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Monday, March 30, 2009

Moon River

By Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer
1961

Winning the Oscar for Best Original Song (in one of the last years in which that meant something), this tune was responsible for rejuvenating Mercer's career after the rise of rock 'n' roll had derailed it some years earlier. Introduced in Breakfast at Tiffany's by Audrey Hepburn, it became Andy Williams' theme song after the crooner sang it at the 1962 Academy Awards ceremony. An inlet in Mercer's hometown of Savannah, Georgia was named Moon River in his honor.

Lyrics:

Moon river, wider than a mile,
I'm crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
Wherever you're goin', I'm goin' your way

Two drifters, off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end, waitin' 'round the bend,
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me.

Recorded By:

Paul Anka
Louis Armstrong
Vic Damone
Vince Guaraldi
Johnny Mathis

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Taking a Chance on Love

By Vernon Duke, John Latouche & Ted Fetter
1940

An infectiously rhythmic melody by Duke (pictured) and clever lyrics make it easy to understand how this song became a standard shortly after being introduced by Ethel Water and Dooley Wilson in the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky. Three years after the film's release, Benny Goodman's orchestra (Helen Forrest vocal) scored a number-one hit with it.

Lyrics:

Here I go again,
I hear those trumpets blow again.
All aglow again,
Taking a chance on love.

Here I slide again,
About to take that ride again.
Starry eyed again,
Taking a chance on love.

I thought that cards were a frame-up
I never would try.
Now I'm taking that game up,
And the ace of hearts is high.

Things are mending now,
I see a rainbow blending now.
We'll have a happy ending now.
Taking a chance on love.

Here I slip again,
About to take that trip again.
I got that grip again,
Taking a chance on love.

Now I prove again
That I can make life move again.
I'm in a groove again,
Taking a chance on love.

I walk around with a horseshoe,
In clover I lie.
And brother rabbit of course you
Better kiss your foot good-bye.

On the ball again,
I'm riding for a fall again.
I'm gonna give my all again,
Taking a chance on love.

Recorded By:

Tony Bennett
Frank Sinatra
Les Brown
Dave Brubeck
Rosemary Clooney

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring Is Here

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1938

A sublime classic written by Rodgers & Hart for their 1938 musical I Married an Angel, in which it was introduced by Dennis King and Vivienne Segal. Four years later, the show was adapted for the screen by MGM as a Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald vehicle.

Lyrics:

Once there was a thing called spring,
When the world was writing verses like yours and mine.
All the lads and girls would sing

When we set a little tables
and drank May wine.
Now April May and June
are sadly out of tune.
Life has stuck the pin in the baloon.


Spring is here!

Why doesn't my heart go dancing?

Spring is here!

Why isn't the waltz entrancing?

No desire, no ambition leads me,

Maybe it's because nobody needs me.


Spring is here!

Why doesn't the breeze delight me?

Stars appear,

Why doesn't the night invite me?

Maybe it's because nobody loves me.

Spring is here... I hear.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Bill Evans Trio
Stan Getz
Julie London
Miles Davis

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

With Plenty of Money and You

By Al Dubin & Harry Warren
1936

This one's a personal favorite of mine, which I discovered on an old LP of hits from the 1930s, belonging to my wife's granfather. The great Dick Powell introduced it in the movie The Gold Diggers of 1937, and it was written for the film by the prolific team of Dubin & Warren. The duo would pen a grand total of 11 number-one hits between 1932 and 1937, with "September in the Rain" hitting the top spot the very same year as this charmer.

Lyrics:

I have never envied folks with money.
Millionaires don't get along so well.
I have you, but haven't any money--
Still, the combination would be swell.

Oh, baby, what I couldn't do
With plenty of money and you.
In spite of the worries that money brings,
Just a little filthy luchre buys a lot of things.

I would take you to places you like to go,
But outside of that, I've no use for dough.
It's the root of all evil, of strife and upheaval,
Yet I'm certain, honey,
That life could be sunny,
With plenty of money and you.

Recorded By:

Tony Bennett & Count Basie
Jessica Molaskey & John Pizzarelli
The Ink Spots
Art Tatum
Dick Hyman

Monday, March 23, 2009

Caravan

By Juan Tizol & Irving Mills
1936

Generally considered the first Latin jazz song, this tune was composed by legendary trombonist Tizol for the Duke Ellington band, but it was actually the Barney Bigard orchestra that introduced it prior to Duke making it one of his signature songs. It's exotic flavor made it a favorite of lounge/exotica bandleaders like Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. Mills' lyrics are rarely heard.

