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

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  • That's not to say that Cahn couldn't write a really good lyric once in a while...

    Come fly with me, we'll fly, we'll fly away
    If you can use some exotic booze
    There's a bar in far Bombay
    Come on fly with me, we'll fly, we'll fly away

    Come fly with me, will float down to Peru
    In llama-land there's a one-man band
    And he'll toot his flute for you
    Come on fly with me, we'll float down in the blue

    Once I get you up there
    Where the air is rarefied
    We'll just glide
    Once I get you up there
    I'll be holding you so near
    You might hear
    All the angels cheer because we're together

    Weather-wise, it's such a lovely day
    Just say those words and we'll feed those birds
    Down to Acapulco Bay
    It is perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
    Come on fly with me, we'll fly, we'll fly away, we'll fly
    “Good Vibrations” was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about. What’s next? Rock opera? —Pete Townshend, Melody Maker Interview, 1966.


    • Study the masters. Words of advice from the late Gene Lees (Canadian-born lyricist who composed the English lyrics to several Brazilian classics in the 60's and -- a personal favorite perfect words for jazz giant Bill Evans' WALTZ FOR DEBBY). Gene Lees framed his timeless advice this way:

      "Every artist begins by studying the masters " (regardless of your field of music). "At least you should do that if you have any brains.

      "Eventually you'll begin to understand what the masters did, and why . . . and grasp the technique itself.

      "If you have what is generally called 'talent' you'll begin to do fresh and personal work . . . and it will be said of (your) work that 'it has a style.'

      "If you have no talent, and remain 'derivative,' you will at least, through the imitation of good models, produce competent work and will do no great harm to the art."

      "Perhaps," writes Lees (in his "Practical Guide to Lyric Writing for Songwriters and Poets") "perhaps there is no such thing as 'talent.' Perhaps what we call talent is simply an unquenchable curiosity about how things are done, or made . . . coupled with a dogged patience about becoming adept in the principles that (you) have uncovered.

      "Or, inverting the thought, we might say that everyone has talent . . . not everyone has the determination and patience to develop it. The beginning place in that process is . . . the study of the work of the masters.

      -- Gene Lees (circa 1981)
      Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 12-15-2018, 04:21 PM.



        " . . . Lovers that bless the dark / on benches in Central Park . . . "

        A friend just sent me a YouTube video of their favorite New York City song sung by Frank. The video has the most glorious slide show of New York in Autumn and knowing that our favorite singer's 1948 version was the best-selling recording (and spotting an appreciation by someone of "Nelson Riddle's [beautiful] orchestrations) I left this note of appreciation -- for the song and the slide show:


        The only one of his hit songs for which composer Vernon Duke wrote the words as well as the tune. Recorded by so many artists but Sinatra's was the only version to achieve chart success ( No. 27 in 1948) .

        Vernon Duke's lyricists included many of the greats (Johnny Mercer, Ogden Nash and Sammy Cahn); his best known melodies were given words by John Latouche (TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE) Yip Harburg (APRIL IN PARIS) and Ira Gershwin (I CAN'T GET STARTED).

        This arrangement sounds like Nelson Riddle, but this lovely strings orchestration was by Billy May -- for Sinatra's 1957 classic COME FLY WITH ME album. Tom Henneberry (below) put it so well:

        " . . . Frank gently caresses a lyric as if in the act of lovemaking, and the sublime arrangements [of Nelson Riddle] complement his voice perfectly. If you're not deeply touched by AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, then you are not really alive."

        [p.s. Trivia: When he first visited New York Vladimir Dukelsky was befriended by George Gershwin who suggested he truncate and Americanize his name. As a classical composer born in Belarus (Russia) he retained his birth name for his classical compositions. For his hit songs, he was Vernon Duke, changing his name officially when he became an American citizen.]

        Glorious slide show, enjoy!


        • What's your favorite lesser-known Christmas song?

          Mine is SOME CHILDREN SEE HIM. Its simple yet poignant lyric (below) was penned by Wilha Hutson, an organist at an Episcopal church in Pontiac Michigan – where the pastor's musician son Alfred Burt later came up with his best melody – more than a year after Hutson composed the lyric “in her car pulled over to the side of a road.”

