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 1939?
- Judy Collins was born
- Word War II began
- The Vienna Boys' Choir was stranded in Australia for the duration
- Victoria experienced the worst bushfire in its history (until a worse one in 2009)
- Patrick White published his first novel, Happy Valley
- The Wizard of Oz premiered in New York
- Australia won the Davis Cup
- Melbourne were premiers
ART TATUM was one of the greatest jazz pianists and was a huge influence on later pianists.
On Tea for Two, a tune written by Vincent Youmans (with words by Irving Caesar, but they're not in evidence in this version), he took stride piano playing to such heights that nobody could improve on it, so I guess they had to try something else, and BeBop was born.
A signature tune (these years are full of them). This time it's GENE AUTRY.
Gene wrote this himself with some help from Ray Whitley. I don't know if Gene was the first of the singing cowboys but he certainly the most famous (at least until Roy Rogers came along).
He invested wisely over the years and made a fortune such that he regularly made Forbes' 400 list. This is Back in the Saddle Again.
Thank goodness for FATS WALLER to bring a little levity to the year.
The song is Your Feet's Too Big which was written by Fred Fisher and Ada Benson. Naturally, Fats couldn't just sing the words as written but adlibbed his way through the song.
As I mentioned in the introduction, this was the year of the Wiz, so you know who's coming up next. Yes, Frank Morgan. Just kidding. Here's JUDY GARLAND.
The song needs no introduction but I'm going to give you one anyway: Over the Rainbow.
WOODY HERMAN was a fine clarinet player as well being good on several types of saxophones.
However, his most lasting legacy would be that he encouraged young talented musicians, more than any other band leader from the period. He also changed his repertoire to keep up with the times. Here he is with At the Woodchopper's Ball.
THE INK SPOTS recording of If I Didn't Care is one of the biggest selling records of all time. So far it's clocked up more than 19 million copies.
Before all that happened, Jack Lawrence, who wrote the song, sent a copy to a bunch of his friends and asked them what they thought about it. The result was overwhelmingly that it was a lousy song and wouldn't sell a bean. He got the Ink Spots to record it anyway.
We had a few signature tunes back in 1938, not forgetting the one above, now here's one for GLENN MILLER.
It is, of course, Moonlight Serenade, that Glenn wrote himself. It's not music to my taste but folks at the time loved it. I imagine a lot still do.
Easily the most serious and thought-provoking song in this whole series is this one by BILLIE HOLIDAY.
Certainly the most important. It is Strange Fruit, written as a poem by Abel Meeropol and put to music by him and his wife, Laura Duncan.
Begin the Beguine is a Cole Porter song recorded by many people. The version I know about is by CHICK HENDERSON.
The reason I'm familiar with this one is that my mum hated it. That's because she said it always seemed to be playing while she was waiting around for my sister to pop out (that was before my time). They seemed to play it every five minutes, she said.
I won't go into any further details, I'll just play it. Chick is backed by the Joe Loss band.
CRIPPLE CLARENCE LOFTON was a boogie woogie pianist and singer of considerable acclaim.
He didn't just play and sing, he'd snap his fingers, whistle, bang the wood of the piano to accompany himself. He occasionally had Big Bill Broonzy accompany him on guitar.
He had a limp from birth which is how he acquired his nickname. In spite of that, he started his career as a tap dancer. This is I Don't Know.
1940 will appear in two weeks' time.