This Week in Elder News: 14 February 2009
Crabby Old Lady Wonders…

Elder Music: Happy Music

category_bug_eldermusic Here’s some good news about your heart. A recent study found that research subjects’ “blood vessels expanded an average of 26 percent after listening to joyful music for 30 minutes” and that, of course, increases blood flow – a good thing for vascular health. The definition of joyful music doesn’t matter, say the researchers – whatever works for you, personally, does the job.

Here is one that always picks me up, sung by Bette Midler and Bing Crosby a long time ago. [1:47 minutes]

Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen wrote that song in 1944, during World War II when the country had been living through hard times for 15 years.

Much later, when I was in my 30s and 40s in the 1970s and ‘80s, I suffered regular bouts of depression that left me nearly immobile. For the month or so that they lasted, I got to work each day, did the minimum I could manage without losing my job and spent the rest of the time lying in bed with the quilt pulled over my head fighting the dragons of my psyche.

The one relief I could count on was music and when I could drag myself to the phonograph, certain songs raised my spirits. Not enough for me to become social, make a phone call or meet a friend for lunch, but some of the bleak thoughts receded. A lot of what I listened to were popular old songs from my childhood like this one from Peggy Lee which she wrote with Dave Barbour in 1946. [2:26 minutes]

Later, when cassettes came along, I recorded tapes of my happy music so I didn’t need to make the (exhaustive) effort to change records for the individual songs that made me feel better. Nowadays, even with the periods of depression long behind me, I still keep playlists of happy songs on my computer.

This past week, I “lost” an entire day and evening tracking down my happy music online. Most that I used for those private therapy sessions in my past are not available, but I still had a terrific time with what I did find, enough so that there is liable to be a Part 2 and maybe a Part 3 of “happy songs” in future weeks.

Show business songs are a goldmine of happy music and Give My Regards to Broadway, written by George M. Cohan in 1904, is one of the best. This isn’t a favorite version, but it was so much silly fun to see Liberace again, I couldn’t resist. [2:47 minutes]

The Great Depression produced a lot of my happy music – probably written to raise people’s spirits then. (Maybe that will happen again now during our own dark economic night.) This is another written by Harold Arlen (with Ted Koehler’s lyrics), in 1933. Frank Sinatra had a big hit with I’ve Got the World on a String in 1952. [1:53 minutes]

I keep another playlist that is all New York songs, some of which cross over into the happy category. Here’s Frank Sinatra again, this time with Liza Minelli, with the biggest, brassiest New York song of all. [4:53 minutes]

A lot of my happy songs are as big and loud as that one – or are sung by artists with big, booming voices. One of those is Barbara Cook. This is an old song written by Irving Berlin for the 1946 musical, Annie Get Your Gun. [3:01 minutes]

Here is another Depression song that I often ended my private depression music sessions with. There is something about the rhythm that never fails for me. It was written by Irving Berlin for a 1930 movie of the same title, but I was lucky to find the clip of “my” version of Puttin’ on the Ritz by Fred Astaire with his marvelous, perfect dance from the 1946 film, Blue Skies. Times and what America found entertaining were different then. [4:49 minutes]

I have at least a hundred “happy songs” on my playlist, so seven is hardly a representative sample and they are undoubtedly not the same as yours.

So what are your happy songs? Let us know – and play some for yourself today. It will make you - and your heart - feel good.


Those are all favorites of mine. I know that I am lucky to have grown up in a time when music like that was appreciated and played often. My mom loved all those people and fostered the same love in me. There is an uplifting that seldom happens with today's music, so I understand the results of that study first hand!

Puttin’ On The Ritz has always been a favorite. I even like the newer ‘pop’ version released by Taco in 1983.

Other ‘feel-good’ favorites of mine would have to include the following:

When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob-Bob-Bobbin Along
Doris Day – 1953 (#1 song for Al Jolson in 1926)

Lazy River
Mills Brothers – 1952

Cruising Down the River (On a Sunday afternoon)
Russ Morgan - 1949

Starting my morning with some of your "happy songs" has me sitting here with a smile and I know I'll be humming through the morning. Thanks for finding such great tunes to share with us!

What a delightful collection! I'm not sure we boomers have an equivalent stock of music that uplifts. Our formative era was dominated by the psychedelically indulgent, the simple animal delights of liberated sexuality, and a mystic tinge. In contrast to the music of a slightly earlier era, we look inward rather than outward and that's not good for depression.

