Song of the Day: A Better Day Will Come features the words and music of Carl E. K. Johnson and James Torme, son of the late, great jazz singer Mel Torme. I first discovered James when I highlighted his rendition [YouTube link] of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" (title track from his debut album) in this year's tribute to the Tony Awards. Today is young Torme's 42nd birthday, and I'd like to highlight a few tracks from that fine album both today and tomorrow. I'm prevented from putting some of them up as "Songs of the Day," because they are already on my ever-growing list (for example, his rendition of the MJ classic [YouTube link] "Rock with You," his version of the Joseph Kosma-Johnny Mercer jazz standard [YouTube link] "Autumn Leaves," and his rendition of the Alan Jay Lerner song from the musical "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" [YouTube link], the jazzy "Come Back to Me"). Check out this Torme-penned track, with its melodic line and rhythmic feel [YouTube link]. This song won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest Award for Best Jazz Song in 2009.
Song of the Day: I'll Never Smile Again, words and music by Ruth Lowe, has the distinction of being the first #1 single on the "National List of Best Selling Retail Records," the first national Billboard chart, 75 years ago this week. The recording by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, with the Pied Pipers and a young singer named Frank Sinatra, hit Number One on the 27th of July 1940 and held onto the top spot for 12 weeks. There had been other charts, compiled from sheet music sales and "music machines" (or phonographs), but this was the first that polled retailers. The song has been recorded in other wonderful renditions, including those by the Ink Spots, the Platters, and a spirited jazz rendition by Bill Evans [YouTube links] from the album "Interplay," featuring guitar great Jim Hall, trumpeter extraordinaire Freddie Hubbard, and the immortal rhythm section of bassist Percy Heath and drummer Philly Joe Jones. But this Dorsey rendition is perhaps most important because it helps us to spotlight the centennial year of the birth of the Chairman of the Board, something we will officially celebrate from Thanksgiving 2015 until Ol' Blue Eyes' 100th birthday on 12 December 2015. Enjoy the sounds of a melancholy Grammy Hall of Fame recording that should only bring smiles to every listener [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: You're a Grand Old Flag features the music and lyrics of George M. Cohan. It was actually written for his 1906 stage musical, "George Washington Jr." All I know is that I came from an era when we were taught songs such as this in elementary school, and they made an indelible mark on my educational upbringing. I know the words backwards and forwards, and no matter how many Yahoos love it, there is a humble quality inherent in its lyric, for no matter how deeply it tributes the "free and the brave," it is "never a boast or a brag." Check out the wonderful version performed by James Cagney, the iconic gangster who won an Academy Award for Best Actor, playing one of the great song and dance men of all time, in the 1942 bio flick, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" on YouTube. And a Happy Independence Day. May the revolution that made every heart beat true for the "red, white, and blue" live forever!
Song of the Day: One, a song written by Harry Nilsson, and covered by Three Dog Night in 1969, reached the Top 5 on the Billboard pop chart. It was also among the Top 40 songs on the Stonewall Inn jukebox on this date in that year, when the historic riots against police raids took place. I mark this date each year, which today inspires the annual NYC LGBT Pride Parade. Indeed, it takes just One individual to stand up and fight for the right to exist and to pursue personal happiness. One may be "the loneliest number," as the lyric says, but in the wee small hours of this date (most people were actually out on the night of June 27th, but it was technically after midnight when the 27th melted into the 28th), and the NYPD pushed into the Stonewall Inn for just another routine raid. This time there would be nothing routine about it. Many Ones stood up and pushed back. Long live the Stonewall Rebellion and freedom and equality under the rule of law! Check out the Three Dog Night rendition on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Leave Me Alone, words and music by Michael Jackson, appeared initially only on CD versions of his post-Thriller album, "Bad." Today marks the sixth anniversary of the entertainer's passing. It's a sad anniversary for those of us who continue to enjoy the gifts he left behind. (Yesterday, we remembered James Horner, who also had a connection to MJ: he did the scoring for "Captain EO" [YouTube full-length clip].) Check out the song, with its irresistable melodic hook and shuffle beat matched to stunning video visuals on YouTube. That work received a Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 1990. And while you're at it, check out the Pentatronix Tribute to the Evolution of Michael Jackson [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Apollo 13 ("Re-Entry and Splashdown") [YouTube link], music by James Horner, is an appropriate way to honor the brilliant composer who passed away tragically on 22 June 2015 in a plane crash. The 1995 film, directed by Ron Howard, and starring Tom Hanks, is a tribute to the rational human spirit,which triumphs against all odds. This particular cue gives us a glimpse of Horner's manner of exhibiting the central theme of a film score through a prism of variations that both reflect and propel the action on screen. He did this through over 150 soundtracks, from "Aliens" to "Titanic," an unforgettable legacy to the art of the score.
