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Thursday, December 27, 2012

I'll Be Home for Christmas

By Walter Kent & Kim Gannon
1943

A warm yet melancholy Christmas standard that dates back to World War II, during which the lyric held a special meaning for soldiers stationed overseas for the holidays. Bing Crosby introduced the tune in time for Christmas 1943, and his version was shipped directly to those soldiers. A controversy ensued over the copyright when poet Buck Ram alleged that the title was stolen from a poem he had written. Some songwriting credits include Ram for this reason. Since WWII, it has become a standard expression of Christmas longing for families everywhere.

Lyrics:

I'll be home for Christmas,
You can count on me.
Please have snow
And mistletoe,
And presents under the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love-light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas,
If only in my dreams.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Perry Como
Al Green
Leon Redbone
Joe Williams

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This Love of Mine

By Sol Parker, Henry Sanicola & Frank Sinatra
1941

As a way of commemorating the birthday of Frank Sinatra, perhaps the greatest ambassador of the Great American Songbook, we're spotlighting one of the handful of songs he actually had a hand in writing. Possibly his most famous composition (he served as lyricist), "This Love of Mine" was written during Frank's time with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, and it was Dorsey's band that introduced it, with a record that rose to #3 on the charts. It would forever be associated with the crooner, who re-recorded the tune on his seminal 1955 album In the Wee Small Hours.

Lyrics:

This love of mine goes on and on,
Tho' life is empty since you have gone.
You're always on my mind, tho' out of sight
It's lonesome thru the day,
But oh! the night.

I cry my heart out it's bound to break,
Since nothing matters, let it break.
I ask the sun and the moon,
The stars that shine,
What's to become of it, this love of mine.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Stan Kenton w/Cyd Charisse
Sonny Rollins Quartet
Jack Jones
Ray Charles

HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRANK!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rhode Island Is Famous For You

By Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz
1948

A ridiculously cute and catchy number from the obscure Schwartz/Dietz musical revue Inside the U.S.A. The show only ran for a few months, and only produced one hit, "Haunted Heart". Most attribute this to the ASCAP strike that prevented the recording of a proper cast album or radio version. This particular number was introduced in the show by Jack Haley, best known as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Like the rest of the numbers/sketches in the show, it spotlights a particular state--although in this case, it also includes many others in a classic "list-song" format.

Lyrics: 

Copper comes from Arizona
Peaches come from Georgia
And lobsters come from Maine
The wheat fields
Are the sweet fields of Nebraska
And Kansas gets bonanzas from the grain

Old whiskey comes from old Kentucky
Ain't the country lucky
New Jersey gives us glue
And you, you come from Rhode Island
And little old Rhode Island
Is famous for you

Cotton comes from Lou-siana
Gophers from Montana
And spuds from Idaho
They plow land
In the cow land of Missour-a
Where most beef meant
For roast beef seems to grow

Grand canyons come from Colorad-a
Gold comes from Nevada
Divorces also do
And you, you come from Rhode Island
Little old Rhode Island
Is famous for you

Pencils come from Pennsylvania
Vest from Vest Virginia
And Tents from Tent-esee
They know mink where they grow
Mink in Wyo-mink
A camp chair in New Hamp-chair
That's for me

And minnows come Minnesota
Coats come from Dakota
But why should you be blue?
For you, you come from Rhode Island
Don't let them ride Rhode Island
It's famous for you

Recorded By:

John Pizzarelli
Blossom Dearie
Jack Haley
Nancy Lamott
Layla Solomon (my daughter's own rendition, which I hope you enjoy!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

By Meredith Wilson
1951

A warm and fuzzy holiday classic from the idyllic '50s, this tune was introduced by Perry Como, joined by the Fontane Sisters and the Mitchell Ayres Orchestra. It's original title was "It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas". Legend has it that writer Wilson was inspired to write the song by a stay at the Grand Hotel in Yarmouth, Novia Scotia. The Johnny Mathis version became very popular in more recent years thanks to its inclusion in the 1992 movie Home Alone 2. Today it remains one of the most ubiquitous modern-day secular carols.

Lyrics:

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev'ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben;
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen;
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
There's a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well,
The sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.

Recorded By:

Alvin & The Chipmunks
Michael Buble
Johnny Mathis
Bing Crosby
Perry Como

Friday, November 9, 2012

Just You, Just Me

By Jesse Greer & Raymond Klages 
1929 

A film musical number with understated grace, gentle simplicity and sublime beauty, it's no wonder that this song has become especially popular amongst jazz instrumentalists dating back to the Big Band era. It was introduced by Chaplin paramour Marion Davies and Lawrence Grey in the film Marianne (pictured), and was even later performed by Liza Minelli in the 1976 Martin Scorsese musical New York, New York, as well as by Edward Norton as a serenade to Drew Barrymore in the 1996 Woody Allen musical Everyone Says I Love You.

