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Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'll See You in My Dreams

By Isham Jones & Gus Khan
1924

A huge hit of the mid 1920s, this beautiful love ballad has since become a standard, particularly for the guitar. This is usually credited to its later recording by the legendary Django Reinhardt. It's title was used as the title of the biopic on Kahn's life. The song was introduced by Jones (pictured) and the Ray Miller Orchestra. It is a classic example of the sentimental yet deeply endearing tunes of the era.

Lyrics:

I'll see you in my dreams
And I'll hold you in my dreams
Someone took you right out of my arms
Still I feel the thrill of your charms

Lips that once were mine
Tender eyes that shine
They will light my way tonight
I'll see you in my dreams

Oh, someone took you right out of my arms
Still I feel the thrill of your charms

Lips that once were mine
Tender eyes that shine
They will light my way tonight
I'll see you in my dreams

Recorded By:

Louis Armstrong
Jimmy Durante
Ella Fitzgerald
Mario Lanza
Tony Martin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More

By Riz Ortolani, Nino Oliviero & Norman Newell
1962

An Academy-award winning song with a strange story. It started as an instrumental entitled "Ti Guardero nel Cuore", featured in the exploitation mockumentary Mondo Cane. Later, English lyrics were added by Newell, and the song became a highly popular new standard of the 1960s. Ortolani would later compose the eerily beautiful theme for Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most disturbing films ever made.

Lyrics:

More than the greatest love the world has known,
This is the love I give to you, alone.
More than the simple words I try to say,
I only live to love you more each day.

More than you'll ever know,
My arms long to hold you so.
My life will be in your keeping,
Waking, sleeping, laughing, weeping.

Longer than always is a long, long time.
But far beyond forever, you'll be mine.
I know I never lived before,
And my heart is very sure
No one else could love you more.

Recorded By:

Steve Lawrence
Frank Sinatra
Nat King Cole
Martha & The Vandellas
Della Reese

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Fine Romance

By Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields
1936

An absolutely iconic standard if ever there was one, introduced as so many of them were, by the immortal Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It was given to them by the legendary Kern/Fields songwriting team for their film Swing Time, and remains a high benchmark of musical grace and lyrical sophistication. You know how people say, they don't write them like this anymore? Well... they don't write them like this anymore. An infectious classic that epitomizes the precocious side of love.

Lyrics:

A fine romance with no kisses,
A fine romance, my friend, this is.
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes,
But you're as cold as yesterday's mashed potatoes.

A fine romance, you won't nestle.
A fine romance, you won't even wrestle.
You've never mussed the crease in my blue serge pants,
You never take a chance, this is a fine romance.

A fine romance, my good fellow.
You take romance, I'll take Jello.
You're calmer than the seals in the Arctic Ocean,
At least they flap their fins to express emotion.

A fine romance, my dear Duchess,
Two old fogies, we really need crutches.
You're just as hard to land as the Ile de France!
I haven't got a chance, this is a fine romance.

A fine romance, my good woman,
My strong, aged-in-the-wood woman.
You never give those orchids I send a glance,
They're just like cactus plants,
This is a fine romance

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Frank Sinatra
Judi Dench
Lena Horne

Saturday, October 30, 2010

At Last

By Mack Gordon & Harry Warren
1941

A standard introduced by the Glenn Miller orchestra in the film Orchestra Wives, and later that same year on record as well, At Last is a gorgeous number that experienced a total rebirth a generation later, when it was literally reinvented by the eminent soul singer Etta James. Aided by a masterful arrangement, Etta's sublime recording is one of the most well-known of all time, and has ensured that this one-of-a-kind composition will never be forgotten.

Lyrics:

At last,
My love has come along,
My lonely days are over,
And life is like a song.

At last,
The skies above are blue,
My heart was wrapped in clover
The night I looked at you.

I found a dream that I could speak to,
A dream that I could call my own.
I found a thrill to rest my cheek to,
A thrill that I have never known.

You smiled,
And then the spell was cast,
And here we are in heaven,
For you are mine at last.

Recorded By:

Glenn Miller
Etta James
Ray Anthony
Chet Baker
Nat King Cole

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Too Marvelous for Words: The Genius of Johnny Mercer

This was originally run earlier this month at Emma's Music, the blog of recording artist Emma Wallace. I wanted to share it with my Standard of the Day readers...


Set ‘em up Joe…

I’ve got a little story I think you should know…


In 1941, the father of Johnny Mercer, one of America’s finest songwriters of all time, lay dying, the money accrued during his many years as a prominent Savannah, Georgia attorney and real estate developer depleted on medical bills. It was Johnny who supported his father as the end neared, using the vast fortune he had acquired in the career his father had so fervently disapproved of just a dozen or so years prior. Because Johnny was independent enough to refuse his father’s demands that he continue in the family business, he was able to provide his father with the care he so desperately needed as death approached. And he was able to provide the nation, and the world, with a musical gift that will never die.