Song of the Day: Horror of Dracula ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by James Bernard, captures all the genuine horror of the Hammer Studio's 1958 red-blooded color reboot of the classic Bram Stoker tale. The film starred the late, great Christopher Lee in the title role, with Peter Cushing playing his classic nemesis, Dr.Van Helsing, in this and a few vampire sequels (though the two starred in 22 films together, ranging from "Hamlet" to Hammer Horror). Lee passed away this week but left a stupendous legacy of chills and thrills for his legion of fans in the horror, fantasy, and sci-fi genres (indeed, who can forget his classic duel as Count Dooku with Yoda in "Star Wars, Episode Two: Attack of the Clones" [YouTube link]. He will be missed.
Song of the Day: The King and I ("Shall We Dance?"), music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, was featured in the original 1951 production, which won the Tony for Best Musical, based on the Margaret Landon novel, "Anna and the King of Siam," which was made into a 1946 film drama, starring Rex Harrison as the King and Irene Dunne as Anna. Tonight, it's up for Best Revival of a Musical. On the stage and in the 1956 film, the role of the King of Siam was played by Yul Brynner (who, that same year, portrayed Ramesses, the Pharaoh, in DeMille's classic epic, "The Ten Commandments"). Brynner won the Tony and the Oscar for the role of the King of Siam, etc. etc. etc. In the film, Brynner played opposite Oscar-nominated Deborah Kerr (whose singing voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon), and in the original musical, he played opposite Tony Award winner Gertrude Lawrence. Check out the original Broadway version and the scene from the 1956 film. In any event, it seems so apropos that I highlight a musical that stars an actor who played a King and a Pharaoh both in the same year, for yesterday, American Pharoah (yes, that's the spelling) became King of the World. So before ending this year's mini-tribute to the music that has graced the Broadway stage, I am just delighted that my "Song of the Day" yesterday hit the nail on the head, so-to-speak; congratulations to American Pharoah for taking the first Triple Crown in 37 years, the 4th in my lifetime and only the 12th thoroughbred to achieve this since its nineteenth-century inception. Though, for me, nothing comes close to Secretariat, who ended a 25-year drought in Triple Crown winners extending back in time to Citation in 1948, for it was Secretariat who set records for the fastest run in all three legs of the Triple Crown (1:59 2/5 in the Kentucky Derby; 1:53 seconds in the Preakness Stakes; and a scorching 2:24 seconds flat to run the 1.5 miles of that grueling third leg in the Belmont Stakes (after all, "if you can make here, you can make it anywhere"). Moreover, Secretariat achieved his third victory by 31 lengths over the second-place finisher. None of this takes away from yesterday's winner. I'm glad I witnessed Seatle Slew and Affirmed take the last two trips to the Triple Crown in 1977 and 1978, respectively, but I was beginning to doubt we'd ever see another winner, considering that we're waiting 37 years in annual disappointment. So three cheers for American Pharoah. I'm so happy, well, I could just ask the next person I see: "Shall We Dance?" (Julie Andrews and Ben Vereen cover). And three cheers for those productions that are honored in tonight's Tony Awards. And so ends our annual mini-Broaday tribute, even if it was interspersed with a little sports history.
