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Monday, September 27, 2010

Pretty Baby

By Tony Jackson, Gus Kahn & Egbert Van Alstyne
1916

A gem of a tune from the height of the ragtime era, this song originated in Jackson's stage repertoire as early as 1912. It was rumored to have actually been written as a tribute to a male lover, certainly a rarity for a pop song of the time. Later, when the song was published, Tin Pan Alley stalwarts Kahn and Van Alstyne made some alterations, including a bridge and less risque lyrics. Among American standards, it is one of those most strongly associated with the World War I/Ragtime years...

Lyrics:

You ask me why I'm always teasing you,
You hate to have me call you Pretty Baby;
I really thought that I was pleasing you,
For you're just a baby to me.
Your cunning little dimples and your baby stare,
Your baby talk and baby walk and curly hair;
Your baby smile makes life worth while,
You're just as sweet as you can be.

Your mother says you were the cutest kid;
No wonder, dearie, that I'm wild about you,
And all the cunning things you said and did.
Why, I love to fondly recall,
Ann just like Peter Pan, it seems you'll always be
The same sweet, cunning, Little Baby dear to me.
And that is why I'm sure that I will always love you best of all.

Everybody loves a baby that's why I'm in love with you,
Pretty Baby, Pretty Baby;
And I'd to be your sister, brother, dad and mother too,
Pretty Baby, Pretty Baby.
Won't you come and let me rock you in my cradle of love,
And we'll cuddle all the time.
Oh! I want a Lovin' Baby and it might as well be you,
Pretty Baby of mine.

Recorded By:

Al Jolson
Leon Redbone
Dean Martin
Bing Crosby
Billy Murray

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ebb Tide

By Robert Maxwell & Carl Sigman
1953

A late-era standard, this was a hit song composed during a time of big, bombastic and lush pop songs. It's certainly one of the best examples, and has even been co-opted by lots of rock-influenced vocal groups. The Frank Chacksfield orchestra introduced it, and it became a major hit mere months later for Vic Damone. Both Maxwell's melody and Sigman's gorgeous lyric combine to give the real effect of an ocean tide rushing in...

Lyrics:

First the tide rushes in,
Plants a kiss on the shore,
Then rolls out to sea,
And the sea is very still once more.

So I rush to your side,
Like the oncoming tide,
With one burning thought,
Will your arms open wide?

At last we're face to face,
And as we kiss through an embrace,
I can tell, I can feel,
You are love, your are real,
Really mine in the rain,
In the dark, in the sun,
Like the tide at its ebb,
I'm at peace in the web of your arms.

Recorded By:

The Righteous Brothers
Frank Sinatra
Jerry Colonna
Santo & Johnny
Ella Fitzgerald

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Girl from Ipanema

By Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes & Norman Gimbel
1962

A beautiful song unfairly twisted by the rock-obsessed baby boomer generation into the epitome of elevator music, Jobim's greatest hit is anything but dull. A breathtaking bossa nova tune inspired by a real-life girl Jobim and Moraes admired on the beach in Rio, it became an international smash hit and the famous Astrid Giberto recording won the Grammy in 1965. It was originally introduced by Pery Ribeiro, and English lyrics later added by Gimbel.

Lyrics:

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking.
And when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ahhh..."

When she walks she's like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gentle,
That when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ahhh..."

Oh, but I watch her so sadly.
How can I tell her I love her?
Yes, I would give my heart gladly.
But each day when she walks to the sea,
She looks straight ahead, not at me.

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking,
And when she passes, I smile, but she doesn't.
She just doesn't see.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Stan Getz
Lou Rawls
Peggy Lee
Ella Fitzgerald

Sunday, September 19, 2010

With Plenty of Money and You

By Harry Warren & Al Dubin
1936

An underrated Warren/Dubin gem written for the great Dick Powell for one of his classic 1930s musical screen comedies, The Gold Diggers of 1937. A minor standard, it was very popular in its day, owing largely to the clever Dubin lyric that seems to parody trite love ballads, with the vocalist admitting that in addition to love, he wouldn't mind having a little cash to go along with it... One of my all-time favorites.

Lyrics:

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

And I could take you to places you'd like to go,
But outside of that, I've no use for dough.
It's the root of all evil,
Of strife and upheaval.

But I'm certain, honey,
That life could be sunny,
With plenty of money and you.

Recorded By:

Jessica Molaskey & John Pizzarelli
Tony Bennett
The Ink Spots
Chick Bullock & His Levee Loungers
Luke Hill

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Violets for Your Furs

By Matt Dennis & Tom Adair
1941

A tender, haunting ballad from the same duo that gave us "Let's Get Away from It All" and "The Night We Called It a Day". This sublime number was written for the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, with a young Frank Sinatra as vocalist. Lyricist Adair actually worked for the Dorsey band at the time as an arranger. Sinatra would later revisit the tune for his 1954 solo album, Songs for Young Lovers.

