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

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

    Just reading the thread "Are Vocals the most important part of a song?" reminded this oldtimer (nearly 63) of the age-old question: Which is ultimately more important, in making a song a 'classic' that sticks in our memory.

    If your memory, like mine, includes The Great American Songbook -- standards written by the likes of truly gifted composers of melody, like Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and (my favorite) Richard Rodgers . . . then your answer to that timeless riddle may still be . . . as Stackabones would say, "YesNoMaybeso."

    We just finished celebrating (in November) the 100th anniversary of the birth of Johnny Mercer -- arguably the greatest (non-theatrical) LYRICIST . . . though he wrote a few classic melodies to go with his words -- most notably DREAM (when you're feeling blue) and ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE (don't mess with 'Mr. In-Between').

    I transcribed a radio interview that Johnny did, a few years before his untimely death following surgery for a brain tumor. May I share it here?

    INTERVIEWER (as applause dies down) "Ladies and gentlemen, this section of our program is absolutely unrehearsed: the deal, between Johnny and me, is this: he would not know ANY of the questions I am about to ask; so these are coming at him absolutely cold!

    "Johnny, you must know that you are the model and inspiration for a generation of younger lyricists, many of whom are in the audience tonight. Some questions I'm going to ask on their behalf: What qualities do you look for in a collaborator?


  • Mark Blackburn
    MAM'SELLE -- so nice, Frank did it twice!
    Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing MAM'SELLE – Frank's 1960 version (first recorded by my favorite singer the year of my birth – but I wasn't aware of that till a moment ago). YouTube has two versions by Frank: First, the one I've loved for decades, included as it was on the Nice 'N' Easy album -- with strings and flutes so beautifully (and economically) arranged by Nelson Riddle. It almost sounds like a "with the Hollywood String Quartet" recording (wonder if those string players included Mr. and Mrs. Felix Slatkin -- half of the 'Hollywood quartet'?)

    The first offering this day at Youtube -- the earlier 'hit parade' recording.' Like me, you may be hearing it for the first time today! First, the Nice 'N' Easy sessions recording:

    Frank's 72 year old version arranged by Axel Stordahl which, like the later Riddle arrangement, featured exquisite violin obligatos. A kindred spirit's “comment” below this video

    Richard Whiteman Jazz4 years ago
    Listen to the strings right after "a kiss became a sigh". . . Stordahl was a great arranger.


    I always mean to start a thread on Mack Gordon who penned the lyric for this song – at the request of an English-born Hollywood film director Edmund Goulding (who died, age 68, Christmas Eve 1959). Mack Gordon was even younger (54) when he died that same year. His Wiki entry begins,

    Mack Gordon (born Morris Gittler, June 21, 1904 – February 28, 1959)[1] was an American composer and lyricist of songs for the stage and film. He was nominated for the best original song Oscar nine times in eleven years, including five consecutive years between 1940 and 1944, and won the award once, for "You'll Never Know".[2]That song has proved among his most enduring, and remains popular in films and television commercials to this day. "At Last" is another of his best-known songs.

    [The song has a one-line Wiki entry but a list of the artists who immediately recorded it to compete on the 1947 hit parade.]

    "Mam'selle" is a bittersweet song about a rendez-vous with a "mam'selle" (mademoiselle) in a small café. The music for MAM'SELLE was written by Edmund Goulding, the lyrics by Mack Gordon. The song originally appeared in the movie, The Razor's Edge, with Tyrone Power in 1947.

    Five versions of the song became top ten hits in 1947: by Art Lund, by Dick Haymes, by Frank Sinatra, by Dennis Day, and by The Pied Pipers. Frankie Laine had a hit jazz version, renowned for its vibe solo by Lou Singer.

    The Art Lund recording was recorded on February 20, 1947 [which] first reached the Billboard magazine charts on April 11, 1947 and lasted 11 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1.

    The Dick Haymes recording was recorded on March 6, 1947 and first reached the Billboard magazine charts on April 25, 1947 and lasted 8 weeks on the chart, peaking at #4.

