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Sunday, November 30, 2008

GIve Me the Simple Life

By Harry Ruby & Rube Bloom
1945

Ruby (pictured) and Bloom collaborated on this song for the movie musical Wake Up and Dream, starring June Haver and John Payne. Ruby was also the composer of such standards as "Who's Sorry Now?", "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" and "I Wanna Be Loved By You." He was a close friend of Groucho Marx, and wrote many of the classic songs from the Marx Brothers films.

Lyrics:

I don't believe in frettin' and grievin';

Why mess around with strife?

I never was cut out to step and strut out.

Give me the simple life.

Some find it pleasant dining on pheasant.
Those things roll off my knife;
Just serve me tomatoes; and mashed potatoes;
Give me the simple life.

A cottage small is all I'm after,
Not one that's spacious and wide.
A house that rings with joy and laughter
And the ones you love inside.

Some like the high road, I like the low road,
Free from the care and strife.
Sounds corny and seedy, but yes, indeed-y;
Give me the simple life.

Recorded By:

Julie London
Tony Bennett
June Christy
Rosemary Clooney
Stan Getz

Friday, November 28, 2008

Nevertheless

By Harry Ruby & Bert Kalmar
1931

Upon its composition, this song was immediately snatched up by the two most popular vocalists of the day, Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby. It became a big hit for either of them, and the song has been part of the standard canon ever since. The Mills Brothers would also have a top 10 hit with it in 1950.

Lyrics:

I knew the time had to come
When I'd be held under your thumb.
I'm like a pawn in your hand,
Moved and compelled, at your command.
Whether it's for bad or for good,
I would never change it if I could.

Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong,
Maybe I'm weak, maybe I'm strong,
But nevertheless I'm in love with you.

Maybe I'll win, maybe I'll lose,
And maybe I'm in for cryin' the blues,
But nevertheless I'm in love with you.

Somehow, I know at a glance, the terrible chances I'm taking.
Fine at the start, then left with a heart that is breaking.

Maybe I'll live a life of regret,
And maybe I'll give much more than I get,
But nevertheless, I'm in love with you.

In spite of all I could do,
I went ahead falling for you.
So if I laugh or I cry,
I made my bed, that's where I'll lie.
For what happens, there's no excuse,
I put my own head in the noose.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Harry Nilsson
The Andrews Sisters
Kay Starr
Patti Page

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

But Not For Me

By George & Ira Gershwin
1930

A poignant example of the Gershwin brothers' way with a heartbreaking ballad, this song was written for Ginger Rogers to perform in the original stage production of Girl Crazy--in which she also introduced the Gershwin standard "Embraceable You". A popular tune, it has since been featured in such films as Manhattan, When Harry Met Sally and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Lyrics:

They're writing songs of love,
But not for me.
A lucky star's above,
But not for me.

With love to lead the way,
I've found more clouds of gray
Than any Russian play could guarantee.

I was a fool to fall
And get that way;
Heigh-ho! alas!
And also, lack-a-day!

Although I cant dismiss
The memory of his kiss,
I guess he's mot for me.

Hes knocking on a door,
But not for me.
He'll plan a two by four,
But not for me.

I know that love's a game;
I'm puzzled, just the same,
Was I the moth or flame?
I'm all at sea.

It all began so well,
But what an end!
This is the time a feller
Needs a friend.

When every happy plot
Ends with the marriage knot,
And there's no knot for me.

Recorded By:

Chet Baker
Dinah Washington
Judy Garland
John Coltrane
Ella Fitzgerald

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Heat Wave

By Irving Berlin
1933

A popular Depression-era standard from Berlin, originating from his Broadway revue As Thousands Cheer, which also gave us "Easter Parade". Ethel Waters had the honor of introducing it, and Ethel Merman later brought it to the movies in 1938's Alexander's Ragtime Band. But Marilyn Monroe's torrid 1954 performance in There's No Business Like Show Business might be the most memorable.

Lyrics:

We're having a heat wave,
A tropical heat wave.
The temperature's rising,
It isn't surprising,
She certainly can can-can.

She started a heat wave
By letting her seat wave
In such a way that
The customers say that
She certainly can can-can.

Gee, her anatomy
Makes the mercury
Jump to ninety-three.

We're having a heat wave,
A tropical heat wave.
The way that she moves
That thermometer proves
That she certainly can can-can.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Linda Ronstadt
Bing Crosby
Art Tatum
Eddie Lang

Sunday, November 23, 2008

You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To

By Cole Porter
1943

This Porter gem was written for the Columbia musical Something to Shout About, in which it was introduced by Don Ameche and Janet Blair (pictured). The first to record it was Dinah Shore, who made a big hit out of it, and it has since become one of Cole Porter's most beloved ballads. A perfect expression of romantic longing.

Lyrics:

It's not that you're fairer
Than a lot of girls just as pleasin'
That I doff my hat
As a worshiper at your shrine.
It's not that you're rarer
Than asparagus out of season--
No, my darling, this is the reason
Why you've got to be mine...

You'd be so nice to come to.
You'd be so nice by the fire.
While the breeze on high sang a lullaby,
You'd be all that I could desire.

