TWO TO GO

As 2019 goes into the history books, we close out the year and our series of 1920s-30s female songwriters with two of the best: BERNICE PETKERE and DOROTHY FIELDS.

PETKERE, the longest lived (1901-2000) but perhaps least remembered of the women in this series, had her greatest success as a composer in the 1930s. This hit (with lyrics by Joe Young) was recorded in early 1932 by a rising star by the name of Bing Crosby:

Petkere, primarily a composer, also wrote the lyrics to a few of her songs, including….

Saving the class of the field for last, we turn to the most prolific lady lyricist of the era (and the first woman to be elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame), DOROTHY FIELDS, “the only female songwriter of the golden age whose name has not sunk into oblivion with time.” –Deborah Grace Winer, author of ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, subtitled THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DOROTHY FIELDS

Named after Dorothy of Wizard of Oz fame, she teamed with composer Jimmy McHugh in 1927 to write many hits over the next eight years, including this all-time standard in 1930:

Fields went on to write many songs with other composers until her death in 1974….but as much as I’d like to post links to more of Fields work, I’m going to resist temptation (you know what they say about too much of a good thing), Take It Easy*, and call it a Fields day

….except to say, Happy New Year!

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*the title, it so happens, of a Fields song I resisted linking to (recorded by Fats Waller)

 

WHAT VEE/TOT BEGOT, BE WHAT WE GOT (AND THEN SOME)

In a comment to my last post (on composer Kay Swift), a certain mister mused that more posts should follow devoted to women songwriters of the 1920s-30s, of whom there were too few. I’ve since found that two of those few got together to form what was the era’s only successful female songwriting partnership: VEE LAWNHURST (composer) and TOT SEYMOUR (lyricist). We shall proceed accordingly forthwith….or forthwith accordingly. Whatever.

Let’s start with their biggest hit, a #1 bestseller for 11 weeks in 1935, AND THEN SOME:

VEE LAWNHURST (1905-92), born in NYC, was a pianist, singer, teacher, and a pioneer in radio broadcasting. She worked with several lyricists before teaming with Tot to write a lot of hits in the mid to late 1930s, including the title song from the 1935 film ACCENT ON YOUTH, played here by the DUKE ELLINGTON Orchestra (Johnny Hodges on alto sax):

TOT SEYMOUR (1889-1966), also born in NYC, was a multi-talented writer, including special material for such stars of the day as Fannie Brice and Mae West, then turning to popular song writing in 1930, working with various composers until teaming with Vee Lawnhurst. Among their many fine songs is this 1937 Billie Holiday classic featuring such jazz greats as Jonah Jones, Ben Webster, Teddy Wilson and Cozy Cole:

Apparently Vee and Tot wrote no Christmas songs, which is just as well because you’ve probably already had more than your fill. So I’ll just close by wishing you a Happy Humbug….and then some.

 

WE’RE OFF TO HEAR THE WIZARD

To those of you who may think the fourth word of the above title is a misprint, I hasten to tell you that we’re not off to SEE the Wizard of Oz , but to HEAR the Wizard of Menlo Park (as Thomas Alva Edison was known) speaking the first words he recorded:

Many of us have seen photos of the famous inventor when he was old. Here he is at age 31:

https://www.onthisday.com/photos/thomas-edisons-phonograph

Note that in the “Photo Info” several paragraphs below the photo, the location is given as Menlo Park, California. I believe it should be Menlo Park, New Jersey. There is a Menlo Park, CA, which, surprisingly, was founded before the New Jersey town, which was named after the California town, which happens to be the headquarters of Facebook, which is located at 1 HACKER WAY, Menlo Park, CA. Just for the record….would I kid you?

Seriously, why am I publishing this post on this day?

http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/on-this-day/December/Edison-Successfully-Tests-Phonograph.html

Would you care for a demonstration?

I leave you with this famous Edison quote: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” So stock up on deodorant and don’t give up, or you’ll be foiled again.

MEMORIES OF SATCHMO (Aug. 4, 1901-July 6, 1971)

“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” –Louis (“Satchmo”) Armstrong

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Awake at night, at sunrise, every sunset too, seems to be bringing me….

But that was long ago, and now my consolation is in the….

My only sin is in my skin — what did I do to be so….

