GO TO HELLISTAN

Yesterday, I commented on Rivergirl’s March 25 post titled “THINGS THAT FALL INTO THE WTH? CATEGORY”, which told of (among other things) a place known as the Door to Hell in Derweze, Turkmenistan. As I mentioned in that comment, I’ve actually gone to Hell (by car, by the way; not in a handbasket) — the town of Hell in Michiganistan, which may not be as hot as Hell in Turkmenistan, but is more convenient. I figure this is more than enough to qualify me as an authority on anystan’s Hell, hence this post.

When I say “more convenient,” I of course mean convenient to my followers here in the good old United Statesistan. If you live in Asiastan, you will undoubtedly be able to go to Hell more conveniently in Turkmenistan. On the other stan, if you live in Hindustan (aka The Republic of India), you’re stuckistan in Hindustan because India is in total lockdown due to the coronavirus (I would’ve said coronavirustan, but I understan that’s sickistan).

Anyway, the Hell I’ve been through in Michiganistan has an official website; rather than me give you the scoopistan, here’s the official poopistan straight from the horse’s mouth:

https://www.gotohellmi.com/

Now, if that doesn’t make you want to go to Hell, I don’t know what willistan. I happen to know a guy (his name is Stan) whose wife is a real clothes horse and looks hot in green, gray or white; he often takes her through Hell no matter what she’s wearing, even though….

I close with this thought: Where do people in Hell tell each other to go?

 

A SINGULAR COMPOSER, A TWO-TIMING WIFE, AND A THREE PENNY OPERA

“THE ROMANCE of Kurt Weill, the Jewish cantor’s son, and Lotte Lenya, the Viennese coachman’s daughter, changed the history of Western music. Their work on The Three Penny Opera provides a knowing insight into their relationship: Weill was the creator whose work was backstage, unseen. Lenya was the performer who put the work into view. They heard the same unique music, but he gave it form while she gave it life.”
–from the cover flap of LOVE SONG, by Ethan Mordden

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you like a bargain and biographies, I’ve just read a book I’m about to tell you about, titled LOVE SONG. The “bargain” is hinted at in the subtitle: THE LIVES OF KURT WEILL AND LOTTE LENYA — a double biography, two lives for the price of one. If you’re acquainted with the music of Kurt Weill and the mystique of Lotte Lenya, an individual biography of either would be a bargain at twice  – nay, thrice — the price.

Kurt Weill was born in Germany in March 1900. As a young man (according to Mordden), “Music was his only interest, in total immersion.” He later fled the Nazi takeover and came to New York, U.S.A., in September, 1935. That month is notable for its namesake song, which may be the most unforgettable of his many memorable compositions:

Lotte Lenya, twice-married to Weill and many times in bed with other men, was born in Vienna in 1898 and outlived her husband by 31 years. Quoting from the book, “Lenya was quick to adapt to her audience: a performer, but a warm and giving one, quickly intimate with anyone she liked….she could play everything from the merrily heartless Jenny of The Threepenny Opera to the helplessly coquettish Frau Schneider of Cabaret.” Here she sings one of my favorite Weill songs:

I wish I could give you a front row seat at the real-life opera that is the LOVE SONG of Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, for it is not only a love story, but an adventure and a 20th century history ranging from early success in Weimar Germany, escape from war-torn Europe, and finding the fulfillment in America which was cut short in their native land….but I could not begin to get you as caught up in their story as this “meticulously researched and detailed” book does. If you love the music of Kurt Weill, you will love this biography.

I would love to post clips of such Weill classics as Speak Low, This Is New, and To Love You And To Lose You, but that would perhaps be too much of a good thing….so I’ll bring down the curtain with this Bobby Darin hit from The Three Penny Opera which my fellow seniors will well remember (assuming your memory is sharp):

 

 

The Man in BLACK and BLUEberry Hill

Today being the birthday of two bygone giants of popular music, I thought I’d do a bit of a musical remembrance, because one of them is one of my favorites, and the other may be one of yours (if you’re into the early days of rock ‘n’ roll).

I’ll start with the former: The Man in Black, JOHNNY CASH (2/26/1932–9/12/2003). I seem to recall doing a post on Johnny several years ago, so I won’t spend many words on him here. If interested in bio details, here a link you can check out:

https://www.biography.com/musician/johnny-cash

So let’s get to the music, beginning with a song which tells you something about where you’ll usually find me and my partner in time:

Speaking of doing time:

Here’s Johnny….cashing out this segment with wife June Carter Cash, in one of their hottest numbers:

We close with “Mr. Blueberry Hill” himself, FATS DOMINO (2/26/1928–10/24/2017):

Bio:  https://www.biography.com/musician/fats-domino

 

 

 

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE ZILCH

Wanna know something? January 16 is NATIONAL NOTHING DAY. Since I can think of nothing I’d rather do today than filch some zilch, I’m going to take this day and make Nothing of it. Actually, Nothing couldn’t have come at a better time for this post, ’cause if there’s one thing I gotta lotta, it’s nada.

For you language purists out there, when I said I gotta lotta nada, whata oughta said was….

Now that you’ve had your fill of nothing and I’ve made the case that there’s nothing better than nothing, I have all the nothing that’s everything I need to amount to anything. Ain’t that something!

Watch out, piggy!

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!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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

 

ANN, THEN SOME….MORE FEMALE SONGWRITERS

Continuing with our female songwriters of the 1920s-30s, ANN RONELL is notable not only for her music (she wrote both music and lyrics), but for the oddity of having been both born and died on Christmas day (in 1905 and 1993). Here is my favorite of her songs, which she wrote in 1932 and dedicated to her friend, George Gershwin:

In the same Great Depression year, she kept the wolf from her door by writing lyrics to this song featured in the Walt Disney “Silly Symphonies” cartoon, THE THREE LITTLE PIGS:

Another December baby (Dec. 3 1909), DANA SUESSE composed many songs, including the instrumental Jazz Nocturne, which (with lyrics added by Edward Heyman in 1932) became this standard:

There’s more, but I will save the best one for last (in this series). Hint: the day I publish that post will be a Fields day.

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.