Lyrics:

Night and stars above that shine so bright,
The mystery of their fading light
That shines upon our caravan.

Sleep upon my shoulder as we creep
Across the sand so I may keep
The memory of our caravan.

This is so exciting,
You are so inviting,
Resting in my arms,
As I thrill to the magic charms

Of you beside me here beneath the blue,
My dream of love is coming true,
Within our desert caravan!

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Billy Eckstine
Dave Brubeck
Maynard Ferguson
Freddie Hubbard

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jack Lawrence 1912-2009

Jack Lawrence, one of the great lyricists of the Songbook Era, passed away six days ago in Redding, Connecticut at the age of 96, after suffering a fall in his home.

A member of ASCAP since he published his first song at the age of 20, Lawrence became known for co-writing songs that helped kick off careers. Shortly after serving in the Merchant Marine during World War II, he wrote "Yes, My Darling Daughter", which became the first hit record for a young Dinah Shore. He also wrote the words for "If I Didn't Care", the song that introduced The Ink Spots, as well as "All or Nothing At All", boy singer Frank Sinatra's first recording with the Harry James Orchestra.

Lawrence also composed the lyrics to "Tenderly", the trademark song of Rosemary Clooney, as well as the English lyrics to "Beyond the Sea", which became Bobby Darin's signature song. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1954 for the song "Hold My Hand" from the movie Susan Slept Here.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Lawrence.


If I Didnt Care - The Ink spots

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars

By Antonio Carlos Jobim & Gene Lees
1963

One of the songs Jobim wrote for his groundbreaking collaboration with Stan Getz, this was first sung by the sublime Astrud Gilberto. The album, Getz/Gilberto, won the Grammy for Album of the Year and introduced Jobim and the bossa nova craze to the U.S. That same album also included another seminal bossa standard, "The Girl from Ipanema". It was originally written in Portuguese as "Corcovado".

Lyrics:

Quiet nights of quiet stars,
Quiet chords from my guitar,
Floating on the silence that surrounds us.

Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams,
Quiet walks by quiet streams,
And a window that looks out on the mountains and the sea, how lovely.

This is where I want to be,
Here with you so close to me,
Until the final flicker of life's ember.

I, who was lost and lonely,
Believing life was only
A bitter tragic joke, have found with you,
The meaning of existence, my love.

Recorded By:

Miles Davis
Sergio Mendes
Oscar Peterson
Blossom Dearie
Andy Williams

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Falling in Love Again

By Frederick Hollander & Sammy Lerner
1930

A timeless theme of femininity introduced iconically by Marlene Dietrich in the motion picture Der Blaue Engel. It was originally composed in German by Hollander as "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt", completely new, unrelated English lyrics were added by Lerner. Dietrich's version was included in an award-winning 1997 Merceded-Benz commercial, and Christina Aguilera recently revived the tune for the soundtrack of The Spirit (see below).

Lyrics:

Failing in love again,
Never wanted to.
What am I to do?
I can't help it.

Love's always been my game,
Play it as I may.
I was born that way,
I can't help it.

Men flock around me
Like moths around a flame,
And if their wings burn,
I know I'm not to blame.

Failing in love again,
Never wanted to.
What am I to do?
I can't help it.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Linda Ronstadt
Doris Day
Sammy Davis Jr.
Marianne Faithful

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe

By Harold Arlen & E.Y. "Yip" Harburg
1940

The same duo that composed the score for The Wizard of Oz wrote this song the following year for another MGM musical, this time the first all-black musical committed to the silver screen. It was written for Ethel Waters, the dependable, matronly protagonist who must secure Eddie "Rochester" Anderson from the temptations of the beguiling Lena Horne.

Lyrics:

It seem like happiness is just a thing called Joe.
He's got a smile that makes the lilacs want to grow.
He's got a way that makes the angels heave a sigh
When they know little Joe's passing by.

Sometimes the cabin's gloomy and the table's bare,
But then he'll kiss me and it's Christmas everywhere.
Troubles fly away and life is easy go.
Does he love me good? That's all I need to know.
Seems like happiness is just a thing called Joe.

Recorded By:

Rosemary Clooney
Peggy Lee
Bette Midler
Ella Fitzgerald
Nancy Wilson

Monday, March 16, 2009

They All Laughed

By George & Ira Gershwin
1937

A charming classic written for the Astaire/Rogers musical Shall We Dance. Ginger was the one to introduce it in the movie. It's light-hearted melody and engaging, Porter-esque lyric (one of Ira Gershwin's best) has long made it a favorite of jazz and traditional pop vocalists.

