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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm Just Wild About Harry

By Eubie Blake & Noble Sissle
1921

A historic and highly memorable number by the prolific ragtime-era duo of Blake & Sissle. It came from the first successful African-American Broadway musical, Shuffle Along. In fact, it broke the taboo of depicting romantic love between blacks on stage. A huge hit, which made a comeback in 1948 when Harry Truman used it as his campaign song.

Lyrics:

I am here to state, I'm here to relate,
To explain and make it plain that:

I`m just wild about Harry,
And Harry's wild about me;
The heavenly blisses
Of his kisses
Fill me with ecstasy.

He's sweet just like sugar candy,
And just like honey from a bee;
Oh, I`m just wild about Harry,
And he's just wild about,
He can't do without,
He's just wild about me.

Recorded By:

Judy Garland
Peggy Lee
Sarah Vaughan
Jessica Molaskey
Jimmy Dorsey

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Easy to Remember

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1935

Another immortal Rodgers & Hart ballad written for a film that is far less remembered. In this case, the movie was Mississippi, starring W.C. Fields and Bing Crosby. Bing introduced the sophisticated lament both in the film, and with a hit recording later the same year. A fine example of the work of a sublime songwriting team.

Lyrics:

Your sweet expression,
The smile you gave me,
The way you looked when we met.
It's easy to remember,
But so hard to forget.

I hear you whisper,
"I'll always love you."
I know it's over, and yet,
It's easy to remember,
But so hard to forget.

So I must dream
To have your hand caress me,
Fingers press me tight.
I'd rather dream
Than have that lonely feeling
Stealing through the night.

Each little moment
Is clear before me,
And though it brings me regret,
It's easy to remember,
But so hard to forget.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Frank Sinatra
John Coltrane
Mel Torme
Johnny Hartman

Friday, December 25, 2009

White Christmas

By Irving Berlin
1941

"Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"
Those are supposedly the words Berlin spoke to his secretary when struck with what would become his most famous and successful composition. It was introduced on the radio by Bing Crosby in 1941, but achieved immortality on the soundtrack of Bing's 1942 musical film Holiday Inn. Bing's recording of it would go on to become the highest-selling single in the history of recording music, credited with 50 million sales. It also immediately conjures up Christmas for millions of people around the world.

Lyrics:

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas,
With every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright,
And may all your Christmases be white.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
The Drifters
Dean Martin
Andy Williams
Ella Fitzgerald

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Christmas Waltz

By Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne
1957

"And this song of mine, in three-quarter time..."
This sweet modern Christmas carol was originally written for Sinatra's Capitol Records Christmas album, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra, by his dear friends and accomplished songwriters Cahn & Styne--who also wrote "Mistletoe & Holly" for the same album. Since Frank introduced, it has become a cherished holiday standard.

Lyrics:

Frosted windowpanes,
Candles gleaming inside,
Painted candy-canes on the tree.
Santa's on his way,
He's filled his sleigh with things,
Things for you, and for me.

It's that time of year
When the world falls in love,
Every song you hear
Seems to say,
Merry Christmas,
May your New Year's dream come true.

And this song of mine,
In three-quarter time,
Wishes you and yours,
The same thing, too.

Recorded By:

Nancy Wilson
Peggy Lee
Harry Connick Jr.
Jane Monheit
Doris Day

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Deed I Do

By Fred Rose & Walter Hirsch
1926

An old vaudeville tune, introduced on stage by S.L. Stambaugh, but popularized in later recordings by Ben Bernie and Ruth Etting. It is also notable for being the very first song recorded by the young Benny Goodman in late 1926.

Lyrics:

Do I want you?
Oh my do I
Honey, indeed I do

Do I need you?
Oh my do I
Honey, a-deed I do

I'm glad that I'm the one who found you
That's why I'm always hangin' around you

Do I love you?
Oh my do I
Honey, deed I do

Recorded By:

Diana Krall
Ella Fitzgerald
Perry Como
Blossom Dearie
Billie Holiday

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'm in the Mood for Love

By Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
1935

The great McHugh/Fields songwriting team gave us this one, a thinly veiled ode to the libido introduced by Frances Langford in the film Every Night at Eight. It's better known, however, as the quasi-theme song of Alfalfa, who famously sang it in his trademark cracked voice in the 1936 Our Gang short "The Pinch Singer". For the record, this was a favorite of mine as a kid--knew it by heart and could even play it on my uncle's organ. I probably could still figure out the keys if I tried...

Lyrics:

I'm in the mood for love,
Simply because you're near me.
Funny but when you're near me,
I'm in the mood for love.

Heaven is in your eyes,
Bright as the stars we're under,
Oh, is it any wonder,
I'm in the mood for love?

Why stop to think of whether
This little dream might fade?
We've put our hearts together -
Now we are one, I'm not afraid.

If there's a cloud above,
If it should rain, we'll let it.
But for tonight forget it,
I'm in the mood for love.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Julie London
Nat King Cole
Spike Jones
Barbra Streisand

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SOTD Special: My 10 Favorite Sinatra Recordings

I'm taking a little break from the usual format here at Standard of the Day to honor the 94th anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra--in my opinion the finest interpreter of popular song who ever lived. It wasn't easy narrowing it down, but here are ten recordings of pop standards that Frank made which I hold near and dear to my heart:

April in Paris
Recorded 10/9/50
Arranger: Axel Stordahl

Composer: Vernon Duke

Columbia Records

An astonishingly beautiful ballad recording, with Frank's voice at the peak of it's sweetness and mellowness. The tonality he achieves here is jaw-dropping--listen to his singing of the word "reprise" for an example. Simply beautiful.

