J TALK

Let’s talk a bit about the “J” ladies who will join us on this 9th walk into my feminine song series. Our stroll starts with a century-old blues, the title of which has origins lost in haze beyond where the crow flies. Speculation has it that the Crow in the title refers to racist Jim Crow laws in Southern states in those vestigial days, or to the name of a Native American tribe, but no one seems to know for sure. In any case, CROW JANE is a ‘blues J’ that’s a jewel of its genre, performed here New Orleans street-style:

Next, we have a sweet little number from 1930. You’ll love her when you see….

I don’t know about you — I could go for more of this gal. But enough walking. This time, we’ll go by Cab (the fare is quite good):

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H I

Sixty-plus year old song titles with girl’s names beginning with ‘H’ and ‘I’ are scarce, which makes it expedient to ‘HI’light both in a two-for-the-price-of-one post.

If there is so much as a hint of a hanger-on among America’s all-but-forgotten H songs, it is HARD-HEARTED HANNAH….but even that haughty harridan has hardly been heard hereabouts since hapless Herbert Hoover was handed his heave-ho from the White House hundreds of historic happenings ago.

Still, I would give Hard-Hearted Hanna a play if not for a gal who looks like Helen Brown (whereas the previous paragraph looks like hell in black and white):

As for the letter I, if you were around in 1903, you may remember IDA, who was sweet as….apple cider?

And, just to show that IDA is not just for us old geezers, here some young’uns show her a little love:

I’d-a like-a to be shown-a little love too, but no one has ever written an enduringly endearing ditty titled Mistermuse. When will they invent a time machine so I can go back and change my name to someone like Barney Google? (If you don’t remember Barney, Google him.)

Eyes-a waitin’.

 

GEO ON MY MIND

How times flies — basketball season is back. The National Basketball Association began play yesterday, with college basketball to follow shortly. But, for the season opener (Oct. 19) which leads to this post, we have the Harlem Globetrotters, whose famous theme song is the Sweet G song which gets our ‘girl’s-names-starting-with-G-songs’ ball bouncing:

Next, let’s go with this contemporary take-off on a 1937 Count Basie/Jimmy Rushing hit:

Sensing a Geo-centric pattern here? This (from ALFIE, 1966) is the new girl of the bunch:

Last, but no less ‘Geo,’ we have this all-time standard sung by the composer as it should be sung (not that others haven’t done it equal justice in their own way):

NOTE: Sorry about eclipsing my usual limit of three clips per post, but all four songs rose to the level I was seeking in this ‘Geo-desy,’ and I couldn’t bring myself to drop one.

THE NAME OF THIS SONG IS DINAH!

A favorite of jazz musicians ever since it first appeared in 1925, DINAH has been recorded hundreds of times, and yet, practically nobody remembers who wrote it. As they sing on some of the old records,”The name of this song is Dinah,” and it was written by HARRY AKST.Warren Vaché, author, THE UNSUNG SONGWRITERS

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If you Akst me: of all the girl’s name songs beginning with D, is there any one finer than DINAH? I’d sigh, “DAH! Not in the state of Carolina!” Composed by Harry Akst (lyrics by Sam Lewis and Joe Young), the song “is so relaxed and without pretense, it’s almost as if it simply happened rather than was written” — so writes Alec Wilder in his book AMERICAN POPULAR SONG. I agree, to the tune of two hearings, starting with this animated effort by

If you think #1 was animated, #2 is even more so:

Let’s wrap it up with a favorite by a real Dinah — the great Dinah Washington, singing a song which takes me back to my 1960 basic training days at Fort Knox, KY, where I first heard her original 1959 recording on a ‘blue’ evening at the PX. Can you place the MC*?

*The MC (emcee) in this 1960 clip was future U.S. President Ronald Reagan. PX, for the benefit of life-long residents of the DMZ (demilitarized zone), stands for Post Exchange.

THE SPELL OF GIRLS

Four months ago today, a 12 year old girl by the name of Ananya Vinay won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC. Happening that her first name begins with “A” leads to a question which leads to where this post is headed:

For some time now, I’ve been kicking around in my head the idea of a series of posts featuring old songs, each title of which is (or includes) a girl’s first name, beginning with “A” and continuing through the alphabet. I’ve hesitated to put this idea to the test for several reasons, the main one being that I question whether there is much of an audience today for one of my passions, namely old songs (loosely defined as 50+ years old). But then I thought: THE SPELL WITH IT! It’s my party….