In contrast to our current culture of celebrity-for-celebrity’s-sake, today we celebrate the memory of a man who was the genuine article: a true game-changer, unsurpassed in the history of America’s contribution to the music world, namely jazz. To quote Scott Yanow, author of CLASSIC JAZZ:

Although jazz existed before Louis Armstrong (including important giants Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Freddie Keppard, Sidney Bechet, and King Oliver), Armstrong had the biggest impact of any jazz musician. Whether it was transforming jazz from an ensemble-oriented music into one showcasing solos by virtuosos, popularizing both scat singing and hornlike vocalizing, infusing pop songs with the blues, making dramatic statements with the inventive use of silence and dynamics, and (via his sunny personality) making jazz accessible to millions who had never heard it before, Armstrong’s contributions are so vast [that] jazz would have been a lot different if he had not existed.

To help the reader (who isn’t a jazz buff or remembers only the past-his-prime Armstrong) understand something of the impact of the early Armstrong, I’ll close with this 1928 recording — his favorite (and mine) of his own playing:

There, brethren, you have the earthly counterpart of The Rapture enrapturing you from the West End of jazz heaven. May you abandon yourself to the American Gabriel’s clarion call as his golden trumpet leads you to Blues paradise. Or just enjoy.

 

 

 

ACHING NEWS

Due to the fact that a growing portion of the news on TV in recent years is blown up as BREAKING NEWS, it’s a wonder there’s any news left in one piece. It strikes me that TV ‘journalism’ has fallen into such a decrepit condition, even Humpty Dumpty wouldn’t want to trade places with what remains of it. To those of us who fondly remember the class of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and the like, cable news overkill is a heart-breaking state of affairs — and heart-breaking affairs, of course, can only leave….

Yes, friends, I’m afraid this world has come to a pretty pass. My heart aches for the return of the good old days when men were men, women were women, news was news, and Presidents were a cut above a pain in the dis-ass-ter. Pardon my language, but that’s the….

What’s to do about it?

SCREENINGS FOR ELLA

“….any day with Ella Fitzgerald is a grand day. ….that song [is] another one I hadn’t heard before.” –from a June 13 comment to my last (June 6th) post by Silver Screenings (a blog published by ‘Ruth’)

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In my reply to Ruth, I noted that with June 15 nearing (the 23rd anniversary of Ella’s death), I’d use the occasion to post a remembrance, including clips of other songs she may not have heard Ella sing. Over the years, I’ve probably done over a dozen Ella clips, including a half dozen in my April 25th post titled THE FIRST LADY OF SONG. After screening a few previous Ella posts to try to avoid repetition, hopefully the songs that follow will fall fresh on Ruth’s ‘Ella-fan-true’ ears (as opposed to mistermuse’s Elephant ears).

Let’s start with an early Ella (as ‘girl’ vocalist with Chick Webb’s Orchestra in April 1936):

Next, we turn from the swinging Ella to a more dreamy Ella:

Before you tune out, I know some of you guys aren’t fans of my kind of music (or the songbirds who warble it), so next time I’ll consider a return to posting about your (and Mexico’s) favorite tweeter of note, Donaldo el Trumpo — mean-o-while, I bid you a fond….

POST PROPOSES PARCEL-POSTING PRES TO POLE

This post is honored to note the 105th anniversary tomorrow of a notable day in U.S. Postal history. Let’s begin with a ‘little’ background, which you can take as gospel because it was written by a Pope:

https://postalmuseumblog.si.edu/2013/02/very-special-deliveries.html

Yes, friends, for just 53 cents worth of stamps attached to a little girl’s coat, the precious cargo wearing that coat was shipped by rail in a train’s mail compartment, thereby saving the cargo’s parents a pretty penny in passenger fare. This got me to thinking about the possibility of saving money by restoring the mailing of humans via the U.S. Postal Service. Think, for example, of all the “border wall” money alone that could be saved by shipping President Trump to the North Pole to chill in Santa’s workshop, helping Santa make toys that insure children are happy instead of policies that traumatize them….or Santa could toy with the bright idea of replacing Rudolph’s red nose with Donald and his orange glow.

Now, I’m not saying The Donald is a worm, but if it acts like a worm, leaves a trail of slime like a worm, and glows like a worm, that may account for why so many have taken the bait.