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Friday, January 30, 2009

Sophisticated Lady

By Duke Ellington, Irving Mills & Mitchell Parish
1932

The epitome of all that was once classy about popular music, and is no longer. Ellington & Mills originally wrote it as a stand-alone melody, with the title referring to the Duke's memories of his old grade school teachers, who taught in the winter and vacationed in Europe, which to him "spelled sophistication." When Parish added the lyrics later, Ellington described them as "wonderful--but not entirely fitted to my original conception."

Lyrics:

They say into your early life romance came,
And in this heart of yours burned a flame,
A flame that flickered one day and died away.

Then, with disillusion deep in your eyes,
You learned that fools in love soon grow wise.
The years have changed you, somehow.
I see you now...

Smoking, drinking, never thinking of tomorrow, nonchalant.
Diamonds shining, dancing, dining with some man in a restaurant.
Is that all you really want?

No, sophisticated lady,
I know you miss the love you lost long ago,
And when nobody is nigh, you cry.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Ella Fitzgerald
Thelonious Monk
Art Tatum
Sarah Vaughan

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chinatown, My Chinatown

By Jean Schwartz & William Jerome
1910

A very early standard that would become especially popular later on in jazz circles, this song's melody incorporates Chinese musical styles. The lyrics play off a Western fascination and romanticizing of the Chinatown neighborhoods that had sprung up in places like New York and San Francisco. That said, it is considered soundly racist by modern standards.

Lyrics:

When the town is fast a sleep, and it's midnight in the sky,

That's the time the festive Chink starts to wink his other eye,

Starts to wink his dreamy eye, lazily you hear him sigh.


Chinatown, my Chinatown,
Where the lights are low.

Hearts that know no other land,
Drifting to and fro.


Dreamy, dreamy Chinatown,
Almond eyes of brown,

Hearts seem light and life seems bright
In dreamy Chinatown.


Recorded By:

Al Jolson
Louis Armstrong
Jimmy Roselli
Art Tatum
Sidney Bechet

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yesterdays

By Jerome Kern & Otto Harbach
1933

One of several hits to emerge from Kern & Harbach's Broadway smash Roberta. With its roots in Kern's operetta background, the song was introduced on stage by Fay Templeton (pictured), once a beloved young starlet of the 19th century who was now at the end of her career. The first recording of the tune was by Leo Reisman's orchestra (vocal by Frank Luther). It would also be included in the 1935 film version of the show.

Lyrics:

Yesterdays, yesterdays,
Days are new as happy sweet
Sequestered days.

Olden days,
Golden days,
Days of mad romance and love.

Then gay youth was mine.
Truth was mine,
Joyous be, and flaming life,
And sooth was mine.

Sad am I,
Glad am I,
For today I'm dreaming of
Yesterdays.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra
Buddy Rich & Max Roach
Charles Mingus

Monday, January 26, 2009

Send in the Clowns

By Stephen Sondheim
1973

Despite his distinguished career as a Broadway composer, this was Sondheim's only major pop hit, thanks primarily to the 1975 recording by Judy Collins. It was written for the musical A Little Night Music, in which it was introduced by Glynis Johns, for whom Sondheim specifically wrote the song. Its a complex piece using a triple meter, and containing four verses and a bridge. Its lyrics concern an older woman who has been rejected by the man she regrets not having pursued earlier in life.

Lyrics:

Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Where are the clowns?

Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move...
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I'd stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours.
Making my entrance again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines...
No one is there.

Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you'd want what I want...
Sorry, my dear!
And where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.
Don't bother, they're here.

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career.
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns...
Well, maybe next year.

Recorded By:

Barbra Streisand
Shirley Bassey
Frank Sinatra
Grace Jones
Stan Kenton

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Lonesome Road

By Gene Austin & Nat Shilkret
1927

Austin himself was the first to record this song, and it became so popular that it was actually incorporated into the 1929 film adaptation of the Broadway smash Show Boat, the first modern musical. In fact, it was the only song not by composers Oscar Hammerstein & Jerome Kern to be featured in the movie.

Lyrics:

Look down, look down
That lonesome road,
Before you travel on.

Look up, look up
And seek your maker,
'fore Gabriel blows his horn.

Weary toting such a load,
Heading down that lonesome road.

Look down, look down
That lonesome road,
Before you travel on.

True love, true love,
What have I done,
That you should treat me so?

You caused me
To walk and talk
Like I never done before.

