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.
All roads lead to Rome; when in Rome do as the Romans do; Rome wasn’t built in a day (but it was burned down in one – sorry that’s my own addition).
There are so many sayings about the Eternal City that I could keep spouting them, but you’d be bored and turn away. So, let’s just have some songs about Rome.
Probably due to the film Three Coins in a Fountain, the fountains of Rome, particularly the Trevi fountain which is the focus of the film, have amassed a considerable amount of loot. This is good for the local kids and others who like to grab all those coins.
The song was sung (uncredited) in the film by Frank Sinatra who had a big hit with it. For something different I’ve decided to use the instrumental version by the VINCE GUARALDI TRIO.
Vince was a jazz pianist who had a few mainstream hits in the sixties most notably, as far as I’m concerned, was Cast Your Fate to the Wind. We’ll leave that one for another day, and play Three Coins in a Fountain.
You probably expected DEAN MARTIN to be present, so I won’t disappoint you.
There were several contenders for him, but it was a matter of who else had recorded them so we could have a variety of artists. With that in mind I chose On an Evening in Roma (Sott'er Celo de Roma).
Another likely suspect is MARIO LANZA.
He performs the definitely-must-be-present song, Arrivederci Roma. There were many choices for this one, mostly by the artists who are present today singing something else. Mario gives it the full treatment.
Now we have several songs by people who obviously read my opening remarks. The first of these is SAM COOKE.
Sam tells us that Rome (Wasn't Built in a Day). I don’t know why he used the parentheses, but it was quite the thing to do back when he was recording. It doesn’t matter; this is Sam who could make anything sound good.
GLENN CARDIER decided to take the same tack – same title, different song.
He eschews the parentheses and calls it Rome Wasn't Built in a Day. This is an unusual version from Glenn who usually plays guitar, often a National steel one. Indeed, he reminds me somewhat of Tom Waits on this.
As if we didn’t know by now, we have NICK LOWE to belabor the point.
Yet another song with the same name. There could be a column in that (light bulb moment). Nick sounds as if he’s just sitting in the room with us playing his guitar. A very intimate version of Rome Wasn't Built in a Day.
From late in his career, here is ELVIS in full operatic mode. There must be something about Rome that causes singers to do that (Nick Lowe excluded).
The song of his, and it’s not one I was familiar with until it came up on my search, is Heart of Rome.
It’s not too surprising that TONY BENNETT is present, as he’s sung a lot of songs in his career.
He has the help of the great BILL EVANS playing piano. I prefer Tony with a stripped back arrangement as we have here and he became an automatic inclusive when I heard this fine version. The song is When in Rome, another of our opening clichés.
Autumn in Rome was another popular song, yet another selection process. This time it is JOHNNY MATHIS who got the nod.
There are several good versions of this song, the one that nearly made the cut is by Peggy Lee. However, on reflection, I liked Johnny’s just a bit more.
Bob Dylan wrote one of the finest songs about the city, and THE BAND improved on Bob’s version.
Some might say that that’s not too surprising. The song is from what critics called a lesser album for the group. Of course, a lesser Band album is the equal of most others’ best work. From the album “Cahoots”, here is When I Paint My Masterpiece.
Among classical composers, OTTORINO RESPIGHI stands out as one who really loved Rome.
Although he was from Bologna, Otto seemed to have an inordinate fondness for the city (he's probably not alone in that), witness his tone poems The Fountains of Rome, The Pines of Rome and Roman Festival.
I’ll go with the fountains, and the composition Fountains of Rome - The Fountain of Valle Giulia at Dawn.