Last year, the man who may very well have been the finest popular lyricist who ever lived, was celebrated for the centennial anniversary of his birth; an event that occurred in the American south—a land whose traditions and culture shaped the art he would later create. The Johnny Mercer Centennial allowed for a very welcome rediscovery of the work of this great man, brilliant composer and all-around unique American personality.


When we met,

I felt my life begin.

So open up your heart,

And let this fool rush in.


As with many of the great songbook composers, Mercer brought something very special to the table. Whereas Cole Porter was known for his genteel sophistication; Irving Berlin for the Jewish-American experience through which his music was filtered; Jerome Kern for the influence of European musical theatre, and so forth; Mercer was perhaps the most distinctly American of them all. He brought a folksy, breezy, down-home sensibility that was a breath of fresh air and a never-ending source of delight.


More than the rest, his music was influenced by the “race music” of his youth, the hot jazz and blues that was becoming all the rage in the 1920s, his formative years. The Great American Songbook tradition has often been called the last gasp of the European art music tradition, and this is certainly true; but in Mercer’s case, perhaps more than anyone else’s, there was a very American, folk music flavor that permeated the music and lyrics—a precursor to the kind of influence that would later give rise to rock ‘n roll and other genres.



Then I kiss your lips,

And the pounding becomes

The ocean’s roar; a thousand drums.

Can’t you see that it’s love? Can there be any doubt?

When here it is, day in, day out.


But make no mistake about it—the songs of Johnny Mercer were no mere folk/pop baubles, but rather, powerful, deeply moving and heartwarming pieces of work that resonate to this day, and epitomize what the term “pop standard” means. A competent tunesmith, he was even better known for his sublime lyrics, as much inspired by his upbringing as by his immersion in literature and poetry during his school years.


A Johnny Mercer lyric is a thing of beauty like very few things in this life are. For many, the brilliance of what he did derived from the graceful structure he employed, introducing a simple, poignant concept, developing it, and then cleverly bringing it full circle to a conclusion that was always sure to floor the listener. Often combining his lyrical talents with songwriters like Harold Arlen, Henry Mancini and Hoagy Carmichael, he could always be relied upon to deliver something that was about as far from clich├ęd, hackneyed or insincere as possible.



Things never are as bad as they seem,

So dream, dream, dream…


Composing for stage, screen, and the Tin Pan Alley publishing machine, he churned out classic after classic: “One for My Baby,” the consummate saloon song, composed for Fred Astaire but immortalized by Frank Sinatra. “That Old Black Magic,” an infectious gem of insistent beauty. “Goody, Goody,” that playful anthem of petty retribution. “Come Rain or Come Shine,” a later ode to obsessive adoration, allegedly inspired by his legendary love affair with Judy Garland. “Blues in the Night,” perhaps his most successful tune, and one directly inspired by the music of his youth. “I Remember You,” whose heartbreaking lyric distills the pure melancholy of love into verbal form. The brooding, vindictive “I Wanna Be Around.” “Jeepers Creepers”; “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”; “Day In, Day Out”; “Fools Rush In”; “I’m Old-Fashioned”; “Laura”. The list of unforgettable masterpieces goes on and on.


On four different occasions, his work in movies was recognized with an Oscar for Best Original Song, back when that award actually meant something important. “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” in 1946 and “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” in 1951, followed by two of his later and most well-remembered hits, “Moon River” from 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and “Days of Wine and Roses” the following year. Those last two proved the staying power of this musical juggernaut, lasting well into the era when rock and be-bop had begun to erode interest in the songbook tradition.



Days may be cloudy or sunny,

We’re in or we’re out of the money.

But I’m with you always,

I’m with you, come rain or shine.


Unlike many songwriters, who either lacked the ability or the outgoing personality, Mercer was also able to distinguish himself as a popular singer, both of his own songs and those of others. From the 1930s through the 1950s, he was a common fixture on radio and record, even dueting with the likes of Sinatra and Billie Holiday. Given his larger-than-life image and general enthusiasm, it was easy to see why this would be so. It wasn’t so much that his singing matched his songwriting ability; it didn’t. Rather, Mercer was an irresistible force, whose passion for what he did was evident to all that heard it.


The Great American Songbook has given us many fine lyricists: Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, E.Y. Harburg, Lorenz Hart… And yet, in the opinion of this writer—and many others—Mercer surpassed them all. The man had an ear for music, make no mistake about it; but when all is said and done, it is the words he gave us, the thoughts and feelings he expressed alongside those aching melodies, for which he will always be best remembered. Clever, frank, mischievous, wistful and morose—Johnny Mercer was all of these things. His art remains as a testament to all that. And all those who listen are better for it.



When my life is through,

And the angels ask me to recall the thrill of them all,

Then I shall tell them, I remember you.