Weary toting such a load,
Trudging down that lonesome road.

Look down, look down
That lonesome road,
Before you travel on.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Jimmy Lunceford
Louis Armstrong
The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Nat King Cole

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Melancholy Baby

By Ernie Burnett & George A. Norton
1912

In one of the most bizarre bits of trivia I've ever come across, it might interest you to know that it was William "Fred Mertz" Frawley who introduced this song at the Mozart Cafe in Denver, Colorado. The sentimental favorite was a major theme in the Cagney pic The Roaring Twenties, in which it was sung by his co-star Priscilla Lane.

Lyrics:

Come sweetheart mine,
Don't sit and pine.
Tell me of the cares that make you feel so blue.
What have I done?
Answer me, hon.
Have I ever said an unkind word to you?
My love is true,
And just for you.
I'd do almost anything at any time.
Dear when you sigh,
Or when you cry,
Something seems to grip this very heart of mine.

So come to me, my melancholy baby,
Cuddle up and don't feel blue.
All your fears are foolish fancy, maybe.
You know, dear, that I'm in love with you.

Every cloud must have a silver lining.
Wait until that sun shines through.
Smile, my honey dear,
While I kiss away each tear,
Or else I shall be melancholy, too.

Recorded By:

Barbra Streisand
Al Bowlly
Coleman Hawkins
Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie & Thelonious Monk
Leon Redbone

Friday, January 23, 2009

It Had to Be You

By Isham Jones & Gus Kahn
1924

This beloved standard was an instant favorite--in fact, it was recorded six times within its first sixth months of publication, the first of which was Sam Lanin's version. Jones himself would record it a month later. It has been featured in numerous films, including Jimmy Cagney's The Roaring Twenties (1939), Casablanca (1942), Annie Hall (1977) and A League of Their Own (1992).

Lyrics:

Why do I do just as you say?
Why must I just give you your way?
Why do I sigh? Why don't I try to forget?
It must have been that something lovers call fate,
Kept me saying: "I have to wait."
I saw them all, just couldn't fall 'til we met.

It had to be you,
It had to be you.
I wandered around, and finally found
The somebody who
Could make me be true,
And could make me be blue,
And even be glad, just to be sad
Thinking of you.

Some others I've seen,
Might never be mean,
Might never be cross,
Or try to be boss,
But they wouldn't do.

For nobody else gave me a thrill,
With all your faults,
I love you still.
It had to be you, wonderful you,
It had to be you.

Recorded By:

Paul Whiteman
Dick Haymes & Helen Forrest
Doris Day
Petula Clark
Ray Charles

Thursday, January 22, 2009

You're Driving Me Crazy

By Walter Donaldson
1930

A huge hit for Donaldson, this infectious tune was composed for the production Smiles, and first recorded by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians, who had a big hit with it. But modern audiences probably know it best from Betty Boop's flirty rendition in the 1931 Fleischer cartoon Silly Scandals.

Lyrics:

You left me sad and lonely;

Why did you leave me lonely?

For here's a heart that's only

For nobody but you!

I'm burning like a flame, dear;
Oh, I'll never be the same, dear;

I'll always place the blame, dear,

On nobody but you.

Yes, you,

You're driving me crazy!
What did I do? What did I do?

My tears for you
Make everything hazy,
Clouding the skies of blue.

How true,
Were the friends who were near me to cheer me,
Believe me, they knew!
But you,
Were the kind who would hurt me, desert me,
When I needed you!

Yes, you!
You're driving me crazy!
What did I do to you?

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Buddy Greco
Frank Sinatra
Rudy Vallee
The Squirrel Nut Zippers

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Cried for You

By Gus Arnheim, Arthur Freed & Abe Lyman
1923

A classic vaudeville-inspired '20s standard, introduced by Lyman's own orchestra (pictured). It was instantly popular, hitting the top 20 twice with two different bands in its first year. The melody is inventive, with an octave that lets a singer show what they've got; and the gloating lyric is that of a spurned lover wishing ill upon her ex. Sinatra breathed new life into it for his 1957 Joey Lewis biopic The Joker Is Wild.

Lyrics:

I cried for you,
Now it's your turn to cry over me.
Every road has a turning,
Thats one thing you're learning.

I cried for you--
What a fool I used to be.
Now I've found two eyes
Just a little bit bluer,
I've found a heart
Just a little bit truer.

