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A great melody first, then lyrics,(only) THEN 'vocals'

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  • WALTZ FOR DEBBY -- Tony, Bill, Gene and little girls

    Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio just played Tony Bennett and Bill Evans' YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING. [a song with a two-sentence Wikipedia entry]

    "You Must Believe in Spring is a song written by Michel Legrand and Jacques Demy for the film The Young Girls of Rochefort. it can also refer to: 'You Must Believe in Spring' (Bill Evans album), recorded in 1977 and released in 1980” (the year Bill Evans left us).

    On the 'shuffle' miracle that is YouTube circa 2019 the very next offering is just about my favorite lyric by Canadian-born song writer Gene Lees – words he composed to a pre-existing melody by Bill Evans – perhaps my favorite Evans composition, Waltz for Debby.

    Maybe it helps to be a Grampa, but I melt at these words,

    One day all too soon she'll grow up and she'll leave her dolls – and her prince, and her silly old bear. When she goes they will cry, as she whispers "Good-bye." They will miss her I fear, but then so will I.


    • TOO MARVELOUS FOR WORDS -- new favorite version

      At this moment Siriusly Sinatra is (yet again) introducing me to something new -- and marvelous.

      “Wendy Moten / Paul Brown Too Marvelous For Words” – from their new CD "Wendy Moten Sings Richard Whiting." Words by the “too marvelous” lyricist, Johnny Mercer. He and Richard Whiting wrote one of the three iconic silver screen songs, “Hooray for Hollywood” (where you're 'terrific' if you're even good).

      Yes, I'm a guitarist and a sucker for an opening like this one. That's a Gibson L-5, I'm thinking; played by someone . . . very good. Love his later obligatos, including signature Wes Montgomery 'octaves.' Wes would say, "Well done, Son!" Oh yes and one of Johnny's sunniest lyrics: I defy you to listen to Wendy Moten's rendition and not smile! Favorite stanza:

      You're much too much. And just too 'very, very'
      to ever be in Webster's Dictionary.
      And so, I'm borrowing a love song from the birds
      to tell you that you're marvelous! Too marvelous for words!


      • Shared a moment ago with my favorite left-handed bass-playing billionaire
        "My very best friend the milkman says, that I've been losing too much sleep; he doesn't like the hours I keep, and he suggests that you should marry me."

        I'm a whistler. You too? Every now and then my wife Irene begins to whistle – never more than a phrase or two, from a song whose lyric is going 'round in her brain, “like the bubbles in a glass of champagne” . . . but then -- not another whistle for weeks or months.

        I love it that my two favorite songwriters of the latter half of the 20th century whistle well enough to show off a little on their songs. James Taylor is world-class: listen to his version of Dick Rodgers' “My Romance” – the musical bridge that he whistles so well!

        JT's own favorite latter-day composer, Sir Paul whistles beautifully at the opening of a song Paul's musical Dad loved – My Very Good Friend the Milkman (Says). I had to look it up It was the earliest hit (1933) for Johnny (But Beautiful) Burke – recorded by Fats Waller (20 years before Johnny was writing “Here's That Rainy Day”).

        Offered to me (coincidentally?) on the YouTube shuffle a moment ago. As if to say, Don't forget: you'd never have HEARD of this song, but for Paul McCartney. A feel-good song. I defy you to listen to these words of Johnny Burke and NOT smile!

        My very good friend the mailman says, that it would make his burden less, if we both had the same address . . .

        Whistle for me, I said a moment ago. "What do you want me to whistle?" said Irene. "Whatever you feel like." She was working in the kitchen and naturally her pick was "Whistle while you work."
        Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 04-17-2019, 09:07 AM.


        • BLOSSOM DEARIE – Put on a Happy Face

          At this moment Sirius is playing my favorite version of PUT ON A HAPPY FACE. (I didn't realize it was my 'all-time favorite' until right this minute!) Blossom's unique voice with an all-star jazz band: her greatest fans included fellow musicians. And composers and arrangers. (When this album was recorded she and Johnny Mandel were 'a number' as we used to say.)

          Included on her album “May I Come In?” (1964) the year McCartney & Co were ruling the airwaves, Blossom Dearie gave us her jazz version of the best song from the movie musical, “Bye Bye Birdie.” I'd forgotten that the Broadway show version was pre-Beatles and Elvis was still the King.

          According to Wiki BYE BYE BIRDIE's story “was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft noticeinto the Army in 1957. The rock star character's name, "Conrad Birdie", is word play on the name of Conway Twitty.[1] Twitty is best remembered today for his long career as a country music star, but in the late 1950s, he was one of Presley's rock 'n' roll rivals.