Lyrics:

Just you, just me
Let's find a cozy spot
To cuddle and woo.
Just us, just we
I've missed an awful lot
My trouble is you.

Oh, gee!
What are your charms for?
What are my arms for?
Use your imagination!

Just you, just me
I'll tie a lover's knot
Around wonderful you.

Recorded By:

Bing Crosby
Artie Shaw
Judy Garland
Lester Young
Duke Ellington

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mona Lisa

By Ray Evans & Jay Livingston
1950

Best known for the timeless recording by Nat King Cole, this beloved favorite was written for the film Captain Carey, USA, in which Cole introduced it along with the orchestra of exotica maven Les Baxter (and for which it won the Oscar). It's believed that Frank Sinatra was offered the song as well, but turned it down. Nevertheless, the song has become ubiquitous, and although several other artists have recorded it over the years, it remains Cole's version that rises head and shoulders above the rest.

Lyrics:

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you. 
You're so like the lady with the mystic smile
Is it only 'cause you're lonely, they have blamed you  
For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile?
 
Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa? 

Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?  
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep.  
They just lie there and they die there.
Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa? 
Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art?
 
Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa?  

Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?  
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep.  
They just lie there and they die there.
Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa?  

Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art?  


Recorded By:

Elvis Presley
Don Cherry
Harry James
Doris Day
Willie Nelson

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Andy Williams 1927-2012

He was known as "Mr. Christmas". And you can't possibly hear Henry Mancini's "Moon River" without thinking of him. Andy Williams may have been considered somewhat milk-toast by some, but regardless of that, he was was an example of someone who kept the traditional pop vocalist role alive just as rock and roll bands were taking over the mainstream limelight.

Andy Williams left us late last month after a brief battle with bladder cancer that began in 2011. He had been largely quiet for most of the past 30 years, his easy-listening style eventually shouted down by the new forms of popular music that were being born just as his career was also hitting its stride. But from the mid 1950s through the mid 1970s, he was without a doubt one of America's premiere practitioners of popular song.

The Williams Brothers
Williams actually got his start in the 1940s as part of a boy singing group with his brothers Bob, Don and Dick. They can be heard on Bing Crosby's hit 1944 recording of "Swingin' on a Star", and achieved major success after World War II touring with nightclub entertainer Kay Thompson, who had discovered the boys during her time as former head of vocal talent at MGM. They were among the first major Vegas attractions.

Despite a 20-year age difference, Andy and Kay became romantically involved, and by the 1950s, Andy had gone his separate way from his brothers. It was Kay's show-biz connections that helped kick-start his solo career in the mid 1950s, landing him a regular singing spot on the original Tonight Show with Steve Allen, as well as his first record contract.

Williams shared the same label as early rock 'n rollers like The Everly Brothers and The Chordettes, and even dabbled in a lot of teeny-bopper bubble gum pop during those years as well. However, he also cherished a great deal of traditional-style pop as well, and by the 1960s was one of America's top vocalists, just as the rock era was firmly entrenching itself as the mainstream in American music. Williams remained a unique aberration during those years, representing the last gasps of the old guard in a lot of ways.

He developed an interesting working relationship with composer Henry Mancini, regularly performing his songs at the Oscars, including "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses". Although he never had hit singles with them, he did record them, and it was "Moon River" in particular with which he would become most identified for the rest of his career and life. It was also during the 1960s that Williams developed his deep friendship with Robert and Ethel Kennedy--Williams was with Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1968, and even sang at RFK's funeral.

Williams' heyday of the 1960s also saw him become a regular fixture on TV, a role for which he is still fondly remembered by so many--both the World War II generation who loved him for carrying the torch, and their baby boomer children who consider him something a kitsch reminder of their childhood. Williams' highly successful variety show ran through the 1960s and into the early 1970s. His beloved Christmas specials ran regularly into the mid 1970s, and even sporadically into the 1980s and 1990s. His recording of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is a holiday staple.

More than anything, Andy Williams was a feel-good entertainer. He may not have had the artistic chops of other practitioners of popular song, or the respect of the musical elite, but he kept the tradition alive during an era that made singers like him seem progressively more "uncool" in the eyes of mainstream America. His warm, earnest voice will be greatly missed.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reaching for the Moon

By Irving Berlin
1930

We wrap up the week-long celebration of Irving Berlin's 125th birthday with this bonus post about a song he composed for a movie musical of the same name. At the time, musicals were temporarily out of favor, and most of Berlin's songs for the film were actually cut. This song, in fact, wound up only being used as background music, which is a shame. Ironically, it would become one of the biggest hits of the year, and was recorded by artists at every major record label.