Lyrics:

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus
When he said the world was round.
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother
When they said that man could fly.

They told Marconi
Wireless was a phony.
It's the same old cry--
They laughed at me wanting you;
Said I was reaching for the moon.
But oh, you came through,
Now they'll have to change their tune.

They all said we never could be happy,
They laughed at us and how!
But ho, ho, ho!
Who's got the last laugh now?

They all laughed at Rockefeller Center,
Now they're fighting to get in.
They all laughed at Whitney and his cotton gin.
They all laughed at Fulton and his steamboat,
Hershey and his chocolate bar.

Ford and his Lizzie
Kept the laughers busy.
That's how people are.
They laughed at me wanting you,
Said it would be, "Hello, Goodbye."
And oh, you came through,
Now they're eating humble pie

They all said we'd never get together.
Darling, let's take a bow,
For ho, ho, ho!
Who's got the last laugh?
Hee, hee, hee!
Let's at the past laugh,
Ha, ha, ha!
Who's got the last laugh now?

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra
Stacey Kent
Chet Baker
Tony Bennett

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Avalon

By Al Jolson, Vincent Rose & B.G. De Sylva
1920

Churned out at the height of Jolson's popularity, it may or not be legit that the singer had a part in its composition--at the time, it was common for stars like him to get a cut of the royalties for songs they introduced. The lyrics referred to the Hollywood resort community of Catalina Island, but the melody was clever lift from Puccini's Tosca--or perhaps not so clever, as Puccini's publishers successfully sued the songwriters in 1921.

Lyrics:

I found my love in Avalon,
Beside the bay.
I left my love in Avalon,
And sailed away.

I dream of her and Avalon,
From dusk 'til dawn.
And so I think I'll travel on
To Avalon.

Recorded By:

Vaughan Monroe
Nat King Cole
Cab Calloway
Coleman Hawkins & Django Reinhardt
Benny Goodman Quartet

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Song Is You

By Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II
1932

This sweeping, melodic beauty of a song was written for Tullio Carminati in the show Music in the Air. But it would become even more strongly associated with Frank Sinatra, who made it one of his early solo hits a decade later. It would even be used as the title of an excellent book by Will Friedwald on the Chairman's entire body of work.

Lyrics:

I hear music when I look at you;
A beautiful theme of every dream I ever knew.
Down deep in my heart, I hear it play.
I feel it start, then melt away.

I hear music when I touch your hand;
A beautiful melody from some enchanted land.
Down deep in my heart, I hear it say,
Is this the day?

I alone have heard this lovely strain,
I alone have heard this glad refrain:
Must it be forever inside of me,
Why cant I let it go,
Why cant I let you know?

Why cant I let you know the song
My heart would sing?
That beautiful rhapsody of love and youth and spring,
The music is sweet,
The words are true,
The song is you.

Recorded By:

June Christy
Anita O'Day
Nancy Wilson
Art Blakey
Barbara Cook

Thanks to Tenebrous Kate, for inspiring today's post.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tangerine

By Victor Schertzinger & Johnny Mercer
1941

Director Schertzinger collaborated with Mercer on this song for his 1942 musical film The Fleet's In, in which it was introduced by Jimmy Dorsey's orchestra, featuring Helen O'Connell & Bob Eberly on vocals. Schertzinger and Mercer teamed to write several numbers for the movie, also including "I Remember You". The tune is a classic example of Mercer's delightfully playful way with a lyric.

Lyrics:

South American stories
Tell of a girl who's quite a dream,
The beauty of her race.
Though you doubt all the stories,
And think that the tales are just a bit extreme,
Wait till you see her face.

Tangerine--
She is all they claim,
With her eyes of night and lips as bright as flame.
Tangerine--
When she dances by,
Senoritas stare and caballeros sigh.

And I've seen
Toasts to Tangerine
Raised in every bar across the Argentine.
Yes, she has them all on the run,
But her heart belongs to just one.
Her heart belongs to Tangerine.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
Dave Brubeck
Chet Baker
Harry Connick Jr.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Easy Living

By Ralph Rainger & Leo Robin
1937

Written for the film of the same name, the song was originally performed as an instrumental, but became a big vocal hit for Billie Holiday and the Teddy Wilson orchestra shortly after the pictures' release. It has been popular with jazz artists ever since. The song was re-used in the 1949 movie of the same name (different plot), in which it was sung by Audrey Wilder, wife of director Billy Wilder.

Lyrics:

Living for you is easy living.
It's easy to live when you're in love,
And I'm so in love.
There is nothing in life but you.