* I'd like to thank the official Johnny Mercer Centennial committee for recognizing this piece. It truly is an honor.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Sunday Kind of Love

By Barbara Belle, Anita Leonard, Stan Rhodes & Louis Prima
1946

A major hit of the latter years of the Big Band era, this song was the collaboration of several different composers, including bandleader, vocalist and all-around pop culture icon Louis Prima (also responsible for such songs as "Sing, Sing, Sing"). It was introduced by the Claude Thornhill orchestra, with vocalist Fran Warren. It has proven to be a very resilient standard, surviving the classic pop era and continuing to be recorded into the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and beyond.

Lyrics:

I want a Sunday kind of love,
A love to last past Saturday night.
And I'd like to know it's more than love at first sight.
I want a Sunday kind of love.

I want a love that's on the square,
Can't seem to find somebody to care.
And I'm on a lonely road that leads to nowhere,
I want a Sunday kind of love.

I do my Sunday dreaming,
And all my Sunday scheming,
Every minute, every hour, every day.
I'm hoping to discover
A certain kind of lover
Who will show me the way.

My arms need someone to enfold,
To keep me warm when Mondays and Tuesday grow cold.
Love for all my life, to have and to hold.
I want a Sunday kind of love.

Recorded By:

Etta James
Jo Stafford
Ella Fitzgerald
Frankie Laine
Dinah Washington

Monday, October 11, 2010

Too Close for Comfort

By Jerry Bock, George David Weiss & Larry Holofcener
1956

A major hit from the 1956 Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful starring Sammy Davis Jr., this song was one of the 1950s most popular standards. In the original show, it was introduced by Charlie Welch, but it was Eydie Gorme who recorded the version that became a huge hit the same year as the show. It would immediately become one of the most recorded traditional pop songs of its era, and one of the last such songs to become such a big hit prior to the rock and roll takeover...

Lyrics:

Be wise, be smart, behave, my heart
Don't upset your cart when she's so close
Be soft, be sweet, but be discreet
Don't go off your feet, she's to close for comfort

Too close, too close for comfort, please and not again
Too close, too close to know just when to say "when"

Be firm, be fair, be sure, beware
On your guard, take care, while there's such temptation

One thing leads to another
Too late to run for cover
She's much too close for comfort now.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Natalie Cole
Mel Torme
Art Pepper
Herbie Nichols

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I See Your Face Before Me

By Arthur Schwartz & Howard Dietz
1937

From the sublime pairing of Schwartz and Dietz came this breezily melodic chestnut, introduced in the stage musical Between the Devil by Jack Buchanan, Evelyn Laye and Adele Dixon. The composer's son, renowned radio personality Jonathan Schwartz, recalled in his memoir, All in Good Time, that his parents were particularly fond of singing him this song as a lullaby.

Lyrics:

I see your face before me,
Crowding my every dream.
There is your face before me,
You are my only theme.

It doesn't matter where you are,
I can see how fair you are.
I close my eyes and there you are,
Always.

If you could share the magic,
If you could see me, too,
There would be nothing tragic
In all my dreams of you.

Would that my love could haunt you so,
Knowing I want you so.
I can't erase,
Your beautiful face before me.

Recorded By:

Jack Jones
Johnny Hartman
Dave Brubeck
Mildred Bailey
Sonny Rollins

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pretty Baby

By Tony Jackson, Gus Kahn & Egbert Van Alstyne
1916

A gem of a tune from the height of the ragtime era, this song originated in Jackson's stage repertoire as early as 1912. It was rumored to have actually been written as a tribute to a male lover, certainly a rarity for a pop song of the time. Later, when the song was published, Tin Pan Alley stalwarts Kahn and Van Alstyne made some alterations, including a bridge and less risque lyrics. Among American standards, it is one of those most strongly associated with the World War I/Ragtime years...

Lyrics:

You ask me why I'm always teasing you,
You hate to have me call you Pretty Baby;
I really thought that I was pleasing you,
For you're just a baby to me.
Your cunning little dimples and your baby stare,
Your baby talk and baby walk and curly hair;
Your baby smile makes life worth while,
You're just as sweet as you can be.

Your mother says you were the cutest kid;
No wonder, dearie, that I'm wild about you,
And all the cunning things you said and did.
Why, I love to fondly recall,
Ann just like Peter Pan, it seems you'll always be
The same sweet, cunning, Little Baby dear to me.
And that is why I'm sure that I will always love you best of all.

Everybody loves a baby that's why I'm in love with you,
Pretty Baby, Pretty Baby;
And I'd to be your sister, brother, dad and mother too,
Pretty Baby, Pretty Baby.
Won't you come and let me rock you in my cradle of love,
And we'll cuddle all the time.
Oh! I want a Lovin' Baby and it might as well be you,
Pretty Baby of mine.

Recorded By:

Al Jolson
Leon Redbone
Dean Martin
Bing Crosby
Billy Murray

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ebb Tide

By Robert Maxwell & Carl Sigman
1953

A late-era standard, this was a hit song composed during a time of big, bombastic and lush pop songs. It's certainly one of the best examples, and has even been co-opted by lots of rock-influenced vocal groups. The Frank Chacksfield orchestra introduced it, and it became a major hit mere months later for Vic Damone. Both Maxwell's melody and Sigman's gorgeous lyric combine to give the real effect of an ocean tide rushing in...