    The Frank Sinatra recording was recorded on March 11, 1947 and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 37343. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on May 10, 1947 and lasted 4 weeks on the chart, peaking at #6 on the Best Seller chart, and #1 on the Jockey chart.[1]
    Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 05-03-2019, 09:06 AM.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    DIANE SCHUUR -- When October Goes
    Diane (one 'N') Schuur (two 'U's) is a friend of Barry Manilow – two artists who have both recorded Sinatra tribute albums. Listening to her on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio earlier this hour (Barry's “Playing Favorites” program,) singing a song by “Manilow & Mercer” – WHEN OCTOBER GOES. Barry says Diane's version is his favorite (and thus, likely would have been Johnny's too).

    Mercer's lyric was a just 'poem in a drawer' – offered to Barry after Johnny's death by his widow, Ginger. Johnny and Ginger had one adopted child “Mandy” and Mercer loved Manilow's hit song of that name. They stayed in touch right up until the year of Mercer's death. Reading that poem went straight to Barry's heart; he came up with the beautiful melody 'in no time.'

    I confess I hadn't heard this favorite version by Ms Schuur (who turned 65 this year) until today!

    [Wiki entry notes]

    "Diane Joan Schuur (born December 10, 1953), nicknamed 'Deedles', is an American jazz singer and pianist. As of 2015, Schuur had released 23 albums, and had extended her jazz repertoire to include essences of Latin, gospel, pop and country music."

    Diane Schuur's own website features her recent album 'celebrating her friends and mentors, Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra' – titled “I Remember You." Below the graphic, a quote from jazz magazine writer Brent Black:

    "Diane Schuur is that rare breed of vocal artist or what I refer to as a harmonic chameleon that can sing anything and is able to deliver unique and incredibly memorable performances each and every time. Artistic integrity, lyrical respect and the ability to embrace the true meaning of the lyrics and swing of both Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra is a rare gift"
    Brent Black, Bop-N-Jazz

    So. Barry Manilow's favorite version of the song he co-wrote with Johnny Mercer: Official version by Universal Music Group [Zero comments (till this one) and three 'thumbs up']
    Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 05-02-2019, 10:58 AM.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    A birthday love note, mailed today to my non-religious kid brother

    “Oh come on,” says Irene, “Get him a funny card.” “No I won't.” “Well, I think you're wrong.” "I'm writing him a letter instead.” (In the end, we included a birthday card showing a baby, working a smart phone, and cursing “text auto-corrected spelling” plus a McDonald's gift card I know he always appreciates.)

    Indulge me as I share this letter to my brother. Or, skip my letter and watch the video that prompted it: McCartney, 25 years ago, inducting his 'brother' into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- an eight-minute "Letter to John."


    Dear Ron,

    After Mass this morning, I sat in the car for a little while, listening as always to Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio, then phoning Irene to ask if she wanted to share 'the usual' – a sausage/egg McMuffin with hash brown – which we've been enjoying since the summer when the Olympics were held in L.A. 1984, I think. We were en route to see you all in Ottawa, via the U.S. – beginning in North Dakota; while there, first morning of our three-day drive, we had ourselves our very first “sausage/egg McMuffin with hash brown.”

    Still our favorite meal from McDonald's. Since Rome, where we had the best cappuccino coffee every morning – the Italian version of hot milk and espresso (so much better than latte) – since Rome four summers ago, we've treated ourselves at McDonald's to this drink we love which Wikipedia says is,

    A cappuccino is an espresso-based coffee drink that originated in Italy, and is traditionally prepared with steamed milk foam.

    “Yes,” said Irene on the phone. “I'll have a little of each” (split the meal and drink, as always). Before I started up the car three groups of children, about 30 or 40 in each group, came down the street from the Holy Cross school next to our church of the same name; it's attached to the diocesan high school, so K-through-12 that offers a higher quality education, just as Catholic schools are reputed to do, world-wide. In Bermuda, St. Teresa's Academy was THE high school for parents, mostly protestant, who could afford to send their kids there.

    Watching as the groups of kids – ranging in age from little ones who looked to be around five or six – up to late high school, went up the steps and into the church where I go to Mass each day – watching them was so uplifting. Irene was still on the phone and said, “Of course they'll leave the church when they get older!” and I said, “Yes, but then they'll come back again when they are parents, or else, like me they'll be converts!”

    We are 17 per cent of the human race – 1.4 billion Catholics – the only human entity that exists in every single nation on earth (with baptismal records that will eventually be registered in Rome).

    Did I ever tell you, Bro, how much we loved Rome? There is always one person (in any committee, Dad said) – just one person who is the driving force – who makes things happen. With our family here that person is Aaron's wife Robyn, a nurse who has given us two beautiful little girls, Kaitlyn (four) and Adeline (17 months).

