musical The Cocoanuts, but Berlin himself cut it during try-outs. It would reappear 15 years later as the theme music for the Lou Gehrig biopic The Pride of the Yankees.

Lyrics:

Everything went wrong,
And the whole day long,
I'd feel so blue.
For the longest while,
I'd forget to smile,
Then I met you.
Now that my blue days have passed,
Now that I've found you at last...

I'll be loving you,
Always.
With a love that's true,
Always.

When the things you've planned,
Need a helping hand,
I will understand,
Always, always.

Days may not be fair,
Always.
That's when I'll be there,
Always.

Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.

Recorded By:

Sarah Vaughan & Billy Eckstine
Maude Maggart
Billy Corgan
Leonard Cohen

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fascination

By F.D. Marchetti & Dick Manning
1932

This song took quite a unique journey. It began its life in 1905 as a French tune by Marchetti and lyricist Maurice de Feraudy. Twenyy-seven years later, American lyricist Manning added English words, and the renamed song was published in the U.S. by the Southern Music Company. It remained in obscurity for another 25 years, when it was used as the main theme for the Audrey Hepburn/William Holden film Love in the Afternoon. The unforgettable recording by Jane Morgan soon followed, and the song was immortalized.

Lyrics:

It was fascination, I know,
And it might have ended
Right then, at the start.
Just a passing glance,
Just a brief romance,
And I might have gone on my way
Empty hearted.

It was fascination, I know,
Seeing you alone
With the moonlight above.
Then I touched your hand,
And the moment I kissed you,
Fascination turned to love.

Recorded By:

Nat King Cole
Dinah Shore
Dick Jacobs
Paul Mauriat
Maya Barsony

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So

By Duke Ellington & Mack David
1945

One of many timeless tunes composed by Ellington for his legendary big band. The lyricist, Mack David (pictured) was the older brother of Burt Bacharach lyricist Hal David. He is better known for his Disney work, which includes the Oscar-nominated "Bibiddi Bobbidi Boo". David also put words to the 1961 Shirelles hit "Baby It's You", and did a lot of TV work, including the memorable Looney Tunes TV theme "This Is It".

Lyrics:

As I walk down the street,
Seems everyone I meet
Gives me a friendly hello.
I guess I'm just a lucky so-and-so.

The birds in every tree
Are all so neighborly,
They sing wherever I go.
I guess I'm just a lucky so-and-so.

If you should ask me the amount
In my bank account,
I'd have to confess that I'm slippin'.
But that don't worry me--confidentially,
I've got a dream that's a pippin'.

And when the day is through,
Each night I hurry to
A home where love waits, I know.
I guess I'm just a lucky so-and-so

Recorded By:

Sam Cooke
Ella Fitzgerald
Sarah Vaughan
Diana Krall
Tony Bennett

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tin Pan Alley to Fall Under the Wrecking Ball

I'm making a rare break in the format tonight to report some sad news. Part of America's great musical tradition is being shamefully tossed to the dogs. It seems that a large chunk of buildings along West 28th Street in Manhattan, the stretch once known as Tin Pan Alley, is currently on the verge of demolition.

Real estate website Loopnet lists the block of 47-49-51-53-55 West 28th Street for sale at $44 million. The seller is recommending the buildings be torn down to make way for this soulless steel-and-glass mausoleum:


Named "Tin Pan Alley" due to the old-school tin ceilings that were used as cheap insulation, the stretch of West 28th between 5th Avenue and Broadway was the space that housed the publishing offices in which the likes of Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Vincent Youmans, the Gershwins, Johnny Mercer and so many others literally created much of the Great American Songbook during the first half of the 20th century. It's been sadly left in disrepair for decades, and today just a measly little plaque marks the historical significance of the spot.

Hopefully, with the current dire economic climate, there will be no fat-cat Philistine able to step in and commit this cultural atrocity.

Change Partners

By Irving Berlin
1938

One of the many charming classics written for Fred Astaire by Irving Berlin. This one comes from the lesser-known Astaire-Rogers musical picture Carefree. A timeless tune with a clever, plaintive lyric that has survived adaptation to many styles by many performers.

Lyrics:

Must you dance
Every dance
With the same fortunate man?
You have danced with him since the music began.
Won't you change partners,
And dance with me?

Must you dance
Quite so close,
With your lips touching his face?
Can't you see I'm longing to be in his place?
Won't you change partners,
And dance with me?

Ask him to sit this on out,
And while you're alone,
I'll tell the waiter to tell him
He's wanted on the telephone.

You've been locked
In his arms
Ever since heaven knows when.
Won't you change partners, and then,
You may never want to change partners again.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim
Ella Fitzgerald
Harry Connick Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lullaby of Birdland

By George Shearing & George David Weiss
1952

An anthem of the post-World War II be-bop era in jazz, this tune was written for the preeminent Times Square jazz club Birdland, named after legendary saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker. Shearing himself introduced it as the theme song of a radio show broadcast from there, and Sarah Vaughan was the first to record it with lyrics two years later. Recently, Amy Winehouse included a bit of the melody in her recording of "October Song".