Lyrics:

First the tide rushes in,
Plants a kiss on the shore,
Then rolls out to sea,
And the sea is very still once more.

So I rush to your side,
Like the oncoming tide,
With one burning thought,
Will your arms open wide?

At last we're face to face,
And as we kiss through an embrace,
I can tell, I can feel,
You are love, your are real,
Really mine in the rain,
In the dark, in the sun,
Like the tide at its ebb,
I'm at peace in the web of your arms.

Recorded By:

The Righteous Brothers
Frank Sinatra
Jerry Colonna
Santo & Johnny
Ella Fitzgerald

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Girl from Ipanema

By Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes & Norman Gimbel
1962

A beautiful song unfairly twisted by the rock-obsessed baby boomer generation into the epitome of elevator music, Jobim's greatest hit is anything but dull. A breathtaking bossa nova tune inspired by a real-life girl Jobim and Moraes admired on the beach in Rio, it became an international smash hit and the famous Astrid Giberto recording won the Grammy in 1965. It was originally introduced by Pery Ribeiro, and English lyrics later added by Gimbel.

Lyrics:

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking.
And when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ahhh..."

When she walks she's like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gentle,
That when she passes, each one she passes goes, "Ahhh..."

Oh, but I watch her so sadly.
How can I tell her I love her?
Yes, I would give my heart gladly.
But each day when she walks to the sea,
She looks straight ahead, not at me.

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
The girl from Ipanema goes walking,
And when she passes, I smile, but she doesn't.
She just doesn't see.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Stan Getz
Lou Rawls
Peggy Lee
Ella Fitzgerald

Sunday, September 19, 2010

With Plenty of Money and You

By Harry Warren & Al Dubin
1936

An underrated Warren/Dubin gem written for the great Dick Powell for one of his classic 1930s musical screen comedies, The Gold Diggers of 1937. A minor standard, it was very popular in its day, owing largely to the clever Dubin lyric that seems to parody trite love ballads, with the vocalist admitting that in addition to love, he wouldn't mind having a little cash to go along with it... One of my all-time favorites.

Lyrics:

Oh, baby what I couldn't do,
With plenty of money, and you.
In spite of the worry that money brings,
Just a little filthy lucre buys a lot of things.

And I could take you to places you'd like to go,
But outside of that, I've no use for dough.
It's the root of all evil,
Of strife and upheaval.

But I'm certain, honey,
That life could be sunny,
With plenty of money and you.

Recorded By:

Jessica Molaskey & John Pizzarelli
Tony Bennett
The Ink Spots
Chick Bullock & His Levee Loungers
Luke Hill

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Violets for Your Furs

By Matt Dennis & Tom Adair
1941

A tender, haunting ballad from the same duo that gave us "Let's Get Away from It All" and "The Night We Called It a Day". This sublime number was written for the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, with a young Frank Sinatra as vocalist. Lyricist Adair actually worked for the Dorsey band at the time as an arranger. Sinatra would later revisit the tune for his 1954 solo album, Songs for Young Lovers.

Lyrics:

It was winter in Manhattan, falling snow flakes filled the air,
The streets were covered with a film of ice.
But a little simple magic that I learned about somewhere,
Changed the weather all around, just within a thrice.

I bought you violets for your furs,
And it was spring for a while, remember?
I bought you violets for your furs,
And there was April in that December.

The snow drifted down on the flowers,
And melted where it lay.
The snow looked like dew on the blossoms,
As on a summer's day.

I bought you violets for your furs,
And there was blue in the wintry sky.
You pinned my violets to your furs,
And gave a lift to the crowds passing by.

You smiled at me so sweetly,
Since then one thought occurs,
That we fell in love completely,
The day I bought you violets for your furs.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
John Coltrane
Stacey Kent
Frank Sinatra
Joe Lee Wilson

Sunday, September 12, 2010

April Showers

By Louis Silvers & B.G. DeSylva
1921

One of the true signature tunes of the great Al Jolson, this one became a trademark for him after he introduced it in the 1921 stage production, Bombo. It is one of the many songs to contain the "bluebird of happiness" motif in the lyrics. And on a personal note, my great aunt had a music box which played this song, so it will always conjure warm memories for me.

Lyrics:

Life is not a highway strewn with flowers,
Still it holds a goodly share of bliss,
When the sun gives way to April showers,
Here is the point you should never miss.

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it's raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn't raining rain, you know, (It's raining violets,)

And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a blue bird, And list'ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a blue bird, And list'ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

Recorded By:

Les Brown
Cab Calloway
Eydie Gorme
Woody Herman
Guy Lombardo

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Piccolino

By Irving Berlin
1935

An infectious dance number written by Berlin for the superb musical comedy film Top Hat, which featured a suite of top flight songs danced to by none other than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Astaire himself sings it in the movie, as part of one of the picture's most elaborate dance numbers.