    With our 40th anniversary looming, Robyn provided a printed gift certificate related to a thousand dollars that she and Aaron had put toward Irene and I getting to Rome for our 40th; We made it the next summer, with Irene's birthday August 24 in the middle of that week . It cost us an extra few thousand of course, but I (finally) used Air Miles (all 8,700) to pay for our hotel – a “Best Western” a block and a half from the steps that lead up to the Vatican museum on the eastern side of St. Peter's,

    St. Peter's square was a six block walk from our hotel. Irene was granted a window of good health (today she walks with difficulty – frailty – and we both lovingly recall our 8 days in Rome as we sip our cappuccino.

    On the evening of our first day, we walked down to the 'square' whose fountains were lit up but otherwise the square was darkened; you could hear the quiet voices of others, just little handfuls of people moving around quietly, in the light of a full moon.

    On the walk down there, I stopped a priest to ask, “Where can we go to Mass each day?” And he told us to go in the Vatican gateway, and signal to the guards that we are going 'stage right' where there is a door in a wall. You'd never know what's there – you'd have to be a Catholic who asked a priest the question we did, and know to indicate to the guards hooking your right hand thumb toward stage right.

    The nondescript wall with a plain door leads into St. Anne's church, named after Jesus grand mother, a small but beautiful marble building where, for the benefit of those who work at the Vatican, there is one Mass after another – all in Italian – but you know the order of service, it is the same world wide so . . .

    As we were leaving the church and Irene went back to leave something in their poor box, I was waiting in the entrance/foyer area and a priest emerged from another door. Something made me ask him to give Irene (who'd just rejoined me) a blessing. I remember he was maybe 40 something, young looking face but could have been 50 – carrying an expensive leather attache case. (Italians produce all the best leather goods, women's shoes, purses etc)

    “A blessing,” he said. “Now that's something I haven't given in a while.”

    I got another push to say to him: “Father, my one big regret is I won't get to pray before the bones of Peter. I tried to arrange but couldn't and priests told me (in Winnipeg) it's something that must be arranged months (plural) in advance. And I couldn't.”

    He stared at me intently then said, to Irene and I, “Come with me.”

    We went through seven different 'checkpoints' with guards in as many different colored uniforms, all of them saluting this man. We walked down an ancient smooth stone slope leading underneath the Vatican and this priest remarked, off-handedly, as if to himself, speaking to God alone:

    “Visitors to Rome NEVER come this way.”

    We ended up in an elevator, the most beautiful, large wood-paneled (cherry wood) elevator you could imagine, going up to where the Vatican joins with St. Peter's basilica – we emerged 'stage right' facing the main altar seen each Christmas and Easter on TV and walked diagonally across to a couple of old men leaning against a wooden railing covered with linen cloth.

    Behind them, where none of the thousands of people walking past them would know, there was a hole in the stone floor. The priest spoke to the men, to assure that we would join, at his direction, the next group of pilgrims from some part of the world who had arranged, at a specific time, months in advance, to go down the stone spiral staircase.

    The priest, knowing where I would be kneeling in prayer in a few minutes time, took out his card and wrote a personal phone number on the back, and then, pointing to his name on the front said:

    “Now, I have a favor to ask of you. Say a prayer for me.”

    He turned and was gone. We joined the next group from somewhere else in the world, and descended through the narrow hole in the floor, a tight spiral staircase. Every few feet a sign which said: “No cameras, no photos allowed.” The group we were with would have been instructed about that months earlier. With the result that, where we were going, no photos – not even by Vatican photographers exist. For the logistical reason that no one ever asks, on a whim, based on some photo they saw of the tomb of Peter, “how do I go down there.” You don't. No one does what Irene and I did.

    Our priest back home, Polish-born who speaks five languages and spent time in Rome, looked at his card the next week and said,

    “This isn't what you think. This is THE person who sits down Vatican envoys to other nations, papal nunzios, and tells them what they're going to be doing, in London, Paris, or Washington, and when they pass a message back to the Pope from a head of state, THIS man is the one who assigns it first to another office before it goes to the Pope.”

    I sent him an email months later, thanking him saying, “You may remember me. We knew each other for 12 minutes.”

    To change the subject only slightly: each day I say a prayer for your well-being, Ron. I have something I add on your behalf when I “talk to God,” as Mom urged the last time she and I spoke. I know I've told you this.