I've Got the World on a String
Recorded 4/30/53
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composers: Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler

Capitol Records

The birth of the legendary Sinatra/Riddle relationship. No one brought out Frank's sound better than Riddle. For me, this recording epitomizes what it means to be alive, and the vibrancy in Sinatra's performance is utterly amazing.

Can't We Be Friends?
Recorded 2/8/55
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composers: Kay Swift & Paul James

Album: In the Wee Small Hours
Capitol Records

My personal favorite Sinatra recording of all time. This might be the song that sold me on him completely as a masterful interpreter of song. The way he puts over the lyric here is gorgeous--listen for his delivery of the phrase, "What a bust..."

I've Got You Under My Skin
Recorded: 1/12/56
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composer: Cole Porter

Album: Songs for Swingin' Lovers

Capitol Records
This may very well be the most perfect three minutes of popular music ever recorded. It might get a ton of exposure, but that's with good reason. This recording is an absolute gem, with both Frank and his backup musicians at the top of their games. The instrumental break can only be described as an orgasm of sound.

I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan
Recorded: 11/20/56
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composers: Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz

Album: A Swingin' Affair

Capitol Records

Sinatra at his swinging best. He does such a great job with this breezy Dietz lyric, and floats over that Schwartz melody with style and grace. Not even Fred Astaire's recording of this one could match Sinatra's bemused interpretation.

There's No You
Recorded: 4/10/57
Arranger: Gordon Jenkins

Composers: Tom Adair, Ian Dye & Hal Hopper

Album: Where Are You?

Capitol Records

Here we have Gordon Jenkins at his schmaltzy best, from Sinatra's first stereo album. The lush strings arrangement here is gorgeous, and Sinatra's voice seems to glide through it like a bird on wing. A breathtaking ballad if ever there was one.

Be Careful, It's My Heart
Recorded: 12/20/60
Arranger: Johnny Mandel

Composer: Irving Berlin
Album: Ring-a-Ding-Ding!

Reprise Records

This comes from Sinatra's first album at his newly created record label, and features a delightful arrangement from cutting edge jazz arranger Mandel. This was the first Sinatra CD I ever bought, and this was the recording that grabbed me the most.

The Moon Was Yellow
Recorded: 11/30/65 Arranger: Nelson Riddle Composers: Fred E. Ahlert & Edgar Leslie Album: Moonlight Sinatra Reprise Records
I adore this recording. Riddle's arrangement complements the exotic composition so well, with subtle woodwinds and an enthralling guitar. Sinatra recorded this at all three of his major labels, but this one was the finest.

Change Partners
Recorded: 1/30/67 Arranger: Claus Ogerman Composer: Irving Berlin Album: Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim Reprise Records
For my money, Sinatra's Jobim collaboration was the last album of his truly great period of recording. Here he takes a Berlin classic and transforms it into a breezy bossa nova. A truly sensitive performances from an entire album of subtle and nuanced songs.

It Never Entered My Mind/The Gal that Got Away
Recorded: 4/8/81
Arranger: Nelson Riddle

Composers: Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart/Harold Arlen & Ira Gershwin

Album: She Shot Me Down

Reprise Records

Some call She Shot Me Down, "the last great Sinatra album". This medley, resurrecting Riddle arrangements Frank originally used in the 1950s, is certainly proof of that. Although his voice wasn't what it used to be anymore, I am always in awe at how the 65-year-old Sinatra literally wills his voice back to a glimpse of the greatness of his prime days. Moving stuff.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Was I Born?

By Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II
1929

The Kern/Hammerstein musical Sweet Adeline was a part of the 1920s nostalgia fad for the "Gay '90s", i.e. the last decade of the 19th century. Broadway legend Helen Morgan (pictured) introduced this classic torch song in the production, and it was also sung by Irene Dunne in the 1935 film version. Truly a ballad of great power.

Lyrics:

Spending these lonesome evenings
With nothing to do,
But to live in dreams that I make up,
All by myself.
Dreaming that you're beside me,
I picture the prettiest stories,
Only to wake up,
All by myself

What is the good of me by myself?

Why was I born?
Why am I living?
What do I get?
What am I giving?

Why do I want a thing
I daren't hope for?
What can I hope for?
I wish I knew.

Why do I try
To draw you near me?
Why do I cry?
You never hear me.

I'm a poor fool,
But what can I do?
Why was I born
To love you?

Recorded By:

Maude Maggart
Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra
Billie Holiday
Vic Damone

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I'm a Fool to Want You

By Joel Herron, Frank Sinatra & Jack Wolf
1951

Another of the most personal of all standards. Sinatra co-wrote this song--one of a handful he ever penned himself--in the midst of his tempestuous relationship with gorgeous movie star Ava Gardner. Sinatra left his first wife for Ava, and married her shortly after recording this tremulous ode to self-loathing. Reportedly, he recorded it in a single take, then nearly broke down and walked out of the studio.

Lyrics:

I'm a fool to want you.
I'm a fool to want you.
To want a love that can't be true,
A love that's there for others too.

I'm a fool to hold you.
Such a fool to hold you.
To seek a kiss not mine alone,
To share a kiss that Devil has known.

Time and time again I said I'd leave you.
Time and time again I went away.
But then would come the time when I would need you,
And once again these words I had to say.