          The original 1960–1961 Broadway production was a Tony Award–winning success. It spawned a London production and several major revivals, a sequel, a 1963 film, and a 1995 television production. The show also became a popular choice for high school and college productions.”

          First available version at YouTube (91,047 “views”)


          • I oughtta say no, no, no sir (those sirens seem to be getting closer)

            My father will be suspicious / don't you think this pizza's delicious?
            It's like glass out there / you'd be on your ass out there!

            As a comic in all seriousness . . . I've praised Tom Wopat – but not as Luke Duke – and his brother 'Bo,' John Schneider (the blonde one). With their reputations secure as Ladies men, the two get relaxed in this parody of Frank Loesser's best seasonal song – “Johnny It's Cold Outside.”

            The inevitable a shout-out to Daisy – the reason we watched the show, right? I mean, apart from the 426 hemi, '69 Dodge Charger, always indestructible as it leaped hundreds of feet over conveniently located earth berms.

            Yes, I needed to smile before heading to bed. This did the trick. Hope it works for you. Chock full of allusions to the show, including the Country music icon who composed and performed the show's theme song, 'Just some good old boys.'

            Hell, maybe just a half-a-drink more / Put some Waylon on while I pour . . .



            • Why I like Operetta (unforgettable melody that stays with you a lifetime)

              “If Frank Sinatra's voice is the best I ever heard,” I've told my sister Andrea, repeatedly, “yours is his female counterpart – the best I have ever heard.” I've never swayed in that opinion! She sang sacred songs at my wedding, and at the weddings of my sons. And God willing, we will hear her voice fill some cathedral again for the wedding of a grand child.

              Just as an aside (to lend credence to my prejudice) here in Canada, our greatest music school, the destination of all our future greatest singers and musicians, is the “Royal Conservatory” in Toronto; during her years there, my sister's coloratura voice won a particular award three times. The only two operatic singers to have won that award twice, were “Canada's gift to opera” Teresa Stratas and Robert Goulet. (Yes, THAT Bob Goulet).

              Back when two dollars was what you got in your birthday card – back when you either had the cash to buy something, or you didn't buy it – my parents purchased half a dozen albums (each) by Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland and . . . others whose names I forget. Hearing my sister sing along – every bit as strong on the high notes as Maria Callas – I took it for granted that the world had plenty of singers just as good as my sister.

              Bob Goulet had to pay the bills so he switched to what we used to call “operetta” – popular songs from Broadway musicals. His signature song was “If Ever I Would Leave You” (played, coincidentally overnight on Sirius, by my Dad's favorite singer Margaret Whiting from a Broadway type album she did with Mel Torme).

              When I was in my early teens, my family purchased a two LP album (rare in those days) prepared by Columbia records, featuring 'high light' performances from its stable of greats. The one that gave me goosebumps, each time I played it was this one. I haven't heard it in 50 years. A Skitch Henderson Orchestra arrangement (hence the bongo drums – remember those?) at the opening, and performed at a quick tango pace. Look beyond that and listen to my favorite 'operatic' singer:



              • She was twenty six and I was two

                When I was two, going on three, apparently I told my Mom that “I want to marry HER” – Kathryn Grayson. I'd been looking at her picture, an album of 78's from a Frank Sinatra movie musical – that featured a strong operetta melody – and a singer I would later realize was a coloratura, like my sister – and just about good as Andrea in her teens. At this moment in time Kathryn was 26 – an age I've always considered to be when we are at our 'peak.' Think of all the sports heroes when they were 26. Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With The Wind in her 26th year. And Kathryn Grayson looked and sounded like THIS.

                Just as an aside, when I was four and a French ocean liner appeared offshore on our visit to Vancouver, apparently, I broke the awed silence of adults around me, by volunteering: “It isn't as big as the Agnes P.” (a tug boat that passed our cottage on Ottawa's Rideau River).

                Yes, here's the song that elicited my first stirrings of romantic love. Still give me goosebumps!



                • When opera met Sammy Cahn

                  In 1950, Ukraine-born film composer Nicholas Brodszky landed his first big musical film assignment -- commissioned to write all the music for Mario Lanza's “The Toast of New Orleans” which co-starred (drum roll) Kathryn Grayson.

                  The studio wanted a new operatic song for its young star to sing – and ideally an Oscar-nominated song. Mr. Brodszky had the tune, and someone at the studio, in the proverbial 'we-need-it-by-tomorrow, suggested Sammy Cahn – Hollywood's go-to lyricist at moments like these. Sammy holds the all-time record of 24 “Best Original Song” Oscar-nominations (he won four) – no one else was ever close in that category.