          Burt's daughter recalled the night that Wilha Hutson was talking with her Mom about how children of other races would see Jesus and “…as she got back into her car to drive back to her home, Wihla’s mind was crowded with thoughts of children. She realized that if she were a child in Africa she would see the world much differently…an African child would see Jesus as a black man. Then she realized a Chinese child would see the Son of God with almond eyes, while an Indian child would see Jesus with dark hair and brown skin. Wihla eased the car to the side of the road.” All the lyrics were written on that roadside that night in 1949 but were not set to music by Alfred Burt until Christmas 1951.

          Burt died a few years later without ever hearing an important recording of his most beautiful melody. His lyricist lived another half century: Wilha Hutson died in 2001, just shy of her 101st birthday, long enough to have heard some fine versions of her song, beginning in 1955.

          Over 50 years later, James Taylor recorded my all-time favorite version – made exquisitely beautiful thanks to a heavenly arrangement by Oscar-winning composer Dave Grusin. Thanks again to the lady at YouTube “Tina P” who prepared this video accompaniment so in keeping with the Nativity story and the reverence it evokes each year at this time.

          Just as an aside, James Taylor changed only a couple of words, while preserving olde English terms like “thy,” while changing the exclamation “Ah!” to “Oh!” and “skin of yellow hue” to “golden hue.” Changes included here:

          Some children see Him lily white,
          The baby Jesus born this night.
          Some children see Him lily white,
          With tresses soft and fair.

          Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
          The Lord of heav'n to earth come down.
          Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
          With dark and heavy hair.

          Some children see Him almond-eyed,
          This Savior whom we kneel beside.
          Some children see Him almond-eyed,
          With skin of golden hue.

          Some children see Him dark as they,
          Sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray.
          Some children see him dark as they,
          And, oh! they love Him, too!

          The children in each different place
          Will see the baby Jesus' face –
          Like theirs, but bright, with heavenly grace,
          And filled with holy light.

          O lay aside each earthly thing
          And with thy heart as offering,
          Come worship now the infant King.
          'Tis love that's born tonight!

          James Taylor once told the Washington Post that 'Music suggests an order to the universe that sort of precedes human consciousness, as if music is where we come from and where we shall return.' Author Will Blythe, in an article on James Taylor ('A December Night" --link below) said this reminded him "of the Commendation from the Book of Common Prayer, poetry even for us doubters: 'All of us go down to dust, but even at the grave we make our song'.”

          Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 12-24-2018, 01:30 AM.


          • Speaking of lesser-known Christmas seasonal songs . . .

            When I was 21 (it was a very good year) I got to see Gordon Lightfoot perform this lovely ballad at a high school auditorium in my hometown of Ottawa Canada. A sell out crowd of 600 (correct) where his previous performance at a coffee house had attracted 50 per night. His star was rising and his second album -- with SONG FOR A WINTER'S NIGHT (and Canadian Railroad Trilogy) had just been released. We called him GORD (as if we'd known him personally) and . . . oh, the magic of his live performances. We must have looked like this audience, faces almost sombre in solemn appreciation of the beauty unfolding before us.

            They categorized him as "folk" music but you listen to a ballad like this one (especially loved by guitar giant Jerry Reed) and your realize that Gord transcended musical categories.

            You read Lightfoot's artless words and realize that there are "Tell me" song lyrics and "Show Me" -- the latter are rarer and usually better. Case in point.

            The lamp is burnin' low upon my table top
            The snow is softly fallin'
            The air is still in the silence of my room
            I hear your voice softly callin'
            If I could only have you near
            To breathe a sigh or two
            I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
            On this winter's night with you

            The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
            My glass is almost empty
            I read again between the lines upon each page
            The words of love you sent me
            If I could know within my heart
            That you were lonely too
            I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
            On this winter's night with you

            The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
            The shades of night are liftin'
            The mornin' light steals across my windowpane
            Where webs of snow are driftin'
            If I could only have you near
            To breathe a sigh or two
            I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
            On this winter's night with you
            And to be once again with with you

            Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 12-20-2018, 10:15 PM.


            • "Perhaps," writes Lees (in his "Practical Guide to Lyric Writing for Songwriters and Poets") "perhaps there is no such thing as 'talent.' Perhaps what we call talent is simply an unquenchable curiosity about how things are done, or made . . . coupled with a dogged patience about becoming adept in the principles that (you) have uncovered." - Gene Lees (circa 1981)

              Talent is a word coined and defined for the purpose of labeling that which cannot be explained. There are other words similarly coined - like god - that neatly homogenize all that's inexplicable to get men off the hook for knowledge they did, or do not yet have.

