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Mark Blackburn

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A moment ago, without any introduction, apart from a picture of TOY STORY 4 surrounded by the Oscars the series has won, there's my life-long songwriting hero RANDY NEWMAN performing the best, get-up-and-dance song -- great melody, catchy refrain -- I CAN'T LET YOU (which he pronounces LET-cha). Hope he wins his umpteenth "Best Original Song" Academy Award. [Specifically his Wikipedia entry notes]

"Newman has received twenty Academy Award nominations in the Best Original Score and Best Original Song categories and has won twice in the latter category, contributing to the Newmans being the most nominated Academy Award extended family, with a collective 92 nominations in various music categories. He has also won three Emmys, seven Grammy Awards and the Governor's Award from the Recording Academy.[3]

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Okay then. My favorite acceptance speech

No Randy Newman didn't win (he was also nominated for Best Film Score for "Marriage Story").  But an awards show I've never missed (in 60 years) made up for it, with an acceptance speech worth transcribing:  Rene Zellweger on winning the "Best Actress" Academy Award for her starring role in the new bio pic about Judy Garland's final days of concerts in London before her death.

Ms Zellweger's words were heartfelt, and sounded spontaneous, as she shared her own eclectic list of "heroes" who unite us:

“Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride – Venus, Serena and Selina – Bob Dylan (surprised cheering) Scorsese, Fred Rogers, Harriet Tubman . . . and we can agree on our teachers and our courageous men and women in uniform who serve, and our first-responders, and fire fighters.

“And when we celebrate our heroes, you know we are reminded of who we are, as one people, united.

“And though Judy Garland did not receive this honor in her time, I'm certain that this moment is an extension of the celebration of her legacy – that began on our film set. Her legacy of unique exceptionalism, inclusivity and generosity of spirit – it transcends any one artistic achievement.

“Miss Garland! You are among the heroes who unite us, and who define us. And THIS, is certainly for YOU. I'm so grateful. Thank you so much, everybody. Good night.”
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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My favorite live TV musical segment of all time

I'd just been thinking about Paul Smith, Ella's musical director for decades, who accompanied her on her “finest hour” alone together in a studio – a pianist the European Jazz encyclopedia once dubbed “the greatest in America.” (An LP cut in a Dutch recording studio, circa 1960 that I reviewed at Amazon.) Anyway, I know Mr. Smith left us several years ago and I'd just googled his name. And got this (July 3, 2013 New York Times):

Paul Smith, a jazz pianist who accompanied singers like Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Sammy Davis Jr. and Rosemary Clooney but who was best known for his long association, both on record and on concert stages worldwide, with Ella Fitzgerald, died on Saturday in Torrance, Calif. He was 91.

Tall, lanky and rugged-looking, Mr. Smith did not fit most people’s image of a jazz musician. When he was the musical director on the comedian Steve Allen’s television show in the 1960s, Mr. Allen told him that he looked more like “a Nebraska cornhusker.” At concerts, Mr. Smith would sometimes walk onto the stage and ask the audience, “Where is the piano you want moved?”

Coincidentally (or not) one of the wise men at Sinatra Family Forum  "Andrew T" shared this video a moment ago:  Peggy opening this goose-bump inducing sequence with England's greatest gift to jazz, blind piano giant George Shearing. The under-eight-minute 'live' TV segment winds up with Bing and Joe Bushkin (if my favorite trumpet player Jack Sheldon had played piano, he'd play like Joe!) and in-between, our favorite singer (who says “Thanks, Paul”).

Thanks, Andrew. (Who but you?) From the night of November 29, 1959. 'Live' TV music never got better than this, you may agree.

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Favorite latter-day recording of WALKIN' MY BABY BACK HOME

James Taylor's version of WALKIN' MY BABY BACK HOME is playing on Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio.  I've been a life-long fan of Mr. Taylor – and apart from his recording of MY ROMANCE (arguably the most recorded song by my favorite composer Dick Rodgers) this was -- until his soon-to-be-released AMERICAN STANDARD album -- just about the only Great American Songbook ballad that James Taylor ever recorded.

His take on this great old song  is not among the more than 50 versions listed in the Wikipedia entry:

"Walkin' My Baby Back Home" is a popular song written in 1930 by Roy Turk(lyrics) and Fred E. Ahlert (music). It first charted in 1931 with versions by Nick Lucas (#8), Ted Weems (also #8), The Charleston Chasers (#15), and Lee Morse(#18).
A recording made by Jo Stafford on November 9, 1945, was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 20049, and on her album, Songs by Jo Stafford . . . 
The major hit version of it was recorded by Nat King Cole, on September 4, 1951 . . .  It went to #8 in 1952. The song charted again in 1952 at #4 in a version recorded in February 1952 by Johnnie Ray, . . . It was the title song from the 1953 film starring Donald O'Connor, Janet Leigh, Buddy Hackett . . . In the film the song was performed by O'Connor.

In the opening of the 2002 TV film Martin and Lewis, Dean Martin (played by Jeremy Northam) performs the song at the Riobamba Club in New York City.
In 2008, Natalie Cole recorded the song as a virtual duet with her father and it was the first single for her album Still Unforgettable, released on September 9, 2008.
Elvis Costello ["Mr. Diana Krall" as we know him in Canada] performed a version as an encore in his Auckland, New Zealand concert, January 19, 2013 and in Troy, New York on November 6, 2013.

Again, no mention of James Taylor's more recent, gentle, loving appreciation from a decade ago. But Jersey Lou Simon (the programmer at Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio) speaks to my heart each time he includes this one on the playlist. Nat King Cole didn't live long enough to know about James Taylor, but I think Nat would have smiled lovingly to hear this one. As Mr. Taylor did, two decades ago, on his only other Great Songbook ballad MY ROMANCE, that's James himself with the world-class whistling on the instrumental bridge!  