[Ed.: It looks like I picked two winners: "The King and I" won "Best Revival" and American Pharoah revived the Triple Crown!]
Song of the Day: Guys and Dolls ("Luck Be a Lady"), music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, was among those songs to grace this 1950 Broadway musical that won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It is also an appropriate song for the day; like in the musical, the action takes place in New York, and nothing is needed more than Luck, for today, American Pharoah races for The Triple Crown at Belmont Park. Check out the original Broadway version sung by Robert Alda (as the character "Sky Masterson") and the 1955 film version delivered by Marlon Brando. Check out other wonderful treatments of the song by Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. And Go American Pharoah!.
Song of the Day: I Wish You Love was a French popular song from the 1940s, with music by Leo Chauliac and Charles Trenet, who also composed the lyrics (the song's original title is "Que reste-t-il no amours?"). It was rendered into English by Albert A. Beach. And it was one of the most famous moments in a 1967 one-woman show at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre given by Marlene Dietrich. In the show, Marlene was backed by Burt Bacharach and his huge orchestra, featuring a song list that included this famous tune, later immortalized in a television concert special, "An Evening with Marlene Dietrich." Check out Marlene's version and Keely Smith's version, which became her signature tune.
Song of the Day: Godspell ("Day by Day"), music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (with a little help from Episcopal hymnals), offers a contemporary take on the Gospel of Matthew (with a few parables taken from the Gospel of Luke). This particular song is an uplifting track from the musical that reached #13 on the Billboard pop singles chart. The musical debuted Off Broadway in 1971, though it made it to Broadway in a 2011 revival. There was also a 1973 film version. Here is a recording from the original Off Broadway cast album [YouTube].
Song of the Day: Love For Sale, composed by the great Cole Porter, made its debut on the Broadway stage in the 1930 musical, "The New Yorkers," which starred Jimmy Durante. Kathryn Crawford first sang the scandalous song from the perspective of those in the world's oldest profession, but the song was banned from radio play, and eventually given to an African American woman to sing, Elisabeth Welch [YouTube link], making it more acceptable in some circles. One of the classic jazz standards, it has been recorded by so many great singers and instrumentalists; check out versions by Stan Kenton, Johnny Smith, Harry Connick, Jr., Billie Holiday (with pianist Oscar Peterson), Jack Teagarden, Anita O'Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis, Mel Torme, and his son, James Torme (who also does an interesting take on MJ's "Rock with You"), Dinah Washington, and a guitar duet with Joe Pass and Herb Ellis [all YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Funny Girl ("Who are You Now?"), music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, is a song (like "The Music That Makes Me Dance") that was dropped from the 1968 film version, even though it is a highlight from Act II of the 1964 Broadway musical. In her role as the legendary entertainer, Fanny Brice, Barbra Streisand delivers the song with poignancy. Check it out on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Gypsy ("Let Me Entertain You"), music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is the perfect way to start off our mini-tribute to Broadway musicals, as we approach the Tony Awards, which will air live Sunday, June 7th, on CBS. In the original Jerome Robbins-directed and choreographed 1959 production, which did not win in any of the eight categories for which it was nominated, this tune was performed by Sandra Church [YouTube link], who plays the celebrated striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. It was also performed in the 1962 film version by Natalie Wood [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Bugle Call Rag, composed by Jack Pettis, Bill Meyers, and Elmer Schoebel, was first recorded as "Bugle Call Blues" in 1922 by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (whose personnel included Pettis and Schoebel). Taking a lick from the military morning trumpet call, the song jumps off and swings to a glorious finish. Nothing, but NOTHING compares to the Dean Kincaide-arranged version that was delivered on live radio by the Benny Goodman Big Band, featuring an utterly scorching solo by Harry James. James was so much the matinee idol of the jazz trumpet that my mother, a screaming teenager back then, nearly fell out of the balcony of the Brooklyn Paramount, watching him in concert with the Goodman band. You can listen to many of the actual studio recordings of BG during the era, but it was in live performance that the great clarinetist earned his stripes as the King of Swing. Check it out on YouTube and also the original 1922 Kings rendition, a rendition by Jack Pettis and His Pets in 1929, a Glenn Miller version, and one by the 101 Strings Orchestra. Memorial Day is normally a somber holiday; let's take a cue from the New Orleans spirit that remembered the dead with musical celebration; if the departed were going to Paradise, they'd have soared there with this jazz classic.