Lyrics:

By the Adriatic waters,
Venetian sons and daughters
Are strumming a new tune upon their guitars.

It was written by a Latin,
A gondolier who sat in
His home out in Brooklyn and gazed at the stars.

He sent his melody across the sea to Italy,
And we know they wrote some words to fit that catchy bit,
And christened it the Piccolino.

And we know that it's the reason
Why ev'ryone this season
Is strumming and humming a new melody.

Come to the Casino,
And hear them play the Piccolino.
Dance with your bambino
To the strains of the catchy Piccolino.

Drink your glass of Vino,
And when you've had your plate of Scallopino,
Make them play the Piccolino, the catchy Piccolino.
And dance to the strains of that new melody, the Piccolino.

Recorded By:

Fred Astaire
Mel Torme
Harry Roy & His Band
Rosey Miyano

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Key Largo

By Benny Carter, Karl Suessdorf & Leah Worth
1948

Written for the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall film of the same name, this smooth, gentle number was introduced by Carter's own band. It would later become a popular tune with the progressive jazz performers who would emerge in the 1950s.

Lyrics:

Key largo,
Alone on Key Largo,
How empty it seems,
With only my dreams

Strange cargo,
They come to Key Largo,
But where is the face
My heart won’t erase?

The moon tide,
Rolling in from the sea,
Is lonely,
and it always will be, till you’re with me.

And I know,
I’ll stay in Key Largo,
Just watching the shore
To find you once more

In Key Largo, find you once more in Key Largo.

Recorded By:

Sarah Vaughan
Benny Carter

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So in Love

By Cole Porter
1948

This is one of the finest accomplishments of a songwriter whose career was fairly littered with them. Possessing a dark, brooding, minor key melody and lyrics that communicate desperate, aching longing and devotion, it is one the American songbook's great odes to love. It was written for Porter's adaptation of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew--Kiss Me, Kate--in which it was introduced on stage by Patricia Morison and Alfred Drake. It would be a big charted hit the following year for Patti Page.

Lyrics:

Strange dear, but true dear,
When I'm close to you, dear,
The stars fill the sky,
So in love with you am I.

Even without you,
My arms fold about you,
You know, darling why,
So in love with you am I.

In love with the night mysterious,
The night when you first were there.
In love with my joy delirious,
The thought that you might care.

So taunt me, and hurt me,
Deceive me, desert me,
I'm yours till I die,
So in love with you am I.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Dinah Shore
Gordon McRae
Peggy Lee
Dick Haymes

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Misty

By Erroll Garner & Johnny Burke
1954

A late jazz standard, pianist Garner composed the tune, only to have words added by Burke sometime later. It became on the most successful standard compositions of the 1950s, and something of a signature tune for both Johnny Mathis and Sarah Vaughan. It also figures prominently in the 1971 Clint Eastwood film Play Misty for Me. The melody is thoroughly modern, evoking the boldness of 1950s jazz.

Lyrics:

Look at me, I'm as helpless as a kitten up a tree,
And I feel like I'm clinging to a cloud, I can't understand,
I get misty, just holding your hand.

Walk my way, and a thousand violins begin to play,
Or it might be the sound of your hello, that music I hear,
I get misty, the moment you're near.

You can say that you're leading me on,
But it's just what I want you to do,
Don't you notice how hopelessly I'm lost,
That's why I'm following you.

On my own, would I wander through this wonderland alone,
Never knowing my right foot from my left, my hat from my glove,
I'm too misty, and too much in love.
I'm too misty, and too much in love.

Recorded By:

Nat King Cole
Frank Sinatra
Julie London
Ella Fitzgerald
Ray Stevens

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

String of Pearls

By Jerry Gray & Eddie De Lange
1942

Prolific big band arranger Gray (born Generoso Graziano) made a career out of reworking other composers' material, but in a few cases he create his own work from the ground up. Such was the case with this inventive number written specifically for the Glenn Miller orchestra. It would be a number-one hit; and Gray (pictured) would also have success with another Miller standard, "Pennsylvania 6-5000".

Lyrics:

Baby, here's a five and dime,
Baby, now's about the time
For a string of pearls a la Woolworth.

Every pearl's a star above,
Wrapped in dreams and filled with love,
That old string of pearls a la Woolworth.

Till that happy day in spring,
When you buy the wedding ring,
Please, a string of pearls a la Woolworth.

Baby, you made quite a start,
Found a way right to my heart,
With a string of pearls a la Woolworth.

Recorded By:

Glenn Miller
Ritchie Lee
Narciso Yepes
Harry James
Benny Goodman

Thursday, July 29, 2010

You Turned the Tables on Me

By Louis Alter & Sidney D. Mitchell
1936

Benny Goodman enjoyed a major hit with this particular song, using gthe beautiful Helen Ward as his singer at the time. Shortly before, the tune had been introduced in the motion picture Sing, Baby, Sing, in which it was performed by Alice Faye. This was the same movie that introduced the gorgeous Richard Whiting/Walter Bullock song, "When Did You Leave Heaven?", sung by Tony Martin. Say, I think I'll do that one next...