I cried for you,
Now it's your turn to cry over me.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Bing Crosby
Bunny Berigan
Harry James
Count Basie

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Man I Love

By George & Ira Gershwin
1927

This Gershwin classic originates in the first production of Strike Up the Band, which lasted for all of one day in its first Philadelphia run. The song was cut when the show was revived in New York three years later. It later became a standard thanks to Billie Holiday's famous rendition, which perfectly communicating the tender longing embodied in the material.

Lyrics:

Some day he'll come along,

The man I love.

And he'll be big and strong,

The man I love.

And when he comes my way
,
I'll do my best to make him stay!

He'll look at me and smile;
I'll understand.
And in a little while,
He'll take my hand;
And though it seems absurd,
I know we both won't say a word!

Maybe I shall meet him Sunday,
Maybe Monday, maybe not.
Still I'm sure to meet him one day;
Maybe Tuesday will be my good news day!

We'll build a little home
Just meant for two,
From which I'll never roam;
Who would? Would you?
And so, all else above,
I'm waiting for the man I love!

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Lena Horne
Kate Bush
Barbra Streisand
Etta James

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Baby Just Cares for Me

By Walter Donaldson & Gus Kahn
1928

One of three hit tunes from the musical Whoopee, it was introduced by that show's star, Eddie Cantor. Later, however, it would become the signature song of jazz singer Nina Simone, further popularized by its use in a 1987 Chanel No. 5 commercial. It also featured in the 1999 Woody Allen film, Everyone Says I Love You, in which it's sung by Edward Norton.

Lyrics:

My baby don't care for shows,
My baby don't care for clothes,
My baby just cares for me.

My baby don't care for furs and laces,
My baby don't care for high-toned places.

My baby don't care for rings,
Or other expensive things.
She's sensible as can be.

My baby don't care who knows it,
My baby just cares for me!


Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Cyndi Lauper
Jack Payne (below)
Nat King Cole
Ted Weems


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seems Like Old Times

By John Jacob Loeb & Carmen Lombardo
1945

Originally recorded by Guy Lombardo and his orchestra, this song went on to become the theme of Arthur Godfrey's radio program. It would also be used to moving effect in Woody Allen's classic Annie Hall, in which it was sung by co-star Diane Keaton.

Lyrics:

Remember all the things we did together?
All the fun we had on New Year's Eve?
How we danced till dawn?
Then darling, you were gone,
Now it's almost too good to believe.

Seems like old times,
Having you to walk with.
Seems like old times,
Having you to talk with.

And it's still a thrill just to have my arms around you,
Still the thrill that it was the day I found you.

Seems like old times,
Dinner dates and flowers.
Just like old times,
Staying up for hours.

Making dreams come true,
Doing things we used to do.
Seems like old times,
Being here with you
.

Recorded By:

Vaughan Monroe
Rosemary Clooney
Thelma Carpenter
The Four Freshmen
Harry James

Friday, January 16, 2009

Have You Met Miss Jones?

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1937

This is the only song that survived Rodgers & Hart's political satire I'd Rather Be Right, which starred George M. Cohan as FDR. In the show, it was introduced by Austin Marshall and Joy Hodges. Some credit the chord transition in the bridge with inspiring John Coltrane to come up with his trademark key-changing bridges. Robbie Williams' 2001 rendition for the soundtrack of Bridget Jones' Diary renewed interest in the tune.

Lyrics:

It happened--
I felt it happen.
I was awake,
I wasn't blind.
I didn't think--
I felt it happen.
Now I believe in matter over mind.
And now, you see, we mustn't wait.
The nearest moment that we marry is too late!

"Have you met Miss Jones?"
Someone said as we shook hands,
She was just Miss Jones to me.

Then I said, "Miss Jones,
You're a girl who understands,
I'm a boy who must be free."

And all at once I lost my breath,
And all at once was scared to death,
And all at once I held the earth and sky!

Now I've met Miss Jones,
And we'll keep on meeting till we die,
Miss Jones and I.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra
Oscar Peterson
Art Tatum
Sarah Vaughan

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Blossom Fell

By Howard Barnes, Harold Cornelius & Dominic John
1954


Nat King Cole introduced this song, and it will forever be associated with him. Cole's recording was made in December 1954, and lasted for 20 weeks on Billboard charts, peaking at #2--and at the very moment when rock n' roll was first bursting on to the pop scene. This beautiful waltz can also be heard in Terrence Malick's 1963 film Badlands.