              That ease with which we (thusly) compartmentalize lack of knowledge for the sake of easy discussions has its importance, as these words are simply placeholders for ignorance to live innocuously familiar but without strain of curiosity checking the flow of conversation.

              Well-read people with a vocabulary and capacity for employing it should not be so neatly and efficiently (ignorantly) tucked into talent. The word itself is an invitation to evolution of the mind.
              Last edited by Idunno; 12-22-2018, 07:36 AM.
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              • CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE summons up special memories for "baby boomers" like me. I'm old enough (71) to remember the first Charlie Brown Christmas special (aired on CBS) in December of '65. We watched it on small-screen black & white TV (color programming arrived in Canada the next year). I was 18, a budding jazz fan, and was crazy about the pianist Vince Guaraldi's song.

                It would never have happened if the lyricist, a television producer named Lee Mendelson hadn't been crossing the Golden Gate Bridge one day in a cab, listening to Guaraldi's CAST YOUR FATE TO THE WIND and deciding to track down the pianist to see if he wanted in on the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

                "Songfacts" notes that, "Originally, this was an instrumental piece that Vince Guaraldi wrote to open A Charlie Brown Christmas. About a month before it aired, Lee Mendelson, who produced the special, decided it might work better with some words, so he wrote the lyric in about 10 minutes sitting at his kitchen table. "It was a poem that just came to me," he told PRI in 2014. "Never changed the words to this day. It was only about a minute long."

                And the choir of kids?

                "A Charlie Brown Christmas used real children (mostly culled from producer Lee Mendelson's neighborhood) to voice the characters in the special, so the voices on this song are also kids. They are not the same group of children though - "Christmas Time Is Here" is sung by a group of kids Vince Guaraldi put together."

                p.s. Vince Guaraldi died in 1976 age 47 of a heart attack. His lyricist Lee Mendelson is still with us for his 85th Christmas!


                Such a simple 'artless' lyric; you read the words and think, "Heck, I could have written THAT!"

                Christmas time is here . . . happiness and cheer / fun for all that children call . . . their favorite time of year

                Snowflakes in the air . . . carols everywhere / Olden times and ancient rhymes of love and dreams to share

                Sleigh bells in the air . . . beauty everywhere / Yuletide by the fireside and joyful mem'ries there . . .

                Christmas time is here . . . we'll be drawing near . . .

                Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year!

                Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 12-23-2018, 11:48 PM.


                • Just over a century ago an Englishman Fred Weatherly wrote words to an ancient Irish melody -- and gave the world his beloved DANNY BOY. Around the same time Weatherly wrote a now long-forgotten song ROSES OF PICARDY. It's the day after Christmas, I'm filled with reminiscences about my musical parents. Indulge me then in one such . . .


                  The last music I shared with my father, two weeks before his death 12 years ago, was Sinatra's recording of a song Dad came to love while serving overseas in WWII (he'd heard it sung in Antwerp Belgium after that city was liberated by Canadian troops).

                  Dad, nearing 90 years of age, had never heard Sinatra's version, but was friends with the arranger, Canada's Robert Farnon. A song my father wrote was played on the BBC just before the Normandy invasion -- by the Canadian Forces Band, led by Farnon. After the war they stayed in touch. (Both were born in 1917 and died within two years of each other (pardon the aside).

                  From time to time I google the words "Roses of Picardy" and the first version offered at Youtube (with nearly 100 thousand views) is this one (below) posted in 2011 by someone who said simply, "A lovely rendition of a rarely heard song."

                  I'd forgotten that I shared this recollection of my father in the "comments" for this video (which correctly notes that this one was recorded "13th of June, 1962"). My comment of two years ago:


                  Like dear friends my age, I'm losing more than just my keys these days. I prided myself on memory. And you know what they say about pride -- that it goeth before a fall. I think of my father, a playwright, author, military historian -- how important words were to him. Then the stroke that brought him low -- six word sentences, often jumbled.

                  My prayer at the time was that the humility this unwanted experience brings, would bring him peace of heart. I think in a way it did.