Take me back, I love you.
Pity me, I need you.
I know it's wrong, it must be wrong,
But right or wrong I can't get along
Without you.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Dexter Gordon
Tierney Sutton
Chet Baker
Oscar Peterson

Sunday, November 29, 2009

When I Lost You

By Irving Berlin
1912

A truly heartbreaking song, and one of the most personal of standards. Berlin wrote it following the typhoid fever death of his wife of five months, a singer named Dorothy Goetz. Berlin himself made the first recording of it, and it soon became his first hit ballad. A simple waltz with bittersweet harmony and diminished seventh chords, it was the only song born so directly of the composer's personal pain.

Lyrics:

I lost the sunshine and roses,
I lost the heavens of blue.
I lost the beautiful rainbow,
I lost the morning dew.

I lost the angel who gave me
Summer the whole winter through.
I lost the gladness that turned into sadness,
When I lost you.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Bing Crosby
Tony Bennett
Jessica Molaskey
Maude Maggart

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stompin' at the Savoy

By Edgar Sampson & Andy Razaf
1934

A jumping jazz standard composed by Sampson, the alto saxophonist for Chick Webb's orchestra. Although Webb recorded it first, Benny Goodman's recording shortly thereafter would be the bigger hit. Although both bandleaders had their names credited to the song, in actuality they did not contribute to its writing.

Lyrics:

Savoy, the home of sweet romance,
Savoy, it wins you with a glance,
Savoy, gives happy feet a chance to dance.

Your old form just like a clinging vine,
Your lips so warm and sweet as wine,
Your cheek so soft and close to mine, divine.

How my heart is singing,
While the band is swinging,
I'm never tired of romping,
And stomping with you at the Savoy.
What joy - a perfect holiday,
Savoy, where we can glide and sway,
Savoy, let me stomp away with you.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Harry Connick Jr.
Nina Simone
Teddy Wilson
Michel Legrand

Monday, November 23, 2009

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

By Gus Edwards & Edward Madden
1909

A turn-of-the-century chestnut that instantly evokes that specific pre-World War I era in America. It was one of several "moon" songs that were popular at the time, and would later become a very nostalgic tune during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. It was the title of a 1953 Doris Day musical, and was even sung by Zero Mostel in The Producers. It was introduced in 1909 by Ada Jones (recording in the video below).

Lyrics:

Place: Park
Scene: Dark
Silv'ry Moon is shining through the trees,
Cast: Two,
Me, you,
Sound of kisses floating on the breeze;
Act one: begun,
Dialogue "Where would ya like to spoon?"
My cue: with you,
Underneath the silv'ry moon.

By the light, of the silvery moon,
I want to spoon,
To my honey I'll croon love's tune.

Honey moon, keep a-shinin' in June.
Your silv'ry beams will bring love's dreams,
We'll be cuddlin' soon, by the silvery moon.

Recorded By:

Doris Day
Gene Vincent
Fats Waller
Julie Andrews
Al Jolson

Friday, November 20, 2009

Autumn in New York

By Vernon Duke
1934

What a perfect time to spotlight this sublime piece of popular music, wouldn't you say? Prolific composer Duke wrote it for the Broadway musical Thumbs Up!, in which it was first performed by J. Harold Murray. It would not become a popular standard for singers and musicians, however, until about a decade later.

Lyrics:

Autumn in New York--
Why does it seem so exciting?
Autumn in New York--
It spells the thrill of first-nighting.

Shimmering clouds and glimmering crowds
In canyons of steel--
They're making me feel I'm home.

It's autumn in New York
That brings a promise of new love.
Autumn in New York--
Is often mingled with pain.

Dreamers with empty hands
All sigh for exotic lands.
It's autumn in New York--
It's good to live it again.

This autumn in New York
Transforms the slums into Mayfair.
Autumn in New York--
You'll need no castles in Spain.

Lovers that bless the dark
On benches in Central Park.
It's autumn in New York,
It's good to live it again.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Billie Holiday
Frank Sinatra
Jo Stafford
Charlie Parker

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thou Swell

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1927

A Rodgers & Hart favorite, composed for the stage production of their musical, A Connecticut Yankee. It was first sung on stage by William Gaxton and Constance Carter, the stars of the original version. The clever lyrics are well-known for blending old-style English with 1920s slang.

Lyrics:

Thou swell! Thou witty!
Thou sweet! Thou grand!
Wouldst kiss me pretty?
Wouldst hold my hand?

Both thine eyes are cute too;
What they do to me.
Hear me holler I choose a Sweet lollapaloosa in thee.

I'd feel so rich in a hut for two;
Two rooms and a kitchen I'm sure would do;
Give me just a plot of,
Not a lot of land,
And Thou swell! Thou Witty! Thou Grand!

Recorded By:

Nat King Cole
Sarah Vaughan
Frank Sinatra
Blossom Dearie
Joe Williams

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)

By Fred Fisher
1922

Oddly enough, although this song was published first in 1922, it remained relatively obscure and unperformed for 17 years, until it was reintroduced in the Astaire/Rogers vehicle The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. When first published, it was popularized locally in the Windy City by vaudeville singer Blossom Seeley. Today one of the great themes of one of America's greatest cities, it received it's most famous recording by Frank Sinatra on the soundtrack to the 1957 movie The Joker Is Wild.

Lyrics:

Chicago, Chicago, that toddling town.
Chicago, Chicago, I will show you around.
Bet your bottom dollar you lose the blues in Chicago, Chicago,
The town that Billy Sunday couldn't shut down.