    Dad was in the kitchen, whipping up something noisy and Mom was on that mobile bed, in the dining room, and I was giving her a foot rub. We hadn't spoken at all that morning. Her eyes were closed but I knew that, if she had the energy, she'd have appreciated the foot rub.

    “Mom,” I was motivated to say, not knowing if there would be any response from her, “when you boil it down to the bottom of the pot, and there is only one thing left (that matters), what is it?”

    She sat up, clear-eyed, and in a good firm voice, said: “Talk to God!” She closed her eyes and leaned back to rest. Last words, apart from perhaps a faint good bye ,when you would have driven me to the airport, last words Mom said to me. So glad I was 'moved' to ask that question!

    I have only one request to ask of you, Bro. If you think you are dying, say a reverent little prayer to Jesus. The wording won't matter. Provided you obeyed his basic advice on imitating him. Two things, no third thing required: “Be gentle. And be humble of heart.” Humility is the opposite of pride, so he's saying avoid occasions of pride, being puffed up, as when someone, telling you the truth, says you are really good at something. “Take it with a grain of salt,” I tell the Grand kids. Thank them, but don't allow it to puff you up with pride.

    Love from your funny old brother, Mark

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  • Mark Blackburn
    LIONEL RICHIE -- All Night Long (my last favorite No. 1 hit)

    If I didn't know better I'd say, What a coincidence! I'd just been wondering (to myself) 'What was the last album of popular music – hit parade music – that I purchased?' Meaning, a recording that topped the charts as a single or as a No. 1 best-selling album. It would have been a black vinyl LP. Then it came to me. It's been almost 40 years!

    Remember the Columbia Records Club? Where you selected half a dozen LPs for a penny apiece, then agreed to pay regular price for about the same number of other albums in various genres? It was Lionel Richie – title track, I think, from his best-selling LP “All Night Long.” I loved that song – a good strong melody, with a rhythm that invites even the 'terpsichore-disadvantaged' types like me, to 'get-up-and-dance.'

    Just checked “This Day in Sinatra History” and there's Nancy recalling a “fun night” where this was the featured event:


    APRIL 28, 1984: FS, Dean, Sammy, and Lionel Richie performed at the SHARE Boomtown Benefit at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus.

    “This was a fun night. Lionel Richie had the audience who were in groups of ten at round tables, standing and rocking to the infectious 'All Night Long.' That's not an easy feat with the tables spread out all around the huge room.”


    The choreography is superb. Natural, seemingly effortless, deceptively easy 'let's-all-join-in-the-party' that manages to hit all the right notes; including the 'authority figure' – the stern-looking policeman – who looks poised to be a wet blanket before swinging his baton like a drum major! And Lionel 'dancing' with the littlest girl on the floor. I defy even cynics like me, to watch this and not smile, if not get up and dance!

    [The link Nancy provided was to a version with almost 48 million views where the most recent “comments” speak for millions of us!]

    Steve of Unknown Kadath 2 months ago
    This was the 80s: clean, well-dressed people of all ethnicities enjoying themselves in the open air.

    LYNDA B. 6 months ago
    Still love this song. This can still be played years and years later. That's what you call 'good music' standing the test of time?￰゚

    Jay75Euro 1 day ago
    How did music move from this to what we have now? This is pure Gold.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    Flying and Dancing with Barry Manilow
    After he and Jimmy Van Heusen composed Frank's most famous, up-tempo 'signature song' “Come Fly With Me” Sammy Cahn was asked to write a follow-up -- “Come Dance with Me” (and, of course, in the same motif -- "Come Waltz With Me," and "Come Blow Your Horn"). Sammy Cahn at the peak of his powers!

    Of those first two “Fly” and “Dance” -with-me songs, I love the latter best: for moments of the lyric – the reference most of us might have to look up – “Terpsichore” ("In Greek mythology, Terpsichore delight in dancing" is one of the nine Muses and goddess of dance and chorus. She lends her name to the word "terpsichorean")

    That, plus a line only Sammy could have penned (my favorite): "For what is dancing? – but making love set to music!"

    Anyway, I was in need of cheering up when I was pulling up in my driveway this morning -- big wet depressing snowflakes falling (and melting) on our green lawn – with Siriusly Sinatra playing my favorite modern medley of those two great songs -- from his Sinatra tribute album. His arrangement is so beautiful – so uplifting! Some days we need that most, right? Case in point. Can't imagine a better performance than this one by Barry M.