                  Our last visit together here in Winnipeg, a couple weeks before his death, I put on a Sinatra CD and played the song that meant so much to Dad -- ROSES OF PICARDY -- arranged by my father's friend, Canadian-born Robert Farnon (both of them recipients of Canada's highest civilian honor, the Order of Canada -- they died within a year of each other, 2005/2006) and I said to Dad (who had cited 'Roses of Picardy' in his book, GUNS OF VICTORY) that "Sinatra's voice sounded tired at the end of a world tour." My father gestured as if to say, "No, no!" and he said simply "Sounds so good." It was enough -- all that needed to be said.

                  What were you doing June 13, 1962? Sinatra was in England, in a London recording studio for the only such recording he ever made outside the United States. Robert Farnon was conducting the London Philharmonic musicians ("Bob's band") in his own arrangements for Sinatra's GREAT SONGS FROM GREAT BRITAIN. This then, was the last music I got to share with my Dad.

                  Mark Blackburn
                  Winnipeg Manitoba Canada


                  p.s. For those who care to ask "Who wrote that song?" the melody for this one was from an English composer, Hayden Wood. According to Wiki: . . . 'In 1916, Wood composed his most popular song, "Roses of Picardy" reportedly selling 50,000 sheet music copies per month and earning a six figure royalty sum [7] The song Love's Garden of Roses was written in 1915, but didn't become well known until popularized by John McCormack's recording, one of the biggest hits of 1918. On the occasion of his 70th birthday he was given a full concert dedicated to his music by the BBC. He died in a London nursing home on 11 March 1959, two weeks before his 77th birthday.'
                  Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 12-26-2018, 07:45 PM.


                  • DANNY BOY -- Write the poem, then find the tune

                    Listening to jazz pianist Keith Jarrett in solo concert playing DANNY BOY prompted this recollection at Youtube about which came first, words or music:

                    Nelms123 wrote something profound here three weeks ago:

                    "It is really amazing... but I'm going to wager that you know the lyrics... those who do not, don't yet know the depth of this tune. I like to phrase everything to flow through the words of the song, and i think Keith is doing that here. Especially when it comes to the final verse, i like to play it as if the mother is singing to her son from her grave. Brilliant tune." [Nelms reminded me of] something the great jazz pianist Marian McPartland said (to pianist Oscar Peterson), about witnessing a live performance at a club by a great jazz saxophonist, who came down off the stand looking disconsolate. "What's wrong?" Marian asked him. The reply: "I forgot the lyric . . . "

                    The composer of the ancient Irish melody is unknown but an Englishman (!) wrote the words the world so loves. Fred Weatherly wrote a between-the-two-World-Wars classic, ROSES OF PICARDY (Find Sinatra's Great Songs From Great Britain album with arranger Robert Farnon for the retire-the-trophy version of that one.) Love the back story on DANNY BOY's lyric [at Wikipedia].

                    Initially written to a tune other than "Londonderry Air", English lawyer and lyricist Frederic Weatherly wrote the words to "Danny Boy" in Bath, Somerset in 1910. After his Irish-born sister-in-law Margaret (known as Jess) in the United States sent him a copy of "Londonderry Air" in 1913, Weatherly modified the lyrics of "Danny Boy" to fit the rhyme and meter of "Londonderry Air". The first recording was in 1915, so DANNY BOY is barely a century old. Poignant thought. Yes, "Don't forget the words" when you're playing the melody.

                    A good recent example of same: Chris Botti with Jackie Evancho with an evocative video.

                    The lyricist Fred Weatherly died ninety years ago and you just know this world will still be singing his words (with the Ave Maria reference) till the end of time.

                    Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
                    From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.
                    The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,
                    It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.

                    But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
                    Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
                    It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
                    Oh, Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so!

                    But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
                    If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
                    You'll come and find the place where I am lying,
                    And kneel and say an Ave there for me.

                    And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
                    And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
                    For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
                    And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!

                    [The piano solo that prompted all this]

                    Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 01-07-2019, 06:11 AM.


                    • When it comes to melody, sometimes a very few well-chosen notes is enough. It helps if you are a musical genius working with someone who is your peer with words. Case in point:

                      I awoke this morning whistling the tune of COME RAIN OR COME SHINE. It's always fascinated me that this wonderful Harold Arlen melody is basically just three notes. A repetition of 13 consecutive F-sharp notes (in this Costa arrangement) and a bridge/release (Days may be cloudy or sunny . . .) that is the same B note repeated (including the octave note) but it's the same B-major note repeated 17 times! Yet because of the perfectly fitting Johnny Mercer lyric the tune sounds anything but repetitious. Yes, a great song -- created magically from barely three different notes. Don Costa's opening and closing orchestral flourishes in fact contain more notes, which may contribute to the magic!