Under stars chilled by the winter,
Under an August moon burning above,
You'd be so nice,
You'd be paradise, to come home to and love.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald
Coleman Hawkins
Mel Torme
Jo Stafford

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stella By Starlight

By Victor Young & Ned Washington
1944

A rare example of a hit love song that was actually written for a horror movie, this song was the theme for the classic ghost story, The Uninvited. Washington's lyrics (which are never sung in the movie) are unique in that because he had trouble fitting the title into the melody, he had to arbitrarily place it in the middle of the refrain, making this a rare example of a standard in which the title is not mentioned in the opening or closing line. Young and his orchestra introduced the song in the film, but Harry James' orchestra was the first to release it on record three years later.

For more on The Uninvited, check out my other blog, The Vault of Horror.

Lyrics:

The song a robin sings,
Through years of endless springs;
The murmur of a brook at eventides;
That ripples through a nook where two lovers hide--

That great symphonic theme,
That's Stella by starlight,
And not a dream.
My heart and I agree,
She's everything on Earth to me.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Ray Charles
Charlie Parker
Stan Getz
Stan Kenton

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sentimental Journey

By Les Brown, Ben Homer & Bud Green
1944

A big hit toward the end of World War II, this song was first recorded by Brown's orchestra with Doris Day on lead vocal. It soon became Day's first number-one hit, and lasted a total of 23 weeks on the charts. The mellow number has long been a favorite of jazz musicians.

Lyrics:

Gonna take a sentimental journey,
Gonna set my heart at ease.
Gonna make a sentimental journey,
To renew old memories.

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
I long to hear that, "All aboard!"

Seven...that's the time we leave, at seven.
I'll be waitin' up at heaven,
Countin' every mile of railroad track
That takes me back.

Never thought my heart could be so yearny.
Why did I decide to roam?
Gotta take that sentimental journey,
Sentimental journey home.

Recorded By:

Woody Herman
Frank Sinatra
Rosemary Clooney
Esquivel
Julie London

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wait Till You See Her

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart 1942

Introduced by Ray Bolger, this was the one hit song from Rodgers & Hart's final hit Broadway musical, By Jupiter. The show was the composing duo's longest running, and the last of an impressive string in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This song was cut early on from the original production, but resurfaced in the 1967 revival.
Lyrics:

Wait till you see her,
See how she looks,
Wait till you hear her laugh.

Painters of paintings,
Writers of books,
Never could tell the half.

Wait till you feel
The warmth of her glance,
Pensive and sweet and wise.

All of it lovely,
All of it thrilling,
I'll never be willing to free her.

When you see her,
You won't believe your eyes,
You won't believe your eyes.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald
Ray Charles
Blossom Dearie

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why Don't You Do Right?

By Kansas Joe McCoy
1941

Although originally written as "The Weed Smoker's Dream" in 1936, McCoy refined the melody and rewrote the lyrics five years later. As a result, it was made a hit by blues singer Lil Green, with Big Bill Broonzy on guitar. It quickly became a definitive "woman's blues" number, thanks in part to a recording a year later by Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee that made Lee a star. It returned to prominence in 1988 thanks to a rendition by animated character Jessica Rabbit in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Although Kathleen Turner voiced the character, it was another actress, Amy Irving, who provided vocals on the song.

Lyrics:

You had plenty money, 1922.
You let other women make a fool of you .
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too.

You're sittin' there and wonderin' what it's all about.
You ain't got no money, they will put you out.
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too.

If you had prepared twenty years ago,
You wouldn't be a-wanderin' from door to door
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too.

I fell for your jivin' and I took you in,
Now all you got to offer me's a drink of gin.
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass
Sinead O'Connor
Shirley Horn
Kay Kyser
Julie London

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

By David Mann & Bob Hilliard
1955

Frank Sinatra chose this as the title song of his first--and best--full-length LP for Capitol Records, introducing it to the world with one of his very finest recordings. A brilliant reading that begs repeated listening and demonstrates why Sinatra was the greatest vocal interpreter of popular song, his version has colored every other that has come after.

Lyrics:

In the wee small hours of the morning,
While the whole wide world is fast asleep,
You lie awake and think about the girl,
And never, ever think of counting sheep.

When your lonely heart has learned its lesson,
You;d be hers, if only she would call.
In the wee small hours of the morning,
That's the time you miss her most of all.

Recorded By:

Johnny Hartman
Carly Simon
Julie London
Stacey Kent
Tierney Sutton

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We'll Meet Again

By Ross Parker & Hughie Charles
1939

In honor of Veteran's Day, I give you this classic anthem of World War II, introduced as an immensely popular UK hit by Vera Lynn. The moving lyric by Charles takes both an optimistic and melancholy stance, understood by those who hoped to see their loved ones again as they parted due to the war, yet understood that the meeting place might also be heaven. This is a sentiment known all too well today by those serving overseas in Iraq, and by those who love them. Lynn's recording was prominently featured as the closing theme of Dr. Strangelove, and more recently in Hellboy.

Here's to the veterans. Thank you all.

