Category Archives: Pre-Fifties

36. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams – 1949

Standard

Hank_Williams_Promotional_Photo

Listen

About

Wikipedia

“”I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” is a song written and recorded by American country music singer-songwriter Hank Williams in 1949. Williams wrote the song originally intending that the words be spoken, rather than sung, as he had done on several of his Luke the Drifter recordings. The song about loneliness was largely inspired by his troubled relationship with wife Audrey Sheppard. With evocative lyrics, such as the opening lines “Hear that lonesome whip-poor-will/He sounds too blue to fly,” the song has been covered by a wide range of musicians.

Trivia

  • Rolling Stone ranked it #111 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the oldest song on the list.
  • It was released as the b-side to the #2 Billboard Country single “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It”.
  • Regarded as one of the most significant country music artists, Williams recorded 35 singles (five released posthumously) that would place in the Top 10 of the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart, including 11 that ranked number one.
  • Williams died in the early morning hours of New Years Day in 1953 at the age of 29 from heart failure exacerbated by pills and alcohol. Despite his short life, Williams has had a major influence on twentieth century popular music.

35. Saturday Night Fish Fry – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five -1949

Standard

449px-Louis_Jordan,_New_York,_N.Y.,_ca._July_1946_(William_P._Gottlieb_04721)

Listen

About

Wikipedia

Saturday Night Fish Fry” is a popular song, written by Louis Jordan and Ellis Lawrence Walsh,[1] best known through the version recorded by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five.

Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry” has been called one of the first rock and roll records. Chuck Berry was quoted as saying, “To my recollection, Louis Jordan was the first one that I hear play rock and roll.”

Trivia

  • The recording, which at 5:21 ran longer than a standard side of a 78 record, was broken into two halves, one on either side of the release.
  • The single was a big hit, topping the R&B chart for twelve non-consecutive weeks in late 1949. It also reached number 21 on the national chart, a rare accomplishment for a “race record” at that time.
  • “Saturday Night Fish Fry” was first recorded by Eddie Williams and His Brown Buddies, which featured the talk-singing vocals of Ellis Walsh. However, the acetate for the Williams band version found its way to Louis Jordan’s agent and as Williams later recalled, “They got theirs out there first.”
  • To this day Louis Jordan still ranks as the top black recording artist of all time in terms of the total number of weeks at #1—his records scored an incredible total of 113 weeks in the No. 1 position (the runner-up being Stevie Wonder with 70 weeks). From July 1946 through May 1947, Jordan scored five consecutive No. 1 songs, holding the top slot for 44 consecutive weeks.
  • BBC comedy-show host Stephen Fry adapted the song’s title into a play on his own name and used the result for his six-part 1988 programme Saturday Night Fry.

34. Nature Boy – The Nat King Cole Trio – 1948

Standard

440px-Nat_King_Cole_(Gottlieb_01511)

Listen

About

Wikipedia

Nature Boy” is a song by eden ahbez, published in 1947. The song tells a fantasy of a “strange enchanted boy… who wandered very far” only to learn that “the greatest thing… was just to love and be loved in return”. Nat King Cole‘s 1948 recording of the song was a major hit and “Nature Boy” has since become a pop and jazz standard, with dozens of major artists interpreting the song.

Trivia

  • The first two measures of the song’s melody parallel the melody of the second movement in Antonín Dvořák‘s Piano Quintet No. 2 in A, Op. 81 (1887). It is unknown if Ahbez was familiar with Dvořák’s piece, or if he arrived at the same melodic idea independently.
  • Yiddish theater star/producer Herman Yablokoff, in Memoirs of the Yiddish Stage, claimed that the melody to “Nature Boy” was plagiarized from his song “Shvayg, Mayn Harts” (“Hush, My Heart”), which he wrote for his play Papirosn (1935).  Ahbez protested his innocence, claiming to have “heard the tune in the mist of the California mountains,” but later agreed to pay Yablokoff in an out-of-court settlement.
  • The song is based on a 1940s Los Angeles-based group called “Nature Boys,” a subculture of proto-hippies of which Ahbez was a member.
  • The most successful version was recorded by Nat King Cole, which was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 15054. The record first reached the Billboard charts on 16 April 1948 and stayed for 15 weeks, peaking at No. 1. Cole later re-recorded the song for his 1961 album The Nat King Cole Story.
  • David Bowie‘s version was a theme in the musical film Moulin Rouge! (2001).

33. Good Rocking Tonight – Roy Brown – 1947

Standard

Roy_Brown_publicity_photo

Listen

About

Wikipedia

Good Rocking Tonight” was originally a jump blues song released in 1947 by its writer, Roy Brown and was covered by many other recording artists. The song includes the memorable refrain, “Well I heard the news, there’s good rocking tonight!” The song anticipated elements of rock and roll music.

Trivia

  • The owner of Bill Riley’s Palace Park hired him, as Brown told a Blues Unlimited interviewer, because of his appeal as “a Negro who sounds white.”
  • Brown had first offered his song to Wynonie Harris, who turned it down. He then approached Cecil Gant later that night, but after hearing Brown sing, Gant made a 2:30 AM phone call to Jules Braun, the president of DeLuxe Records. After Roy Brown sang his song over the phone, Braun asked Brown to sing it a second time. He then told Gant, “Give him fifty dollars and don’t let him out of your sight.”
  • Only after Brown’s record had gained traction in New Orleans did Harris decide to cover it. Harris’s version was even more energetic than Brown’s original version, featuring black gospel style handclapping.
  • In 1954, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” was the second Sun Records release by Elvis Presley, along with “I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine” on the flip side.
  • Brown continued to make his mark on the R&B charts, scoring 14 hits from mid-1948 to late 1951 with De Luxe, including “Hard Luck Blues” (his biggest seller in 1950), “Love Don’t Love Nobody”, “Rockin’ at Midnight,” “Boogie at Midnight,” “Miss Fanny Brown,” and “Cadillac Baby”.
  • Shortly before his death he performed at the Whisky A Go-Go in West Hollywood, California and headlined the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1981.