                      I read somewhere once that Nancy Sinatra and Don Costa were backstage together one time when her Dad was performing this song with an orchestra and substantial string section that did Costa's great orchestration justice; he remarked to Nancy that of all his arrangements this was his favorite: "Best chart I ever wrote."

                      A friend at the Sinatra Family website recalls that . . .

                      'When Frank sent a copy of the first pressing to Harold Arlen, he suggested that the great composer play "Come Rain Or Come Shine" "VERY LOUD!" I think Frank was on to something!'

                      Yes, if you want to know the retire-the-trophy version of this 1946 song look no further than here


                      On the other hand this version was one reason Frank called Ray "the only true genius in our business" (the business of singing).


                      Trivia for guitarists who care about such things: Just shared an email with a guitarist friend who singled out MISTY as his favorite on this album -- noting that DON COSTA was 'a very good guitarist.' [As well as arranger -- and talent spotter. Don was present at a NYC studio when a 16 year old Paul Anka made his first hit recording that sold nine million copies, Diana.] Just wrote to my friend, concerning Sinatra & Strings:

                      I agree -- the best ever arrangement written for Errol Garner's best song which as you said, "proves Don Costa was a genius; I've read comments by a guitarist who played on many Sinatra recordings -- that he thinks this is Frank's greatest recording."

                      SINATRA & STRINGS is in my "Top 5" Sinatra album list. Every track is wonderful. I'm a guitarist and am partial to an arranger who did all of his orchestrations with a guitar in his lap. Another of Sinatra's studio guitarists who accompanied him on tour, recalled the night Don Costa knocked on his hotel room door -- after midnight and asked to borrow his Gibson L-5 because he just HAD to write an arrangement "right now," while it was fresh in his mind's ear.
                      Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 01-11-2019, 02:58 PM.


                      • In 1972 my future wife had a turntable and half a dozen albums – including one by Mac Davis. (I know, who's he?) The title track "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me" was a No. 1 hit and the album went platinum (more than a million copies sold). The opening track was HOME (a Memorial Day classic) .Track 2 -- LONESOMEST LONESOME -- was my favorite at the time, and still is – for so many reasons:

                        The rhythm section (1:50 into the song it's just the drummer and percussion only). The song has a lovely, soaring bridge/release – with melodic innovations that gave me goosebumps – music that perfectly mated the poignant words. Even if you're in your seventies, bet you never heard this song. From the summer of '72 when I met my wife. (Maybe you had to be there?)


                        Mac Davis wrote from the heart – artlessly (think Johnny Mercer) – as opposed to 'artfully' (think Cole Porter). [That reminds me of an anecdote about how much Porter loved Mercer lyrics: When asked the late-in-life question: “Of all the songs that others wrote, which one do you most wish that you had written?” Cole replied, “Laura” (by Johnny Mercer & David Raksin).]

                        Back to Mac . . . Wikipedia has an impressive opening paragraph on his life

                        Morris Mac Davis (born January 21, 1942) is a country music singer, songwriter, and actor, originally from Lubbock, Texas, who has enjoyed much crossover success. His early work writing for Elvis Presley produced the hits "Memories", "In the Ghetto", "Don't Cry Daddy", and "A Little Less Conversation". A subsequent solo career in the 1970s produced hits such as "Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me". He also starred in his own variety show, a Broadway musical, and various films and TV shows.


                        By the late 60s, Mac Davis was writing songs that took him minutes to compose 'at one sitting' and which became No. 1 best-sellers. My crowd was into rock and we had no use for Bobby Goldsboro and his too-sweet-to-our-ears “Watching Scotty Grow.” but with the wisdom that the years have brought me . . .

                        I just read an interview about how quickly that song was written – it's circumstances in which Mac mentions Nancy Sinatra (presumably the time they first met. She included three of Mac's songs on her "NANCY" album of 1969).

                        'Davis told Bart Herbison of Nashville Songwriters Association International about the drawing that inspired the song — which was a hit for Bobby Goldsboro in 1971 — and why he wouldn't let Goldsboro use his own son's name instead.