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Sophie Fatu hosting Playing Favorites

"Playing Favorites -- I'm Sophie Fatu on Siriusly Sinatra . . . "

Quite the most adorable little girl voice is introducing her personal favorites. At this moment it's her take on AIN'T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD.

"Sophie Fatu is on a remarkable journey," says an online biographical note. "First, the 5-year-old Sinatra singer wowed comedian and daytime talk show Ellen Degeneres on “Ellen.” Then she impressed television host Steve Harvey on “Little Big Shots.” Now, she's winning hearts on “America's Got Talent” on Tuesday nights.

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Sammy & Laurindo – WE'LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN

Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio has been playing one after another of my favorite recordings this night.  Just a moment ago,  it was the Don Costa arranged IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING for 'Sinatra & Strings' – one of my top five Sinatra albums, and my favorite Rodgers & Hammerstein song that wasn't in a Broadway show. At this moment it's Sammy Davis Jr – alone together with my all-time favorite Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida from their album of (mostly) Broadway show tunes. Is it at YouTube? Yes. Really, did an acoustic guitar and the human voice ever sound better than this?


The Wiki entry for this song lists 22 important versions – but not this one by Sammy & Laurindo.

"We'll Be Together Again" is a 1945 popular song composed by Carl T. Fischer, with lyrics by Frankie Laine. [1] Fischer was Laine's pianist and musical director when he composed the tune, and Laine was asked to write the lyrics for it. The Pied Pipers were the first to release the song, and as well as Laine, it has since been recorded by such notable vocalists as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Lou Rawls and Tony Bennett ….

The song was used in the final episodes of two long-running daytime soap operas. The Tony Bennett version used in the final episode of the CBS soap opera Love of Life on February 1, 1980. The song played during the closing credits as the show's longtime director Larry Auerbach walked through the empty sets. The Lou Rawls version was used in the final episode of Search for Tomorrow, which aired on NBC on December 26, 1986. It played during the closing credits, ending as the show's star Mary Stuart, who played the serial's central character Joanne, said goodbye to the audience and thanking them for watching the show.

The version by Ray Charles and Betty Carter is used in the final ever episode of Moonlighting, which aired on ABC on May 14, 1989, which was played as a montage of the best clips from the last 5 seasons is played at the very end.
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The shuffle play mind-reader at YouTube just sent this one my way: the best-ever duet of this ballad that originated in France.  Don't you love the arrangement? So fresh and uplifting! It has breathing room, or head room like a high-ceiling dream space.  You find yourself breathing deeply while listening –  and smiling with joy! 

Two iconic singers, doing what they do best, in harmony, taking it higher and higher;  Aretha, with the more demanding harmony line, making it all sound so easy. And fun!  

This Duet wasn't at YouTube the last time I looked. [Three most recent comments from kindred spirits below]


JASON STYLES (9 months ago)
Finally someone uploaded this... thanks

Tresean Cann (9 months ago)
R.I.P. Frank Sinatra December 12, 1915 - May 14, 1998 Aretha Franklin March 25, 1942 - August 16, 2018

Donald Paredes (9 months ago)
Perfection! Two Masters of their craft at work!


55 years since Sinatra recorded the definitive version -- for his THAT'S LIFE black vinyl LP. The song's Wikipedia entry reminds us that this was another hit lyric for Carl Sigman.

"What Now, My Love?" is the English title of a popular song whose original French version, "Et maintenant" (English: "And Now") was written in 1961 by composer Gilbert Bécaud and lyricist Pierre Delanoë. The recurring musical pattern in the background is the Boléro by Ravel. English lyrics and the title were written by Carl Sigman. 

More than a hundred covers of the song are listed at Wiki, with these few singled out for special mention:

US Top 40 covers include Sonny & Cher (#14 US, #13 UK) in 1966, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass instrumentally in the same year, and Mitch Ryder the following year. On January 14, 1973, Elvis Presley performed the song before a live audience of 1 billion people, as part of his satellite show, "Aloha from Hawaii", which was beamed to 43 countries via INTELSAT. 

The song's lyricist Carl Sigman left us 20 years ago.  His Wiki entry is one of those 'destined-to-be-great' stories we love!

Born in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, Sigman graduated from law school and passed his bar exams to practice in the state of New York. Instead of law, encouraged by his friend Johnny Mercer, he embarked on a songwriting career, that saw him become one of the most prominent and successful songwriters in American music history. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his efforts in Africa, during World War II.[1]

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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Doris & Andre -- Her voice. His piano. The best duet!

One of my best friends that I may never meet face-to-face (the great paradox of this internet age) recently promised to treat my wife and I to a Broadway show ("orchestra seats") if I ever make it back to NYC.  I responded a moment ago: You radiate good character, old friend. And I was just thinking of something a priest friend from India, "Father Tomy" said -- an observation he coined actually and which I cherish. You may too: The four 'deposits' we may make in Heaven, to be withdrawn when we breathe our last:

Good character. Moments of prayer. Kind actions. Consoling words.

Thought of you last night while enjoying a Siriusly Sinatra replay of a NFF from last August -- "my favorite Nancy For Frank show -- period. Full stop." I reiterated that sentiment last night, while "waiting to hear my favorite track by Doris & Andre" (yours too?)

Doris Day and Andre Previn – NOBODY'S HEART – from a wonderful studio recording, 57 years ago. They made it to old age and left us earlier this year, at their homes at opposite ends of the country: Doris, age 97, in Carmel Village California; Andre in NYC late February, age 89. One of the very best vocal/piano accompaniment albums EVER. Thanks for including this one, Chuck and Nancy.

Yes, forever my favorite rendition of Rodgers & Hart's “Nobody's Heart” (a song from their 1942 Broadway show "By Jupiter" -- still too obscure to have its own Wikipedia entry). Can't imagine a better rendition!


Google "What are the orchestra seats in a Theater?"