Lyrics:

Lullaby of Birdland, that's what I
Always hear when you sigh.
Never in my woodland
Could there be words to reveal
In a phrase how I feel.

Have you ever heard two turtle doves
Bill and coo when they love?
That's the kind of magic
Music we make with our lips
When we kiss.

And there's a weepy ol' willow,
He really knows how to cry.
That's how I'd cry in my pillow,
If you should tell me farewell and goodbye.

Lullaby of Birdland, whisper low,
Kiss me sweet, and we'll go
Flyin' high in Birdland,
High in the sky up above,
All because we're in love.

Recorded By:

Dexter Gordon
Blossom Dearie (French version)
Count Basie
Bill Haley & His Comets

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Under a Blanket of Blue

By Jerry Livingston, Marty Symes & Al J. Neiburg
1933

Composed by the same songwriting team that was responsible for "The Talk of the Town" the same year, this warm little tune was introduced by Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra. Livingston (pictured) went on to form his own publishing firm and work in Hollywood, scoring Disney's Cinderella, as well as writing the TV theme for Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Lyrics:

Under a blanket of blue,
Just you and I beneath the stars.
Wrapped in the arms of sweet romance,
The night is ours.

Under a blanket of blue,
Let me be thrilled by all your charms.
Darling, I know my heart will dance
Within your arms.

A summer night's magic,
Enthralling me so.
The night would be tragic,
If you weren't here
To share it, my dear.

Covered with heaven above,
Let's dream a dream of love for two.
Wrapped in the arms of sweet romance,
Under a blanket of blue.


Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Patti Page
Frank Sinatra
Coleman Hawkins
Doris Day

Monday, October 6, 2008

Day by Day

By Axel Stordahl, Paul Weston & Sammy Cahn
1945

Long-time collaborators going back to their days together as arrangers in the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, Stordahl and Weston wrote this song for Weston's wife, the late, great Jo Stafford. At the time, Stordahl was working at Columbia Records as Frank Sinatra's arranger, and the young Chairman would soon record the tune, as well. Lyricist Cahn would later write the words for many of Sinatra's later hits in the 1950s.

Lyrics:

Day by day,
I'm falling more in love with you.
And day by day,
My love seems to grow.

There isn't any end to my devotion;
It's deeper, dear, by far than any ocean.

I find that day by day,
You're making all my dreams come true.
So come what may,
I want you to know

I'm yours alone,
And I'm in love to stay,
As we go through the years,
Day by day.

Recorded By:

Ray Anthony
Bing Crosby & Mel Torme
Vic Damone
John Entwistle

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Wish You Love

By Leo Chauliac & Albert A. Beach
1957

Beginning its life as a French song entitled "Que reste-t-il de nos amours?", the original lyrics for this tune were written by one Charles Louis Trenet. Sticking to the original's wistful theme of young love matured, Beach added English lyrics, and Keely Smith introduced the soon-to-be standard. 

Lyrics:

Goodbye,
No use leading with our chins.
This is where our story end;
Never lovers, ever friends.
Goodbye,
Let our hearts call it a day.
But before you walk away,
I sincerely want to say...

I wish you bluebirds in the spring,
To give your heart a song to sing.
And then a kiss, but more than this,
I wish you love.

And in July, lemonade,
To cool you in some leafy glade.
I wish you health, but more than wealth,
I wish you love.

My breaking heart and I agree
That you and I could never be,
So with my best, my very best,
I set you free.

I wish you shelter from the storm,
A cozy fire to keep you warm,
But most of all, when snowflakes fall,
I wish you love.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra & Count Basie
Barbra Streisand
Jerry Lee Lewis
Gloria Lynne

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Than You Know

By Vincent Youmans, Billy Rose & Edward Eliscu
1929

Written for the musical Great Day, this beautiful expression of longing was introduced on stage by Mayo Methot, future wife of Humphrey Bogart. One of the last big hits of the Roaring '20s, it was popularized on the radio by Jane Froman.

Lyrics:

More than you know,
More than you know,
Man of my heart, I love you so.
Lately I've found you on my mind
More than you know.

Whether you're right,
Whether youre wrong,
Man of my heart, I'll string along.
I need you so,
More than you'll ever know

Loving you the way that I do,
There's nothing I can do about it.
Loving may be all you can give,
But darling, I cant live without it.

Oh, how I'd cry,
How I'd sigh,
If you got tired and said goodbye.
More than I'd show,
More than you'd ever know.

Recorded By:

Stacey Kent
Billie Holiday
Barbra Streisand
Carmen McRae
Brent Spiner

Listen to Martini in the Morning

Jazz News