Lyrics:

I used to be the apple of your eye,
I had you with me every day,
But now whenever you are passing by
You're always looking the other way.
It's little things like this
That prompt me to say:

You turned the tables on me
And now I'm falling for you;
You turned the tables on me
I can't believe that it's true.

I always thought when you brought
The lovely present you bought
Why hadn't you brought me more,
But now if you'd come
I'd welcome anything
From the five and ten cent store.

You used to call me the top,
You put me up on a throne.
You let me fall with a drop,
And now I'm out on my own.

But after thinking it over and over,
I got what was coming to me.
Just like the sting of a bee,
You turned the tables on me.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Louis Armstrong
Count Basie
Tex Beneke
Ann Hampton Callaway

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I've Got You Under My Skin

By Cole Porter
1936

For those keeping score, last Wednesday marked the second anniversary of Standard of the Day, and in honor of this, I present one of the true diamonds of popular song, Cole Porter's timeless classic from the MGM musical Born to Dance, originally sung by Virginia Bruce. Of course, the Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra, would make this one of his all-time signature tunes thanks to an incredible recording on the 1956 Capitol album, Songs for Swingin' Lovers. The wonderful, rolling melody; the jubilant lyrics; and Sinatra's expertly eloquent phrasing married to Nelson Riddle's jaw-dropping arrangement--for these reasons and more, this composition is a true American treasure.

Lyrics:

I've got you under my skin
I've got you deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart, that you're really a part of me
I've got you under my skin

I've tried so not to give in
I've said to myself this affair never gonna swing so well
So why should I try to resist, when baby will I know damn well
That I've got you under my skin

I'd sacrifice anything come what might
For the sake of having you near
In spite of a warning voice that comes in the night
And repeats, repeats in my ear

Don't you know little fool, you'll never win
Why not use your mentality, wake up step up to reality
But each time I do, just the thought of you
Makes me stop before I begin
'Cause I've got you under my skin

Recorded By:

Louis Prima & Keely Smith
Diana Krall
Ella Fitzgerald
Peggy Lee
Dinah Washington

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Just Friends

By John Klenner & Sam M. Lewis
1931

Although this tune was introduced by Red McKenzie (pictured) and his orchestra, it wasn't until Russ Columbo recorded it the following year that it became a hit. It was has since become a popular jazz standard. Many might remember it from the 1933 Our Gang comedy "Mush and Milk" in which it was hilariously performed by veteran Little Rascal Tommy Bond.

Lyrics:

Just friends
Lovers no more
Just friends
But not like before.

To think of what we've been
And not to kiss again
Seems like pretending
It isn't the ending.

Two friends
Drifting apart
Two friends
But one broken heart.

We loved we laughed we cried
Then suddenly love died
The story ends
And we're
Just friends.

Recorded By:

Billie Holiday
Frank Sinatra
Joe Williams & George Shearing
Pat Martino
Jazz Ambassadors

Monday, July 19, 2010

Trade Winds

By Charles Tobias & Cliff Friend
1940

The prolific Tin Pan Alley tunesmith Tobias (pictured) put this one together with occasional collaborator Friend (the duo would enjoy a hit two years later with the World War II anthem, "We Did It Before and We Can Do It Again"). None other than Bing Crosby snatched up the song and immediately made a hit out of it. Very popular in the early 1940s, it can even be heard in several Warner Bros. cartoons of the period.

Lyrics:

Down where the trade winds play,
Down where you lose the day,
We found a new world where paradise starts,
We traded high way down where the trade winds play.

Music was everywhere,
flowers were in her hair,
Under an awning of silvery boughs,
We traded vows the night that I sailed away.

Oh trade winds, what are vows that lovers make,
Oh trade winds, are they only made to break,

When it is may again,
I’ll sail away again,
Though I’m returning, it won’t be the same,
She traded her name way down where the trade winds play.

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Martin Denny
Lou Rawls
Billy Vaughan
Tommy Dorsey

Friday, July 16, 2010

With a Song in My Heart

By Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
1929

A sweepingly melodious ballad from the Rodgers & Hart musical Spring Is Here, introduced on stage by John Hundley and Lillian Taiz. It was featured in numerous film musicals for decades after, but firstly in the full-length film version of Spring Is Here in 1930 (pictured).

Lyrics:

Though I know that we meet ev'ry night
and we couldn't have change since the last time,
to my joy and delight,
it's a new kind of love at first sight.
Though it's you and it's I all the time
ev'ry meeting's marvelous pastime.
You're increasingly sweet,
so whenever we happened to met
I greet you ...

With a song in my heart
I behold your adorable face.
Just a song at the start
but it soon is a hymn to your grace.