Lyrics:

A blossom fell
From off a tree.
It settled softly on the lips you turned to me.
The gypsies say,
And I know why,
A falling blossom only touches lips that lie.

A blossom fell,
And very soon,
I saw you kissing someone new beneath the moon.
I thought you loved me,
You said you loved me.
We planned together to dream forever.

The dream has ended,
For true love died
The night a blossom fell and touched two lips that lied

Recorded By:

Diana Krall
Jerry Vale
Ronnie Hilton
Dickie Valentine
Arlene Murray

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Song Is Ended

By Irving Berlin & Beda Loehner
1927

Unlike most of Berlin's compositions, he worked with a lyricist on this characteristically sweet and gentle ballad, introduced by Ruth Etting (pictured), one of the era's most popular singers. The song would be later referenced in the verse to another standard by the Gershwin's, "They Can't Take That Away from Me".

Lyrics:

My thoughts go back to a heavenly dance,
A moment of bliss we spent.
Our hearts were filled with a song of romance,
As into the night we went,
And sang to our hearts' content.

The song is ended,
But the melody lingers on.
You and the song are gone,
But the melody lingers on.

The night was splendid,
And the melody seemed to say,
"Summer will pass away,
Take your happiness while you may."

There 'neath the light of the moon,
We sang a love song that ended too soon.

The moon descended,
And I found with the break of dawn,
You and the song had gone,
But the melody lingers on.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Tony Bennett
Ella Fitzgerald
Nat King Cole
Dinah Shore

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Cuban Love Song

By Herbert Stothart, Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
1931

I heard Lawrence Tibbett's original recording of this song on the way in to work this morning for the first time, and I must say it moved me. It was written specifically for the film of the same name, in which Tibbett, a star of the Metropolitan Opera who had been nominated for an Oscar the year before, sings it to the gorgeous Lupe Velez. It was the only hit song to emerge from the screen musical.

Lyrics:

I love you.
That's what my heart is saying,
While every breeze is playing,
Our Cuban love song.

I love you.
For all the joy you brought me,
The lovely night you taught me,
Our Cuban love song.

One melody will always thrill my heart.
One kiss will cheer me when we're apart.

I love you.
With such a tender passion,
And only you could fashion,
Our Cuban love song.

Recorded By:

Ruth Etting
Jacques Renard
Paul Whiteman
George Shearing
Mel Torme

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'll Never Smile Again

By Ruth Lowe
1939

Tommy Dorsey brought this tune to light, with the help of a boy singer named Frank Sinatra. Their recording spent a record-setting 12 weeks in the number-one spot on Billboard's singles chart during the summer and fall of 1940, making it an instant standard. Sinatra would re-record the song nearly 20 years later as a solo artist at Capitol Records.

Lyrics:

I'll never smile again,
Until I smile at you.
I'll never laugh again,
What good would it do?

For tears would fill my eyes,
My heart would realize,
That our romance is through.

I'll never love again,
I'm so in love with you.
I'll never thrill again,
To somebody new.

Within my heart
I know I will never start
To smile again,
Until I smile at you.

Recorded By:

Glenn Miller
Michael Buble
The Ink Spots
Billie Holiday
Keely Smith

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

By Lou Handman & Roy Turk
1926

It's a common misconception that Elvis Presley's famous 1960 recording was the introduction of this song, but it was actually a standard decades before the King took a crack at it. Handman and his sister Edith were the first to record the tune in 1927. Blue Barron had the first charted hit with it in 1950, and it's believed that it was Jaye P. Morgan's 1959 rendition, heard by Presley in the army, that inspired him to make the record. His spoken-word portion was taken from Al Jolson's 1950 version. The Presley record spent six weeks at the number-one spot.

Lyrics:

Are you lonesome tonight?
Do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?

Does your memory stray
To a bright summer day
W
hen I kissed you and called you sweetheart?

Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep, and picture me there?

Is your heart filled with pain?
Shall I come back again?
Tell me, dear,
Are you lonesome tonight?

Recorded By:

The Lettermen
Doris Day
Merle Haggard
Al Martino
Frank Sinatra

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

You'll Never Know

By Harry Warren & Mack Gordon
1943

Earning Warren (pictured) and Gordon the Academy Award, this song debuted in the movie Hello, Frisco, Hello, in which it was sung by Alice Faye. Dick Haymes had a number-one hit with it the same year. The lyrics are based on a poem by Oklahoma war bride Alice Faye. The song is known for being the first recorded by Barbra Streisand, who sang it in 1955 at the tender age of 13.