Song of the Day: Ghosttown features the music and lyrics of Jason Evigan, Evan Bogart, Sean Douglas, and Madonna who recorded the song for her newest album "Rebel Heart." The album track is performed as a ballad on her new album [YouTube link], But the song gains distinction this week as the 45th No. 1 single to chart Billboard's Dance Club Songs, the most of any Number One single on any chart in the history of Billboard. Among the remixers who took the song to Number One, check out the Dirty Pop Mix, DJ Mike Cruz NYC Club Mix, Offer Nissam Drama Mix, Razor N Guido Remix, and the S-Man Mix. And while you're at it, check out the Billboard Music Awards tonight.
Song of the Day: Let the Good Times Roll, words and music by New Orleans-blues singer Sam Theard and his wife Fleecie Moore, was first recorded by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five [YouTube link] for the 1947 film, "Reet, Petite, and Gone." The song has been recorded by so many different artists from so many different genres. But yesterday, the King of the Blues passed away [clip of Eric Clapton's eulogy]. And so today, I give you three Monarchs, and maybe One in waiting: Tony Bennett, joining B. B. King on vocals (who always played a mean blues guitar), from the Bennett album "Playin' with My Friends." And check out the live Bobby Bland and B. B. King version as well [YouTube link]. This King knew had to live; his discography will let the good times roll as long as human beings have the capacity to hear. Long live the King. Tonight, you can check out more blues royalty, a biopic of the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith, played by Queen Latifah in "Bessie." (And let's not forget Ben E.King.) And here's to what I hope will be a Monarch-in-Waiting: American Pharoah, winner of the Kentucky Derby, has just won the 140th running of the Preakness Stakes, the second victory on the way to the Belmont and the Triple Crown.
Song of the Day: Salt Peanuts includes composer credits for the great be-bop pioneers, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, and drummer Kenny Clarke. Many recordings of this be bop standard exist; it cannot be called lyrically dense, but it is a lot of fun. It was most famously recorded on this date by the great Dizzy Gillespie and his All Stars in New York for Guild Records in 1945 [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: The Charleston, composed by stride pianist James P. Johnson, with lyrics by Cecil Mack, was featured in the all-black Broadway musical comedy "Runnin' Wild," which debuted at the New Colonial Theatre on October 29, 1923. One of the most famous recordings of this jazz age standard was recorded in France on April 21,1937 by the Quintette du Hot Club de France, featuring violinist extraordinaire Stephane Grappelli, the immortal jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, guitar sidemen Pierre Ferret and Marcel Bianchi, and bassist Louis Vola. Established far away from the American soil that originated the art form, the Quintette contributed to the rise of jazz as a genuine global cultural contribution. And subsequently, the group had a huge impact on American jazz musicians. Indeed, Reinhardt alone is credited as one of the most influential guitarists in jazz history. As Bill Dahl put it: "Despite two fingers on his fretting hand being substantially paralyzed due to injuries suffered in a fire before he hit the bigtime, Reinhardt made more mesmerizing magic on his axe without those digits than the vast majority of fretsmen do with the standard allotment of five. Les Paul, Chet Atkins, B. B. King, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel, Joe Pass [whose "For Django" album remains one of the milestones in the evolution of the jazz guitar -- ed.], George Benson, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Willie Nelson, Jeff Beck, and Jerry Garcia have all reverently sung his praises over the years." Check out the Quintette recording on YouTube. Today is International Jazz Day, so named by UNESCO in 2011, followed by a UN festival kick-off in 2012 on this date and celebrated annually ever since. This year's festival takes place in Paris, France and kicks off today. Vive Le Jazz Hot!