When the music swells
I'm touching you hand
It tells that your're standing near, and ..

At the sound of your voice
heaven opens his portals to me.
Can I help but rejoice
that a song such as ours came to be?

But I always knew
I would live life through
with a song in my heart for you.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Perry Como
The Supremes
Doris Day
Sammy Davis Jr.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Darktown Strutters' Ball

By Shelton Brooks
1917

Another infectious and marvelous old tune that may not perfectly jibe with our modern politically correct sensibilities, but should never be forgotten. Introduced by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, it was one of the earliest traditional jazz songs to become a standard. It's believed to have been inspired by the 1915 Pacific-Panama Expo in San Francisco. I have a personal fondness for it, as my great-aunt (born 1920) used to sing it to me when I was a small child as I danced around her living room. This jumping dance composition will always be a favorite of mine.

Lyrics:

I'll be down to get you in a taxi, Honey,
You better be ready about half past eight,
Now dearie, don't be late,
I want to be there when the band starts playing.

Remember when we get there, Honey,
The two-steps, I'm goin' to have 'em all,
Goin' to dance out both my shoes,
When they play the "Jelly Roll Blues,"
Tomorrow night at the Darktown Strutters' Ball.

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Dean Martin
Jimmy Dorsey
Fats Waller
Lou Monte

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Alright, Okay, You Win

By Maymie Watts & Sid Wyche
1955

A breezy, swingin' jazz number if ever there was one, this tune was composed specifically for the Count Basie orchestra, then in its post-World War II phase. Then band singer Joe Williams, who would soon go on to an illustrious solo career, introduced the song on Basie's May 17, 1955 recording. It has remained a popular song with traditional pop singers of a jazzy bent.

Lyrics:

Well alright, okay, you win
I'm in love with you
Well alright, okay, you win
Baby, what can I do
I'll do anything you say
It's just got to be that way

Well alright, okay, you win
I'm in love with you
Well alright, okay, you win
Baby, what can I do
Anything you say I'll do
As long as it's me and you

All that I am asking
All I want from you
Just love me like I love you
And it won't be hard to do

Well alright, okay, you win
I'm in love with you
Well alright, okay, you win
Baby, what can I do
I'll do anything you say
It's just got to be that way

All that I am asking
All I want from you
Just love me like I love you
And it won't be hard to do

Well alright, okay, you win
I'm in love with you
Well alright, okay, you win
Baby, one thing more
If you're gonna be my man
Sweet baby take me by the hand

Recorded By:

Bette Midler
Peggy Lee
Ella Fitzgerald
Nancy Wilson
Elvis Presley

Saturday, July 10, 2010

One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)

By Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer
1943

Arguably the finest product of the legendary teaming of Arlen and Mercer, two songwriters of equally titanic stature. It has become the all-time classic saloon song, thanks in great part to its iconic interpretation by Frank Sinatra, who turned it into something of a performance piece. However, it was originally written for Fred Astaire, who introduced it in the musical film The Sky's the Limit. It doesn't get any better than Arlen's laconic, smoky melody paired up with Mercer's timeless, aching lyric...

Lyrics:

Its quarter to three,
There's no one in the place, except you and me.
So set 'em up, Joe,
I got a little story I think you oughtta know.

We're drinking my friend
To the end of a brief episode.
So make it one for my baby,
And one more for the road.

I know the routine,
Put another nickel in the machine.
I'm feeling so bad,
Won't you make the music easy and sad?

I could tell you a lot,
But you gotta to be true to your code.
So make it one for my baby,
And one more for the road.

You'd never know it,
But buddy I'm a kind of poet,
And Ive got a lot of things I wanna say.
And if I'm gloomy, please listen to me
Till it's all all talked away.

Well, that's how it goes,
And Joe, I know you're getting anxious to close.
So thanks for the cheer,
I hope you didn't mind
My bending your ear.

But this torch that I found,
Its gotta be drowned,
Or it soon might explode.
So make it one for my baby,
And one more for the road.

Recorded By:

Tony Bennett
Perry Como
Billie Holiday
Frankie Laine
Iggy Pop

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry?

By Walter Donaldson & Abe Lyman
1926

Popular 1920s bandleader Lyman (pictured) wrote the lyrics to this tune by vastly underrated songwriter Donaldson, and introduced the song with his orchestra. It became one of the most popular songs of the decade, and an emblem of the Jazz Age. It was featured to great effect in the 1971 horror comedy The Abominable Dr. Phibes, which includes a plethora of great '20s songs.

Lyrics:

What can I say, dear, after I say I'm sorry?
What can I do to prove it to you that I'm sorry?
I didn't mean to ever be mean to you.
If I didn't care I wouldn't feel like I do.

I was all wrong, but right or wrong I don't blame you.
Why should I take somebody like you and shame you?
I know that I made you cry and I'm so sorry dear,
So what can I say, dear, after I say I'm sorry?

