Tag Archives: Jazz

63. Cry Me a River – Julie London – 1955

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WikipediaCry Me a River” is a popular American torch song, written by Arthur Hamilton and first published in 1953, and made famous in the version by Julie London, 1955. A jazzy blues ballad, “Cry Me a River” was originally written for Ella Fitzgerald to sing in the 1920s-set film, Pete Kelly’s Blues (released 1955), but the song was dropped. Fitzgerald first released a recording of the song on Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! in 1961. The song’s first release was by actress/singer Julie London in 1955, backed by Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Leatherwood on bass. A performance of the song by London in the 1956 film The Girl Can’t Help It helped to make it a bestseller (reaching nr. 9 on US and nr. 22 on UK charts). London’s recording was later featured in the soundtracks for the movies Passion of Mind (2000), and V for Vendetta (2005).

Trivia

  • London began singing under the name Gayle Peck in public in her teens before appearing in a film. She was discovered by talent agent Sue Carol, while working as an elevator operator.
  • London’s most famous single, “Cry Me a River“, was written by her high-school classmate Arthur Hamilton and produced by Bobby Troup. The recording became a million-seller after its release in December 1955.
  • Shirley Bassey recorded the song on her album The Fabulous Shirley Bassey (1959).
  • London later starred in the TV medical drama Emergency! (1972–1979), co-starring her real-life husband, Bobby Troup, and produced by her ex-husband, Jack Webb, in which she played the female lead role of nurse Dixie McCall.
  • London released 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s.

 

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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”.

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.

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

45. They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Fred Astaire – 1952

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They Can’t Take That Away from Me” is a 1937 song  written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin and introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film Shall We Dance.

The song is performed by Astaire on the foggy deck of the ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan. It is sung to Ginger Rogers, who remains silent listening throughout. No dance sequence follows, which was unusual for the Astaire-Rogers numbers. Astaire and Rogers did dance to it later in their last movie The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) in which they played a married couple with marital issues. The song, in the context of Shall We Dance, notes some of the things that Peter (Astaire) will miss about Linda (Rogers). The lyrics include “the way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea”, and “the way you hold your knife, the way we danced till three.” Each verse is followed by the line “no, no, they can’t take that away from me.” The basic meaning of the song is that even if the lovers part, though physically separated the memories cannot be forced from them. Thus it is a song of mixed joy and sadness.

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38. Summertime – Sarah Vaughn – 1950

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Summertime” is an aria composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess. The lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, the author of the novel Porgy on which the opera was based, although the song is also co-credited to Ira Gershwin by ASCAP.

The song soon became a popular and much recorded jazz standard, described as “without doubt… one of the finest songs the composer ever wrote….Gershwin’s highly evocative writing brilliantly mixes elements of jazz and the song styles of negroes in the southeast United States from the early twentieth century.” Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim has characterized Heyward’s lyrics for “Summertime” and “My Man’s Gone Now” as “the best lyrics in the musical theater”. The song is recognized as one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music, with more than 33,000 covers by groups and solo performers.

Trivia

  • Gershwin began composing the song in December 1933, attempting to create his own spiritual in the style of the negro folk music of the period.
  • The song is sung multiple times throughout Porgy and Bess, first by Clara in Act I as a lullaby and soon after as counterpoint to the craps game scene, in Act II in a reprise by Clara, and in Act III by Bess, singing to Clara’s baby.
  • It was recorded for the first time by Abbie Mitchell on July 19, 1935, with George Gershwin playing the piano and conducting the orchestra (on: George Gershwin Conducts Excerpts from Porgy & Bess, Mark 56 667).
  • There are over 25,000 recordings of “Summertime”.
  • In September 1936, a recording by Billie Holiday was the first to hit the US pop charts, reaching #12. The most commercially successful version was by Billy Stewart, who reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966.

37. Autumn Leaves – Jo Stafford – 1950

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Autumn Leaves” is a much-recorded popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French song “Les feuilles mortes” (literally “The Dead Leaves”) with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert, and the Hungarian title is “Hulló levelek” (Falling Leaves). Yves Montand (with Irène Joachim) introduced “Les feuilles mortes” in 1946 in the film Les Portes de la Nuit.

The American songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics in 1947 and Jo Stafford was among the first to perform this version. “Autumn Leaves” became a pop standard and a jazz standard in both languages, both as an instrumental and with a singer.

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