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.
Ronni said a little while ago that she probably didn’t expect to see this day, but I’m glad she has – and I know that everyone reading this will agree with me.
I selected some birthday music, none of which I imagine that she’d have chosen herself. That’s the fun of doing these columns.
The songs today are predominantly from the fifties, the only reason for that is that I’ve used most of the others in previous columns. A number of the songs are so sad you can’t help but laugh; a good thing to do on your birthday, a better thing to do than what I did on my last birthday, but we won’t go into that.
I’ll start with an exception to my opening statement, indeed here is a moment of couth from JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, J.S.’s youngest son, generally called the London Bach because that’s where he lived for the last couple of decades of his life.
Like his father, J.C. wrote some cantatas; that wasn’t his main gig as it was for his dad. This one is Cantata a tre voci (Birthday cantata). This is the first movement.
That’s out of the way, let’s get down to the rubbish, starting with THE FLEETWOODS.
Okay, The Fleetwoods are really pretty good, so ignore my previous statement. I also noticed that if you really listen carefully to the words, the song sounds a lot more R rated than is usually the case in songs from the fifties.
Maybe it’s just me. They sing It's Your Birthday.
THE FOUR KNIGHTS formed all the way back in 1943 and continued with the same line up until the late fifties when the lead singer had to drop out due to his worsening epilepsy.
They had several hits in the fifties and appeared regularly on Red Skelton’s TV program. They seem really happy to sing Happy Birthday, Baby, a song closer to the forties than the fifties.
Unlike all the other songs today, where the performer wishes someone else a happy birthday, it’s the singer’s birthday instead. That singer is HANK LOCKLIN.
He bought his present and sang happy birthday to himself because his sweetie seems to be otherwise occupied. She didn’t even bother sending him a card. Hank sings Happy Birthday to Me.
While I was searching for songs, I noticed that whenever an age was mentioned in a song, 16 was far and away the most common. So it is with the next song by THE CRESTS.
They sing, “You’re only sixteen, but you’re my teenage queen” which sounds a bit creepy these days. Let’s hope Mr Crest is himself only 16 or 17. Anyway, now I’ve had my jaundiced look at the song (and you’d agree with me if you ever hear Jerry Lee Lewis’s version), you can listen to 16 Candles.
Here’s a brief sojourn into the sixties with the most famous group from that decade, THE BEATLES.
From the album called “The Beatles”, and if you’re scratching your head over that one, it’s universally known as “The White Album”, we have Birthday.
I have to admit that the PIXIES THREE are unknown to me.
To judge from the song they seem to be having a good time, unlike several others today. It seems that they’re having a Birthday Party.
JOHN HARTFORD has some interesting advice for what you should wear on your birthday.
Of course, if you think about it for a minute or two you could probably figure where I’m going. I imagine there’d be few of my readers who’d be willing to go along with John. He sings I Shoulda Wore My Birthday Suit.
You can tell from the introduction to the song that things aren’t going to turn out well for THE TUNE WEAVERS.
They want to wish their baby a happy birthday. Alas, said baby is with someone else. Oh dear, I imagine a lot of us went through this as teenagers. Anyway, Happy Happy Birthday Baby.
Okay Ronni, do you want to change your name to Cindy for two and a half minutes. That’s so JOHNNY CRAWFORD can serenade you.
Johnny almost certainly got a recording career because of his acting in the TV show The Rifleman. He was guaranteed name recognition. After much coaching and singing lessons, it paid off with several hits, the biggest of which is Cindy's Birthday.
I’ll end as I began, with another moment of couth. This time it’s MR HANDEL.
Georg knew on which side his bread was buttered – he wrote music for all sorts of royal occasions. Due to that, he became extremely rich. He wrote an ode to Queen Anne who was the queen of Great Britain after the deaths of Williamandmary (they always seemed to be mentioned that way, as if it’s one word).
What Georg wrote is Eternal Source of Light Divine (Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74). Here we have some trumpet playing by WYNTON MARSALIS and some singing by KATHLEEN BATTLE.
Happy birthday, Ronni and I look forward to doing this next year. I hope I can find some better songs.