Song of the Day: Uptown Funk features the words and music of Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, whose vocals are delivered with flair on Ronson's recording, a selection from his album, Uptown Special. The song just ended its 14-week reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Its got a great throwback groove, with a touch of The Time and early Prince. Check out the hilarious official video on YouTube along with a live performance on SNL.
Song of the Day: King of Kings ("The Pieta"/"The Sepulcher"/"Resurrection") [YouTube link], composed by the great Miklos Rozsa for the 1961 film of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, marks the moment of his death, burial, and resurrection, which today is celebrated by Eastern Orthodox Christians. The film, directed by Nicholas Ray, who was known for his work in "Rebel without a Cause" (starring James Dean), acts as a prelude to the tumultuous 1960s. In that decade, revolutionaries of many faiths forged a civil rights movement by means both violent and nonviolent. Indeed, change "by any means necessary," a Sartrean phrase extolled by Malcolm X, echoes Ray's characterization of the Judean rebel Barabbas (played by Harry Guardino) who opposed Roman aggression with violence. The character says he wants "freedom," but he differs from Jesus only in the means by which to achieve it. By contrast, Jesus is portrayed by Ray as a nonviolent revolutionary, echoing the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., a rebel with cause who died violently as the Christ he worshipped. To all of my friends and family who are celebrating today (my maternal grandfather, Vasilios P. Michalopoulos was, after all, the founder of the first Greek Orthoodox Church in Brooklyn, the Three Hierarchs Church on Avenue P and East 18th Street), I say: Christos Anesti! It comes at a time that for believers and pagans alike is a season of rebirth: Hope Springs Eternal.
Song of the Day: What a Little Moonlight Can Do, words and music by Harry M. Woods, appears as the first track on "The Centennial Collection," marking, today, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billie Holiday, whose repertoire ran from swing to blues, and whose voice captured the depth of struggles both personal and societal. A life cut short by the long-term tragic effects of substance abuse, she was a trailblazer for so many singers who followed, from Frank Sinatra (whose centennial we celebrate later this year) to Janis Joplin to Cassandra Wilson (who issues a tribute album of her own this week). And for those who haven't seen the underappreciated, heart-wrenching 1972 bio-pic, "Lady Sings the Blues," do check out the Oscar-nominated performance of Diana Ross. I picked this tune (first performed by Violet Loraine in the 1934 film, "Road House"), for, despite her personal agony, Holiday could swing through the sadness. Listen to her on YouTube [music link] in 1935 with the Teddy Wilson Orchestra, in a recording that also features the King of Swing, Benny Goodman. Long Live Lady Day!
Song of the Day: King of Kings ("Jesus Enters Jerusalem"/"A Tempest in Judea"/"Defeat"/"False") [YouTube link], composed by Maestro Miklos Rozsa, is featured as the cue in this 1961 Biblical epic, when Jesus of Nazareth (played by Jeffrey Hunter) enters the city of Jerusalem during the season of the Passover on what has become known as "Palm Sunday" in Christianity. It is at once triumphal, while also providing an undercurrent of unrest among a populace dominated by the forces of Rome. For those who celebrate Easter in Western Christianity and Passover in Judaism, I extend my good wishes for the season. Next Sunday is the Eastern Orthodox Easter, which will be marked by another Song of the Day tribute.