On State Street, that great street, I just want to say,
They do things they don't do on Broadway.
They have the time, the time of their life.
I saw a man, he danced with his wife,
In Chicago, Chicago my home town.

Recorded By:

Tony Bennett
Count Basie
Al Jolson
Leadbelly
Billy May

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Moon Love

By Mack David & Andre Kostelanetz
1939

This was David's very first hit, teaming with future "easy listening" luminary Kostelanetz to adapt Romantic composer Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky's fifth symphony (particularly the andante theme). It was introduced by Glenn Miller's orchestra, but remained a popular tune for decades.

Lyrics:

Will this be moon love,
Nothing but moon love?
Will you be gone when the dawn comes stealing through?

Are these just moon dreams,
Grand while the moon beams?
But when the moon fades away, will my dreams come true?

Much as I love you,
Don't let me love you
If I must pay for your kiss with lonely tears.

Say it's not moon love,
Tell me it's true love.
Say you'll be mine when the moon disappears.

Recorded By:

Pearl Bailey
Frank Sinatra
Nat King Cole
Chet Baker
Glenn Miller

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Everything Happens to Me

By Matt Dennis & Thomas Adair
1941

A brilliant tune written specifically for the Tommy Dorsey orchestra and Frank Sinatra. Dorsey met Dennis through mutual friend Jo Stafford, then a singer for the bandleader. Dennis met Adair at a nightclub gig and asked the struggling poet to compose the song's cleverly self-deprecating lyric. A songwriting team was born--Dennis & Adair would compose many other future standards, including another Dorsey original "Let's Get Away from It All".

Lyrics:

Black cats creep across my path
Until I'm almost mad.
I must have roused the devils wrath
'Cause all my luck is bad.

I make a date for golf – and you can bet your life it rains.
I try to give a party - but the guy upstairs complains.
I guess I'll go through life just catching colds and missing trains;
Everything happens to me.

I never miss a thing - I've had measles and the mumps.
And every time I play my ace my partner always trumps.
I guess I'm just a fool who never looks before he jumps;
Everything happens to me.

At first my heart thought you could break this jinx for me.
That love would turn the trick to end despair.
But now, I just can't fool this head that thinks for me.
I've mortgaged all my castles in the air.

I telegraphed and phoned, sent an Air Mail Special, too;
You answer was goodbye - there was even postage due.
I fell in love just once, and then it had to be with you,
Everything happens to me.

I've never drawn a sweepstake, or a bank night at a show.
I thought perhaps this time I'd won, but Lady Luck said no.
And though it breaks my heart, I'm not surprised to see you go,
Everything happens to me,
Everything happens to me.

Recorded By:

Charlie Parker
Chet Baker
Billie Holiday
Woody Herman
Branford Marsalis

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?

By Harry Revel & Mack Gordon
1933

An irresistible charmer written for Bing Crosby, who at the time was the single hugest pop phenomenon to ever hit the nation since the dawn of recorded music. It was so popular that an entire Fleischer Studios Popeye cartoon was themed around it the following year. It was also the closing credits theme for A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2--a nice touch.

Lyrics:

Something very strange & mystic happened to me.
Something realistic & as weird as can be.
Something that I fear is somehow now endeared to me.
What a funny feeling,odd & yet so true.
Did a thing like this ever happen to you?

Did you ever see a dream walking?
Well, I did.
Did you ever hear a dream talking?
Well, I did.

Did you ever have a dream thrill you
With "Will you be mine?"
Oh, it's so grand,
And it's too, too divine!

Did you ever see a dream dancing?
Well, I did.
Did you a ever see a dream romancing?
Well, I did!

Did you ever see heaven right in your arms,
Saying, "I love you, I do!"
Well, the dream that was walking,
And the dream that was talking,
The heaven in my arms was you.

Recorded By:

Eddy Duchin
Guy Lombardo
Ray Noble
Les Brown
Fats Domino

Monday, November 9, 2009

You're Blase

By Ord Hamilton & R. Bruce Sievier
1932

A standard which originates in England and the stage revue known as Bow Bells. It was most famously recorded, however, by Ella Fitzgerald on her landmark album Like Someone in Love (which I happen to own on vinyl). An unusual, jazz-inflected melody makes this one an interesting little standout.

Lyrics:

You're deep just like a chasm
You've no, enthusiasm
You're tired and uninsipired.
You're blase.

Your day is one of leisure
In which you search for pleasure.
You're bored when you're adored.
You're blase.

While reaching for the moon,
And the stars up in the sky,
The simple things of normal life
Are slowly passing by.

You sleep, the sun is shining;
You wake, its time for dining.
There's nothing new for you to do
You're blase.

Recorded By:

Sarah Vaughan
Coleman Hawkins
Stan Getz
Benny Goodman
Art Tatum

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sonny Boy

By Ray Henderson, Bud De Sylva & Lew Brown
1928

A sentimental tear-jerker if ever there was one, this is however a fine example of the powerful work of Al Jolson, a titanic entertainer of the early 20th century. Call it sappy, but I find that a measure of the level of maturity one has attained in life can be taken by whether or not one is moved by this song. Jolson himself introduced it in his second talkie, The Singing Fool, and took it to #1 for 12 weeks, selling over a million copies. The cartoon character Bosko also sings it in Warner Bros.' first animated short, The Talk-Ink Kid.

