INTERESTING STUFF – 16 November 2013
Doris Lessing Dies at Age 94

ELDER MUSIC: 1939

PeterTibbles75x75This 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.

Art Tatum

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.

♫ Art Tatum - Tea For Two

A signature tune (these years are full of them). This time it's GENE AUTRY.

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.

♫ Gene Autry - Back In The Saddle Again

Thank goodness for FATS WALLER to bring a little levity to the year.

Fats Waller

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.

♫ Fats Waller - Your Feet's Too Big

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.

Judy Garland

The song needs no introduction but I'm going to give you one anyway: Over the Rainbow.

♫ Judy Garland - Over The Rainbow

WOODY HERMAN was a fine clarinet player as well being good on several types of saxophones.

Woody Herman

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.

♫ Woody Herman - 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.

The Ink Spots

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.

♫ The Ink Spots - If I Didn't Care

We had a few signature tunes back in 1938, not forgetting the one above, now here's one for GLENN MILLER.

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.

♫ Glenn Miller - Moonlight Serenade

Easily the most serious and thought-provoking song in this whole series is this one by BILLIE HOLIDAY.

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.

♫ Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

Begin the Beguine is a Cole Porter song recorded by many people. The version I know about is by CHICK HENDERSON.

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.

♫ Chick Henderson - Begin the Beguine

CRIPPLE CLARENCE LOFTON was a boogie woogie pianist and singer of considerable acclaim.

Cripple Clarence Lofton

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.

♫ Cripple Clarence Lofton - I Don't Know

1940 will appear in two weeks' time.

Comments

WOW !! Many of my all-time favorites are here! Thanks for this one.

Thank you for some of the favorites from my teenage years. I could do without Gene Autry, though. I was not a fan of his because I thought he was a poor actor and a so-so vocalist, but others liked him.

You redeemed yourself with "Begin the Beguine" though. Unlike your Mum, I loved it and still do. Not only does it have a lovely melody, but the lyrics paint a picture. It is almost a classic having survived 74 years.

Thomas Hampton has another good rendition of "Begin the Beguine" and I listen to it often. I never tire of it. (Sorry, Mum).

My pet peeve with today's music is the bad grammar and stupid phrases of today's offerings and I often hold Cole Porter lyrics up as a comparison. His melodies put the music of this generation to shame, as well.

I think vocalists will still be singing "Over the Rainbow" long after I am gone. The sentiment is always in vogue.

Count me as one who still loves "Moonlight Serenade". It is not great music, but I loved Glenn Miller and it was his theme song. I guess you have to be an old fogy to appreciate him.

Peter:

Your selections evoke the best and worst of the year, from the wistful hopefulness of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," to the grim reality of "Strange Fruit."

For the most part, 1939 was a terrible year; the Great Depression lingered on, and World War II began in September with the invasion of Poland.

Your selections, however, give 1939 a three-dmensionality too often lost on the printed page.

I showed up the next summer. I look forward to hearing your choices for 1940.

Thanks for teaching me things about music by another era because it makes my job as a home aide better because I have something to talk about and have become a fan. Thanks for the share!

I'm old(er) at 66, so these tunes preceded me by eight years, and I didn't really get serious about listening to music from this era until I was an adult. (Now, I could -- and sometimes do -- listen to it hours on end.) Somebody's time capsule is going to be a huge and beautiful surprise to a generation yet unborn that opens it to find the likes of Waller, Garland, Herman and the Spots inside. Have to remark, though, you're the first person over 50 I've heard say s/he didn't care for Moonlight Serenade. ... Anyhow, thanks for all you do to bring different types of music to a seasoned audience (is that like peppered and salted?)and the younger, curious passersby.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)