"Considered the best tickets in the house, these seats are on the main level of the theatre and offer the closest seating to the stage. The Orchestra is usually divided into 3 sections with a left and right aisle (though this can vary from theatre to theatre)."
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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One who keeps tearing around; one who can't move!

At this moment Sinatra is singing – to solo piano accompaniment before a live audience – SEND IN THE CLOWNS. To borrow from Oscar-winning Carly Simon (singing of James Bond): Nobody does it better! What year, I wonder? Is that Bill Miller? There's no album cover on the Siriusly Sinatra computer stream. Is a 'live' concert recording among the first offerings at YouTube? Yes --  but it's “my favorite GUITAR & human voice” rendition – Frank and Tony Mottola wowing them at the Concert For The Americas – my favorite of all such concert DVD's. Tony and George Benson are the two greatest pick or plectrum (not finger picking) guitarists ever to record a few songs with Sinatra. Did you catch, at around the 2:20 mark Mr. Mottola's allusion to "The Circus March"? Correct title: "Entry of the Gladiators" By Julius Fučík (1897).


Since the last time I looked the song's considerable Wikipedia entry has two new quotes from the man who wrote this song (words & music) Stephen Sondheim:

"Send In the Clowns" is a song written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1973 musical A Little Night Music, an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night. It is a ballad from Act Two, in which the character Desirée reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life. Among other things, she looks back on an affair years earlier with the lawyer Fredrik, who was deeply in love with her but whose marriage proposals she had rejected. Meeting him after so long, she realizes she is in love with him and finally ready to marry him, but now it is he who rejects her: he is in an unconsummated marriage with a much younger woman. Desirée proposes marriage to rescue him from this situation, but he declines, citing his dedication to his bride. Reacting to his rejection, Desirée sings this song.

It became Sondheim's most popular song after Frank Sinatra recorded it in 1973 and Judy Collins' version charted in 1975 and 1977. Subsequently, numerous other artists recorded the song, and it has become a jazz standard ….

As Sondheim explains, Desirée experiences both deep regret and furious anger:

"Send in the Clowns" was never meant to be a soaring ballad; it's a song of regret. And it's a song of a lady who is too upset and too angry to speak– meaning to sing for a very long time. She is furious, but she doesn't want to make a scene in front of Fredrik because she recognizes that his obsession with his 18-year-old wife is unbreakable. So she gives up; so it's a song of regret and anger, and therefore fits in with short-breathed phrases.[2]
The "clowns" in the title do not refer to circus clowns. Instead, they symbolize fools, as Sondheim explained in a 1990 interview:

I get a lot of letters over the years asking what the title means and what the song's about; I never thought it would be in any way esoteric. I wanted to use theatrical imagery in the song, because she's an actress, but it's not supposed to be a circus [...] t's a theater reference meaning "if the show isn't going well, let's send in the clowns"; in other words, "let's do the jokes." I always want to know, when I'm writing a song, what the end is going to be, so "Send in the Clowns" didn't settle in until I got the notion, "Don't bother, they're here", which means that "We are the fools."[2]
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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BARBARA MORRISON - Don't Go to Strangers

Tried to spot the voice (Who IS she?) before checking my computer, streaming Siriusly Sinatra: Barbara Morrison -- I've sung her praises here once before. This time Barbara is performing my new favorite version of DON'T GO TO STRANGERS.

In my mind's ear Eydie Gormé forever owns this one – but Eydie's featured a big, beautiful orchestration; Barbara's rendition is just a piano jazz trio with a fine muted trumpet (wonder who?) As Yip Harburg said in Finian's Rainbow: When I'm not near the Girl I love, I love the girl I'm near. 


From Wikipedia

Barbara Morrison*(born September 10, 1949)[1]*is an American singer of*jazz*music. Well known in the Los Angeles area for her duo and trio dates, Ms. Morrison also tours extensively across the Continental United States, Western Europe the Far East and "Down Under", along with her band ….

The Barbara Morrison Performance Arts Center, located in Los Angeles, supports the Harmony Project, which helps children encounter music in an after-school program.

Morrison is known for a melodic voice and a three-and-a-half-octave range. She interprets a familiar jazz and blues classics repertoire in a unique style, and also sings original contemporary tunes. One example of her original music is "I Wanna Be Loved", co-written with Michael Cormier, which is a musical theatre production about the life and times of Dinah Washington, Queen of the Blues.
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My Mom, and Mitch Albom -- The Very Thought of You

My mother's favorite singer was Nat King Cole. Her favorite of his songs? THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU. Composed (words & music) by English band leader Ray Noble – whose 'The Touch of Your Lips' was playing on her folks' living room Victrola when she and Dad were teenagers and he planted his first kiss on her lips. That one was Mom's second favorite song by Nat (with a gorgeous full orchestra arrangement by Ralph Carmichael who is still with us, in his 90's).

Hard to believe my Mom died in 2002. She still speaks to me, in the silences of the day – or in little 'guidances' of great songs – seemingly sent my way at random. Or in great books: “Open at random,” she always said, and “see where your eye falls; you'll be guided.” Mom's other favorite maxim: “There are no coincidences!”

Just recalled stopping by a bookstore and my eye was drawn to TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE – a book I'd been aware-of since it came out in the '90's but never got around to reading. It was the only copy on a table of “Classics.” I picked it up and it fell open to page 147 (a perfect game of snooker as pool players know). There, in the 10th chapter – “We Talk About Marriage” – my eyes fell on these words:


I brought a visitor to meet Morrie. My wife. He had been asking me since the first day I came. “When do I meet Janine?” [and when they finally met] “Mitch says that you're a professional singer, and that you are great.”

Oh, she laughed. No. He just says that.