Lyrics:

Climb up on my knee, Sonny Boy,
Though you're only three, Sonny Boy.
You've no way of knowing,
There's no way of showing
What you mean to me, Sonny Boy.

When there are gray skies,
I don't mind the gray skies,
You make them blue,
Sonny Boy.

Friends may forsake me,
Let 'em all forsake me,
I still have you,
Sonny Boy.

You come from Heaven,
And I know your worth.
You've made a Heaven
For me, here on Earth.

When I'm old and gray, dear,
Promise you won't stray, dear,
For I love you so,
Sonny Boy.

[*sniff sniff*]

Recorded By:

Jimmy Roselli
Paul Robeson
Sonny Rollins
The Andrews Sisters
Mel Torme

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Polka Dots and Moonbeams

By Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Burke
1940

First recorded by the Tommy Dorsey band, this was actually the first hit record from Dorsey's new boy singer Frank Sinatra. An extremely popular jazz standard, it was covered by just about every big band of the era, and continues to be popular with modern jazz vocalists. A sweet and pleasant standard if ever there was one.

Lyrics:

A country dance was being held in a garden.
I felt a bump and heard an "Oh, beg your pardon"
Suddenly I saw polka dots and moonbeams
All around a pug-nosed dream.

The music started and was I the perplexed one.
I held my breath and said "May I have the next one?"
In my frightened arms, polka dots and moonbeams
Sparkled on a pug-nosed dream.

There were questions in the eyes of other dancers,
As we floated over the floor.
There were questions, but my heart knew all the answers,
And perhaps a few things more.

Now in a cottage built of lilacs and laughter,
I know the meaning of the words "Ever after"
And I'll always see polka dots and moonbeams
When I kiss the pug-nosed dream
.

Recorded By:

Diana Krall
Bill Evans
Sarah Vaughan
Count Basie
Lester Youn

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man

By Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II
1927

A heartbreaker if ever there was one, this is probably the most well-known song from the immortal musical Showboat, usually cited as the first modern musical. Kern incorporates blues into his melody, and Hammerstein weaves a melancholy lyric about loving someone who may not necessarily deserve it. In the 1920-40s, it was closely associated with Helen Morgan, who originally introduced it. Some controversy has hovered over the lyric, which does allude to negative African American stereotypes.

Lyrics:

Oh listen sister,
I love my mister man,
And I can't tell you' why.
Dere ain't no reason
Why I should love dat man.
It mus' be sumpin dat de angels done plan.

De chimney's smokin'
De roof is leakin' in,
But he don't seem to care.
Dere ain't no reason why I should love dat man.

Fish got to swim, birds got to fly,
I got to love one man till I die.
Can't help lovin' dat man of mine.

Tell me he's lazy, tell me he's slow,
Tell me I'm crazy, (maybe I know).
Can't help lovin' dat man of mine.

When he goes away,
Dat's a rainy day,
And when he comes back dat day is fine,
De sun will shine!
He kin come home as late as can be,
Home without him ain't no home to me,
Can't help lovin' dat man of mine.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Lena Horne
Barbra Streisand
Ava Gardner
Maude Maggart

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You

By Victor Young, Ned Washington & Bing Crosby
1932

One of Bing Crosby's signature tunes, introduced and even co-written by Der Bingle. At least 20 major versions of the song would be recorded in the next couple of decades. Although less heard these days, it is a Crosby song that instantly conjures of the time from which it originates.

Lyrics:

I need your love so badly,
I love you oh so madly,
But I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you.

I thought at last I found you,
But other loves surround you,
And I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you.

If you'd surrender,
Just for a tender kiss or two,
You might discover
That I'm the lover meant for you,
And I'd be true.

But what's the good of scheming,
I know I'm only dreaming.
For I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Billie Holiday
Mel Torme
Stan Getz
Duke Ellington

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from STANDARD OF THE DAY!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shine On, Harvest Moon

By Jack Norworth & Nora Bayes
1908

An utterly charming tune from the turn of the 20th century, which remained a popular standard for many decades. It was first performed by the composers in the Zeigfeld Follies of 1908. It is one of the songs of that era that was usually performed in something of an ethnic African-American style. It would later be repopularized on the Arthur Godfrey radio program, and I have always adored Laurel & Hardy's beautiful rendition in The Flying Deuces (below).

Lyrics:

The night was mighty dark so you could hardly see,
For the moon refused to shine.
Couple sitting underneath a willow tree,
For love they did pine.
Little maid was kinda 'fraid of darkness
So she said, "I guess I'll go."
Boy began to sigh, looked up at the sky,
And told the moon his little tale of woe...
Oh, Shine on, shine on, harvest moon
Up in the sky;
I ain't had no lovin'
Since January, April, June or July.
Snow time ain't no time to stay
Outdoors and spoon;
So shine on, shine on, harvest moon,
For me and my gal.
Recorded By:

Leon Redbone
Coleman Hawkins
Les Brown
Artie Shaw
The Ink Spots

Monday, October 26, 2009

When I Fall in Love

By Victor Young & Edward Heyman
1952

The Robert Mitchum war picture One Minute to Zero yielded this timeless classic, in which Young's melody was included in the score. That same year, Doris Day fully introduced it using Heyman's lyric, and one of the most popular wedding songs of all time was born (my own in-laws used it in 1967!).

Lyrics:

When I fall in love,
It will be forever,
Or I'll never fall in love.

In a restless world like this is,
Love is ended before its begun.
And too many moonlight kisses
Seem to cool in the warmth of the sun.