Watch the film in its entirety below!

Lyrics:

The moon and you appear to be
So near and yet so far from me
And here am I on a night in june
Reaching for the moon and you.

I wonder if we'll ever meet
My song of love is incomplete
I'm just the words, looking for the tune
Reaching for the moon and you. 

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald
Lizz Wright & Regina Carter
Holly Cole
Ruth Etting

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning

By Irving Berlin
1918

Perhaps the song most associated with Berlin as a performer. He composed this strictly for his own amusement, after being drafted into the Army near the end of World War I. The song was so popular with the men, however, that his commanding officer used it for fundraising purposes, and before the end of the year, it appeared in the Zeigfeld Follies. Berlin himself performed it during the next World War, in the 1943 film This Is the Army.

Lyrics:

Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning,
Oh! How I'd love to remain in bed
For the hardest blow of all is to hear the bugler call:
'You've got to get up, you've got to get up,
You've got to get up this morning!'

Someday I'm going to murder the bugler
Someday they're going to find him dead
I'll amputate his reveille and stomp upon it heavily
And spend the rest of my life in bed!

A bugler in the army is the luckiest of men
He wakes the boys at five and then goes back to bed again
He doesn't have to blow again until the afternoon
If ev'rything goes well with me I'll be a bugler soon!

Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning,
Oh! How I'd love to remain in bed
For the hardest blow of all is to hear the bugler call:
'You've got to get up, you've got to get up,
You've got to get up this morning!'

Oh, boy! The minute the battle is over
Oh, boy! The minute the foe is dead
I'll put my uniform away and move to Philadelphia
And spend the rest of my life in bed!

Recorded By:

Arthur Fields
Alice Faye & Ethel Merman
Dick Robertson
Irving Berlin
Jessica Molaskey

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's Face the Music and Dance

By Irving Berlin
1936

Berlin had a long-standing relationship with Fred Astaire, and wrote many of his songs specifically for him. In Follow the Fleet, Astaire introduced this Berlin classic, along with others such as "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket". A very sophisticated number for the often more populist Berlin, this one has really stood the test of time. It's been a favorite of cabaret singers for decades, and the Astaire version was even used in the film Pennies from Heaven, in which it was lip-synched by Steve Martin.

Lyrics:

There may be trouble ahead
But while there's moonlight and music
And love and romance
Let's face the music and dance

Before the fiddlers have fled
Before they ask us to pay the bill
And while we still
Have the chance
Let's face the music and dance

Soon
We'll be without the moon
Humming a diff'rent tune
And then

There may be teardrops to shed
So while there's moonlight and music
And love and romance
Let's face the music and dance
Dance
Let's face the music and dance!

Recorded By:

Mel Torme
Frank Sinatra
Diana Krall
Doris Day
Nat King Cole

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How Deep Is the Ocean?

By Irving Berlin
1932

One of the rare Berlin tunes to debut on the radio and not on stage, this song was written at a particularly low point in the composer's personal and professional life, which may account for the bittersweet, melancholy yet hesitantly hopeful melody and lyric. It was introduced by the Paul Whiteman orchestra. I hope you enjoy it today, as our celebration of Berlin's 125th birthday continues...

Lyrics:

How can I tell you what is in my heart?
How can I measure each and every part?
How can I tell you how much I love you?
How can I measure just how much I do?

How much do I love you?
I'll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?

How far would I travel
To be where you are?
How far is the journey
From here to a star?

And if I ever lost you
How much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Aretha Franklin
Ella Fitzgerald
Dexter Gordon
Eric Clapton




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Anything You Can Do

By Irving Berlin
1946

We continue the week-long 125th birthday celebration of Berlin with one of his most enduring hits, a classic number from Annie Get Your Gun (one of many!) Written as an ornery duet between Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton, it has lived on in countless versions over the years, ranging from Barbara Walters and Howard Cosell on SNL to Merman and Miss Piggy on The Muppet Show. Even rapper J. Cole used the famous opening verse in a recent recording. A truly transcendent example of the power of Berlin as a composer. Not just a duet, this is the duet.

Lyrics: 

Anything you can do,
I can do better.
I can do anything
Better than you.

No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can. No, you can't.
Yes, I can,
Yes, I can!

Anything you can be
I can be greater.
Sooner or later,
I'm greater than you.

No, you're not. Yes, I am.
No, you're not. Yes, I am.
No, you're NOT!. Yes, I am.
Yes, I am!

