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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Shaking the Blues Away

By Irving Berlin 1927

A lively, irresistible dance number that's the epitome of the Roaring '20s. It was written for Ruth Etting, perhaps the era's top female vocalist. She introduced it onstage in the Ziegfeld Follies, and recorded it soon after. It was revived 20 years later by Ann Miller in the movie Easter Parade. The original lyrics, though meant light-heartedly, are a tad racially insensitive by modern standards, and so have been slightly altered in later years.


There's an old superstition 'way down south
Ev'ry darkie believes that trouble won't stay
If you shake it away
When they hold a revival way down south
Ev'ry darkie with care and trouble that day
Tries to shake it away

Shaking the blues away, unhappy news away
If you are blue, it's easy to
Shake off your cares and troubles

Telling the blues to go, they may refuse to go
But as a rule, they'll go if you'll
Shake them away

Do like the darkies do, list'ning to a preacher way down south
They shake their bodies so, to and fro
With every shake, a lucky break

Proving that there's a way to chase your cares away
If you would lose your weary blues
Shake them away

I gotta blues, you gotta blues
All God's chillun gotta blues
Come and join a rebel and we'll shake off the devil
And we'll shake all over God's Heaven, Heaven, Heaven
Anyone objectin' to shakin' ain't going there, Heaven, Heaven
Gonna shake all over God's Heaven
I gotta shake, you gotta shake
All God's chillun gotta shake, shake, shake
Nothing could be sweeter than to shake with Saint Peter
When we shake all over God's Heaven, Heaven, Heaven
Anyone objectin' to shakin' ain't going there, Heaven, Heaven
Gonna shake all over God's Heaven

Recorded By:

Doris Day
Maude Maggart
Paul Whiteman
Harry Reser's Syncopaters
Irving Berlin

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Close Your Eyes

By Bernice Petkere

Ironically, although this melodic ballad was composed by the American songwriter Petkere, it was actually introduced by British crooner Al Bowlly (pictured) and the Ray Noble orchestra. With its beautifully romantic lyric and hummable tune, it has remained in favor by practitioners of the Songbook ever since.


Music play
Something dreamy for dancing
While we're here romancing
It's love's holiday
And Love will be our guide
Close your eyes
When you open them dear
I'll be right hear by your side.

Close your eyes
Rest your head on my shoulder and sleep
Close your eyes
And I will close mine.

Close your eyes
Let's pretend that we're both counting sheep
Close your eyes
This is divine.

Recorded By:

Harry Belafonte
Tony Bennett
Stacey Kent
Doris Day
Peggy Lee

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne 1917-2010

A very sad day indeed for lovers of classic pop and jazz. The woman who was perhaps the last of the great pre-1945 vocalists has left us for good. After years of being out of the public eye due to failing health, the legendary Lena Horne has passed on at the age of 92.

Starting out as a Cotton Club singer in the 1930s, Horne would later go on to superstardom in Hollywood during the 1940s, and put out a string of iconic recordings typified by the timeless Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler composition "Stormy Weather", which became something of a theme song. Her career was hurt by her left-leaning view in the 1950s and her strong support of civil rights in the 1960s, but she remained one of the most popular practitioners of popular song nevertheless.

Raised in an upper middle-class family of mixed racial descent, she spent her childhood in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh and Atlanta before joining the Cotton Club chorus girls. She was a vocalist for a few big bands at the height of the big band craze, most notably that of Charlie Barnet, before signing a recording deal with RCA Victor in 1941.

Her stunning looks helped assure her a career in Hollywood, and she made memorable appearances in films like the all-black Cabin in the Sky, as well as Ziegfeld Follies. She would later focus on intimate nightclub performance throughout the 1950s and 1960s, maintaining a high public profile despite her politics thanks to becoming a regular on a plethora of talk shows, including the Tonight Show and Ed Sullivan.

Lena remained a titan of American popular music well into the rock era, and even enjoyed a long-running one-woman show on Broadway in the early 1980s. During the 1990s, there was talk of an entire album of duets with Frank Sinatra, but sadly, throat surgery rendered the Sinatra project impossible, and health issues led Ms. Horne to retire in 1998.

The amazing Lena Horne will forever be remembered by anyone to whom great music matters. Her voice is instantly recognizable, and thankfully we have it preserved for all time in immortal recordings like "Love Me or Leave Me", "It's Love", "Ill Wind", "More", "The Man I Love", "You're My Thrill" and "Let Me Love You". She was the personification of class, sophistication and effortless beauty--a rare link to our musical heritage that will be sorely missed.

Lena Horne passed away yesterday in Manhattan's New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is survived by her daughter, best-selling author Gail Lumet Buckley, as well as her granddaughter, screenwriter Jenny Lumet.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Let's Get Away from It All

By Matt Dennis & Tom Adair

An ode to vacation traveling made popular by the Tommy Dorsey orchestra in a recording featuring then band-singer Frank Sinatra, along with Jo Stafford and The Pied Pipers. A "catalog song", it lists various destinations across America in clever fashion. It was rerecorded some 15 years later by the solo Sinatra on his Come Fly with Me album.


Let's take a boat to Bermuda
Let's take a plane to Saint Paul.
Let's take a kayak to Quincy or Nyack,
Let's get away from it all.

They say there's no place
quite like home
A charming thought it's true
But until the world we roam
how can we be sure

Let's take a trip in a trailer
No need to come back at all.
Let's take a powder to Boston for chowder,
Let's get away from it all.

We'll travel 'round from town to town,
We'll visit ev'ry state.
I'll repeat, "I love you sweet!"
In all the forty-eight.

Let's go again to Niag'ra
This time we'll look at the Fall.
Let's leave our hut, dear,
Get out of our rut, dear,
Let's get away from it all.

Recorded By:

Gene Krupa & Anita O'Day
Frank Sinatra
Della Reese
Dave Brubeck
Fats Waller

Friday, May 7, 2010

Strange Fruit

By Lewis Allan

Sometimes called the defining song of the 20th century, this powerfully moving indictment of lynchings in the South was composed by Bronx schoolteacher Allan (real name Abel Meeropol), and brought to Billie Holiday, who would make it her signature song, despite protests from her record label, which refused to allow her to record it. She recorded it independently, closed almost every show with it, and was reported to break down almost every time.


Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Recorded By:

Nina Simone
Tori Amos
Diana Ross
Cassandra Wilson
Lou Rawls

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blue Hawaii

By Leo Robin & Ralph Rainger

Bing Crosby introduced this breezy, evocative song in both the motion picture Waikiki Wedding (for which it was written), and on record that same year. It would also be the title track of an Elvis Presley movie nearly 25 years later. Part of the Polynesian craze of the 1930s (not to be confused with the Polynesian craze of the 1950s)...


Night and you,
And blue Hawaii.
The night is heavenly,
And you are heaven to me.

Lovely you,
And blue Hawaii.
With all this loveliness,
There should be love.

Come with me
While the moon is on the sea,
The night is young
And so are we, so are we.

Dreams come true,
In blue Hawaii,
And mine could all come true
This magic night of nights with you.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
David Byrne
Gene Autry
Ray Coniff
Ray Charles

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