When I give my heart,
It will be completely,
Or I'll never give my heart.

And the moment I can feel that you feel that way too,
Is when I fall in love with you.

Recorded By:

Johnny Mathis
Nat King Cole
Chris Botti
Chet Baker
Tony Bennett

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blue Skies

By Irving Berlin
1926

This classic was written at the last minute by Berlin as an addition to Rodgers' & Hart's musical Betsy, in which it was introduced by Belle Baker. The following year, it became one of the first songs featured in a talkie, when Al Jolson sang it in The Jazz Singer. More than 75 years later, it would even be sung by the character of Data in one of the Star Trek movies.

Lyrics:

I was blue, just as blue as I could be
Evry day was a cloudy day for me
Then good luck came a-knocking at my door
Skies were gray but theyre not gray anymore

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Bluebirds
Singing a song
Nothing but bluebirds
All day long

Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When youre in love, my how they fly

Blue days
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on

Recorded By:

Judy Garland
Josephine Baker
Bing Crosby
Willie Nelson
Dinah Washington

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Could Write a Book

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1940

Written for the original stage version of Pal Joey, where it was introduced by Gene Kelly and Leila Ernst. It did not make it into the Frank Sinatra film version, however. It also was used to great effect in the 1997 Woody Allen movie Deconstructing Harry. I was inspired to focus on this song today thanks to a gorgeous rendition by the remarkable Emma Wallace, which can be found here.

Lyrics:

If they asked me, I could write a book
About the way you walk, and whisper,
And look.
I could write a preface
On how we met
That the world will never forget.

And the simple secret of the plot
Is just to tell them;
That I love you, a lot.
Then the world discovers,
As my book ends,
How to make two lovers of friends.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Harry Connick Jr.
Miles Davis
Ella Fitzgerald
Mel Torme

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And the Angels Sing

By Ziggy Elman & Johnny Mercer
1939

Benny Goodman's trumpeter Elman came up with this melody in 1938 as an instrumental for his own band, called "Frailach in Swing". But once Mercer added lyrics to it, it became a massive hot for Goodman's orchestra. Six years later, it became the title song of a movie musical starring Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Lamour.

Lyrics:

We meet, and the angels sing
The angels sing the sweetest song I ever heard
You speak, and the angels sing
Or am I breathing music into every word

Suddenly, the setting is strange
I can see water and moonlight beaming
Silver waves that break on some undiscovered shore - Then
Suddenly, I see it all change
Long winter nights with the candles gleaming
Through it all your face that I adore.

You smile, and the angels sing
And though it's just a gentle murmur at the start
We kiss, and the angels sing
And leave their music ringing in my heart.

Recorded By:

Glenn Miller
Count Basie
Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass
Louis Armstrong
Ella Fitzgerald

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Last Night When We Were Young

By Harold Arlen & E.Y. Harburg
1935

Specifically written for the singing actor Lawrence Tibbett by Arlen (pictured) and his frequent associate Harburg, it was introduced by Tibbett in the film Metropolitan. Harburg's powerful lyric deals with a couple who fall in love at the wrong time in their lives. Legend has it then when the bombastic Tibbett heard Sinatra's version 20 years later, he exclaimed, "Oooohhh...I see," as if to say, "So that's how it's supposed to be sung!"

Lyrics:

Last night when we were young
Love was a star, a song unsung
Life was so new, so real so right
Ages ago last night

Today the world is old
You flew away and time grew cold
Where is that star that shone so bright
Ages ago last night?

To think that spring had depended
On merely this: a look, a kiss
To think that something so splendid
Could slip away in one little daybreak

So now, let's reminisce
And recollect the sighs and the kisses
The arms that clung

When we were young last night.

Recorded By:

Judy Garland
Carly Simon
Tony Bennett
Sarah Vaughan
Tierney Sutton

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I Found a Million-Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)

By Harry Warren, Mort Dixon & Billy Rose
1931

Interestingly, the lyric to this song was originally written to a different melody in 1926, but it was in '31 that Harry Warren took it and adapted it to his melody for the musical Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt, in which it was introduced by the immortal Fanny Brice. I was just today lucky enough to find Bing Crosby's original 1931 rendition on 78 at a record convention, and I was re-acquainted with how disarming and sweet this song really is. Pure bliss.

Lyrics:

It was a lucky April shower,
It was the most convenient door.
I found a million dollar baby
In a five and ten cent store.

The rain continued for an hour.
I hung around for three or four.
Around a million dollar baby
In a five and ten cent store.

She was selling china
And when she made those eyes,
I kept buying china
Until the crowd got wise.

If you should run into a shower,
Just step inside my cottage door,
And meet the million dollar baby
From the five and ten cent store.

Love comes along like a popular song,
Any time or anywhere at all.
Rain or sunshine,
Spring or fall.
Say, you'll never know when it may say hello
In a very unexpected place.
For example, take my case.

She was selling china,
And when she made those eyes,
I kept buying china
Until the crowd got wise.

If you should run into a shower,
Oh, step inside my cottage door.
And meet my million dollar baby
From the five and ten cent store.

Recorded By:

Nat King Cole
Perry Como
Dizzy Gillespie
Benny Goodman
Jack Leonard

Friday, October 9, 2009

Please Check Out This Interview with Yours Truly!

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the talented and beautiful Emma Wallace, who in addition to being an amazing up-and-coming singer/songwriter/musician in her own right, also maintains her own blog. It isn't often that I get to talk about the standards or Standard of the Day, since I spend so much time promoting my original blog, The Vault of Horror. And so I was supremely grateful for the opportunity to talk about a subject that is very near and dear to my heart.