                  The result: Mario Lanza's first million-seller; eventually selling two million records and while nominated for Best Original Song Oscar – it lost to the less operatic “Mona Lisa” according to Wiki: “BE MY LOVE was on the Billboard charts for 34 weeks, going all the way to number one.” And, in the process, awakening a love of opera in millions of film-goers who mistook this for 'the real thing.'

                  Most watched version at YouTube includes the eye opening fact that another Sinatra conducted this orchestra and chorus!


                  “comment” below the video:

                  frisco212 years ago
                  Opera snobs have long branded Lanza as a "Hollywood opera star," but this is quite unfair to him. While his voice would never have placed him in Opera's upper stratosphere, he was at least as good as many other stars who were accepted as members of the elite set.


                  • To illustrate those last remarks, think of . . .

                    Funny, isn't it? Circa 2019 some of our best friends throughout the world are people we may never get to meet. My best such friend in NYC recalled for me today that he was present for a legendary evening at the "92 Y" when Johnny Mercer took questions from an informed audience. Stanley wrote:


                    Years ago, Eunice and I attended a fabulous "And then I wrote..." program at which Mr. Mercer sang a "medley (actually little 'snippets')" of his hits, that lasted for about twenty minutes! As the great John H. sang on and on, the audience at the 92nd Street Y in NYC kept "gasping" at the sheer number of tunes with their very familiar music & lyrics! More than a few "He wrote THAT?" comments could be heard during the course of the medley ("Tangerine," "Goody,Goody",& "PS: I Love You," liberally sprinkled among the even more familiar "Hooray For Hollywood," "Satin Doll," "Blues In The Night," "Moon River," & "Days of Wine & Roses!"). An unforgettable evening of TGAS treasures!


                    I think of my own city (of 700,000) and try to imagine a 'Y' that serves a third of a million people each year; that's been around for almost 150 years -- the cultural heart of the Big Apple (to mix metaphors). And the only one with a huge Wiki entry! Ah, to have been there and heard Mr. Mercer sing some of his best. "To illustrate those last remarks, think of . . . "
                    his own No. 1 hit recording of 1945:



                    • Originally posted by Mark Blackburn View Post
                      [h=2]. . . Mr. Mercer sang a "medley (actually little 'snippets')" of his hits . . . .
                      Whenever Townes Van Zandt performed "Pancho and Lefty," he'd say, "Here's a medley of my greatest hit."
                      ( •)—:::
                      Sent on my six-string jumbo ukelele


                      • My Favorite Muppets opera Pigoletto – BEVERLY SILLS

                        I was 24 years old in 1971 when Beverly Sills made the cover of TIME magazine as “America's Queen of Opera.” But greater awards awaited: later in the decade, Diva Sills stole the show on my all-time favorite TV program (filmed in England) “The Muppets”

                        How good was her voice? (The relevant Wiki section, below). First let's enjoy my favorite guest appearance on the Muppets. Filmed at great expense, no doubt, on a pig-filled patio, beneath the Colosseum in the 'heart of Rome.' Then again, those are Russian Orthodox spires in the distance (stage right) so . . . that can't be correct.


                        (According to Wiki for those who can appreciate such details about what made her so great)

                        Beverly Sills' voice has been described at the same time "rich, supple", "silvery", "precise, a little light", "multicolored", "robust and enveloping", with "a cutting edge that can slice through the largest orchestra and chorus," soaring easily above high C.

                        Her technique and musicianship have been much praised. Conductor Thomas Schippers said in a 1971 interview with Time that she had "the fastest voice alive."

                        The New York Times writes that "she could dispatch coloratura roulades and embellishments, capped with radiant high Ds and E-flats, with seemingly effortless agility. She sang with scrupulous musicianship, rhythmic incisiveness and a vivid sense of text." Soprano Leontyne Price was "flabbergasted at how many millions of things she can do with a written scale." Her vocal range, in performance, extended from F3 to F6, and she said she could sometimes hit a G6 in warm up.


                        • My Valentine -- Paul McCartney

                          Up early -- checking to see what's playing. SLEEP WARM by Frank invites me back to bed. Okay, just one more. Sir Paul and his most recent 'best ballad' -- My Valentine. From his Kisses on the Bottom CD of 2011, where he shared the song's genesis.

                          "I was in Morocco with Nancy, who's now my wife, and we were having a nice holiday but it was raining rather a lot. I said, 'A pity it's raining' and she said 'It doesn't matter, we can still have a good time.' And I'm like that, too, I don't mind at all.