Lyrics:

Darling, I'm so blue without you.
I think about you the live-long day.
When you ask me if I'm lonely,
Then I only have this to say...

You'll never know just how much I miss you,
You'll never know just how much I care.
And if I tried, I still couldn't hide my love for you.
You ought to know, 'cause haven't I told you so
A million or more times?

You went away and my heart went with you.
I speak your name in my every prayer.
If there is some other way to prove that I love you,
I swear I don't know how.
You'll never know if you don't know now.

Recorded By:

Big Maybelle
Frank Sinatra
Shirley Bassey
Vera Lynn
Rosemary Clooney

Monday, January 5, 2009

Just One of Those Things

By Cole Porter
1935

A classic example of the style and sophistication that characterized much of the standards era, this extremely popular song was originally composed by Porter for the musical Jubilee. Doris Day included it in two of her 1950s movies, Lullaby of Broadway and Young at Heart, and Nat Cole named a 1957 album for it. A mature reflection on an ended love affair, the song also features prominently in The Catcher in the Rye, in which it is a favorite of Holden Caulfield. Can you imagine a contemporary pop song referencing Abelard and Heloise?

Lyrics:

As Dorothy Parker once said to her boyfriend,
Fare thee well.
As Columbus announced, when he nearly was bounced,
It was swell, Isabelle, swell.
As Abelard said to Heloise,
Don't forget to drop a line to me, please.
As Juliet cried in her Romeo's ear,
"Romeo, why not face the fact, my dear?"

It was just one of those things,
Just one of those crazy flings.
One of those bells that now and then rings,
Just one of those things.

It was just one of those nights,
Just one of those fabulous flights.
A trip to the moon on gossamer wings,
Just one of those things.

If we'd thought a bit
By the end of it,
When we started painting the town,
We'd have been aware
That our love affair
Was too hot not to cool down.

So good-bye, dear, and amen,
Here's hoping we meet now and then.
It was great fun,
But it was just one of those things.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Maurice Chevalier
Frank Sinatra
Peggy Lee
Louis Prima

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Brazil

By Ary Barroso & S.K. "Bob" Russell
1939

Written as a patriotic samba by Barroso, the greatest Brazilian composer of the standards era, this song was first recorded by Aracy Cortes with its original Portoguese lyrics. It became a runaway American hit when Russell added English lyrics to it in 1941. It was originally known as "Aquarela do Brasil", but the name was shortened in the U.S. It's been featured in an unusual amount of films and TV shows, ranging from Disney's 1942 animated picture Saludos Amigos, to 2008 Oscar favorite Australia.

Lyrics:

Brazil,
The Brazil that I knew,
Where I wandered with you,
Lives in my imagination.
Where the songs are passionate,
And a smile has flash in it,
And a kiss has art in it,
For you put your heart in it,
And so I dream of old Brazil.

Brazil,
Where hearts were entertaining June,
We stood beneath an amber moon
And softly murmured “someday soon”.
We kissed and clung together,
Then tomorrow was another day,
The morning found me miles away.
With still a million things to say

Now, when twilight dims the sky above,
Recalling thrills of our love,
There’s one thing I’m certain of;
Return, I will,
To old Brazil.


Recorded By:

Django Reinhardt
Frank Sinatra
Ray Conniff
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Rosemary Clooney

Friday, January 2, 2009

Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?

By Clarence Williams & Charles Warfield
1919

It's believed that pianist Warfield was in actuality this song's sole composer, and Williams--as song publishers sometimes did--took partial credit in exchange for promoting the song. Although written in 1919, the earliest recorded version, to my knowledge, is the 1922 version by Williams' wife Eva Taylor. Bessie Smith, "Empress of the Blues", would make a hit of it the following year. It has since become a signature tune of the Roaring '20s.

Lyrics:

I've got the blues, I feel so lonely.
I'll give the world if I could only
Make you understand
It surely would be grand.
I'm gonna telephone my baby,
Ask him won't you please come home,
'Cause when you're gone, I'm worried all day long.

Baby, won't you please come home?
Baby, won't you please come home?
I have tried in vain
Nevermore to call your name.

When you left you broke my heart,
That will never make us part.
Every hour in the day,
You will hear me say,
Baby won't you please come home.

Recorded By:

The Mills Brothers
Wynton Marsalis
Stan Kenton
Frank Sinatra
Ray Charles

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