32. White Christmas – Bing Crosby – 1947

Standard

220px-Bing_Crosby_1942

Listen

About

Wikipedia

White Christmas” is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.

Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song. One story is that he wrote it in 1940, in warm La Quinta, California, while staying at the La Quinta Hotel, a frequent Hollywood retreat also favored by writer-producer Frank Capra, although the Arizona Biltmore also claims the song was written there. He often stayed up all night writing — he told his secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”

Trivia

  • The first public performance of the song was by Bing Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941.
  • He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records in just 18 minutes on May 29, 1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm songs from the film Holiday Inn.  At first, Crosby did not see anything special about the song. He just said “I don’t think we have any problems with that one, Irving.”
  • The version most often heard today is not the original 1942 Crosby recording, as the master had become damaged due to frequent use. Crosby re-recorded the track on March 18, 1947, accompanied again by the Trotter Orchestra and the Darby Singers, with every effort made to reproduce the original recording session. There are subtle differences in the orchestration, most notably the addition of a celesta and flutes to brighten up the introduction.
  • “White Christmas” is the most-recorded Christmas song; there have been more than 500 recorded versions of the song, in several different languages.
  • Crosby was dismissive of his role in the song’s success, saying later that “a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully.”

31. La mer – Charles Trenet – 1946

Standard

trenet-charles-01-g

Listen

About

Wikipedia

La Mer” is a song written by French composer, lyricist, singer and showman Charles Trenet (1913–2001).

Trenet wrote the lyrics of “La Mer” on a train in 1943 while travelling along the French Mediterranean coast, returning from Paris to Narbonne. He supposedly wrote the song in ten minutes, on toilet paper supplied by SNCF (National Corporation of French Railways). The music is based on “Heart and Soul“, a popular song at the time, with music by Hoagy Carmichael and lyrics by Frank Loesser, published in 1938. He was assisted with the tune by Léo Chauliac. It was originally published by Raoul Breton.

It was not until 1946 that Trenet recorded the song. Trenet explained in an interview that he was told that “La Mer” was not swing enough to be a hit, and for this reason it sat in a drawer for three years before being recorded. When it was released in 1946, it became an unexpected hit, and has remained a chanson classic ever since.

Trivia

  • La Mer” is perhaps Trenet’s best known work outside the French-speaking world, with more than 400 recorded versions.
  • English lyrics, unrelated to the French lyrics, were later written by Jack Lawrence and entitled “Beyond the Sea“.
  • The English version has been recorded by many artists, including Benny Goodman, Mantovani, Roger Williams and Gisele MacKenzie, but Bobby Darin‘s version released in 1959 is the best known by many, reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song reached the top 40 twice prior to the Darin version (Goodman’s version in 1948, Williams’s in 1955).
  • In the videogame BioShock and its sequel BioShock 2, the song is used throughout the game on jukeboxes and loud hailers. The song can only be heard in the special edition of BioShock 2
  • At the start of World War II, Trenet was called up. He was in barracks at Salon-de-Provence until he was demobilized in June 1940, when he moved back to Paris.
  • In 1963, Trenet spent 28 days in prison in Aix-en-Provence. He was charged with corrupting the morals of four young men under the age of 21 (they were 19). His chauffeur claimed that Trenet was using him as a pimp. The charges were eventually dropped, but the affair brought to public light the fact that Trenet was homosexual.
  • On 21 May 1999, he returned to the forefront of the music scene with a brand new album entitled Les poètes descendent dans la rue (Poets Take to the Streets).Nearly sixty years after writing La Mer, Trenet released fourteen new tracks. Following the success of the album, Trenet returned to the live circuit. His concerts proved a huge success, fans in the audience breaking into rapturous applause.

30. La vie en rose – Édith Piaf – 1946

Standard

piaf-1

Listen

About

Wikipedia

La Vie en rose” was the signature song of French singer Édith Piaf, written in 1945, popularized in 1946, and released as a single in 1947.

The song’s title can be translated as “Life in Rosy Hues” or “Life Through Rose-Colored Glasses”; its literal meaning is “Life in Pink”.

Trivia

  • The lyrics of the song were written by Édith Piaf herself, and the melody was composed by Marguerite Monnot and Louis Guglielmi, known as Louiguy. Originally, the song was registered as being written by Louiguy only, since at the time Piaf did not have necessary qualifications to be able to copyright her work with SACEM.
  • It was the biggest-selling single of 1948 in Italy, and the ninth biggest-selling single in Brazil in 1949.
  • The first of Piaf’s albums to include “La Vie en rose” was the 10″ Chansons parisiennes, released in 1950. The song appeared on most of Piaf’s subsequent albums, and on numerous greatest hits compilations.
  • Two films about Piaf named after the song’s title have been produced. The first one, a 1998 documentary, used archive footage and interviews with Raquel Bitton, and was narrated by Bebe Neuwirth. The 2007 biographical feature film La Vie en rose won Marion Cotillard an Academy Award for Best Actress for portraying Piaf in the film from childhood until her death at 47.
  • Ian Fleming references the song in his first James Bond novel Casino Royale, when Bond is eating with Vesper Lynd, and again in his fourth novel Diamonds Are Forever, when Bond chooses to skip it on the record player as it has “painful memories”.
  • The song received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998.