Recorded By:

Ella Fitzgerald
Josephine Baker
King Cole Trio
Carmen McRae
Keely Smith

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

They're Either Too Young or Too Old

By Arthur Schwartz & Frank Loesser
1943


Thank Your Lucky Stars was the only film in which Bette Davis sang--and it was in it that the legendary actress introduced this gem of a Loesser lyrics, put to music by the one and only Arthur Schwartz. Loesser's words deal ruefully with a young woman's efforts to find a mate while all the good men are overseas fighting the war...

Lyrics:

You rushed away and left this house as empty as can be
And I am like the driftwood in a deadly calm at sea
I can't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but thee
For there is no secret lover that the draft board didn't discover

They're either too young or too old
They're either too gray or too grassy green
The pickings are poor and the crop is lean
What's good is in the Army, what's left will never harm me

They're either too old or too young
So, darling, you'll never get stung
Tomorrow I'll go hiking with that Eagle Scout unless
I get a call from grandpa for a snappy game of chess

They're either too warm or too cold
They're either to fast or too fast asleep
So, darling, believe me, I'm yours to keep
They're isn't any gravy, the gravy's in the Navy

They're either too fresh or too stale
There is no available male
I will confess to one romance I'm sure you will allow
He tried to serenade me, but his voice is changing now

They're either too bald or too bold
I'm down to the wheelchair and bassinet
My heart just refuses to get upset
I simply can't compel it to, with no Marine to tell it to

I'm either their first breath of spring
Or else, I'm their last little fling
I either get a fossil or an adolescent pup
I either have to hold him off or have to hold him up

The battle is on, but the fortress will hold
They're either too young or too old

Recorded By:

Dinah Shore
Jimmy Dorsey
Margaret Whiting
Rosemary Clooney
Andrea Marcovicci

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slow Boat to China

By Frank Loesser
1947

In contrast to his many hits from shows, "Slow Boat to China" was one of Loesser's hit pop songs. It was introduced by Kay Kyser, and soon became a very enduring standard. Like so many Loesser compositions, it remains a part of our popular lexicon.

Lyrics:

I'd like to get you
On a slow boat to China,
All to myself alone.
To get you and keep you in my arms evermore,
Leave all your lovers
Weeping on the faraway shore.

Out on the briny
With the moon big and shinny,
Melting your heart of stone.
Darling, I'd love to get you
On a slow boat to China,
All to myself alone.

Recorded By:

Bette Midler & Barry Manilow
Benny Goodman
Rosemary Clooney
Ella Fitzgerald
Liza Minelli




Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Standing on the Corner

By Frank Loesser
1956

One of Loesser's later hits, originally written for the Broadway show, The Most Happy Fella, in which it was sung by Shorty Rogers, Alan Gilbert, John Henson and Roy Lazarus. A breezy swinger, it was a big hit for the '50s vocal group The Four Lads.

Lyrics:

Standing on a corner watching all the girls go by
Standing on a corner watching all the girls go by
Brother you don't know a nicer occupation
Matter of fact, neither do I
Than standing on a corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by

I'm the cat that got the cream
Haven't got a girl but I can dream
Haven't got a girl but I can wish
So I'll take me down to Main street
And that's where I select my imaginary dish

Standing on a corner watching all the girls go by
Standing on a corner giving all the girls the eye
Brother if you've got a rich imagination
Give it a whirl, give it a try
Try standing on a corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by

Brother you can't go to jail for what you're thinking
Or for that woo look in your eye
Standing on the corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by

Recorded By:

Dean Martin
The Four Lads
Celtic Thunder
The Mills Brothers
Hazell Dean

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Luck Be a Lady

By Frank Loesser
1950

Of all Loesser's compositions, this could very well be the most enduring. It was written for the musical Guys and Dolls, in which Sky Masterson (first played by Simon Mullins) courts Lady Luck so that she smiles favorably on his gambling endeavors. It was sung by Marlon Brando in the film--yet co-star Sinatra, who coveted Brando's role, later made it one of his signature songs.

Lyrics:

They call you Lady Luck, but there is room for doubt.
At times, you have a very unladylike way of running out.
You're on this date with me, the pickings have been lush.
And yet, before this evening is over, you might give me the brush.
You might forget your manners, you might refuse to stay,
And so the best that I can do is say...

Lucky, be a lady tonight!
Lucky, be a lady tonight!
Luck, if you've ever been a lady to begin with,
Luck, be a lady tonight!

Luck, let a gentleman see,
How nice a dame you can be.
I know the way you've treated other guys you've been with.
Luck, be a lady with me!

A lady doesn't leave her escort.
It isn't fair; it isn't nice.
A lady doesn't wander all over the room,
And blow on some other guy's dice.

Let's keep this party polite,
Never get out of my sight.
Stick with be baby, I'm the guy that you came in with.
Luck, be a lady tonight!

Recorded By:

Frank Sinatra
Barry Manilow
Barbra Streisand
Jack Jones
Dean Martin

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