So let’s get started. Fitting as it would be to get on the A Train with a song titled “Ananya,” I regret to say I know no such song. So I’m going to go with a gal who’s even older than I am, MISS ANNABELLE LEE. Hey, if she was good enough for Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote a famous poem titled ANNABELLE LEE, she’s good enough for me:

POST TIME

When last we met on June 30, I left open whether my future posts would be on an every-ten-days schedule or on a when-the-spirit-moves-me non-schedule. Seeing as how most of us live in a democracy (not to be confused with a demagogracy?), I decided to put the matter to a secret vote. My fellow Americans, base supporters, and gulliblites everywhere, I hereby and now and forever proclaim that the outcome is in!

Yes, friends, the results are in, and doubtless you are on tenterhooks, dying to learn the winner — as well you should be — but kindly hang in there. After all, I’m trying to build up a little suspense here.

DRUM R-O-L-L, please. It is my dis-stinked honor and privilege to announce that 100% of the eligible voters, consisting of me, myself and I (in cahoots with Charlie Barnowl — who? — let’s stop for a spell: it’s Barnet), have opted to vote for….

I confess that Barnet, being deceased, could vote in spirit only. But spirits are flighty, to say the least. Will the spirit stick around, pushing me to act when inspiration is at a peak to post? Other-wise, my frequency of posting will most likely depend on….

However, if my mood is down in the dumps, that doesn’t mean I can’t soar. You see, although I brook no Prohibition on drowning my sorrows — easy for me (not to mention myself & I) to speak — there are times….

Until next time, then — whenever that may be (ye know not the day or the hour) — me leaves myself and I with this reminder:

“The higher a drunk feels in the evening, the lower he feels in the morning.” –Evan Esar

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HIGH FIVE FOR FIVE STARS

Each of the five days since my last post was the birthday of at least one iconic figure in music or film who left lasting memories for those who appreciate legacies in artistry. I could easily go overboard writing in depth about any of these mid-May arrivals, but maybe it’s best to lessen my losses by not overly testing readers’ patience (O me of little faith!):

May 11 — IRVING BERLIN (1888-1989). Perhaps the most prolific composer in American history, with an estimated 1,500 songs to his credit, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films (three of which were Astaire-Rogers musicals). Writing both words and music (relatively rare for his era), his hits include seasonal evergreens White Christmas and Easter Parade, as well as the red, white and blue God Bless America. His lyrics may lack the wit and sophistication of Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart, but there’s no denying the emotional appeal of such songs as….

May 12 — KATHERINE HEPBURN (1907-2003). In the Golden Era of Hollywood, was there ever a more successful, fiercely independent woman than Katherine Hepburn?  Successful? It’s hard to argue against receiving a record four Academy Awards for Best Actress, and being named the greatest female star of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute. Independent? Her own words say it all:

“I have not lived as a woman. I have lived as a man. I’ve just done what I damn well wanted to, and I’ve made enough money to support myself, and ain’t afraid of being alone.” (Hard as it may be to imagine the Bryn Mawr-educated Hepburn uttering “ain’t,” I ain’t about to correct her quote.)

“We are taught you must …. never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change, you’re the one who has got to change.”

“As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”

“Life gets harder the smarter you get, the more you know.”

“Politicians remain professional because the voters remain amateur.”

NOTE: For my ode to another May 12 bundle of joy, see my post of May 12, 2015.

May 13 — ARTHUR SULLIVAN (1842-1900). Can’t place the name? How about Arthur Sullivan of GILBERT AND SULLIVAN fame? Who doesn’t enjoy their great comic operas such as THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, THE MIKADO and H.M.S. PINAFORE — the latter of which I have loved since When I was a Lad:

May 14 — SIDNEY BECHET (1897-1959). This is a name you almost certainly can’t place unless you’re a classic jazz fan….but if you are such a fan, you know him as a major figure in jazz annals since his recording debut in 1923. New Orleans born, he spent the last decade of his life in France, where he died on the same day — May 14 — that he was born. Here he is on soprano sax in a 1950s recording from the soundtrack of Woody Allen’s magical MIDNIGHT IN PARIS:

May 15 — JOSEPH COTTON (1905-1994). I have previously mentioned Joseph Cotton in regard to his co-starring role (with Orson Welles and Alida Valli) in one of my favorite films, THE THIRD MAN. He first met Welles in 1934, beginning a life-long friendship and on-and-off association with Welles in numerous plays, radio dramas and films, as well as co-starring with Katherine Hepburn in the 1939 Broadway play THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. But it is in his role as Holly Martens in THE THIRD MAN that he stands alone (literally so, in the end), and I can think of no more fitting way to end this post than with that indelible closing scene from the film (to the tune of Anton Karas’ Third Man Theme):