Find the interview at Emma's blog here.

And while you're at it, check out some of Emma's enthralling music. I just downloaded her new CD myself!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)

By James P. Johnson & Henry Creamer
1926

Some songs are just very much of their era, and this is one of them. A festive melody with a melancholy lyrics, this infectious number was introduced by Clarence Williams' Blue Five, with vocalist Eva Taylor. But the 1930 recording by McKinney's Cotton Pickers really popularized it, with the group using it as their theme song. It resurfaced in a big way when Frank Sinatra performed it in his 1957 film The Joker Is Wild.

Lyrics:

If I could be with you, I'd love you strong.
If I could be with you, I'd love you long.
I want you to know that I wouldn't go,
Until I told you honey why I love you so.

If I could be with you, one hour tonight,
If I was free to do the things I might,
I'm telling you true, I'd be anything but blue.
If I could be with you.

Recorded By:

Kay Starr
Louis Armstrong
Tony Bennett
Bing Crosby
Doris Day

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Days Are Here Again

By Milton Ager & Jack Yellen
1929

Best remembered as FDR's 1932 election campaign song, this tune has come to symbolize peace and prosperity in America. It was introduced by the Leo Reisman orchestra, yet interestingly its most famous interpreter may be Barbra Streisand, who recorded it decades later. It has also been featured in countless films, and was the theme song for comedian Rip Taylor and social satirist Mark Russell.

Lyrics:

So long sad times,
Go long bad times,
We are rid of you at last.
Howdy gay times,
Cloudy gray times,
You are now a thing of the past.

Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again,
So lets sing a song of cheer again.
Happy days are here again!

Altogether shout it now,
There's no one who can doubt it now,
So let's tell the world about it now,
Happy days are here again!

Your cares and troubles are gone.
There'll be no more from now on,
From now on...

Happy days are here again,
The skies above are clear again,
So, lets sing a song of cheer again,
Happy days are here again!

Recorded By:

Guy Lombardo
Tierney Sutton
George Shearing
Mitch Miller
Ray Brown

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Foggy Day

By George & Ira Gershwin
1937

A truly delightful Gershwin treasure, written by the brothers for the film A Damsel in Distress. As with so many Gershwin classics, it was introduced in the movie by the one and only Fred Astaire, a performer whose class and style perfectly matched that of the song itself.

Lyrics:

A foggy day,
In London town,
It had me low,
And it had me down.
I viewed the morning
With much alarm.
The british museum
Had lost its charm.

How long, I wondered,
Could this thing last?
But the age of miracles,
It hadn't past.
And suddenly,
I saw you standing right there.
And in foggy London town,
The sun was shining everywhere.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Doris Day
Sarah Vaughan
Judy Garland
Charles Mingus

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Prisoner of Love

By Russ Colombo, Clarence Gaskill & Leo Robin
1931

A beautiful standard Colombo wrote and introduced himself in the early 1930s. It enjoyed a couple of interesting resurgences. Perry Como would bring it back in the 1940s, and it became one of his signature hits. Then in the early 1960s, it became the first major hit record for a young James Brown. Before he got all funky and stuff...

Lyrics:

Alone from night to night you'll find me,
Too weak to break the chains that bind me.
I need no shackles to remind me,
I'm just a prisoner of love.

For one command I stand and wait now,
From one who's master of my fate now.
I can't escape for it's too late now,
I'm just a prisoner of love.

What's the good of my caring,
If someone is sharing those arms with me?
Although she has another,
I can't have another, for I'm not free.

She's in my dreams awake or sleeping,
Upon my knees to her I'm creeping.
My very life is in her keeping,
I'm just a prisoner of love.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Billy Eckstine
Keely Smith
Etta James
Lester Young

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Concentrate on You

By Cole Porter
1940

A Porter tune that is typically dripping with class and sophistication. This quiet and moving ballad was written for the film Broadway Melody of 1940, in which it was introduced by Douglas McPhail. This same show featured such other Porter classics as "Begin the Beguine".

Lyrics:

Whenever skies look gray to me,
And trouble begins to brew,
Whenever the winter winds become too strong,
I concentrate on you.

When fortune cries nay, nay to me,
And people declare you're through,
Whenever the blues become my only songs,
I concentrate on you.

On your smile, so sweet, so tender,
When at first my kiss you do decline,
On the light in your eyes when you surrender,
And once again our arms intertwine.

And so, when wise men say to me
That loves young dream never comes true,
To prove that even the wise men can be wrong,
I concentrate on you.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra
Fred Astaire
Patricia Barber
Lena Horne

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Beginning to See the Light

By Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges, Don George & Harry James
1944

One of the Duke's all-time classic compositions, which naturally became closely related with his orchestra. The Ellington band recorded it in 1945, but it was Ella Fitzgerald & The Ink Spots who introduced it earlier that same year. A sophisticated melody, combined with a sophisticated lyric make this one an immortal gem.

Lyrics:

I never cared much for moonlit skies,
I never wink back at fireflies.
But now that the stars are in your eyes,
I'm beginning to see the light.

I never went in for afterglow,
Or candlelight on the mistletoe.
But now when you turn the lamp down low,
I'm beginning to see the light.

Used to ramble through the park,
Shadowboxing in the dark,
Then you came and caused a spark
That's a four-alarm fire now.