Song of the Day: The Fool on the Hill, credited to Lennon and McCartney (though written by Paul alone), was recorded in 1967 and included on The Beatles's "Magical Mystery Tour" album and film. It's a great song for an April Fool's Day; check out the original version by the Beatles, and also a really nice bossa-tinged rendition recorded by Sergio Mendez and Brasil 66 [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Tonight May Have To Last Me All My Life, words and music by Donald Borzage and Johnny Mercer, is a song I discovered on a 1964 Nancy Wilson album, called "Today, Tomorrow, Forever." Where the hell have I been that I never heard this gem before? Beautiful song, and beautifully delivered by the always beautiful Nancy, with some nice guitar accompaniment by John Gray. Check it out on YouTube. What a nice way to begin a Vernal Equinox; after the lousy 2014-2015 winter (with more snow predicted today), the arrival of Spring tonight can last me all my life, indeed! Allergies included!
Song of the Day: The Godfather ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Nino Rota, is the central musical motif of one of the greatest motion pictures ever filmed, directed by the incomparable Francis Ford Coppola, who won an Oscar as co-writer of the adapted screenplay, with the author of the original novel, Mario Puzo. It starred Best Actor-winning Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, and a terrific supporting cast, including Al Pacino, who went on to film two sequels to this Oscar-winning Best Picture. Rota received a Grammy for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture or TV Special, but was ruled ineligible for the Oscars; that travesty was corrected when he won (with Carmine Coppola) for his brilliant score to The Godfather Part II. It's the Ides of March; but instead of commemorating Julius Caesar on the famous day of his assassination, I recommend this film about a few modern-day "Caesars" in the criminal pantheon.
Song of the Day: We are the World, words and music by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, was released on this date in 1985. A quintessential Quincy Jones production, the song raised millions of dollars to feed the hungry through USA for Africa. It brought together performers from every genre of music, everybody from Ray Charles, Billy Joel, and Cyndi Lauper to Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Wonder. Its melodic hook brought it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of an enduring musical collaboration. It took a lot of work and received four Grammys: Record of the Year; Song of the Year; Best Music Video, Short Form, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Check out the official video on YouTube.
Song of the Day: The Sound of Music ("So Long, Farewell"), music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is heard a couple of times in the 1965 Best Picture. It's a lovely ensemble piece. We get to relish it, and each of the children's characters, at a Von Trapp party gathering. Later, it is performed as the finale to the Salzburg Festival, providing the family the means by which to escape from the Nazis, who are waiting in the wings to force Captain Von Trapp into naval service for the hated Third Reich. The film sequences leading up to the family's tense escape from the Nazis gives us just one more indication of the film's depth. It encapsulates moments of love, hope, betrayal, and suspense against the backdrop of one of the ugliest periods of twentieth-century history. In the end, of course, as I conclude my mini-celebration of the Golden Anniversary of this cinematic triumph, we are reminded that it is the liberating sound of music that symbolically vanquishes the forces of evil. Check out the version at the party and the reprise featured in the concert finale [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: The Sound of Music ("Edelweiss"), music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is the one song in this splended film that sounds as if it is a genuine folk song. It is sung by Captain von Trapp toward the close of the film, near the end of a concert sequence that unites the audience through Austrian cultural solidarity, in the ominous shadows of the Anschluss, the Nazi annexation of Austria. The Captain is to be forcibly enlisted into the naval ranks of the Third Reich. So this song is performed by actor Christopher Plummer with both poignance and defiance. He nearly loses his voice as he chokes back tears, but the Von Trapp Family Singers join him, for they are planning to escape to freedom at the conclusion of the Salzburg Festival talent competition. Still, this song, named after the white flower found in the Austrian Alps, has all the sound of a folk culture that the Nazis must crush. At the young age of five years old, I initially resisted seeing this movie that everybody was talking about. Who wants to go see some silly musical event with a mob? Even then, I was exhibiting an individualistic interest in history and politics, rather than Broadway show tunes! But I went to the Highway Theatre in Brooklyn, grudgingly, and the songs and performances slowly carressed me. Entertainment morphed into an historical narrative of the growing Nazi threat, on the precipice of World War II. I was hooked. I've been in love with this film, and this song, ever since. Check it out on YouTube.