Now, I have heard people ask this of Janine for almost as long as I have known her. When people find out you sing for a living they always say, “Sing something for us.” Shy about her talent, a perfectionist about conditions, Janine never did. [but for the gravely-ill Morrie] she began to sing:

The very thought of you …. and I forget to do …. the little ordinary things that ev'ryone ought to do

It was a 1930s standard by Ray Noble and Janine sang it sweetly, looking straight at Morrie. Morrie closed his eyes to absorb the notes. As my wife's loving voice filled the room, a crescent smile appeared on his face. And while his body was still as a sandbag, you could almost see him dancing inside it.

I see your face in ev'ry flower, your eyes in stars above! It's just the thought of you – the very thought of you, my love.

When she finished, Morrie opened his eyes and tears rolled down his cheeks. In all the years I have listened to my wife sing, I never heard her, the way he did, at that moment.

– Mitch Albom (1997)

At this moment Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing Ann Hampton Callaway's latter-day reading of THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU. Mom would have loved this one too, I think. An official upload to YouTube -- with no comments, or 'thumbs up.' It deserves better, you may agree?

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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"I just called to say I love you!"

I'd just been thinking of a 'country cousin' who took his life when we were both just 18. I'm about to turn 73 and I still think of him and wonder – what might have been, “If only we'd had one more day together." I'd visited my cousin at his rural home a month earlier, and we had such fun together: He had just acquired his brand new 'dream car' -- a Chevy Impala with 427 cubic inch V-8. His disconsolate parents said that they had no warning when their beloved only child went for a drive along a country road, pulled over and shot himself. You like to think "I wish I could have spoken with him that day."

Coincidentally (or not) a Facebook friend sent me a graphic with photos of three celebrities who took their own lives, with relevant quotes:

Robin Williams's friends: “He was always happy. Everyone adored him.”

Kate Spade's Dad: “I just talked to her an hour before and she was planning a trip. She was, like her brand, happy, cheerful and full of color.”

Anthony Bourdain's best friend: “He loved his life, and had this extraordinary ability to just connect with people.”

[The original poster added]

So let me say this really loud, so the people at the back of the room can hear me. Sometimes you need to check on those who seem the strongest.

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ELLA - best live performance of MY FUNNY VALENTINE

On his Facebook page James Taylor posted a photo of his wife, eyes closed, inhaling the fragrance of "19 dozen roses" to celebrate their 19 years together. "As the song goes," said James, "Each day is Valentine's Day." [I replied a moment ago]

"Stay, pretty Valentine, stay!" A friend of my wife said, "I hate that song!" (one of Rodgers & Hart's very best). And why? Because of phrases like, "Your looks are laughable, un-photographical -- yet you're my favorite work of art! Is your figure less than Greek? Is your mouth a little weak? When you open it to speak -- are you smart?"

She hated it -- until I pointed out that "It's a girl song!" and the Broadway character who introduced it, is a gorgeous woman who loves a very ordinary man; a guy who would be the envy of other men -- who in turn might wonder, What does she SEE in him? And her Man wouldn't mind these words at all!" (Isn't communication a wonderful thing?) Is this one on your new album, Mr. Taylor, or on "American Standard II" in 2022? Wonderful photo. Imagining the fragrance of 19 dozen roses!

Best 'live' version ever? This one by Ella -- with 4 million "views" and counting:

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Frank & Lorrie Morgan -- still my favorite Duet

More than once since since 1994 when Sinatra went into a studio for his final recording, I've thought that Frank's harmonizing with Country great Lorrie Morgan was “my favorite of the Duets” – the intertwining of “Valentine” and “How Do You Keep The Music Playing” ending with a lovely little coda, “Summertime, Wintertime, evening time, or ANYTIME … I love you!”  One of the Wise Men at Sinatra Family Forum, "Bob in Boston" reminded me this night that,

"Significantly, FS recorded this song in his very final studio session, May 18, 1994. It appears in an electronic duet and medley with Lorrie Morgan ("How Do You Keep The Music Playing") on Duets II (Capitol 1994)."

Searched for it this night at YouTube while wondering:  Was it really THAT beautiful? Is it still my favorite 'work of art' among the Sinatra Duets? Oh my, yes!

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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That moment when my heart stood still

On this day – February 21 in 1963 my favorite singer– accompanied by more than sixty of the best musicians in Los Angeles (on the largest sound stage in Hollywood) completed his masterwork (and my personal favorite of his albums) THE CONCERT SINATRA. Two days earlier, February 18, Sinatra recorded my favorite track on that album: Rodgers & Hart's “My Heart Stood Still.” Coincidentally, (or not) James Taylor's new album “American Standard” – to be released a week from today includes his more intimate rendition (minus the huge orchestra).

From her own notes, Nancy Sinatra recalled:

FEBRUARY 18-21, 1963: During four days of studio sessions with Nelson Riddle in Los Angeles, he recorded 11 songs for the album The Concert Sinatra. Because of Nelson's contract with Capitol, this was the first time his name could appear on the Reprise label. This album was recorded on Stage 7 at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in order to capture the best possible sound. The stage acts as an echo chamber - and experts say that its natural reverberation characteristics are splendid. Nelson Riddle remembered about the sessions: "I never saw Frank so businesslike and concentrated as he was for The Concert Sinatra."

FRANK JR. ON THE CONCERT SINATRA: The Goldwyn Recording Studio is so vast and it had hall radius. There were over 80 musicians in the studio. They wanted to make a multi-channel album, and with two three-channel machines, they had six channels of recording. On the first night, "Ol' Man River" stunned the studio. The recording of "Soliloquy" is brilliant even though it is missing an entire movement because Nelson turned two pages instead of one. The fluorescent lights in the studio were humming and the sound leaped into the microphones, so they turned off the lights and the only illumination came from the little lights on the music stands. It was surreal.

To preserve the goose pimple effect this has on me, I ration myself to about once or twice a year. Here we go!

