THIS POST IS FOR THE WORDS (AND MUSIC)

“They had a story written that at times impinged on the truth, but not very often.” –Richard Rodgers (re Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s filming of the 1948 Rodgers & Hart biopic WORDS AND MUSIC)

The Hollywoodized version of the life of Rodgers and Hart may be for the birds regarding the facts of their life, but above and beyond the cornball script are such treats for the ears as Betty Garrett, Judy Garland and Lena Horne singing those sophisticated R & H songs. But at least — though MGM had no conscience with regard to the narrative — they took no liberties with respect to Hart’s Words And Rodgers’ Music.

Without further ado, then, on with the show. Carrying forward the theme of the previous post, here are (you have my word) three great ‘love’ songs from WORDS AND MUSIC:

But wait — you want unadulterated love and sophistication? R & H had nothing on Cole Porter:

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THIS POST IS FOR THE (LOVE)BIRDS

Now that NATIONAL BIRD DAY (see previous post) has come and flown, it’s time to transition from birds and bird song to love and love songs, in preparation for February 14 (VALENTINE’S DAY, aka ‘Woe To Guys Who Ignore It Day’). Let us begin the béguin*, boys and girls, by gauging your romantic wherewithall with this simple question:

*French for flirtation

Assuming that dealing with This Thing Called Love leaves you Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (and, if it doesn’t, you must be either a robot or a Republican), I suggest getting back to basics, starting with having that Old Fashioned Love in your heart:

Relationships are like music: it’s essential to hit the right notes, but man does not live by instruments alone. For example, without lyrics, the title to the above song might just as well be Yabba Dabba Doo. Here is the same song sung with sweet words of undying love:

I hope that the above is starting to get you guys in a romantic frame of mind. With little more than a month left before V-Day, I have only six more posts to fill your hearts with enough good old-fashioned love to pass muster with your SO. So, mister, rest assured I will work Night And Day to ready you to be in the I’m In The Mood For Love spirit.

 

 

HAPPY IN-BETWEEN DAY, AND ALL THAT JAZZ

One of the first great female jazz singers,  Annette Hanshaw (Oct. 18, 1910 – Mar. 13, 1985) ranked near the top of her field, along with Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, the Boswell Sisters and Mildred Bailey. She gave proper feeling to the lyrics, improvised, and always swung. [She] began her recording career when she was just 15 (discovered by her future husband, Herman Rose, who was the A&R man for the Pathe label), sounding quite mature from the start. Her trademark became saying “That’s all!” (which she had spontaneously ad-libbed on one of her first recording dates) at the end of her records. But the singer hated to perform in public, and at the age of 25 she retired from singing.
Scott Yanow, CLASSIC JAZZ – THE MUSICIANS AND RECORDINGS THAT SHAPED JAZZ, 1895-1933

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At the behest of my good friend/mutual blog follower Don Frankel, I am deviating from my every-five-days publishing routine to post my first and (for a while, at least) last “in-betweener.” The occasion: the October 18, 1910 birthday of singer Annette Hanshaw and the slightly more recent (but decidedly less noteworthy) birthday of mistermuse. To celebrate the former’s birthday, I’d like to pay her tribute as one of my favorite vocalists of the late 1920s – early 30s. Regarding the latter’s birthday, the less said, the better.

On Oct. 15, Don did a satirical political post (on SWI) that ended with a clip of Hanshaw singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” about which I made a comment.  Turns out he didn’t know anything about her (but then who does, unless you’re really into early jazz?). But rather than go into detail that most readers probably aren’t interested in, I’ll let her singing do most of the talking. Here she is at age 16 in August 1927:

Next, the lady sighs “We just couldn’t say goodbye” in a rare filmed performance:

Finally, what could be more appropriate than to end with her last recording, Cole Porter’s “Let’s Fall In Love.”

And now, because we just couldn’t say goodbye, we are left with That’s all.

COLE IN ONE (PART TWO)

One year ago today, on the 50th anniversary of the death of Cole Porter, I published a post titled COLE IN ONE. Porter was one of the two preeminent composer-lyricists  (the other being Irving Berlin) of his day, a time in the history of popular music when most songs were written by a team of one (or more) composer(s) and one (or more) lyricist(s)….think George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and DeSylva, Brown and Henderson, for examples.

What made Porter one of a kind was a combination of the unique quality of his melodies and the wit and urbane sophistication of his lyrics, for which he was unrivaled (excepting Lorenz Hart, who wrote lyrics only). This made such a big impression on me when I was young that I “fell in love” with witty, amusing and sometimes poignant rhyme — the kind exemplified non-musically by light verse master Ogden Nash….and even Nash could team up on occasion to write a great song, such as Speak Low (When You Speak Love) with composer Kurt Weill for the 1943 musical One Touch of Venus.