I can shoot a partridge
With a single cartridge.
I can get a sparrow
With a bow and arrow.
I can live on bread and cheese.
And only on that?
Yes.
So can a rat!
Any note you can reach
I can go higher.
I can sing anything
Higher than you.
No, you can't. (High)
Yes, I can. (Higher) No, you can't. (Higher)
Yes, I can. (Higher) No, you can't. (Higher)
Yes, I can. (Higher) No, you can't. (Higher)
Yes, I can. (Higher) No, you can't. (Higher)
Yes, I CAN! (Highest)

Anything you can buy
I can buy cheaper.
I can buy anything
Cheaper than you.

Fifty cents?
Forty cents! Thirty cents?
Twenty cents! No, you can't!
Yes, I can,
Yes, I can!
Anything you can say
I can say softer.
I can say anything
Softer than you.
No, you can't. (Softly)
Yes, I can. (Softer) No, you can't. (Softer)
Yes, I can. (Softer) No, you can't. (Softer)
Yes, I can. (Softer)
YES, I CAN! (Full volume)
I can drink my liquor
Faster than a flicker.
I can drink it quicker
And get even sicker!
I can open any safe.
Without bein' caught?
Sure.
That's what I thought--
you crook!
Any note you can hold
I can hold longer.
I can hold any note
Longer than you.

No, you can't.
Yes, I can No, you can't.
Yes, I can No, you can't.
Yes, I can
Yes, I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I No, you C-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-N'T--
CA-A-A-A-N! (Cough, cough!)
Yes, you ca-a-a-an!

Anything you can wear
I can wear better.
In what you wear
I'd look better than you.
In my coat?
In your vest! In my shoes?
In your hat! No, you can't!
Yes, I can
Yes, I CAN!
Anything you say
I can say faster.
I can say anything
Faster than you.
No, you can't. (Fast)
Yes, I can. (Faster) No, you can't. (Faster)
Yes, I can. (Faster) Noyoucan't. (Faster)
YesIcan! (Fastest)
I can jump a hurdle.
I can wear a girdle.
I can knit a sweater.
I can fill it better!
I can do most anything!
Can you bake a pie? No.
Neither can I.
Anything you can sing
I can sing sweeter.
I can sing anything
Sweeter than you.
No, you can't. (Sweetly)
Yes, I can. (Sweeter) No, you can't. (Sweeter)
Yes, I can. (Sweeter) No, you can't. (Sweeter)
Yes, I can. (Sweeter) No, you can't, can't, can't (sweeter)
Yes, I can, can, can (Sugary)

Yes, I can! No, you can't!

Recorded By:

Doris Day & Robert Goulet
Bing Crosby & Rosemary Clooney
Bernadette Peters & Tom Wopat
Mary Martin & John Raitt
Judy Garland & Howard Keel

Monday, September 24, 2012

After You Get What You Want, You Don't Want It

By Irving Berlin
1920

Yesterday marked the 125th anniversary of the birth of Irving Berlin, and we're celebrating all week with spotlights on some of Berlin's most cherished tunes. This early smash hit for the Jewish-American songwriter was introduced by the popular vocal duo of Van & Schenck, whose recording spent six weeks at the number-two position on the charts. Just yesterday, on Berlin's 125th birthday, I picked up this record in an antique shop in its original 78 format, and it was a pleasure to listen to it at home in all its glory. You might also recognize this song from its use in the season 2 opener of HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

Lyrics:

Listen to me, honey dear 
Something's wrong with you I fear
It's getting harder to please you 
Harder and harder each year 
I don't want to make you blue 
But you need a talking to 
Like a lot of people I know 
Here's what's wrong with you...

After you get what you want, you don't want it 
If I gave you the moon, you'd grow tired of it soon. 
You're like a baby 
You want what you want when you want it 
But after you are presented 
With what you want, you're discontented 

You're always wishing and wanting for something 
When you get what you want 
You don't want what you get 
And tho' I sit upon your knee 
You'll grow tired of me 
'Cause after you get what you want 
You don't want what you wanted at all!

Recorded By:

Nat King Cole
Marilyn Monroe
Red Nichols
Van & Schenck
Joyce Breach

 

Monday, September 17, 2012

When Did You Leave Heaven?

By Richard Whiting & Walter Bullock
1936

A schmaltzy yet irresistible number from the 20th Century Fox musical Sing, Baby, Sing--in which it was introduced by the recently departed Tony Martin, making his film debut at the time. The song became an instant favorite of the big band orchestras of the day. In later decades, it became a lesser heard but beloved standard among a wide range of performers.

Lyrics:

When did you leave Heaven?
How could they let you go?
How's ev'rything in Heaven?
I'd like to know.

Why did you trade Heaven
For all these earthly things?
Where did you hide your halo?
Where did you lose your wings?

Have they missed you?
Can you get back in?
If I kissed you,
Would it be a sin?

I am only human,
But you are so divine.
When did you leave Heaven,
Angel mine?
 
