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Mark Blackburn

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

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[h=2]Thanks for your mini-review. It triggered this share at Tony B's Facebook page[/h]

Elsewhere this day – on the “Tony Bennett” thread at SinatraFamily (nearing 100 thousand “views”) a friend, Ronald Sarbo (he and I are 'of an age') shared this:


“Tony was MAGNIFICENT last night at Radio City Music Hall.


“Tony was introduced by Frank Sinatra speaking authoritatively from the great....beyond.


“I could not help but think that it was an April night 25 years ago that I last saw Sinatra at RCMH. It was the night he said 'This is probably the last time we will all be together.' The tears came to my eyes.”



I'd just been thinking of my single favorite 'live' performance EVER at the Grammy awards: Tony and Stevie. Concerning which, the next day (January 2007) I wrote this in a review of Tony's first DUETS CD:


Last night at the "Grammy's" something wonderful happened - Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder shared an award for their duet of a song each had recorded in 1967 - "For Once in My Life."


On the same night, 40 years earlier, more popular hit songs ("Up, Up and Away," "Respect" and "Gentle on My Mind") had edged out Tony's and Stevie's versions of "For Once in My Life." Almost the only one of his hits Stevie DIDN'T write, the song was co-written by Ronald Miller (a nephew of pianist Bill Miller, Frank Sinatra's career accompanist, who died last summer on tour with Sinatra Junior, in Montreal).


When Tony Bennett introduced the song, in 1967 "For Once in My Life" was underappreciated, while Stevie's rendition became his then-biggest hit, to date.



For months I've been telling friends that "track eleven on Tony's latest album - his duet with Stevie Wonder -- is the `pick of the litter.'" And while popular music's elder statesman -- now in his 81st year - would never have admitted it on stage last night, I believe that he and Stevie, in their heart-of-hearts would agree with the folks at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences -- that this was the Grammy winner, among the 23 terrific duets on this album.


Is that 'live at the Grammys' performance at YouTube. Nope. But even better: Tony and Stevie sitting down with their producer, the late Phil Ramone – on “the making of” same:



Footnotes [from 2007]


So . . . which songs edged out Tony's and Stevie's versions of "For Once in My Life" for the Grammy's in 1967? "Song of the Year" went to composer Jim Webb for "Up, Up and Away" (and to the "Fifth Dimension" for performing it). The R&B Song of the year was "Respect" -- the Grammy went to Otis Redding for writing the words and music (not to Aretha Franklin who had a Number 1 hit with it). And the C&W song award that year went to John Hartford, for "Gentle on My Mind."]


Ronald Miller, who wrote the words to "For Once in My Life" and composer Orlando Murden never had another hit (but if each of us could only have written one great song from the Sixties . . . why not that one?)

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[h=2]WALTZ FOR DEBBY -- Tony, Bill, Gene and little girls[/h]

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.


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[h=2]TOO MARVELOUS FOR WORDS -- new favorite version[/h]

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!



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Posted (edited)

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."


Edited by Mark Blackburn

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[h=2]BLOSSOM DEARIE – Put on a Happy Face[/h]

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”)


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[h=2]I oughtta say no, no, no sir (those sirens seem to be getting closer)[/h]

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 . . .


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[h=2]Why I like Operetta (unforgettable melody that stays with you a lifetime)[/h]

“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:


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[h=2]She was twenty six and I was two[/h]

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!


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[h=2]When opera met Sammy Cahn[/h]

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.

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[h=2]To illustrate those last remarks, think of . . .[/h]

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:


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[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."

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[h=2]My Favorite Muppets opera Pigoletto – BEVERLY SILLS[/h]

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.

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[h=2]My Valentine -- Paul McCartney[/h]

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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Posted (edited)

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 . . . "




Edited by Mark Blackburn

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Posted (edited)

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 SinatraFamily.com "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.”

Edited by Mark Blackburn

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[h=2]Ray Charles – YOURS[/h]

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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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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[h=2]DEBBY BOONE -- I'm So Lonesome I could Cry[/h]

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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[h=2]TONY BENNETT -- It Had to Be You (favorite live performance)[/h]

“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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[h=2]Joni Mitchell – 'fear of fame' and “Both Sides Now”[/h]

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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Posted (edited)

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!




Edited by Mark Blackburn

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Posted (edited)

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.


Edited by Mark Blackburn

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[h=2]LIONEL RICHIE -- All Night Long (my last favorite No. 1 hit)[/h]

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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[h=2]A birthday love note, mailed today to my non-religious kid brother[/h]

“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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Posted (edited)

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']



Edited by Mark Blackburn

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