Less abstractly, I can't imagine comforting myself with "White Rabbit," "Satisfaction" or even "Imagine."

But maybe I'm just not music inclined.

Your collection is wonderful as is the post on a gloomy morning...yet more snow. I'd just add that the other day I had occasion to listen once again to the lyrics of "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan....not of the golden era yet up-lifting in it's own way. Thanks Ronni. Dee

Rhapsody in Blue; Take the A Train; 1812 Overture; Little Old Lady from Pasadena; Kansas City; Frog Kissin'; A String of Pearls; Be-Bop-a-Lula' Bist due bei mir; Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy; Good Golly, Miss Molly; I Got You Babe; Colonel Bogey March; Rock and Roll Waltz; St Louis Blues March; The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane; The Wild West is Where I Want To Be....

I love starting my Sunday morning this way. Thank you.

I'll be looking for my favorites this morning.

"Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive" (Johnny Mercer's own version) is one of my happy songs, too. His version of "Baby It's Cold Outside" with Margaret Whiting will also lift my spirits. Others include, "Cattle Call" by Eddy Arnold, "Rockin' Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu" by Huey "Piano" Smith, "Come Go With Me" by The Del Vikings, and "This Old Heart Of Mine" by The Isley Brothers.

Funny, I never thought of putting on happy music whenever I got depressed. Getting out of bed in the morning was the torturous part for me. I was more focused on the idea that if I just made it to the shower I could make it through the day. Happy music would have helped.

la peregrina--Wow! Thanks for reminding me of Margaret Whiting. She had several good songs; but, in the happy category is "All I Want Is All There Is and Then Some" which includes among her "wants", "...A guy who keeps his manly form
Choppin' wood to keep me warm...."

In addition, I would plug some wonderful contemporary music. The "Raising Sand" album featuring Robert Plant and Alison Kraus is a fabulous blending of melody and lyrics with simple, exquisite vocals and arrangements. It won several Grammys last week. For me, the listening brings joy.

You forgot Bill Tapia. He's 101 and still playing the ukelele; and he just recorded a new CD. He played with Armstrong, Benny, Sinatra, and others. Here's his story with a utube piece of him playing:

Lately, I've been listening to wonderful New Orleans gospel CD by Glen David Andrews called Walking Through Heaven's Gate, recorded live at the Zion Hill Baptist Church in the Treme neighborhood. It's so joyous that it could make a believer out of Madeline Murray O'Hare. Take a look at this video from the performance.

And ditto Judith on Raising Sand.

La Peregrina reminded me of one I love: Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting singing, "Baby It's Cold Outside." It can lift my spirits in a flash. Others might include: Gene Krupa's 'Indian Love Call', Glenn Miller's 'In The Mood' 'Pennsylvania 6500 and 'Chattanooga Choo Choo', , Benny Goodman's 'Stompin At The Savoy' and Stan Kenton's 'Artistry Jumps'

For a Western flavor there's: 'Pistol Packin' Mama', You Are My Sunshine', 'Deep In The Heart Of Texas', 'Ragtime Cowboy Joe'.

Who can stay depressed when they sing, 'When The Saint's Go Marching In'? The list is endless if you go back as far as I do. ;-)

Cop Car and Darlene- I think Margaret Whiting is one of those under appreciated singers who most people today have never heard of before. That's a shame.

My all-time favorite happy song, (from a not "politically correct" movie) is Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.

I loved the whole of the movie, Song of the South. Unfortunately,
When the film was first released, the NAACP acknowledged "the remarkable artistic merit" of the film, but decried the supposed "impression it gives of an idyllic master-slave relationship" (even though the film was set after the American Civil War).

Posted my choices at ye olde blogsite, Texas Trifles.

Jimmie Rodgers, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Four Tops, Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye, Topol, and Audrey Hepburn show up on my list.

This is fun!

and I forgot Judy Garland...

Great post, Ronni. I agree w/ y: janinsanfran about the boomer music. Over the last few years, I've been buying big band music because it's so much more upbeat than "our" music.
Some early Beatles does make my "happy music" list, though: Can't Buy Me Love, with that amazing scene from Hard Day's Night; Good Day Sunshine; She Was Just 17; I Want to Hold Your Hand. And most of the tracks from their early albums. Some early Joni Mitchell, too - Ladies of the Canyon.
Thanks for sharing, Ronni.

That was so great. Thanks especially for "Puttin' On the Ritz".

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