Recorded By: 
 
Guy Lombardo Orchestra
Joe Williams
Bob Dylan
Renee Fleming
Louis Armstrong

Friday, September 14, 2012

Azure Te

By Bill Davis & Don Wolf
1952

A jazz gem that came along just as the new forms were emerging post World War II, including be bop and the nascent rhythm and blues that would lead to rock 'n roll. Wild Billy Davis was an innovative jazz pianist and organist who had done stints with the ensembles of Louis Jordan (pictured) and Duke Ellington among others, when he put this easy, supercool number together along with Don Wolf (who'd later contribute to the timeless early rock instrumental "Sleepwalk"). Jordan's band introduced the song.

Lyrics:

Gone and got the blues in Paris  
Paris blues called Azure-Te  
How can I be blue in Paris?  
It's easy 'cause you're far away  
Can't lose these blues, this Azure-Te
 
Side-walk tables filled with people  

Always happy, always gay  
Still I'm all alone in Paris  
Praying you'll return someday  
Can't lose this blues, this Azure-Te
 
Montmartre, springtime, Eiffel Tower  

Funny taxis, the kids at play  
Paris without you is lonesome  
Yearning more and more each day  
Can't lose these blues, this Azure-Te
 
If you knew how much I need you  

You'd come back to me to stay  
Having you with me in Paris Really is the only way  
You lose these blues, this Azure-Te  
These Paris blues, this Azure-Te
 
Recorded By:
 
Ella Fitzgerald
Frank Sinatra
George Shearing
Duke Ellington



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Look for the Silver Lining

By Jerome Kern & B.G DeSylva
1919

Although originally written for the failed musical Zip Goes a Million, this charming early Jazz Age gem was revived in 1920 for the show Sally, in which it was properly introduced by Marilyn Miller. With a lilting melody and an uplifting lyric, it was a natural hit. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union would use it as the basis of their theme song, and it would later be embraced by modern TV viewers thanks to Chet Baker's rendition, which was often used as a theme on Turner Classic Movies.

Lyrics:

As I wash my dishes, I'll be following a plan
Til I see the brightness in every pot and pan
I am sure this point of view will ease the daily grind
So I'll keep repeating in my mind:

Look for the silver lining
Whenever a cloud appears in the blue
Remember, somewhere the sun is shining
And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you

A heart, full of joy and gladness
Will always banish sadness and strife
So always look for the silver lining
And try to find the sunny side of life

Recorded By:

Chet Baker
Aretha Franklin
Susannah McCorkle
Margaret Whiting
Judy Garland

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Let's Fall in Love

By Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler
1933

A major hit from the powerhouse duo of composer Arlen and lyricist Koehler (pictured, Koehler on the right), most popularly known for "Stormy Weather" and other early Cotton Club tunes. It was introduced by Eddy Duchin as a lilting ballad, but later turned into a swinging number when it became more of a jazz standard in the 1950s.

Lyrics:

I have a feeling, it's a feeling,
I'm concealing, I don't know why
It's just a mental, incidental, sentimental alibi
But I adore you
So strong for you
Why go on stalling
I am falling
Our love is calling
Why be shy?

Let's fall in love
Why shouldn't we fall in love?
Our hearts are made of it
Let's take a chance
Why be afraid of it

Let's close our eyes and make our own paradise
Little we know of it, still we can try
To make a go of it

We might have been meant for each other
To be or not be
Let our hearts discover

Let's fall in love
Why shouldn't we fall in love
Now is the time for it, while we are young
Let's fall in love!

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Ella Fitzgerald
Shirley Bassey
Diana Krall
Lee Wiley

 
 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hello! Ma Baby

By Joseph E. Howard & Ida Emerson
1899

We all know it today from the classic 1955 Chuck Jones cartoon, "One Froggy Evening", but this song came into being nearly a half-century earlier. It was what was then known as a "coon song", meant to be sung in a stereotypically "black" style by white singers. The first to record it was pioneering recording artist Arthur Collins, and you can hear that right here. The lyric concerns a man whose only contact with his girlfriend is through the then-novel invention known as the telephone...

Lyrics:

Hello! ma baby
Hello! ma honey
Hello! ma ragtime gal
Send me a kiss by wire
Baby, ma heart's on fire!
If you refuse me
Honey, you'll lose me
Then you'll be left alone
Oh, baby, telephone
And tell me I'm your own!

Recorded By:

Arthur Collins
Joan Morris & William Bolcom
Beatrice Kay
Michigan J. Frog
Chet Atkins

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Radio Debut of Standard of the Day--TONIGHT!