I never regret the years that I'm giving,
They're easy to give when you're in love.
I'm happy to do
Whatever I do for you.

For you maybe I'm a fool,
But its fun.
People say you rule me with one wave of your hand.
Darling, its grand.
They just don't understand.

Living for you is easy living.
It's easy to live when you're in love.
And I'm so in love.
There's nothing in life but you.

Recorded By:

Chet Baker
Stan Getz
Ann Hampton Callaway
Dinah Washington
Sarah Vaughan

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project

As some of you may know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of America's finest composer/lyricists, Johnny Mercer. In honor of the centennial, the Johnny Mercer Foundation and the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University are presenting the fourth annual Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project on the university's Evanston, Illinois campus the week of June 21.

The no-fee workshop is being run by Tony and Grammy award-winning artists and writers, and is seeking the participation of aspiring songwriters and songwriting teams between the ages of 18 and 30. All popular music genres are welcome. A stipend will be provided for a portion of travel and boarding expenses for any writers selected.

In an era when songwriters aren't getting the recognition and attention they once did, and they deserve, this is very encouraging to see. For more information, or to download an application, go here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To Each His Own

By Jay Livingston & Ray Evans
1946

One of the timeless love songs. Introduced in the classic Olivia de Havilland film, this was a huge hit in 1946. It was first recorded by Eddy Howard, and that same year saw recordings by The Ink Spots, Freddy Martin, Tony Martin, and The Modernaires. In 1990, it would be sung by Al Martino in The Godfather Part III.

Lyrics:

A rose must remain with the sun and the rain,
Or its lovely promise won't come true.
To each his own, to each his own--
And my own is you.

What good is a song if the words just don't belong,
And a dream must be a dream for two?
No good alone, to each his own--
For me there's you.

If a flame is to grow there must be a glow.
To open each door there's a key.
I need you, I know, I can't let you go.
Your touch means too much to me.

Two lips must insist on two more to be kissed,
Or they'll never know what love can do.
To each his own, I've found my own--
One and only you.

Recorded By:

The Platters
Sam Cooke
Frankie Laine
Willie Nelson
Django Reinhardt

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You Took Advantage of Me

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1928

The sole hit to emerge from Rodgers & Hart's Present Arms, this song was introduced by Joyce Barbour and Busby Berkeley (yes, the famous director/choreographer). Recently, it was included in the 2007 album Free Again! by Will & Grace star Megan Mullally, and last year on When I Fall in Love, the debut album of up-and-coming crooner Mark Weber (not to be confused with the famous race car driver, actor, rock guitarist or Holocaust denier with the same name.

Lyrics:

I'm a sentimental sap, that's all.
What's the use of trying not to fall?
I have no will,
You've made your kill,
'Cause you took advantage of me!

I'm just like an apple on a bough,
And you're gonna shake me down somehow.
So, what's the use?
You've cooked my goose,
'Cause you took advantage of me!

I'm so hot and bothered that I don't
Know my elbow from my ear.
I suffer something awful each time you go,
And much worse when you're near.

Here I am with all my bridges Linkburned,
Just a babe in arms where you're concerned.
So lock the doors,
And call me yours,
'Cause you took advantage of me.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Linda Ronstadt
Billie Holiday
Art Tatum
Carmen McRae

Monday, March 2, 2009

You Go to My Head

By J. Fred Coots & Haven Gillespie
1938

Composed by the same team that wrote "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", this was the only major contribution to the American Songbook by the otherwise unexceptional Coots (pictured). It's known for possessing a level of sophistication not often seen in standards of the Tin Pan Alley variety. It was introduced by the Teddy Wilson orchestra, and was the last hit by the band prior to its 1940 breakup.

Lyrics:

You go to my head,
And you linger like a haunting refrain,
And I find you spinning 'round in my brain,
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne.

You go to my head,
Like a sip of sparkling Burgundy brew,
And I find the very mention of you
Like the kicker in a julep or two.

The thrill of the thought
That you might give a thought to my plea
Cast a spell over me.
Still I say to myself,
"Get a hold of yourself,
"Can't you see that it never can be?"

You go to my head,
With a smile that makes my temperature rise,
Like a summer with a thousand Julys,
You intoxicate my soul with your eyes.

Though I'm certain
That this heart of mine
Hasn't a ghost of a chance,
In this crazy romance,
You go to my head.

Recorded By:

Coleman Hawkins
Billie Holiday
Frank Sinatra
Louis Armstrong & Oscar Peterson
Chet Baker

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