For this post, I have taken the liberty of taking Cole Porter’s What Is This Thing Called Love for a re-write, interposing my interpretation of the well-known refrain onto Porter’s as-written (but seldom-heard) verse which precedes it. You might call it COLE PORTER A LA MUSE:

I was a humdrum person,
Leading a life apart,
When love flew in through my window wide
And quickened my humdrum heart.
Love flew in through my window,
I was so happy then.
But after love had stayed a little while,
Love flew out again.

What is this thing
Called love of light verse?
This funny thing
I love, called light verse.

Just who can solve
Its mystery.
Why should it make
A muse of me?

I saw humor there
One wonderful day;
Youth took my heart
And threw it away.

That’s why I ask the Lord
In light of this curse
What is this thing
Called love of light verse?

In case you’ve forgotten how the real refrain goes, here is the song sung as originally written:

LET’S NOT TALK ABOUT….

April 11 is Barbershop Quartet Day, a subject about which I wrote a notable and (if I do say so myself) astonishingly brilliant post a few years ago on another site. Un-four-tunately, said post is no longer to be found, so today, I was considering trying to rewrite it as best I could….but, then I thought that even thinking about trying to replicate so lovingly inspired a piece is too painful. It’s like, alas, the flame has fleed, love’s labor’s lost, and that is that. So let’s not talk about….

OK, then, what else should we not talk about, you ask? This post must not be something about nothing.  As a matter of non-fact, nothing is something — the only thing — I’m in the mood to talk about. So, with apologies to Cole Porter,

Let’s not talk about this,
And let’s not talk about that.
If talk starts to leak from our head,
Let’s keep it under our hat.

And if we run out
Of things not to say,
Let’s not talk about
Not talking today.

Above all, let’s not talk
About high-minded things
Like art and philosophy
And celebrity flings.

For silence is golden —
At least, so they say….
But when they say it,
The gold they must pay.

So let’s not talk about this,
And let’s not talk about that.
Let Lithuanians and Letts do it —
Let’s fall in love….but don’t chat.

COLE IN ONE

Cole Porter died fifty years ago today. If you’re under age 50, chances are you don’t know Cole Porter from cole slaw….which is sad in a way, because if you don’t know what you don’t know, you may think what you know is all that’s worth knowing. You know?

To those of us who are into America’s “Golden Age of popular music,” Cole Porter was one of a kind. In those days, few song writers wrote both words and music, and of those few, no one wrote lyrics with more wit and sophistication. Consider this refrain from YOU’RE THE TOP:

You’re the top!
You’re the Coloseum.
You’re the top!
You’re the Louvre Museum.
You’re a melody from a symphony by Strauss,
You’re a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare sonnet,
You’re Mickey Mouse!

….about which John Updike wrote, “In the urbane, top-hat fantasy world wherein Fred Astaire and Cole Porter reign as quintessential performer and creator, love is wry, jokey, casual, and even weary but nonetheless ecstatic: you’re Mickey Mouse! He [Porter] brought to the traditional and somewhat standardized tasks of songsmithing a great verbal ingenuity, a brave flexibility and resourcefulness, a cosmopolitan’s wide experience in mundane matters including foreign lands and tongues, and a spirit that always kept something of collegiate innocence about it.”

Porter wrote over eight hundred songs, more than half of which were never published. I will mention but a few of my favorites: BEGIN THE BEGUINE, LOVE FOR SALE, EASY TO LOVE, and practically the entire score of KISS ME KATE. Of these, perhaps this one best epitomizes the sole Cole Porter:

SOUNDS OF THE TIMES

You’ve got to hand it to Cole Porter. He’s a rich boy who made good. 
–Oscar Levant (said jokingly of his born-into-wealth friend)

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If you, like me, are a child of parents born in the first decade of the 20th Century, you no doubt have at least a second-hand feel (if not first-hand familiarity) for that time in America known as “The Roaring Twenties” (AKA “The Jazz Age”) and “The Great Depression” (the 1930s). I was born too late in the Depression to recall what I saw then, but what I heard transcends the times. It’s the music, Cupid. Not that it was entirely romantic.

You remember music (take that however you wish). In the words of Lorenz Hart: It’s Easy To Remember (but so hard to forget)….or, put another – Irving Berlin’s – way: The Song Is Ended (but the melody lingers on). Today, however, we celebrate a master songwriter of those times whose music is Easy To Love: Cole Porter, born June 9, 1892.

To that end, I quote Fred Lounsberry, Editor of “103 lyrics of Cole Porter” (Random House):
Mixing of opposites, wide knowledge, spunk, individuality, realism, restraint, rascality, maturity. This is a pretty complete list of what makes Cole Porter’s lyrics delightfully different, but the really primary strength of his lyrics is intelligence, putting all his facts, facilities and philosophies into the right balance to make good entertainment.

So, without further ado, Let’s Do It — let’s do a few of those 1920s & 30s Cole Porter songs that are as likely to parody romantic bliss as to evoke it (including two versions of Let’s Misbehave):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iqqAIZpp2c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ceMwgadNFM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2AiQgnylrE

There, now — that wasn’t so bad, was it?