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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... 

Listen to Martini in the Morning

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