                          "So there was an old piano, slightly out of tune, in the foyer of the hotel. And there was this lovely Irish guy who knew so much old stuff, really deep stuff like Beautiful Dreamer, If You Were The Only Girl In The World... Again, stuff from my Dad's era. I used to enjoy listening to him in the evenings and he put me in mind of that genre.

                          "So one afternoon, when it was raining, I was in that foyer, and without anyone noticing except a couple of waiters who were clearing up, I sat at the piano and started knocking around with this little tune, kind of in the style that I knew he played in: 'What if it rained? We didn't care. She said that some day soon the sun was gonna shine...' And there was my Irish buddy sitting behind me, he'd been listening to me all the time: 'Ah that's great!' A nice little vote of confidence in the song."


                          That's Eric Clapton on guitar. One of his last great productions by my favorite producer, Tommy LiPuma. Recorded by the dean of engineers, Al Schmitt. Oh yes and the (almost) incomparable Alan Broadbent conducting his string arrangement with London Symphony musicians. To top it all -- a video version I'd not seen, "directed by Paul McCartney" -- actors Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp.



                          • A Holy Saturday reflection by Joni Mitchell on Bob Dylan
                            Just watched an interview with Canada's Joni Mitchell (now 75) – an interview in which she, in effect, speaks for millions of us who experience 'cognitive dissonance' whenever we hear Bob Dylan 'do' Frank Sinatra. When pressed about Dylan's earlier work, Joni told the interviewer, Don't misunderstand . . .

                            “I like a lot of Bob's songs; musically he isn't very gifted – you know; he's borrowed his voice from old Hillbillies; he's got a lot of borrowed things. He's not a great guitar player, (pauses to choose her words) . . . he has invented a character to deliver his songs.” (Joni impersonates, perfectly, Dylan's husky voice and manic cadences, while adding, with a wicked smile): “Sometimes I wish that I HAD that character! You can DO things with that character – it's a mask of sorts.”


                            Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio just played Dylan's latest (2017) take on a Johnny Mercer & Gordon Jenkins song: P.S. I Love You. Is it at Youtube? Nope. But the very first offering is this one, Stardust.

                            Hoagy Carmichael wrote the melody first – as an up-tempo '2-step' -- and it was Sinatra's friend, composer/arranger Victor Young who slowed it right down, as the ballad it was meant to be. Bob Dylan splits the difference. And, since no one else 'important' has recorded this one lately, it's a happy occasion, for those of us old enough to remember Nat Cole's signature song!


                            An informed comment below the video at the time it was shared to YouTube:

                            Oded Avraham 2 years ago (edited)

                            "The most influential songwriter of modern times (at least some may say..) wants us all to care about a long list of songs HE didn't write, but he loves so much. This is the enthusiastic DJ Bob Dylan is. The words, other people wrote, are spoken out in that careful way he would speak out his own lyrics. and his band is just perfect. listen to the guitar sound in the opening of this tune. another masterpiece by the master."

                            p.s. to my Sinatra Family friend "Bob in Boston"

                            Bob do you know who's the lead guitarist? (not the steel guitarist). He's a genius! Playing at this moment, surely what will turn out to be my favorite on this album -- Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean." The guitarist plays chords that replicate Riddle's arrangement THROUGHOUT Frank's original. Only people like us, who know those arrangements inside out and 'in our sleep' can appreciate the depth of what Bob Dylan and his band have accomplished here. Oh my. High art played 'artlessly.'

                            p.p.s. "There ARE no coincidences," my Mom used to say. You know what she meant. But a second ago, I got a notice at YouTube that my posting on Sinatra's "All My Tomorrows" just got a thumbs up, as if to say: Don't forget Bob's been doing this for over 30 years now!

                            I'd cited Chuck (two months ago -- quoting the Wiki entry)

                            "Sinatra later featured 'All My Tomorrows' on his 1961 album All the Way. Sinatra re-recorded it for his 1969 album My Way, in a new arrangement which Charles L. Granata (producer of Nancy's weekly show) considers to be superior to the original, and which AllMusic calls "lush and aching". Rolling Stone describes the song as 'the poignant monologue of a man determined to turn his life around'."

                            "Sinatra released the song on the reverse side of a single with 'High Hopes' in 1959.[8] The song was named one of Billboard's Spotlight Winners of the Week for May 18, 1959.[9]

                            "Bob Dylan sang the song in concert at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan on June 30, 1986 . . . "

                            Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 04-20-2019, 10:32 AM.


