60. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning – Frank Sinatra – 1955

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Wikipedia “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” is a 1955 popular song composed by David Mann, with lyrics by Bob Hilliard. It was introduced as the title track of Frank Sinatra‘s 1955 album In the Wee Small Hours. It was composed by Mann and Hilliard during a post-midnight session at Hilliard’s New Jersey home. Mann was about to depart for New York when Hilliard insisted he remain to try some impromptu songwriting. Mann reluctantly agreed and eventually came up with the tune, to which Hilliard quickly wrote a lyric.

Trivia

  • By the early 1950s, Sinatra saw his career in decline, his teen “bobby soxer” audience having lost interest in him as he entered his late 30s.
  • The rebirth of his career began with the eve-of-Pearl Harbor drama From Here to Eternity (1953), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
  • The songs on In the Wee Small Hours deal with themes such as loneliness, introspection, lost love, failed relationships, depression and night-life. As a result, it is generally regarded as one of the first concept albums.
  • The album was recorded in five sessions at KHJ Studios, Hollywood. These sessions took place on February 8, 16 & 17, and April 1 & 4, and would start at 8:00PM, continuing to past midnight.
  • Since its release, In the Wee Small Hours has been regarded as one of Sinatra’s best, often being ranked alongside Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! (1956) and Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958).
  • It is also considered by many to be one of the best vocal jazz releases of all time. acclaimedmusic.net, a website which aggregates musical accolades, names …Hours the 3rd most acclaimed album of the 50s (…Swingin’ Lovers! being one place behind it), with Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and Elvis Presley’s self titled début album in front.
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59. I Get Along Without You Very Well – Chet Baker – 1954

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I Get Along Without You Very Well” is a popular song composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1939, with lyrics based on a poem written by Jane Brown Thompson. Thompson’s identity as the author of the poem was for many years unknown; she died the night before the song was introduced on radio by Dick Powell.

It appears on Chet Baker‘s 1954 album Chet Baker Sings.

On Hoagy Carmichael’s well-loved song-as on the rest of its parent album, Baker is accompanied by just piano, bass and drums, although on this occasion he plays no trumpet. It is a poignant performance, its seemingly effortless simplicity hiding considerable technique

Baker’s emotionally restrained singing is musical in the proper sense. His bel canto-tenor vocals are achieved with perfect breath control and relaxation, his notes completely in tune, his phrases perfectly measured throughout.

Trivia

  • Howard Hoagland “Hoagy” Carmichael is best known for composing the music for “Stardust“, “Georgia on My Mind“, “The Nearness of You“, and “Heart and Soul“, four of the most-recorded American songs of all time.
  • The biggest-selling version was a 1939 recording by Red Norvo and his orchestra (vocal by Terry Allen).
  • Carmichael and Jane Russell performed the song in the 1952 film noir The Las Vegas Story.
  • Baker had first made his mark in 1952 on America’s west coast, where he partnered baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan in a piano-less quartet, an unusual lineup that matched his light and airy notes with the gruff harrumphing of a baritone sax underscored by bass and drums to surprisingly balletic effect.
  • The idea that Baker might then sing on some tracks came from his record label boss, Dick Bock “I encouraged him to sing and it turned out he had an exceptional talent for it”.

58. (We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley & His Comets – 1954

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Rock Around the Clock” is a rock and roll song in the 12-bar blues format written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers (the latter under the pseudonym “Jimmy De Knight”) in 1952. The best-known and most successful rendition was recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets in 1954 for American Decca. It was a number one single on both the US and UK charts and also re-entered the UK Singles Chart in the 1960s and 1970s.

It was not the first rock and roll record, nor was it the first successful record of the genre (Bill Haley had American chart success with “Crazy Man, Crazy” in 1953, and in 1954, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart). Haley’s recording nevertheless became an anthem for rebellious Fifties youth[7] and is widely considered to be the song that, more than any other, brought rock and roll into mainstream culture around the world. The song is ranked No. 158 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Although first recorded by Italian-American band Sonny Dae and His Knights on March 20, 1954,[1] the more famous version by Bill Haley & His Comets is not, strictly speaking, a cover version. Myers claimed the song had been written specifically for Haley but, for various reasons, Haley was unable to record it himself until April 12, 1954.

The original full title of the song was “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!“. This was later shortened to “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock“, though this form is generally only used on releases of the 1954 Bill Haley Decca Records recording; most other recordings of this song by Haley and others (including Sonny Dae) shorten this title further to “Rock Around the Clock“.

Trivia

  • The song was offered to Haley in the wake of his first national success “Crazy Man, Crazy” in 1953, after being copyrighted with the U.S. Library of Congress on March 31.
  • Haley and his Comets began performing the song on stage, but Dave Miller, his producer, refused to allow Haley to record it for his Essex Records label.
  • Haley claimed to have taken the sheet music into the recording studio at least twice, with Miller ripping up the music each time.
  • After leaving Essex Records in the spring of 1954, Bill Haley signed with the then-important Decca Records label, and the band’s first recording session was set for April 12, 1954 at the Pythian Temple studios in New York City.
  • Near the end of the session, the band finally recorded a take of “Rock Around the Clock”.
  • On July 9, 1955, “Rock Around the Clock” became the first rock and roll recording to hit the top of Billboard’s Pop charts, a feat it repeated on charts around the world.
  • The song was used as the theme song for the first season of the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, which was set in the 1950s.

