Sunday, 03 November 2013
ELDER MUSIC: 1938
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 1938?
- Etta James was born
- A new comic strip (Superman) appeared
- Hitler and Mussolini got chummy
- Orson Welles' radio play of War of the Worlds caused consternation
- The Adventures of Robin Hood was released
- America won the Davis Cup
- Carlton were premiers
Today's column is unofficially, and inadvertently, a semi-Gershwin column. Not completely but more than I expected when I started it.
KENNY BAKER sang the song Love Walked In to Andrea Leeds in the film, The Goldwyn Follies.
The song was one of many by George and Ira Gershwin. Unfortunately, George died before the film was completed. Accompanying Kenny is an orchestra conducted by Harry Sosnik.
Another song by George and Ira, this time sung by FRED ASTAIRE.
This was one of nine songs they wrote for the film, A Damsel in Distress. Fred was in that one along with George Burns and Gracie Allen as well as Joan Fontaine.
You can also hear Fred tap dancing (now there's a surprise) and playing the drums as well. The song and footwork is to the tune of Nice Work If You Can Get It.
The SIDNEY BECHET Quintet perform another of George Gershwin's compositions.
The tune is Summertime from Porgy and Bess, of course. I have previously written columns on both Summertime and Porgy and Bess but Sidney's version wasn't in either of them. It's time to rectify that omission.
ALLAN JONES sang The Donkey Serenade in the film The Firefly.
This was a film adaptation of the operetta by Rudolf Friml and Otto Harbach. It was a loose adaptation because although they used pretty much all the music, they completely changed the plot.
The one new song they added was the one we have today. Although technically serenading his donkey, it's really Jeanette MacDonald that Allan's interested in.
I Let A Song Go Out My Heart was written by DUKE ELLINGTON.
Later lyrics were added by Irving Mills, Henry Nemo and John Redmond but that's not relevant here as it's Duke's instrumental version today. Benny Goodman, Mildred Bailey, Dinah Washington and Thelonious Monk all later had a crack at it.
BING CROSBY is one of several artists who appear regularly in these early years.
You'll pretty soon discover the others too, if you haven't already figured out who they are. It means I'll run out things to say about them and I'll just waffle on like this. Bing's song is I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams.
So to Bing's sparring partner and golf buddy, BOB HOPE. Bob appeared in the film The Big Broadcast of 38 with SHIRLEY ROSS.
W.C. Fields was in the film as well but that's not relevant to today's column. The film featured the debut of the song that became Bob's signature tune, Thanks for the Memory. The version here is from that film.
BUNNY BERIGAN was an influential jazz trumpeter who died at only 33 from cirrhosis of the liver. Boy, he must have been hitting the bottle early.
His recording of I Can't Get Started was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. I didn't realize the Grammies had a Hall of Fame. You'd think they'd want to keep quiet about some of their choices over the years.
Anyway, the song was written by Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke, and it's Bunny himself singing.
Bulee (Slim) Gaillard and Elliott (Slam) Stewart performed under the name SLIM AND SLAM.
Slim played guitar and piano and Slam played bass. They both sang and Slim came up with this ditty, Flat Foot Floogie. The song is full of slang references to naughty carryings on.
Don't Be That Way was written by Edgar Sampson, BENNY GOODMAN and Mitchell Parish.
The tune has become associated with Benny and he opened with it in his famous Carnegie Hall Concert this very year (1938 that is, not this year).
1939 will appear in two weeks' time.