                        You were babysitting, essentially?

                        Mac Davis: I was. I was recently divorced, and my son Scotty was about 5 years old. Mother was sick, and it was during the week, and I got to keep him for a few days while she was ill.

                        I took him into the office with me, in Hollywood, at the 9000 building right on Sunset Boulevard, where my offices with Nancy Sinatra were. He was a typical 5-year-old and was in my hair with questions, "Daddy" this and "Daddy" that.

                        Finally, I gave him a yellow legal pad and a felt tip pen. I said, "Draw Daddy a picture." So he started drawing, and I'm trying to write a song. All of a sudden he shows me this picture that he'd drawn. It was a crude little rocket ship, and on the side of it, it had "P-R-L-F-Q." I said, "Well, what does that spell?" And he said "Mom and Dad." Yikes!

                        So that was where I went. (Sings) "There he sits with a pen and a yellow pad, he's a handsome lad, that's my boy/P-R-L-F-Q spells 'Mom and Dad.' That ain't too bad, 'cause that's my boy."

                        It went on from there, and I guess that was the fastest that I ever wrote a song that eventually became a hit. In 45 minutes to an hour, I had the whole song written.

                        Everybody didn't agree with you (about it being a hit).

                        Clive Davis had signed me, and he had signed Jerry Fuller to be my producer. Jerry was a great songwriter and had produced a lot of hits on his own, songs that he had written. I sang him the song over the phone and said, "I think we ought to do this on my new album." He said, "That's a good song, but it sounds like a Bobby Goldsboro song to me."

                        And it just so happened that Bobby Goldsboro showed up that next week in town, and a friend of mine knew him, and I ended up over at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, playing him this song. He loved it, and he was coming off of the biggest hit in the universe at that time, called "Honey."

                        Didn't he want to change something on it?

                        That was a few weeks later. He called up and said, "Could I change this to 'Watching Danny Grow?' We've (recorded) it, but my son's name is Danny." I said, "Nope."

                        I did some calculating first. I calculated it was midnight in Nashville when he called me about this, and I could hear people in the background, and I knew they were doing vocals and had already spent the money on that record, and there was a good chance that they'd go ahead and put a vocal on it. I said, "I just can't do it." He said, "Well, OK, then." ... I just couldn't do that to my son. I wanted it to be his name.'
                        Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 01-10-2019, 09:41 PM.


                        • ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE

                          My parents' favorite song (mine too) is Kern & Hammerstein's ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE. From a stinker of a Broadway show that closed after only a few performances, composer Jerome Kern thought it would be too complicated ever to be a popular song. It really is a riot of modulations/key changes that, simultaneously, make it easy-to-whistle or hum -- but oh-so-difficult to play. Which is why it's always been a favorite of virtuoso jazz musicians, amazed at how it winds up back in the same key. In the hands of a piano virtuoso like Oscar Peterson, almost every note could be a chord.

                          Tony Bennett has been accompanied by some jazz piano giants -- most notably by Bill Evans. And most recently, the piano giant has been Bill Charlap (whose late Dad wrote some of the tunes for the Broadway musical Peter Pan. Bill is married to Canadian jazz pianist Renee Rosnes and they performed here in Winnipeg about a decade ago).

                          Tony & Bill's rendition of ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE is my all-time favorite version. From their "Silver Lining" album of songs by Jerome Kern. Can't imagine how this could be improved-upon, can you?


                          How about Tony and Bill Charlap with a recent live rendition of Kern and Dorothy Fields' 'Best Original Song' Oscar winner (1936). For the best-ever swing version of this one, see Sinatra at Youtube. But this late-in-life out-of-tempo 'live' performance, by our greatest living singer is . . . well, words can't do justice.

                          Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 01-11-2019, 04:26 PM.


                          • When the angels ask me to recall . . . the thrill of them all . . .

                            A Hollywood film director Vic Schertzinger wrote two good melodies -- and got the greatest non-theatrical lyricist of them all to write some words. One song was "Tangerine." The other was this timeless classic, I REMEMBER YOU.

                            Frank Sinatra never got around to recording what many of us consider Johnny Mercer's best song. But when you hear Tony's `take' on this song (which other song-writers have nominated as the best, popular song lyric ever written) especially as it's heard here, with Johnny Mandel's evocative, `celestial' string arrangement - it's hard to imagine a better recording of the song Johnny Mercer himself considered his personal favorite lyrical `child.' Yes, five minutes of perfection.