Sorry for the short notice on this, music lovers, but tonight is going to be a big night in the history of Standard of the Day... That's because we're taking it to the airwaves for the first time ever! This is something I've been working on for a little while now, and I've just got word that it's going to be happening this evening, during the wee small hours of the morning (Frank would be proud).

If you're in the vicinity of Bridgeport, Connecticut, I'll be on 89.5 WPKN-FM tonight at 3:00am Eastern time. For anyone outside the vicinity, you can easily stream the station at http://wpkn.org. I'll be playing some of my favorite recordings of classic selections from the Great American Songbook--the kind of music I've been celebrating here at SOTD since 2008! I'm very psyched at this opportunity, and hopefully it will turn into a somewhat regular thing.

And have no fear--SOTD will continue to exist right here on the web, doing what it's always done, which is help to keep this music alive and well in my own small way. I'm just extending the reach in the most intuitive way possible, sharing the music I love with listeners live on the radio! So if you happen to be up tonight at 3, head over to 89.5 WPKN-FM or http://wpkn.org and give it a listen! The show will also be archived on the website for listening at a later time, for all those who keep normal sleeping hours...

UPDATE: Had a great time last night! It was a dream come true sharing these great standards live on the air, and the perfect extension of this website that has been my labor of love for four years now. My grandfather would most definitely have been proud beyond words. I hope some of you had a chance to listen, and I'm hoping for more installments of Standard of the Day on WPKN in the near future!
Jonathan Schwartz, eat your heart out.
 If you're interested in listening, the show has been archived here:


However, be advised that it's embedded an about an hour deep into a four-hour block of radio, and you can't skip ahead. But you'll get to hear some other great music from WPKN's Bobby D along the way, so hang in there and enjoy the first edition of Standard of the Day on the radio!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tony Martin 1913-2012

The window is rapidly closing. We are losing the links to a golden era in American popular music. And last month, one of the final breaths of fresh air coming through that window ceased forever. On the evening of July 27, the legendary Tony Martin died of natural causes at the age of 98. He was the last of the major pre-World War II vocalists, having been a contemporary of Crosby and Sinatra (his career even predated Frank's by a couple of years). Though not among the most well-remembered in contemporary days due to a career stifled by the advent of rock n' roll, he was nevertheless an important figure, and his death is a turning point in the history of pop.

He was born Alvin Morris on Christmas Day 1913, the son of Hattie & Edward Clarence Morris. His family was of Eastern European Jewish stock, but like so many in those days, he changed his name upon arriving in Hollywood. But before that, he showed an aptitude for singing at an early age, participating in school glee clubs and forming his first band in high school. In college, he joined the orchestra of Tom Gerun, where he played in the reed section along with future bandleader Woody Herman.

But it would be in singing that Morris would find his calling, and his fame. Banking on his sizable vocal gift as well as his good looks, he took a shot at becoming a musical film star. Officially changing his name, he made one of his first appearances, a bit part in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers classic Follow the Fleet, in 1936. He was promptly signed to 20th Century Fox and later M-G-M, and went on to appear in a string of movie musical mainly during the 1930s but also the '40s and '50s as well. Notable on his screen resume are the Marx Brothers' The Big Store (1941) and the fantastic musical revue Till the Clouds Roll By (1946),

With Jack Haley (aka The Tin Man) in 1936's Pigskin Parade.
His first record label was Decca, which signed the 24-year-old singer in 1938 and paired him up with the Ray Noble orchestra. His earliest hits there included "The Moon of Manakoora" and "I Hadn't Anyone Till You". Martin stayed with Decca through 1942, also racking up major hits with "It's a Blue World" and perhaps his most signature tune, "To Each His Own". His recording career was interrupted with a stint serving in World War II, where entertained the troops for years, even joining Glenn Miller's band for a time.

Following the war, he signed on with then-independent Mercury Records, where he remained for two years--a time that included a re-recording of "To Each His Own" that proved even more successful than his original. The singer was on a high, and RCA Victor stepped in to offer him an even more lucrative contract, which he accepted. He remained there for the remainder of his recording career.

It was also in the late '40s that Martin met Cyd Charisse, the gorgeous musical ingenue who would become his second wife (Martin had been married previously to Alice Faye for four years). Martin and Charisse became one of Hollywood's most glamorous--and longest running--couples, remaining together for 60 years, until Charisse's passing in 2008. They had a son together, Tony Martin Jr., who passed away last year.

Martin's career peaked in the 1950s, with a two-year run on NBC with his own TV show. However, by the late 1950s, with rock n' roll changing the landscape of pop music, Martin was one of those left on the outside. He was unable to keep his career going at the level that some of his contemporaries would do in the succeeding decades, and experienced a major drop-off. His string of charted hits ended in 1957 with "Do I Love You", and so did his musical film career, with Let's Be Happy. He would be heard from only rarely in the years that followed.