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My favorite "live" version

Very next offering sent my way at YouTube a moment ago -- this one: "Live in Atlantic City 1988" -- phenomenal 'remote' recording quality and don't you love his "I wasn't old enough" (to go see this song at its Broadway introduction).


[I'd just begun this thread when I left this note at YouTube]

This is where I came in . . . 
It was on a January day in 1993 that I returned home from work to hear words from my wife that I'd been aching to hear: "You got a letter from Frank Sinatra."

I remember taking off my winter coat and boots, and stumbling into another room where I could be alone, making sure my hands were clean, and getting a bright reading light, and carefully opening the envelope and reading the note and re-reading it (ten times? twenty times?).

I remember being overcome with emotion, saying to myself, "Do you realize what an honor you've just received? This is from someone who, early in his career, received letters like mine numbering 3,000 a week! Do you appreciate that he took the time---perhaps ten minutes of his life, to read your two-page letter, and then compose this signed response you hold in your hands? Do you realize what this is? The greatest musical entertainer of the Twentieth Century is telling you personally: "I greatly appreciate your interest in my music" and "it was so nice of you to take the time to write."

With an extra decade of immersing myself in Frank Sinatra's greatness, I'd have to say that only a "religious experience" -- and a glimpse of Eternity -- could ever surpass what I feel in my heart, the sheer exhilarating joy I experience, when I listen for example, to "My Heart Stood Still" (my favorite of these). There is the high plateau where the singer and his great collaborator Nelson Riddle have their true, "shining hour."

At that defining moment in 1963, the arranger conducts his finest orchestrations, with the largest symphony orchestra ever assembled in Hollywood--as the singer on a mountain peak of vocal greatness, performs his favorite songs by his (and my) favorite composer. For me personally that is the `coming-together-of-a-lifetime,' --all the peak emotions of memory, a lifetime's worth of emotion, bringing me tears of joy each time I hear it. These days, the experience is rationed to perhaps once a month, and then just a cut or two at a time, so as to preserve the experience: I want to `spread it out' over the rest of my life, if I can.
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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JAMES DARREN -- Dream a Little Dream of Me

Actor James Darren does the best version of DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME.  On that, me and 'Jersey Lou' Simon (Siriusly Sinatra programmer extraordinaire) are in complete agreement:  Each month or so he includes it on his play list.  I've heard it maybe two dozen times (it's playing now) and each time I think the same thing: That arrangement is Nelson Riddle quality! – featuring, as Nelson often did, an unforgettable counter melody at the opening and closing, beautifully performed by full-sized orchestra. Wonder who arranged it?

Just one, splendid quality, official-looking upload, posted to YouTube 18 months ago (with 10 “thumbs up” and one “comment”  -- in Spanish!)

ELSA GRANADOS (4 months ago)
Maravilloso James Darren...y qué hermosa Canción!!


James Darren's on-line bio informs that the singer is now 83 and “with a net worth of $9 million.” His entry at Wikipedia is interesting, to those of us 'of an age' and brings back a flood of memories!

James William Ercolani (born June 8, 1936), known by his stage name James Darren, is an American television and film actor, television director, and singer.

Darren was born in Philadelphia, on June 8, 1936, of Italian descent. He wanted to be an actor and studied in New York City with Stella Adler for a number of years. He would also occasionally sing although he later said "I wasn't really a singer. I was a kid in Philly whose dad would take him to bars and nightclubs and I would get up and sing two songs."[1][2]

Darren was discovered by talent agent and casting director Joyce Selznick after he got some photographs taken by Maurice Seymour to show potential agents:

His secretary, a woman by the name of Yvonne Bouvier, asked me if I was interested in getting into film. I said yeah, I was. She said I know someone you should meet. She set up a meeting between me and Joyce Selznick, who worked for Screen Gems. I went down to 1650 Broadway, the Brill Building. On my way to a meeting with Joyce, we just happened to get on the elevator at the same time. She kept staring at me. I never met her. She never met me. We got off at the same floor and walked to the same office. That was our meeting. Joyce brought me over to Columbia Pictures about a week later and got me a contract there.[3]

[first film role of note:] Darren was third billed in the surf film, Gidget (1959), starring Sandra Dee and Cliff Robertson, playing Moondoggie. He also sang the title track. "They were thinking about having someone do the vocal and I would lip sync," he recalled. "I told them I could do it. So we went into one of the sound stages and I sang 'Gidget'. They said, 'He sings fine,' then I did all the other songs."[1]

The film was a hit with teen audiences and so was the song. Darren wound up recording a string of pop hits for Colpix Records, the biggest of which was "Goodbye Cruel World" (#3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961). It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[6] Another sizeable hit was "Her Royal Majesty" (#6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962). He is also featured in one of the Scopitone series of pop music video jukebox films ("Because You're Mine").

Darren was third billed in a series of films for Columbia: The Gene Krupa Story (1959), a biopic with Sal Mineo; All the Young Men (1960), a Korean War movie with Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier; and Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960) with Burl Ives and Shelley Winters, which was a sequel to Knock On Any Door (1949). He had a cameo as himself in a teen film, Because They're Young (1960), singing the title track. Darren had a support role in the World War II film The Guns of Navarone (1961), a huge hit at the box office.

[A short entry under “Personal Life”]

In 1955, Darren married Gloria Terlitsky, his sweetheart since 1953. Her father opposed their marriage because Terlitsky was Jewish while Darren was Catholic. They had one son, James Jr. ("Jimmy"), and divorced in 1958. Jimmy was adopted by Gloria's third husband, and is now known as journalist and TV commentator Jim Moret. (separate Wiki entry below). Two years after the divorce, Darren married Evy Norlund, Miss Denmark 1958. They had two sons, Christian (born c. 1960) and Anthony (born c. 1964).[15][16]

[TWO asides, if you please!]