Song of the Day: The Sound of Music ("Something Good"), is one of two songs written exclusively for the 1965 film by Richard Rodgers, whose collaborator Oscar Hammerstein II, passed away in 1960. The song provides a sweet romantic moment between Maria (played by Julie Andrews) and the Captain (played by Christopher Plummer). Having left the abbey, Maria has opened herself up to explore a new world, rich with love and possibility. Listen to it on YouTube.
Song of the Day: The Sound of Music ("Do-Re-Mi"), music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, truly "start[s] at the very beginning," as Maria teaches the basic building blocks of music to the Von Trapp kids in the wonderful 1965 film. Check out the full version of this delightful song from the beloved film on YouTube.
Song of the Day: The Sound of Music ("I Have Confidence"), music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers, was written exclusively for the 1965 Best Picture Oscar winner, "The Sound of Music," a film that was released 50 years ago on this date. Oscar Hammerstein II had provided the lyrics for the original 1959 Broadway musical (it was the final Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration), which tied with Fiorello! for Best Musical at the 14th Annual Tony Awards. Hammerstein had passed away in 1960, five years before the debut of the celebrated film version. Many songs from this musical have become part of the Great American Songbook, and I have already included several in "My Favorite Songs," the classic "My FavoriteThings" (especially this terrific jazz version by my brother Carl Barry, a superb jazz guitarist, with my scorching sister-in-law, vocalist Joanne Barry), the inspirational" Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and the title song. Three songs from the Broadway production: "An Ordinary Couple" (featuring the Tony Award-winning Leading Actress of that year Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel), "How Can Love Survive?" and "No Way to Stop It" were cut from the film version, while two were added, including this wonderful song, delivered by the incomparable Julie Andrews as she makes her way to the Von Trapp household from the convent, where her desire to be a nun is still-born, once she falls in love with Captain Von Trapp, played in the film by Christopher Plummer. The audience gave a much-deserved standing ovation to Lady Gaga's tribute to the Golden Anniversary of "The Sound of Music" on this year's Oscar telecast, as did Andrews, who was brought on stage by Gaga. Over the next few days, I'll be featuring songs from the film, one of my favorite musicals of all time. Check out the song from the soundtrack album.
Song of the Day: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Leonard Rosenman who was nominated for Best Original Score for this 1986 film. This theme takes its first cue from the original television theme, as provided by composer Alexander Courage, and then takes us back to old civilizations (1980s America) in search of the extinct species of humpback whales, whose calls will reply to an alien signal that threatens life as we know it. I don't think there is a more joyous, more enduring "Star Trek" film in the whole film franchise, and some of the credit rests on the great shoulders of Leonard Nimoy, whose Mr. Spock has become an institution of Americana. Sadly, Nimoy passed away today, but Spock will go on and on: Live Long and Prosper, indeed.
Song of the Day: Sunday in New York ("Taxi") [YouTube link], composed by Peter Nero, is another jazzy cue from the 1963 film, from whose soundtrack we began this year's February Film Music Tribute. We close this year's film music salute, and look forward to seeing this evening who will join the ranks of winners in Oscar music history. So on this "Sunday in New York," our eyes (and ears) turn toward Hollywood. Till next year...
Song of the Day: The Charge of the Light Brigade ("The Charge") [Screen Archives Entertainment mp3 link], written by the legendary Golden Age film score composer Max Steiner, captures the excitement of the climactic scene in this 1936 film, starring the swashbuckling Errol Flynn. This is one of the great Oscar-nominated soundtracks in cinema history. Check it out as well on YouTube (as conducted by William Stromberg).