I never made love by lantern-shine,
I never saw rainbows in my wine.
But now that your lips are burning mine,
I'm beginning to see the light.

Recorded By:

Billy Eckstine
Harry James
Frank Sinatra
Kelly Rowland
Bobby Darin

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

All Through the Night

By Cole Porter
1934

One of the many classic standards Porter composed for his epic musical, Anything Goes. This would be the same stellar work that included such hits as "You're the Top", "I Get a Kick Out of You" and the title song. This one was introduced on stage by stars Ethel Merman and William Gaxton.

Lyrics:

The day is my enemy, the night my friend,
For I'm always so alone
Till the day draws to an end.
But when the sun goes down
And the moon comes through,
To the monotone of the evening's drone
I'm all alone with you.

All through the night,
I delight in your love,
All through the night, you're so close to me.
All through the night, from a height far above,
You and your love brings me ecstasy.

When dawn comes to waken me,
You're never there at all.
I know you've forsaken me,
Till the shadows fall.
But then once again
I can dream,
I've the right
To be close to you
All through the night.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Julie London
Marilyn Horne
Paul Robeson
Cole Porter

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I've Had My Moments

By Walter Donaldson & Gus Kahn
1934

A charming song that originated in a charming musical film, The Girl from Missouri starring Jean Harlow and Franchot Tone. Donaldson and Kahn composed a couple songs for the film, and this melodic beauty was introduced by leading man Tone. Other songs were contributed by the likes of Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields, Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz, and Victor Young & Ned Washington.

Lyrics:

I've had my moments, I will confess,
My fleeting moments of tenderness,
I sang of true love, I've played guitars,
Then found a new love 'neath tropical stars.

This time's the last time, this time it's new,
Love as a pastime for me is through,
I've had my moments, my big bad moments,
But now my one big moment is you.

I sang of true love, and I've played guitars,
Then found a new love 'neath tropical stars.

This time's the last time, this time it's new,
Love as a pastime for me is through,
I've had my moments, my big bad moments,
But now my one big moment is you.

Recorded By:

Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli
Frank Sinatra
Peggy Lee
Al Bowlly
Melissa Collard

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sleep Warm

By Lew Spence, Alan Bergman & Marilyn Keith
1958

Written for Frank Sinatra by the same composer who gave him Nice 'n Easy, this song was recorded by the Chairman during the sessions for his superb Only the Lonely album. It was also recorded shortly thereafter by Sinatra comrade Dean Martin for his album of the same name (which Sinatra conducted).

Lyrics:

Sleep warm, sleep tight,
When you turn off the light,
Sleep warm, sleep well, my love.

Rest your head on your pillow,
What a lucky pillow.
Close to you, so close to you all night.

Sleep warm, sleep well,
Let dreams within you dwell,
Sweet dreams of me, my love.

Close your eyes now and kiss me,
And whisper you miss me,
Sleep tight, sleep well, sleep warm.

Recorded By:

Stacey Kent
Meredith D'Ambrosio
Frank Sinatra
Dean Martin
Tomasz Stanko

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Goody Goody

By Matt Malneck & Johnny Mercer
1936

This clever melody, with even cleverer lyrics from the irrepressible Mercer, was introduced by the Benny Goodman orchestra, with Helen Ward on vocals. Some 20 years later, doo-wop crooner Frankie Lyman had a minor hit with it that returned it to the spotlight for a bit. A very catchy number, it remains highly recognizable.

Lyrics:

Do you remember me sitting all alone, waiting for the tinkle of the telephone?
Now the action, Jackson's turned right around, goody goody!
Yes you remember me, I was all for you, sitting, waiting, hoping like you told me to.
Now the action, Jackson's turned right around.

So you met someone who set you back on your heels,
Goody Goody!
So you met someone and now you know how it feels,
Goody Goody!

Well you gave her your heart too, just as I gave mine to you.
And she broke it in little pieces, now how do you do?

So you lie awake just singing the blues all night,
Goody Goody!
And you found that loves a barrel of dynamite!
Hurray and hallelujah, you had it coming to ya.
Goody goody for you! Goody goody for me!
And I hope you're satisfied, you rascal you!

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra
Chicago
Della Reese
Julie London

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm Thru with Love

By Joseph A. Livingston, Matt Malneck & Gus Kahn
1931

An aching composition that epitomizes those all-too-familiar feelings of heartbreak and jilted love. A major hit song of 1931, it was recorded by a vast number of artists that year, including Paul Whiteman's orchestra, Al Bowlly, Don Voorhees' orchestra, Al Lack's City Radiolians, and most notably Bing Crosby. It remains a timeless, poignant classic, made even more popular by Marilyn Monroe's famous rendition in Some Like It Hot.

Lyrics:

I have given you my true love,
But you love a new love.
What am I supposed to do now
With you now, you're through?
You'll be on your merry way
And there's only this to say:

I'm through with love
I'll never fall again.
Said adieu to love
Don't ever call again.
For I must have you or no one
And so I'm through with love.

I've locked my heart
I'll keep my feelings there.
I have stocked my heart
with icy, frigid air.
And I mean to care for no one
Because I'm through with love.

Why did you lead me
to think you could care?
You didn't need me
for you had your share
of slaves around you
to hound you and swear
with deep emotion and devotion to you.

Goodbye to spring and all it meant to me
It can never bring the thing that used to be.
For I must have you or no one
And so I'm through with love.

Recorded By:

Lena Horne
Joe Williams
Jane Monheit
Ella Fitzgerald
Diana Krall

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