57. Shake, Rattle and Roll – Big Joe Turner & His Blues Kings – 1954

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Shake, Rattle and Roll” is a twelve bar blues-form rock and roll song, written in 1954 by Jesse Stone under his assumed songwriting name Charles E. Calhoun. It was originally recorded by Big Joe Turner, and most successfully by Bill Haley & His Comets. The song as sung by Big Joe Turner is ranked #126 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In early 1954, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records suggested to Stone that he write an up-tempo blues for Big Joe Turner, a blues shouter whose career had begun in Kansas City before World War II. Stone played around with various phrases before coming up with “shake, rattle and roll”.

Trivia

  • The phrase had been used in earlier songs. In 1919, Al Bernard recorded a song about gambling with dice with the same title, clearly evoking the action of shooting dice from a cup. The phrase is also heard in “Roll The Bones” by the Excelsior Quartette in 1922.
  • Turner’s version was recorded in New York on February 15, 1954. The shouting chorus on his version consisted of Jesse Stone, and record label executives Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegün. The saxophone solo was by Sam “The Man” Taylor.
  • Turner’s recording was released in April 1954, reached #1 on the US Billboard R&B chart on June 12, did not move for three weeks, and peaked at #22, nearly at the same time, on the Billboard pop chart.
  • The song, in its original incarnation, is highly sexual. Perhaps its most salacious lyric, which was absent from the later Bill Haley rendition, is “I’ve been holdin’ it in, way down underneath / You make me roll my eyes, baby, make me grit my teeth”. [It may actually be “Over the hill, way down underneath.] On the recording, Turner slurred the lyric “holdin’ it in”, since this line may have been considered too risqué for publication.
  • The chorus uses “shake, rattle and roll” to refer to boisterous intercourse, in the same way that the words “rock and roll” were first used by numerous rhythm and blues singers, starting with Trixie Smith‘s “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” in 1922, and continuing on prominently through the 1940s and 1950s.
  • Stone stated that the line about “a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood store” was suggested to him by Atlantic session drummer Sam “Baby” Lovett; also a sly sexual reference.

56. My Funny Valentine – Chet Baker – 1954

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My Funny Valentine” is a show tune from the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Babes in Arms in which it was introduced by former child star Mitzi Green. After being recorded by Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, and Miles Davis, the song became a popular jazz standard, appearing on over 1300 albums performed by over 600 artists.

Babes in Arms opened at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway, in New York City on April 14, 1937 and ran for 289 performances. In the original play, a character named Billie Smith (played by Mitzi Green) sings the song to Valentine “Val” LaMar (played by Ray Heatherton). In the song, Billie pokes fun at some of Valentine’s characteristics, but ultimately affirms that he makes her smile and that she doesn’t want him to change.

Trivia

  • The song first hit the charts in 1945, performed by Hal McIntyre with vocals by Ruth Gaylor.
  • In 1952, Baker joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, which was an instant phenomenon. Several things made the Mulligan/Baker group special, the most prominent being the interplay between Mulligan’s baritone sax and Baker’s trumpet.
  • The Quartet’s version of “My Funny Valentine“, featuring a Baker solo, was a hit, and became a tune with which Baker was intimately associated.
  • In 1954, Pacific Jazz released Chet Baker Sings, a record that increased his profile but alienated traditional jazz fans; he would continue to sing throughout his career.
  • The song is part of the Great American Songbook and has had many notable recordings.

55. The Wind – Nolan Strong & The Diablos – 1954

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The Wind” is a 1954 doo-wop classic by the pre-Motown Detroit R&B group Nolan Strong & The Diablos. The song appears originally on the group’s second 45rpm single, “The Wind / Baby Be Mine,” (Fortune Records #511)

The song has a unique, reverb-heavy sound and is centered around the high ethereal lead tenor voice of the band’s leader, Nolan Strong.

In 2007, The Metro Times listed “The Wind” at #11 in The 100 Greatest Detroit Songs list – which was the November 11th cover story.

“The Wind” was the group’s only national hit, though most of the group’s other hits were huge local successes in Detroit, including “Mind Over Matter” (Fortune #546, 1962), which went to #1 on local radio station play lists in 1962.

Trivia

54. Love for Sale – Billie Holiday – 1954

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“Love for Sale” is a song by Cole Porter, from the musical The New Yorkers which opened on Broadway on December 8, 1930 and closed in May 1931 after 168 performances. The song is written from the viewpoint of a prostitute advertising various kinds of “love for sale”: “Old love, new love, every love but true love“.

“Love for Sale” was originally considered in bad taste, even scandalous. In the initial Broadway production, it was performed by Kathryn Crawford, portraying a streetwalker, with three girlfriends (Waring’s Three Girl Friends) as back-up singers, in front of Reuben’s, a popular restaurant of the time. As a response to the criticism, the song was transferred from the white Crawford to the African American singer Elisabeth Welch, who sang with back-up singers in a scene set in front of Harlem‘s Cotton Club.

Despite the fact the song was banned from radio airplay, or perhaps because of it, it became a hit, with Libby Holman‘s version going to #5 and the “Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians” version going to #14, both in 1931. (All other 1931 recordings of the song were as an instrumental.)

Billie Holiday recorded a version in 1952, during the sessions for her debut LP Billie Holiday Sings, though it didn’t appear on that album until it was repackaged, with four additional tracks, as Solitude in 1956.

Trivia