James William "Jim" Moret[2] (born December 3, 1956)[3][1] is the chief correspondent for the syndicated television news magazine Inside Edition. Moret has covered entertainment news and traditional hard news stories for over 25 years. He is a regular guest contributor, legal analyst and guest-host on CNN, HLN, Fox News Channel, Court TV, and MSNBC. He is the son of singer and actor James Darren and Gloria Terlitsky.

Oh yes – that movie, “Let No Man Write My Epitaph,” which had Ella Fitzgerald pretending to play piano while singing tracks from the album she recorded that same year (1960) alone in Dutch studio with her great pianist Paul Smith.

All this from James Darren and DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. We now return to regular programming . . .
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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Viennese psychologist Carl Jung called it “synchronicity” – a word he coined, for a series of “incredible coincidences.” Grace Blackburn of Ottawa Canada AKA Mom said: “There ARE no coincidences!” meaning you're being invisibly “guided.” Obverse sides of the same coin?

Anyway, a moment ago I'm recalling an anecdote from Nancy Sinatra about a moment in time when she was backstage with arranger Don Costa (sitting in his lap?) as they enjoyed her Dad performing COME RAIN OR COME SHINE – Mr. Costa's gorgeous, 'retire-the-trophy' orchestration he wrote for the 'Sinatra & Strings' album (one of my top 5 favorites). And the great arranger shared with Frank's first-born that “THAT is my best chart!”

So. Hit the back button on Siriusly Sinatra streaming 'The Chairman's Hour' on my computer and there is Frank's voice introducing the song:

“Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen wrote a lot of songs, and I don't think they ever came up empty. They were a great songwriting team. This is one of my favorites that they've written.”


Two comments below the video – the most recent first:

Ronnie Wood Instead of MT (2 months ago)
I can die at peace . Thanks Mr S

Chris Vegas (9 months ago)
This is one of Sinatra's Best Songs he always sang it live in Concert I love this song
Edited by Mark Blackburn
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At this moment Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing Frank Sinatra Jr -- LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT, a lovely but long-forgotten song. Trivia: It was the last Oscar-nominated lyric for Johnny Mercer – to a tune by Marvin Hamlisch. I can never find any online reference to this love theme from my favorite Walter Matthau movie KOTCH (directed by his 'Odd Couple' buddy Jack Lemmon). So obscure it never made it to DVD;  my VHS tape version is gathering dust on a basement shelf.

Fame may run to catch you, or look right at you – and pass you by!
Somewhere 'out there,' Love waits ... to see you through
Life is what you make it, and what you make it …. is up to you.

KOTCH (1971) Wanting to avoid settling in a nursing home, Joseph Kotcher, a retired salesman, is obliged to leave his son's family. He embarks on a road trip ...


Informed comment below video:

wyip52 (4 years ago)
What a beautiful song from the Movie, "Kotch". This song was nominated Oscar Best Song for 1971 but lost to "Theme from Shaft" from the Movie, "Shaft". Music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Johnny Mercer.


Edited by Mark Blackburn
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KOTCH – it's a movie that was filmed 50 years ago – the 'directorial debut' of Jack Lemmon. If you're patient you could watch it in its entirety – in ten or 12 minute segments – at YouTube. Here's the final one – sent my way by the intuitive genius of our favorite place to find anything.

A bit of background: After the family baby sitter Erica gets pregnant drops out of school and leaves town, Mr. Joseph P. Kotcher tracks her down and offers her a rent-free home 'in the desert' near the Mexican border (while awaiting the birth of a baby he'll wind up delivering).

Erica worked the nine months in a bowling alley; she brought home nine or ten broken pins – dressing them up as dolls with clothing she knitted -- marking the passing of each month by tossing another one into the fireplace to burn.

In this final scene, Erica has left to return home with her baby son back to L.A. Kotch is cleaning up her room and nearly discards a folded piece of paper on the floor beneath her bed; he retrieves it from a waste basket and begins to read. Erica's voice does the narration.

Just as a personal aside: maybe it's because I saw this movie in the theater when I was 24, when the character Kotch, being in his 70's, was an old man nearing the end of his life. Suddenly I'm now that exact same age. And the moment when he looks down to retrieve his glasses, and you just see the top of his head, he looks pretty much exactly like me.

In case you don't have time to watch this nine minute segment (let alone the entire movie) fast forward please to around the 4:20 mark: Where 'Kotch' unfolds the paper and we hear the teenage voice of Erica (“Herzenstiel, played by Deborah Winters”) narrating the words of a letter she's written to the son she'd intended to put up for adoption. (I always meant to transcribe this, and since I type fast …)





Dear Chris

The only reason I'm writing this letter is so that if you ever go poking into who you are you'll find this message from your mother.

I would like to keep you but there is just no possible way. I probably shouldn't but I've got this crazy urge to tell you that, even if I did give you away I liked you a lot. I don't think it's right to say I loved you. People are funny about that word and what it means. So I loved holding you and touching you.

Oh you owed a lot, speaking in pre-natal terms that is, to a certain man, a Mr. Kotcher by name. Although that isn't important because he's pretty old already and I think he'll die pretty soon [Kotch coughs] before you would be big enough to even know him really if you know what I mean. So I don't know why I'm bringing it up now Chris except Mr. Kotcher, this man was swell to us. He was an awful pain in the ass a lot of the time the way old people are. [Kotch laughs] But he was really swell. I guess he was lonely. And the way I figure it he was old and ending and kids and babies were new and just beginning.

The one thing he didn't do I wished he'd do, maybe he was afraid I'd get the wrong impression, was to sometimes touch me just once in a while the way a man does, take hold of you and make you feel good. Like my brother up tight old Peter never did. Well I guess you get the picture of Mr. Kotcher.

Oh, PS you might just like to know this. He sort of delivered you which is a technical expression for helping deliver you when you were born. I won't go into all this. Pretty complicated why. But I must say for not being a doctor and all thumbs otherwise Mr. Kotcher did quite a job in the emergency. Absent a few marbles maybe but conditions being more favorable he'd have made you one hell of a grandfather.