Still, Martin did continue to tour and perform all through those later years, and most fans marveled at how his voice continued to hold up well into his senior years. Despite leaving the mainstream spotlight in his early 40s, Martin performed live well into his 90s. His last live performance occurred in 2008, and perhaps it was a combination of old age and the loss of his beloved wife that led him to finally call it quits after an astonishing 72-year career that included 45 charted hits and 32 motion pictures.

There are literally no more like him. From an era of popular music that pre-dated World War II and started just as the big bands were gripping the American consciousness, Tony Martin was the last of a vanishing breed. He would benefit in later years as the vocalist became pop music's central focus, and then saw his star fade as music once again moved on to much newer and different sounds. For fans of the Great American Songbook, he remained a legend among legends who was always fondly remembered. And he will be remembered still by all those who admired his sweet, smooth voice and the earlier time it represented.

He will be missed. Let's never forget the music.

I leave you with my own favorite Martin recording, which I once used as background to a video I made of my infant son... 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Lady Is a Tramp

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1937

Just this past Saturday, I'm proud to say that Standard of the Day celebrated its fourth birthday. In honor of this event, tonight I'm presenting what is truly one of the most recognizable and beloved (not to mention gorgeous) standards of all time. Rodgers & Hart composed the tune for their stage musical Babes in Arms, in which it was introduced by Mitzi Green. Hart's lyrics in particular are quite clever and have led to much speculation--they're basically a cheeky lampoon of New York society, about a woman rejected because she refuses to adhere to their mores.

The song is absolutely timeless, and has become one of the most recorded ever. Specifically, Frank Sinatra made it one of his signature tunes thanks to his performance of it in the 1950s film version of Pal Joey. Many others have made it their own as well, as recently as the high-profile duet of Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga.

Lyrics:

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight,
She loves the theater but she never comes late.  
She never bothers with people she'd hate, 
That's why the lady is a tramp.
 
She doesn't like crap games with barons and earls, 

Won't go to Harlem in ermine and pearls
She won't dish the dirt with the rest of those girls. 
That's why the lady is a tramp!
 
She loves the free, fresh wind in her hair, 

Life without care  
She's broke, but it's oke!  
She hates California, it's crowded and damp, 
That's why the lady is a tramp!
 
She goes to Coney, the beach is divine.

She loves the Yankees, and the bleachers are fine, 
She follows Winchell, and reads every line, 
That's why the lady is a tramp! 

She loves a prize fight that isn't a fake,  
She loves to go rowing on Central Park Lake, 
She goes to the opera and stays wide awake,
That's why the lady is a tramp!
 
She likes the green grass under her shoes,

What can she lose?  
No dough! Oh, no! 
She's all alone when she lowers her lamp, 
That's why the lady is a tramp!

Recorded By:

Buddy Greco
Lena Horne
Tommy Dorsey
Ella Fitzgerald
Shirley Bassey

Though tempted to include the Sinatra Pal Joey footage, in honor of SOTD's fourth birthday, I give you my own daughter Layla's impromptu rendition of the song from March 2011 (she was 9 at the time)...



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hit That Jive, Jack

By John Alston & Skeets Tolbert
1940

A red-hot little jazz number of the 1940s that continues to live on with hepcats everywhere to this day. Tolbert introduced it with his relatively obscure jazz ensemble, but it was with the Nat Cole Trio the following year that it got sent into the stratosphere. In recent years, it has become a very popular number with throwback hot jazz acts.

Happy 8th Birthday to my son--Hit that jive, Jack!

Lyrics:

Hit that jive Jack 
Put it in your pocket till I get back  
Going downtown to see a man  
And I ain't got time to shake your hand
 
Hit that jive Jack  

Put it in your pocket till I get back  
Time and time waits for no man  
And I ain't got time to shake your hand
 
Standing on a corner  

All full of jive  
But you know that you're my boy  
So I'm forced to give you five
 
Hit that jive Jack  

Put it in your pocket till I get back  
Going downtown to see a man  
And I ain't got time to shake your hand

Recorded By:

Nat King Cole
Diana Krall
John Pizzarelli
Joe Carroll
Boyd Bennett

Monday, July 16, 2012

Till There Was You

By Meredith Wilson
1957

Written for the Broadway musical The Music Man, this catchy and melodic tune was sung on stage by Barbara Cook. However, it would actually be introduced on record one month prior to the show's December 1957 opening, when Nelson Riddle's orchestra recorded it with singer Sue Raney. Peggy Lee made the song a hit in the UK in 1961, leading to a bunch of kids known as The Beatles adding it to their early repertoire. It would appear on the Fab Four's 1962 album With the Beatles, and remains the only standard the group ever recorded.