Lyrics:

Let's say goodbye with a smile, dear,
Just for a while, dear, we must part.
Don't let the parting upset you,
I'll not forget you, sweetheart.

We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say hello to the folks that I know,
Tell them I won't be long.
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go,
I was singing this song.

After the rain comes the rainbow,
You'll see the rain go, never fear.
We two can wait for tomorrow,
Goodbye to sorrow, my dear.

We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day.

Recorded By:

Johnny Cash
The Byrds
Frank Sinatra
Peggy Lee
The Ink Spots

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sway

By Pablo Beltran Ruiz & Norman Gimbel
1954

The mambo craze hit very big in the early 1950s, and this song was a direct product of it. Originally written by Mexican bandleader Ruiz in 1953, it had English lyrics added a year later by Gimbel--who would do the same for a number of Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes a decade later. The incomparable Dean Martin introduced the English version, transforming it instantly into the epitome of cool, with every artist who has attempted it since trying to equal his performance.

Lyrics:

When marimba rhythms start to play,

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lover Man

By Jimmy Davis, Roger Ramirez & James Sherman
1941

While serving in the Army, Davis wrote the song specifically for Billie Holiday, and brought it straight to her when he was home on leave. Unfortunately, he was shipped back to Europe with the outbreak of World War II, and didn't live to see Lady Day make it one of her classic recordings three years later. Holiday adored the haunting, deeply bluesy ballad, and was adamant about recording it will a full string section, which Columbia Records agreed to after some prodding.

Lyrics:

I don't know why, but I'm feeling so sad.
I long to try something I never had.
Never had no kissin',
Oh, what I've been missin'.
Lover man, oh, where can you be?

The night is cold, and I'm so alone.
I'd give my soul just to call you my own.
Got a moon above me,
But no one to love me.
Lover man, oh, where can you be?

I've heard it said
That the thrill of romance
Can be like a heavenly dream.
I go to bed with a prayer
That you'll make love to me,
Strange as it seems.

Someday we'll meet, and you'll dry all my tears,
Then whisper sweet little things in my ear.
Hugging and a-kissing,
Oh, what I've been missing.
Lover man, oh, where can you be?

Recorded By:

Sonny Rollins
Ella Fitzgerald
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie & Sarah Vaughan
Dinah Washington

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Serenade in Blue

By Harry Warren & Mack Gordon
1942


Written for the 20th Century Fox film Orchestra Wives--in which it was introduced by the dubbed voice of Pat Friday via leading lady Lynn Bari--this song nevertheless achieved immortality when it was recorded shortly after by Glenn Miller's orchestra, with Ray Eberle and The Modernaires on vocals. It became one of Miller's signature numbers, second only to his theme song, "Moonlight Serenade".

Lyrics:

When I hear that serenade in blue,
I'm somewhere in another world, alone with you,
Sharing all the joys we used to know,
Many moons ago.

Once again your face comes back to me,
Just like the theme of some forgotten melody
In the album of my memory,
Serenade in blue.

It seems like only yesterday,
The small cafe, a crowded floor,
And as we danced the night away,
I hear you say forevermore.
And then the song became a sigh,
Forever more became goodbye,
But you remained in my heart.

So tell me darling, is there still a spark?
Or only lonely ashes of the flame we knew?
Should I go on whistling in the dark?
Serenade in blue.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Doris Day
Dick Haymes
Stan Getz
Charles Mingus

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Someday My Prince Will Come

By Larry Morey & Frank Churchill
1937

A classic example of the ability of the Disney studio to create timeless standards, once upon a time. First sung in Disney's original animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White, it took another 20 years for it to become a bona fide standard when it was rediscovered by Dave Brubeck.

Lyrics:

Some day my prince will come,
Some day we'll meet again,
And away to his castle we'll go,
To be happy forever, I know.

Some day when spring is here,
We'll find our love anew,
And the birds will sing,
And wedding bells will ring,
Some day when my dreams come true.

Recorded By:

Miles Davis
Barbra Streisand
Sinead O'Connor
Oscar Peterson
Herbie Hancock

Monday, November 3, 2008

Meditation

By Antonio Carlos Jobim & Norman Gimbel
1962

Certainly not part of the Great American Songbook, but a classic pop standard nonetheless, as were most of the lush tunes composed by Jobim. A breezily tempoed example of his bossa nova style, it was first written as "Meditação", with original Portuguese lyrics by Newton Mendonça. Here are Gimbel's beautifully introspective English words...

Lyrics:

In my loneliness,
When you're gone and I'm all by myself,
And I need your caress,
I just think of you,
And the thought of you holding me near
Makes my loneliness soon disappear.

Though you're far away,
I have only to close my eyes
And you are back to stay.
I just close my eyes,
And the sadness that missing you brings
Soon is gone, and this heart of mine sings.

Yes, I love you so,
And that for me is all I need to know.
I will wait for you,
Till the sun falls from out of the sky,
For what else can I do?

I will wait for you,
Meditating how sweet life will be
When you come back to me.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Blossom Dearie
Doris Day
Tito Puente
Vic Damone

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