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LUCKY TO BE ME (then & now) Bill Evans, Jane Monheit

The jazz world's most influential pianist (then and now) Bill Evans died in 1980; 40 years on, he's alive and well at YouTube. Which just sent this one my way (no coincidence as Mom would say!)

Lucky to Be Me – my favorite song from the Broadway version of ON THE TOWN – gorgeous melody, my favorite of Leonard Bernstein's actually; cut from the MGM movie version. What were they thinking?

First this trio recording by Mr. Evans, then my all-time favorite vocal version by one of today's very best singers, Jane Monheit. This was recorded for his “Everybody Digs Bill Evans” album of 1958 (my favorite year!) I was only eleven and had to wait five more years to 'discover' his never-out-of-date genius at the keyboard.


I went to see Jane Monheit when she appeared for one night, a decade ago, at Winnipeg's Israel Asper Performing Arts center. (Wonder if she remembers the delirious reception we gave her that night?) She included this great song with words (such brilliant lyrics) by Betty Comden & Adolph Green. Goosebumps, then and now! Who was her piano man? This guy I'm thinking. She makes it a 'girl song' a version so beautiful it almost makes us forget what Bill Evans & Tony Bennett did with this one ('alone together' in a recording studio, in the 70's).

“There's no girl I'd rather be, I'm so lucky to be me!”

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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Limp as a glove [yet] so much in love

I'm a guitarist and was introduced by virtuoso players in the 1950s -- like Country/Jazz giant Hank Garland -- to the melodies of Jimmy Van Heusen: Hank and Chet Atkins were life-long fans of Van Heusen's best songs.

With lyricist Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van (the former Chester Babcock) composed such towering standards as “Here's That Rainy Day” and “But Beautiful.” I awoke this morning humming one of their lesser gems -- LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE – always the same words comes to mind:

“Lately, I seem to walk as though I had wings [and] bump into things, like someone in love!”

Just as an aside: What rhymes with “Love”? Approximately nothing: “above” and “glove” and not much else. Which reminds me: the word “gay” rhymed with a host of everyday words. But the day it ceased to mean “festive” -- as in “Gay Paree” (whose) “heart was young & gay”) -- lyric writers lost big time! I mean, what rhymes with “festive”? “Restive” .... and nothing else. Or nothing of use to the love song you are composing.

LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE is a 'girl song' no matter how nicely Sinatra sang it! Only a Lady can say brightly,

“Each time I look at you, I'm limp as a glove!”

Google for LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE and first offering at YouTube is my favorite by Ella – from the late 50's (wonder who arranged? The strings are distinctively lovely, but don't sound like early Nelson Riddle). Hard to improve on Ella's interpretation, you may agree.


From Wikipedia: "Like Someone in Love" is a popular song composed in 1944 by Jimmy van Heusen, with lyrics by Johnny Burke. It was written (along with "Sleighride in July") for the 1944 film Belle of the Yukon, where it was sung by Dinah Shore. It was a hit for Bing Crosby in March 1945, reaching #15, and has since become a jazz standard.
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JAMES TAYLOR'S God Bless the Child

With three days and counting til his "American Standard" album is released, James Taylor shared with Facebook fans one more track. I left him a note of appreciation, a moment ago:

Like “moonlight and love songs, never out of date” – your arrangement will never grow old! Simultaneously 'orchestral' – warm, rich and full-sounding – yet, achieved through the magic of very few instruments splendidly played by virtuoso musicians. Having 'resonator guitar' giant Jerry Douglas deliver the solo was inspired! Best musical bridge this 'Child' song was ever 'blessed' with (I'm thinking).

My post WWII generation (growing-up in Canada) never heard a lick of Billie Holiday on AM radio. We were introduced to this great song by a husky-voiced English-born Canadian, David Clayton-Thomas. On a 1968 “BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS” album that sold 13 million (correct) copies world-wide. Up until today, and for half a century, THAT has been the version I summon up in my mind's ear. But now? THIS has taken its place.

Your ascending chord patterns are so fresh – and artless! (You hear them and think: Heck, I could figure those chords out. Oh no you can't!) Was this arrangement by jazz giant John Pizzarelli? Or did you two simultaneously work out those wonderful chord patterns? The latter, I'm guessing.

Oh, yes – if you'll permit an aside: Don't forget the Gospel origin of the phrase “them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose.” He says, in the 'newer half' of the Good Book: Those to whom much has been given, more will be expected. And also that those who have little (to show for their time on earth) what little they have, in the end, will be taken from them – given to those who already have an abundance. Unfair, it seems to us in this world; not so in “the next” -- when we breathe our last. One of Life's mysteries! Or to borrow a song title (my favorite) the very 'Secret of Life!'

Edited by Mark Blackburn
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The ghosts of Christmas Past

Just yesterday I ordered two Blu-ray editions of the 1971 Walter Matthau movie KOTCH (one copy for a friend in California who'd "never seen it"). Mine arrived today (“Prime, next-day shipping”). Alas they'd sent the regular DVD version (2019). What to do?

After sorting it out with “Sophiya” in India, I said: “Amazon is still my favorite place to shop!” adding that I'd written “about a hundred reviews” over the past 18 years. Which ones? Well, “the Sinatra compilation-CD 'EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME' – would be easiest to find.” (Fewest reviews, and mine used to be in the “spotlight”) Lo and behold – posted Christmas eve 2002.


I looked at the song titles and thought: "Hmm . . . I have most of these already. Wonder if there's another reason to buy this compilation?" As it turns out, yes indeed there is! For new Sinatra fans I'd make this CD my second purchase, after "The Very Best" double-CD collection. It's that good, that important.