    Is an “official” video available at YouTube? Yes. Trouble is, you might miss this four-year-old inspired work of genius – mating the music to a favorite dancing-on-the-ceiling performance by everyone's favorite male dancer. With an informed note that this is "The dance scene from the Fred Astaire movie, 'Royal wedding' – a musical comedy filmed in 1953." Alas the dance sequence runs just under three minutes and Barry's recording is just under -- about three seconds shy of perfection. But it's so perfectly in sync I want to praise the poster for a work of genius!

    “Middle of the Road” and “Easy Listening” -- where Manilow is forever assigned – since the days he wrote award-winning commercial jingles -- before landing a job as Bette Midler's musical director. Do you know, I've never checked his Wikipedia entry before right this minute. Glad I did! Turns out Sinatra and Dylan both shared our love for his Barry's best work!


    Barry Manilow (born Barry Alan Pincus, June 17, 1943) is an American singer-songwriter, arranger, musician and producer with a career that has spanned more than 50 years. His hit recordings include "Could It Be Magic", "Mandy", "I Write the Songs" "Can't Smile Without You", and "Copacabana (At the Copa)".

    He recorded and released 46 Top 40 singles on the Adult Contemporary Chart, including 13 that hit number one and 28 of which appeared within the top ten, and has released many multi-platinum albums. Although not a favorite artist of music critics,[2] Manilow has been praised by entertainers including Frank Sinatra, who was quoted in the 1970s as saying, "He's next."[3] In 1988, Bob Dylan stopped Manilow at a party, hugged him and said, "Don't stop what you're doing, man. We're all inspired by you."[4]

    Nominated for a Grammy Award (winning once) as a producer, arranger and performer a total of fifteen times (and in every decade) from 1973 to 2015.[5] He has also produced Grammy-nominated albums for Bette Midler, Dionne Warwick, Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan.[6] Manilow has sold more than 75 million records as a solo artist worldwide, making him one of the world's best-selling artists.
    Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 04-29-2019, 09:55 AM.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    Why we love early Frank Sinatra
    One beautiful song after another this morning at Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio. Including, as always, one I'd not heard before this moment: A '20-something' Frank singing (to mostly solo guitar accompaniment) I DON'T KNOW WHY (I Love You Like I do).

    I'm a guitarist and am certain that is one of my life-long heroes -- George Van Epps: playing his invention, the seven-string guitar (with an extra A string, almost as thick as a pencil). Before the days of pick-ups, his un-amplified "Epiphone" archtop, played directly into (sounds to me like) an early RCA ribbon-mic to accentuate the bass strings. A modest-sized string section tapers tastefully in-and-out, receding at the close, to allow Frank and George to end it as they began -- alone together.

    Is it at YouTube? Yes! 20 thumbs up – and one, single-word comment: “Beautiful.” That it is!
    Last edited by Mark Blackburn; 04-26-2019, 10:15 AM.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    Joni Mitchell – 'fear of fame' and “Both Sides Now”

    I just watched an interview with Joni Mitchell (now 75) in which she recites a poem she wrote before finishing her Grade 12 high school: “I was 16 and I had to write in blank verse a (school) assignment. And I was getting my hair done at a beauty school – that's a 'hair school' – by amateurs. Around me were these stacks of magazines with Sandra Dee on the covers, crying (about her marriage break-up) and I wrote this poem called THE FISHBOWL – about Hollywood.” (recites)

    The fish bowl is a world REVERSED
    where fishermen with hooks that dangle from the bottom UP
    reel DOWN their catch, without a fight, on gilded bait.

    Pike, pickerel, bass – the common fish – ogle through distorting glass
    see ONLY glitter, glamor, gaiety – fog up the bowl with lusty breath,
    LUNGE towards the bait --- and miss!
    And weep, for fortunes lost.

    Envy the gold fish? WHY?
    His bubbles breaking 'round the rim while silly fishes faint for him
    and say: 'Oh, my God! I think he WINKED at me!'