                            p.s. The conductor in the green velvet shirt is Johnny Mandel, still with us in his 94th year.

                            p.p.s. Music means so much to us -- especially when we're in the September of our years. My musical father used to say "It's the last thing to go" -- our musical memories. Friends of his who were pianists losing all their other memories, could still relate, through the haze, to their musical skills. This prompted by a comment on the above posting at Youtube. Who can't relate to this?

                            "Our family will soon celebrate the life of our husband/father/grandfather/brother. We’re Remembering His Life with Music. This rendition of "I Remember You” by Tony Bennett will be played. My husband had Parkinson’s. It increasingly took away his memory. During his last year of life, he often said he didn’t want to wake in the morning and not know who I was. So, every night when he listened to music before bed, we’d hold hands while this music played. He never forgot who I was."
                            Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 01-11-2019, 05:57 PM.


                            • DON'T WORRY 'BOUT ME

                              Tell me why should you cling to some fading thing that used to be?
                              If you can forget? Don't you worry 'bout me!

                              Every time SiriuslySinatra plays Frank singing DON'T WORRY 'BOUT ME (usually a live performance) I'm reminded of how much I love this song. Always intend to go and search for the CD where the original recording is found (among my 70 Sinatra CDs). As it happens, Track 16, a monaural 'bonus' track, on the WHERE ARE YOU? CD – Sinatra's first stereo recording (1957 --otherwise arranged by Gordon Jenkins).

                              Everything is perfect about this song. I remember thinking that when I was introduced to it on the 'Sinatra at the Sands' CD, “Why have I not heard this song before? It's great."

                              The poignant lyric, the perfectly mated melody – brilliantly arranged by a young Nelson Riddle, with a brass section reminiscent of early Billy May. The tune by Rube Bloom is achingly beautiful. One of his best. [Bloom had important hits with other lyricists, including two with Johnny Mercer (Day In, Day Out [and] Fools Rush In.] But this song, Don't Worry 'Bout Me was never a hit and has the smallest possible Wikipedia entry. Without Sinatra it would never have been heard of.

                              The poignant lyric by Ted Koehler – the protagonist trying hard to be casual about a future 'without her' – words perfectly mated to a melody that swings up and down in manic fashion at song's end.

                              When Frank recorded it, on an April evening in 1953, it wasn't destined for immediate release as a single. His friend Billy Holiday did a lovely recording of it. But it remained for Sinatra, at concert stage performances, to keep pulling this one out of hiding – reminding his audience that this was a great song they may not have heard.

                              Listen to the soaring intensity of the brass section as gathers momentum on the musical bridge (at around the 1:50 mark). Sinatra & Riddle, still in their 30's, providing a glimpse of the shared greatness that was just around the corner. April 30, 1953:



                              • ALL MY TOMORROWS

                                The next Sinatra track up this night at Youtube (if I didn't know better, I'd say What a coincidence!) is just about my favorite Sammy Cahn / Jimmy Van Heusen love song, ALL MY TOMORROWS. Which unlike, DON'T WORRY 'BOUT ME has a sizeable Wiki entry (which neglects to credit the brilliant arrangement by Don Costa).


                                "All My Tomorrows" is a 1959 ballad with lyrics by Sammy Cahn and music by Jimmy van Heusen.[1][2] The song was expressly written as a Frank Sinatra vehicle.[3] It was introduced in the film A Hole in the Head where Sinatra sings it in the opening credits.[4]

                                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 considers to be superior to the original,[5] and which AllMusic calls "lush and aching".[6] 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.[10][11] Christine Andreas released a version of the song in 1998 on her album Love Is Good.[12] In 2013 Canadian singer Martha Brooks issued a jazz CD featuring 11 Cahn tunes titled All My Tomorrows: The Music of Sammy Cahn.[13] The song has been covered by numerous other artists, including Tony Bennett, Mavis Rivers, Pia Zadora, Shirley Horn, Crystal Gayle, Carol Kidd, and Michael Feinstein.[14] In 1994, Grover Washington Jr. recorded the song for his album All My Tomorrows and named the album after it.[15]

                                [Yes but . . . it never got a better reading than this]