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Sunday, November 29, 2009

When I Lost You

By Irving Berlin

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.


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

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.


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

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).


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

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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
Billy May

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Moon Love

By Mack David & Andre Kostelanetz

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.


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

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".


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

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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


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