JAZZ DAYS IN THE JAZZ AGE

The 1920s were an era of great contradictions. After winning WWI, the United States seemed to be (on the surface) a more liberated country than previously, finally shaking off the restrictions of the Victorian era. Dresses became shorter, many more women entered the workforce, dancing became more exciting and sensuous, some movies actually hinted strongly at sex, the economy was prosperous, and jazz seemed to be everywhere as the country experienced something like a decade-long party [known as The Jazz Age and The Roaring 20s].
But a closer look reveals Republicans ruled the White House, liquor was illegal (even if gangsters and bootleggers made it widely available), the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of its popularity (with lynchings of blacks commonplace), racism was institutionalized, big business had few restrictions, poverty was widespread, and there was no safety net. It was a great era to be rich and white, but the poor and blacks were barely tolerated by average middle-class citizens. –Scott Yanow, author of CLASSIC JAZZ*

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The above puts Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 nonstop transatlantic flight (see my last post) in broader historical context. ‘Fellow’ aviator Elinor Smith Sullivan later said, “It’s hard to describe the impact Lindbergh had on people. The twenties was such an innocent time.” This helps explain why songs like LINDBERGH, EAGLE OF THE USA and LUCKY LINDY were written by wantwits with words which would make wittier writers wince.

Thus, the wittiest composer/lyricist this side of the Atlantic, Cole Porter, put the Jazz Age in earthier terms:

In other words….

Our flight of fancy, like Lindbergh’s, ends in gay Paree with a song (recorded in 1930) from Porter’s 1929 musical FIFTY MILLION FRENCHMEN:

*Kindle edition available online for as low as $17.99 (highly recommended for classic jazz lovers)

 

 

 

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THE WAGES OF SIN TAX

Pardon the intrusion —
I don’t mean to pry —
But the deficit’s soaring;
The figures don’t lie.

Uncle Sam’s in a pickle —
Needs money like mad —
So he sent me to tell you
You must pay to be bad.

He’s taxed income and outgo
And capital gains;
Now, an excise on excess
Is all that remains.

Uncle wants to be fair —
No sin taxes he’ll seek
‘less you go making love
More than one time a week.

I’m installing surveillance
To monitor your behavior.
Lusting under covers won’t save you —
I’ll hear your cries to the Father of your Savior.

But please don’t take this personal —
It’s my job to listen and view it.
Hey, you know what they say:
Someone’s got to do it.

So….

 

 

 

 

GOODBYE AGAIN

I have never been able to discover anything disgraceful in being a colored man. But I have often found it inconvenient. –Bert Williams

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Yesterday marked the 96th anniversary of the death of the great “colored” comedian Bert Williams, whose humorous 1920 song I WANT TO KNOW WHERE TOSTI WENT (WHEN HE SAID GOODBYE) appeared in my last post. You can learn a bit more about this pioneering black entertainer in the racist America of the late 1800s/early 1900s by clicking here: https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200038860/

To commemorate the anniversary of the day Bert Williams said “Goodbye forever,” I thought I would extend that post’s theme with a curtain call of several later “goodbye” songs from America’s Golden Age of Popular Music (if not yet America’s Golden Age of race relations). Just a little something to keep in mind, every time we say goodbye (courtesy of Cole Porter):

So, what’s good about goodbye? I’m glad you asked (courtesy of Harold Arlen):

Perhaps next post, I’ll transition into some ‘hello’ songs. It would help the transfiguration if I could put this song title in reverse:

P.S. The first several readers of this post may have been confused by changes made in the last clip after I posted it. What I initially thought was a clip of another vocalist singing “Hello, My Lover, Goodbye” turned out to be in error, so, left with few choices, I hastily tried to switch to a clip of Doris Day (NOT one of my favorite vocalists) singing the song. After a few ‘haste-makes-waste’ starts, I made the substitution, but probably left a few of you wondering if I hadn’t said goodbye to my mind. But all’s well that ends well (I hope).

 

THEY’RE PLAYING R SONG (PART II)

Although R (Part II) brings the number of posts (18) in this series in line with the corresponding letter of the alphabet, I foresee that after S and T, most of the remaining letters are going to present a challenge to staying on course  — especially X. The only gal I’m aware of whose name starts with X was Xanthippe, wife of Socrates, but as far as I know, no one back then wrote a song about her….and if they did, they left no record — or even sheet music. Papyrus would have been available, though apparently it was used for different ends, which in hindsight was a good idea on paper, but went to waste in practice.

Meanswhile, back at the R, it’s time to ride:

Red may have had a head start, but Rosetta and Rosalie have their own tales to tell:

That’s all four now. Happy Thanksgiving!

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:

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.