    Joni loved Sinatra's early (1968 “Cycles” album) Don Costa arranged recording of her most enduring ballad, BOTH SIDES NOW. Joni's own re-recording almost 30 years later (now thirty years ago!) – with a 70 piece orchestra, celestially arranged by Vince Mendoza – remains my favorite version:

    Most recent "comment" (apart from this one) below the video speaks for millions of us who are 'of an age'

    gerard jandayan (3 days ago)

    "Discovered this remake just recently, 2018 to be exact. This remake is hauntingly honest for people like me who are past their prime. I hope the younger generation will come to appreciate this song. Coz this is about life that was lived."

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  • Mark Blackburn
    TONY BENNETT -- It Had to Be You (favorite live performance)

    “Johnny Mercer from Savannah Georgia,” says Tony Bennett (a moment ago on Siriusly Sinatra) “He was asked what his very favorite popular song of all time was. And he said 'a song (lyric) written by a colleague of mine from Chicago, Gus Kahn'. Here's that wonderful song.”

    Tony and a piano trio (Ralph Sharon?) with a live performance. Wonder where? Is it at YouTube? Yes! And I needn't have transcribed that introduction. (MTV unplugged, circa 1994)

    “Some others I've seen . . . might never be mean, might never be cross,
    or try to be boss, but they wouldn't do: Nobody else gave me a thrill! With all your faults, I love you still . . .

    Mustn't forget who wrote the beautiful tune, 95 years ago! The Wiki note:

    "It Had to Be You" is a popular song written by Isham Jones, with lyrics by Gus Kahn.[2] It was first published in 1924.

    Notable recordings[edit]

    - Doris Day, on album I'll See You in My Dreams (1951)[3]
    - Frank Sinatra, sang the sound in the 1940's with Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, but was never recorded until album 'Trilogy: Past Present Future' (1980)
    - Bing Crosby - recorded in February 1952 for Crosby's radio show and mastered by Decca Records for commercial release on February 14, 1952.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    DEBBY BOONE -- I'm So Lonesome I could Cry

    At this moment Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing my favorite latter-day recording of my favorite Hank Williams song, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" -- Debby Boone with superb jazz musicians who retain the Country soul in a way Hank would have loved. Country music's greatest-ever composer (according to all the others) was only 29 when he died of alcohol poisoning. So he never lived to hear all the great covers of his songs. This one is most beloved by jazz singers. At this moment, Debby's is "my favorite version."

    Favorite stanza:

    "Did you ever see a Robin weep, when leaves begin to die? It means he's lost the will to live, I'm so lonesome I could cry."

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  • Mark Blackburn

    Sirius radio just played Sinatra's IN THE STILL OF NIGHT -- best ever recording of that Cole Porter classic, for the first Reprise album, 'Ring-a-Ding Ding!' arranged (mostly) by the dean of living orchestrators, Johnny Mandel -- who God willing, turns 94 this year (next November).

    Earlier this hour, from the same 1961 album, it was Frank's timeless take on Irving Berlin's I'VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM. As it turns out that track was one of the few songs Johnny Mandel -- under the pressure of deadlines -- had to 'farm out' to another (overlooked) arranger, Dick Reynolds, who 'impersonated' Johnny's approach to that "first Reprise album" -- paying close attention to Johnny's 'this is how I'd do it' instructions.

    Is Dick Reynolds still with us? Who knows? His Wiki entry doesn't give a birth date -- even as it speaks in the past tense. (Our Chuck might know! given his extensive knowledge of The Beach Boys. Hint, hint.) In its entirety his Wiki entry:

    Dick Reynolds was a musician, songwriter, and trombonist[1] best known as arranger for the Four Freshmen.[2] He also arranged for Frank Sinatra and authored "If I Ever Love Again", which Sinatra recorded in 1949.[1] Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys said of Reynolds: "[He's] just about a god to me. His work is the greatest, and the Freshmen's execution is too much."[3] Reynolds was later employed by Wilson for the recording of The Beach Boys' Christmas Album(1964) and Adult/Child (unreleased, 1977).

    Google the words “I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” without specifying a singer and the very first offering at YouTube is this one, with “157,590 views”

    Johnny Mandel remains musically active, with an orchestra of great musicians that performs semi-regularly at a restaurant in the San Fernando Valley, self-described on-line as,

    "Vitello's Italian Restaurant has been tucked away in the quaint Tujunga Village of Studio City, CA. for more than 50 years. Vitello's serves contemporary Italian ... "

    (It's supper club seats 120 and that's where Johnny's orchestra still performs select engagements.)

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  • Mark Blackburn
    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.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    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.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    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.

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  • Mark Blackburn
    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.

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