Lyrics:

It was winter in Manhattan, falling snow flakes filled the air,
The streets were covered with a film of ice.
But a little simple magic that I learned about somewhere,
Changed the weather all around, just within a thrice.

I bought you violets for your furs,
And it was spring for a while, remember?
I bought you violets for your furs,
And there was April in that December.

The snow drifted down on the flowers,
And melted where it lay.
The snow looked like dew on the blossoms,
As on a summer's day.

I bought you violets for your furs,
And there was blue in the wintry sky.
You pinned my violets to your furs,
And gave a lift to the crowds passing by.

You smiled at me so sweetly,
Since then one thought occurs,
That we fell in love completely,
The day I bought you violets for your furs.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
John Coltrane
Stacey Kent
Frank Sinatra
Joe Lee Wilson

Sunday, September 12, 2010

April Showers

By Louis Silvers & B.G. DeSylva
1921

One of the true signature tunes of the great Al Jolson, this one became a trademark for him after he introduced it in the 1921 stage production, Bombo. It is one of the many songs to contain the "bluebird of happiness" motif in the lyrics. And on a personal note, my great aunt had a music box which played this song, so it will always conjure warm memories for me.

Lyrics:

Life is not a highway strewn with flowers,
Still it holds a goodly share of bliss,
When the sun gives way to April showers,
Here is the point you should never miss.

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it's raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn't raining rain, you know, (It's raining violets,)

And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a blue bird, And list'ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a blue bird, And list'ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

Recorded By:

Les Brown
Cab Calloway
Eydie Gorme
Woody Herman
Guy Lombardo

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Piccolino

By Irving Berlin
1935

An infectious dance number written by Berlin for the superb musical comedy film Top Hat, which featured a suite of top flight songs danced to by none other than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Astaire himself sings it in the movie, as part of one of the picture's most elaborate dance numbers.

Lyrics:

By the Adriatic waters,
Venetian sons and daughters
Are strumming a new tune upon their guitars.

It was written by a Latin,
A gondolier who sat in
His home out in Brooklyn and gazed at the stars.

He sent his melody across the sea to Italy,
And we know they wrote some words to fit that catchy bit,
And christened it the Piccolino.

And we know that it's the reason
Why ev'ryone this season
Is strumming and humming a new melody.

Come to the Casino,
And hear them play the Piccolino.
Dance with your bambino
To the strains of the catchy Piccolino.

Drink your glass of Vino,
And when you've had your plate of Scallopino,
Make them play the Piccolino, the catchy Piccolino.
And dance to the strains of that new melody, the Piccolino.

Recorded By:

Fred Astaire
Mel Torme
Harry Roy & His Band
Rosey Miyano

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Key Largo

By Benny Carter, Karl Suessdorf & Leah Worth
1948

Written for the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall film of the same name, this smooth, gentle number was introduced by Carter's own band. It would later become a popular tune with the progressive jazz performers who would emerge in the 1950s.

Lyrics:

Key largo,
Alone on Key Largo,
How empty it seems,
With only my dreams

Strange cargo,
They come to Key Largo,
But where is the face
My heart won’t erase?

The moon tide,
Rolling in from the sea,
Is lonely,
and it always will be, till you’re with me.

And I know,
I’ll stay in Key Largo,
Just watching the shore
To find you once more

In Key Largo, find you once more in Key Largo.

Recorded By:

Sarah Vaughan
Benny Carter

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So in Love

By Cole Porter
1948

This is one of the finest accomplishments of a songwriter whose career was fairly littered with them. Possessing a dark, brooding, minor key melody and lyrics that communicate desperate, aching longing and devotion, it is one the American songbook's great odes to love. It was written for Porter's adaptation of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew--Kiss Me, Kate--in which it was introduced on stage by Patricia Morison and Alfred Drake. It would be a big charted hit the following year for Patti Page.

Lyrics:

Strange dear, but true dear,
When I'm close to you, dear,
The stars fill the sky,
So in love with you am I.

Even without you,
My arms fold about you,
You know, darling why,
So in love with you am I.

In love with the night mysterious,
The night when you first were there.
In love with my joy delirious,
The thought that you might care.

So taunt me, and hurt me,
Deceive me, desert me,
I'm yours till I die,
So in love with you am I.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Dinah Shore
Gordon McRae
Peggy Lee
Dick Haymes

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