Start with the fact that each song (and its exact sequence on the CD) was selected by Sinatra himself. More precious still, are his last words to us (literally) on the subject of his greatest accomplishment. He wrote the most interesting liner notes for this 1996 release, (see excerpt below) shedding light on the importance he placed on loyalty to those who love you, singling out one particular friend you may never have heard of (I hadn't).

Tina Sinatra, who contributed more than half the wonderful liner notes, identified her father's paramount virtue Loyalty (as distinct from 'faithfulness') in her bittersweet book, "My Father's Daughter: A Memoir" (Simon & Schuster 2000). I highly recommend that book. I read it at one sitting, for the first time last night, frequently overcome with emotion and taking a break long enough to listen again, with deeper understanding, to the songs on this collection.

In the CD liner notes Tina relates how father and daughter, on a summer's day at the Sinatra's Malibu beach residence (mid-July 1995) "walked along the sand dunes, and counted stars on a moonless night." Then they got down to the business of reviewing his entire, 450-song Reprise catalog.

The next day her father came up with this list of 19 all-time, personal favorites. "I was relieved" Tina tells us "each time Dad passed over the more obvious choice (in favor of) the more obscure. After all, this was to be more than another greatest hits album . . . and it is."

Examples? Well, who among those of us who consider ourselves musically literate (thanks in large part to Sinatra himself) would ever have picked Lennon & McCartney's "Yesterday" over Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays"? Really, put up your hand if you'd ever have guessed the Beatles' tune would be Frank's own pick for better material? And when you listen to this recording of February 20, 1969 (his last great singing year?) you realize how much the singer appreciated arranger Don Costa, who helped him transform one of the lesser 'standards' of the last century into a 'silk purse' of such beauty. (It's been decades since McCartney's "Yesterday" surpassed Hoagy's "Stardust" as the most recorded song in history, and you find yourself wondering whether the surviving co-author ever heard a better rendition of his best song? (Wish that left-handed bass player would volunteer an opinion.)

Just as revealing is Sinatra's choice of all-time favorite arrangements: He recorded "If I had You" for example, three or four times, but this was his all-time favorite version. Arranged and conducted by Robert Farnon, on the night of June 12, 1962, this was the 'second take' of the first song recorded during the first of three nights of their unique studio session in London, for the "Great Songs from Great Britain" album. When the piano broke down for Bill Miller during the first take, Sinatra asked: "Have we got another piano? No? Okay then we'll do it on the celeste." The result (if you're like me) could be your surprise favorite of this entire CD. Although true fans will treasure every selection here, knowing these 19 were his absolute favorites (at his Reprise label).

An interesting sidebar for those who care about such things: Nelson Riddle accounted for four of these arrangements; Claus Ogerman did three and Gordon Jenkins two; Bob Farnon, Billy May and Torrie Zito, one apiece; Don Costa took the podium seven times. (Is the singer telling us something?)

"Everything Happens to Me" was the perfect choice for album title, as this 1981 version of the Tom Adair/Matt Dennis classic-of-the-same-name, (with Gordon Jenkins conducting) could never have been done with such feeling during his younger days. The pure vocal skills may be less at age 66, but then the older interpretive genius really brings 'gravitas' (as the Latins call it) to updated lyrics like these: "but pal you don't find rainbows in the bottom of a glass." And only an older and wiser man could deliver that believable blend of irony and humor dripping from the penultimate words: "(I) telegraphed and phoned, I sent an air mail special too, your answer was goodbye, and there was even (pause) – postage due."

"My singing career" (to quote from his own notes) "really began with two-dollar vocal lessons from John Quinlan, a crusty, Irish drunk who agreed to work with this skinny dago. His operatic training and knowledge of the human throat have guided me for sixty years. I owe him more than I can ever say. To this day, before EVERY performance, I use his vocal exercises to warm up, like a runner stretches, and I think of his lectures on respecting this delicate instrument: "Abuse it and you'll lose it!" Whenever I have neglected his advice, I've always paid a big price. If I was in pain, I would call Quinlan and John would mutter, "Shut up. " He knew his business.

"Just as simple and direct was his advice about material: 'You can't sing what you don't understand.' All of us start out trying to sing like Crosby or Jolson, older and more experienced in life's struggles. So, 'Stormy Weather' really didn't hit for me until later. You get the picture. But I learned fast and emotionally graduated to the songs of love, loss joy and despair, expertly conveyed by the best lyricists and songwriters in the world. These are the songs of the soul. These are my songs."
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THIS FUNNY WORLD – Mary Cleere Haran

Siriusly Sinatra satellite radio is playing Tony Bennett – singing the only version I'd ever heard of a poignant song he rescued from obscurity; now we know it's been kept alive by cabaret artists. A song so obscure that, until this night, I never knew that THIS FUNNY WORLD was written by my favorite composer, Richard Rodgers – for “Betsy” – one of his earliest (1926) Broadway shows, with his first great lyricist partner Lorenz Hart.

I searched for Tony's version a moment ago, and was guided straight to a live performance by the late New York cabaret artist MARY CLEERE HARAN. She died young -- killed in a traffic accident in Florida, in February of 2011. As Rupert Holmes said it best in song: Ah, the people that you never get to love (before they're gone).

Mary's Wikipedia entry concludes on the sad note:

On February 3, 2011, Haran was injured when an automobile hit the bicycle that she was riding. She died two days later in Deerfield Beach, Florida, at age 58 from injuries caused by that collision.[2]

This video – Mary with a talented accompanist on piano (supplemented by a single clarinet) -- was posted the year of her death. I think Mr. Bennett might agree: Mary Cleere Haran does it justice.


[Most recent “comment” below video from a kindred spirit my age]

Bronxboy47 (2 months ago)
A beautiful performance of a wonderful, but relatively unknown, song by the great partnership of Rodgers and Hart. Mary Cleere Haran was the epitome of New York's nightclub performers. Gone too soon and dearly missed.
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