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.
I was collecting songs for a column on the Streets on New York and thought if I were short ,I could use Broadway songs. As it turned out, I had more than enough for that one and ample for a column on Broadway. Indeed, so many there could be another one.
Because of the embarrassment of riches, I could pick and choose and have a variety of styles of music today, from old time to funk to soul to jazz to country to pop and a couple of indeterminates. I like to mix things up a bit.
An obvious place to start is with the title of the column and the obvious presenter of that song is the man who wrote it, GEORGE M. COHAN.
George could do, and did, everything in the theatre. He started in vaudeville as a kid with his parents and sister. He began writing musicals in 1904 with "Little Johnny Jones" in which this song appeared.
George directed the musical and appeared in it along with mum, dad and sis. So, remember me to Herald Square, and definitely Give My Regards to Broadway.
A complete change of pace with WILSON PICKETT. I told you we'd be all over the place.
Wilson was in the first rank of soul singers and could give James Brown a few lessons in the funk department. Here he is with Funky Broadway.
GERRY MULLIGAN gives us the first taste of jazz today.
Gerry was that rare player of the baritone sax. I'm not surprised others didn't play it as it looks pretty heavy to me. This is from his great early quartet and you can catch (rather briefly) Chet Baker player trumpet. The tune is simply called Broadway.
JOHN PHILLIPS was probably best known as Papa John from The Mamas and The Papas.
After that he made a couple of really good solo albums. The other members of the group were somewhat miffed as they thought he should have used the material for group albums.
From one of those John performs Black Broadway and it sounds as if he's trying to amalgamate all the musical styles present today in the one song.
Some more jazz with someone who wrote tunes about all sorts of places, so it's not unreasonable that Broadway would be in there somewhere. I'm talking about DAVE BRUBECK.
This is from an album called "Jazz Impressions of New York" which was an extension of Dave's work for the TV program Mr Broadway (starring Craig Stevens who will always be Peter Gunn as far as I'm concerned).
The track is Theme from Mr. Broadway.
I first discovered DICK POWELL playing Richard Diamond on radio and a bit later on the Dick Powell Theatre on TV.
I always thought of him as a serious actor and had no knowledge of his earlier career as a song and dance man and light comedian. I was a bit stunned when I saw him in those early films on the box.
Anyway, here he is in his earlier incarnation singing Lullaby of Broadway.
BOBBY WOMACK could do it all.
He was a gospel singer, a soul singer, rock & roll, DooWop and country as well. He played guitar so well that he was an in-demand session musician. He wrote songs that were covered by the Rolling Stones, George Benson, Patti LaBelle and others. He wrote movie soundtracks.
He also had his own career and made numerous records and appearances. Alas, he died recently. He performs Broadway Walk.
HARRY NILSSON produced one of the shortest songs I've used in any of my columns and this is it.
It's called Marchin' Down Broadway and that's all I need to say otherwise reading this will take longer than the song (I've probably blown that already).
ALISON KRAUSS is mostly thought of as a bluegrass fiddle player. She does something different here.
It could be folk, it could be country or pop. Whatever it is it's not too bad at all. This is another song simply called Broadway.
THE DRIFTERS put everything into perspective with one of their most famous songs, On Broadway.
The song had two of the best songwriting teams responsible for it – Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Well, that four created a large percentage of the songs from around that time.
To add to that there is also Phil Spector playing lead guitar (but not producing – that was Jerry and Mike's task). It could have been top heavy, but they all produced a great record.