Lyrics:

There were bells on the hill

But I never heard them ringing,
No, I never heard them at all
Till there was you.

There were birds in the sky
But I never saw them winging
No, I never saw them at all
Till there was you.

And there was music,
And there were wonderful roses,
They tell me,
In sweet fragrant meadows of dawn, and dew.

There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
Till there was you!

Recorded By:

Shirley Jones
Anita Bryant
Sonny Rollins
Sergio Franchi
Fran Warren

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mary Is a Grand Old Name

By George M. Cohan
1906

Cohan--by far the most dominant figure in American songwriting just prior to the dawn of the golden era of the Great American Songbook--composed this sweet, lyrical song for his famous musical Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway, in which it was introduced by the preeminent starlet of the stage, Faye Templeton. Some have speculated that he wrote it for his second wife, whose middle name was Mary. However, it's worth noting that at the time he wrote it, he was still one year away from divorcing his first wife... Cohan had a daughter in 1909, and named her Mary.

Lyrics:

For it is Mary; Mary

Plain as any name can be
But with propriety, society
Will say, "Marie"

But it was Mary; Mary
Long before the fashions came
And there is something there
That sounds so square
It's a grand old name.

Recorded By:

George M. Cohan
Bing Crosby
James Cagney
Glen Daly
Allen Dale

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

America the Beautiful

By Samuel A. Ward & Katharine Lee Bates
1910

An extremely popular song of American patriotism--so much so that it has often been suggested as a replacement for the more cumbersome "Star-Spangled Banner" as the national anthem of the U.S.A. It began life as a poem called "Pike's Peak", written by Bates and published on July 4, 1895 in the periodical The Congregationalist (it was published under the title "America"). The poem became quite popular, and in 1910 was combined with a melody written by church organist Ward--written in 1882 and published in 1892 as "Materna", part of the hymn "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem". It was introduced on record in 1910 by Louise Homer, and by far the most popular and inspirational version of modern times would have to be the amazing rendition of Ray Charles.

With words specifically written to commemorate the Fourth of July, this is the perfect tune for enjoying this blessed holiday. Happy Independence Day from Standard of the Day!

Lyrics:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness
America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.
O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov'd,
And mercy more than life.
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.
Recorded By:

Ray Charles
Elvis Presley
Whitney Houston
Barbra Streisand
Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Don't Cry Joe

By Joe Marsala
1949

A breakout hit of the postwar years, written by jazz clarinest Marsala and introduced by popular 1940s and '50s crooner Johnny Desmond (pictured). Some believed at the time that the song's lyrics indicated trouble with Marsala's marriage--but actually the songwriter claimed it was meant for GIs returning after serving in World War II to discover their sweethearts had taken up with other men.

Lyrics:

Don't cry, Joe, let her go, let her go, let her go,
Don't cry, Joe, let her go, let her go, let her go.

You got to realize this is the wind-up,
You're gonna feel much better once you made your mind up.
Don't cry, Joe, let her go, let her go, let her go.

So you lost your gal, it's happened many times before,
So you sit and mope like a dope, what's that good for,
Get a hold of yourself, forget her, you lived long before you met her.
There're lots of other girls, so I say,
Don't cry, Joe, let her go, let her go, let her go.
Don't cry, Joe, let her go, let her go, let her go.

You got to realize this is the wind-up,
You'll feel much better once you made your mind up.
Don't cry, Joe, let her go, let her go, let her go.

Take a look around and see just what you're missing,
You'll soon forget your troubles, Joe, if you'd only listen.
So don't cry, Joe, let her go, let her go, Joe, let her go.

Recorded By:

Johnny Desmond
Frank Sinatra
Godron Jenkins
Joni James

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Curse of an Aching Heart

By Henry Fink & Al Piantadosi
1913

A dusty old chestnut from the pre-World War I era, this is a melancholy, sentimental tear-jerker of the variety that was popular at the time. It was introduced by superstar opera singer Will Oakland, and later became a standard cliche of the woeful love song. This can be seen in its hilarious inclusion in the 1930 Laurel & Hardy short Blotto. It was also resurrected as a swingin' tune by Frank Sinatra for his 1961 album, Sinatra Swings.

Lyrics:

You made me think you cared for me

And I believed in you
You told me things you never meant
And made me think them true

I gambled in the game of life
I played my heart and lost
I'm now a wreck upon life's sea
Alone I pay the cost

You made me what I am today
I hope you're satisfied
You dragged and dragged me down until
The soul within me died

You shattered each and ev'ry dream
Fooled me right from the start
And though you're not true, may God bless you
That's the curse of an aching heart.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Fats Waller
Monty Sunshine
Manuel Romain
Jimmie Davis

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