                            • Nat Cole and 'Miss Otis Regrets'

                              Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio just played Nat Cole with a delightful, live performance of a Cole Porter song -- one I never really appreciated until right this moment. Didn't recognize the arranger. One of the wise men at "Andrew T" responded immediately and provided an approved link saying,

                              "From Nat King Cole At The Sands album: recorded at the Sands, Las Vegas on January 14, 1960; musical direction by David Cavanaugh; orchestra conducted by Antonio Morelli; originally released in January 1966 as Capitol 2434. The arrangement on "Miss Otis Regrets" is by Nelson Riddle."

                              To my ears, the best-ever live recording of "Miss Otis" -- Nat's self-accompaniment on piano provides a vivid reminder that he was one of the greatest-ever jazz pianists -- always making it sound simple, yet with . . . something indefinable: when Nat played those notes on piano you could hear his exquisite touch -- the felt of the hammers hitting those triplicate strings. Yes, the genius of Nat's touch. And I never heard a better 'live' recording of Nat's than this one.


                              "Miss Otis Regrets" used to have a shorter Wikipedia entry. Two anecdotes that weren't there last time I looked, include a note about an allusion to the Porter song in a later hit by my second-favorite composer Harry Warren, "Lulu's Back in Town."


                              "According to Charles Schwartz's biography the song began during a party at the New York apartment of Porter's classmate from Yale, Leonard Hanna. Hearing a cowboy's lament on the radio, Porter sat down at the piano and improvised a parody of the song. He retained the referential song’s minor-keyed blues melody and added his wry take on lyrical subject matter common in country music: the regret of abandonment after being deceitfully coerced into sexual submission.

                              Only instead of a country girl, Miss Otis is a polite society lady. Friend and Yale classmate Monty Woolley jumped in to help Porter "sell it", pretending to be a butler who explains why Madam can't keep a lunch appointment. In the previous 24 hours, Miss Otis was jilted and abandoned, located and killed her seducer, was arrested, jailed, and, about to be hanged by a mob, made a final, polite apology for being unable to keep her lunch appointment.

                              This performance was so well received that the song evolved, "workshopped" with each subsequent cocktail party, many of which were at the Waldorf-Astoria suite of Elsa Maxwell, to whom Porter dedicated the song. The "smart set" that attended these parties, known to use wit or wisecracks to punctuate anecdotes and gossip, began using references to "Miss Otis" as a punchline.

                              “Miss Otis” entered the lexicon of American pop culture, its enormous popularity and commercial success indicated when, a year later, Al Dubin and Harry Warren included an homage to Miss Otis in their song "Lulu's Back In Town", written for the 1935 film Broadway Gondolier. A man sings about getting ready for a date with Lulu, focusing all his attention on this awesome girl who's visiting town after having moved away: "You can tell all my pets, all my blondes and brunettes, Mister Otis regrets that he won't be around.”
                              Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 04-22-2019, 09:44 PM.


                              • Ray Charles – YOURS

                                Ray Charles had a special knack for sharing, with fans, songs we otherwise might never have heard. “Ruby” was one such. Another is “Yours” – played a moment ago on Siriusly Sinatra. A melody composed a century ago -- music by a Havana-born melodist "Gonzalo Roig" -- with English words added many years later -- by an American who wrote the words to “Hail to the Chief.” A brief Wiki entry:

                                "Quiéreme mucho" is a criolla-bolero composed between 1915 and 1917 by Gonzalo Roig with lyrics by Augustin Rodriguez. It was first recorded in 1922 by singer Tito Schipa.[1] In 1931, the English version, "Yours", was published in the United States. It featured lyrics in English written by Albert Gamse (his only musical claim to fame apart from this:

                                Albert Gamse (1901–1974) was an American lyricist who wrote lyrics for the Presidential Anthem of the United States, "Hail to the Chief".

                                Wiki also lists one other name, as co-lyricist “Jack Sherr” (for whom there is no on-line info whatsoever). Ray Charles listed only HIS name “Jack Sherr” in the credits on Ray's album of exactly 50 years ago: “I'm All Yours Baby.” The arranger of this lovely, evocative orchestration was “Sid Feller” (whose Wiki entry says)

                                Sidney "Sid" Feller (December 24, 1916 – February 16, 2006) was an American conductor and arranger, best known for his work with Ray Charles. He worked with Charles on hundreds of songs including Georgia on My Mind and worked as Charles' conductor while on tour. Ray Charles once said of him "if they call me a genius, then Sid Feller is Einstein."

                                A personal aside: I once asked a wartime buddy of my father's (they served overseas in WWII) if he had a favorite song. “Yours,” he said. I dug out an instrumental recording with that title by my guitar hero Chet Atkins. “This melody?” Yes, “That's the one!” Until Sirius radio first played Ray's resurrection of this lovely love song, I hadn't heard the lyric. Thanks again, Jersey Lou.