Song of the Day: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ("Mischief Managed!") [YouTube link], composed by John Williams, is a grand suite from the 2004 third installment of the eight films that make up the most successful film franchise in cinema history.
Song of the Day: Dante's Peak ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by James Newton Howard, opens this exciting 1997 Man versus Nature film. The film stars Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton and some truly explosive special effects. And any film that carries the name "Dante" (the name of our cat) has something special indeed.
Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Overture") [YouTube link] composed by Master Maestro Miklos Rozsa, encapsulates all the main thematic content of my favorite soundtrack (and film) of all time. It's become a tradition on my birthday to pick a cue from this 11-Academy Award-winning 1959 film (a total equaled by "Titanic" and the third installment of "Lord of the Rings," but never surpassed, and neither of those films received Oscars in any of the acting categories). For TCM fans, the film airs tonight from 8 pm to midnight (EST, followed by "Psycho"). Coincidence? Divine inspiration? All I know is that I turn 55 today; my loving Dad passed away in 1972, three months short of his 56th birthday. So I figure if I beat that, I'm good for another 55. Right now, I count my blessings that my eyes open every morning. I count my blessings for the passion of my work and for the love and support of my family and my friends. Cheers to a life worth living. For that reason alone, indeed, I shall "row well, and live." Even if I do get a little "Psycho" now and then; it keeps life interesting!
Song of the Day: Some Like It Hot ("I'm Through with Love") is a 1931 gem with music by Matty Malnek (a long-time family friend back in the day) and Joseph "Fud" Livingston, lyrics by Gus Kahn, but it was popularized by Marilyn Monroe, who was terrific in this Billy Wilder 1959 classic comedy. The film featured Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon running around in drag, to escape the Mob, for having witnessed the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre (speaking of Valentine's Day!). The mobster, "Spats" Colombo, is played to the hilt by George Raft. It is just one of the funniest comedies to have ever been committed to celluloid (#1 on the AFI list). This song is delivered with memorable heartbreak by Marilyn [YouTube film link].
Song of the Day: Help! ("Ticket to Ride"), music and lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was recorded 50 years ago on this date. It was released in April of that year, and is actually the first single from the Beatles's comic odyssey, "Help!." The Golden Anniversary of the film and the music in it gives us an opportunity to celebrate, once again, the impact of the Beatles on pop music. Check out the #1 Billboard hit on YouTube (and check out a live version of the title track from the film). I know the wonderful "A Hard Day's Night" (1964), is considered the greater artistic achievement, but "Help!" was, in my view, just a more fun film to watch (with little nods to the cultural phenomena of the day, including Bond, James Bond).
Song of the Day: The Caddy ("That's Amore"), music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Jack Brooks, is the Oscar-nominated song from this 1953 Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy. The song is a Dean Martin signature tune. Here is the scene from the film and the classic Dean Martin recording [YouTube links]. And what better way to say "Happy Valentine's Day," than with "That's Amore."
Song of the Day: Random Harvest ("Opening Title") [Screen Archives Entertainment link], composed by Herbert Stothart, opens a gorgeously romantic love story, perfect on the eve of Valentine's Day. The 1942 film starred Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. Stothart won an Oscar for his Original Score for "The Wizard of Oz," and received an Oscar nomination for this score. If the ending of this film doesn't leave you with a lump in your throat, you've lost that lovin' feelin'.
Song of the Day: Hello, Frisco, Hello ("You'll Never Know"), music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Mack Gordon, was introduced in the 1943 film by Alice Faye, but it has had many memorable renditions, including those of Frank Sinatra, Dick Haymes, Rosemary Clooney with the great trumpeter Harry James, Shirley Bassey, and was the first song ever recorded by Babs [YouTube links]. This standard from the Great American SongbName
Song of the Day: The Best Years of Our Lives ("Main Title") [YouTube link] is featured in the Oscar-winning Score (of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) composed by Hugo Friedhofer. The 1946 "Best Picture" showed us some of the horrific, lingering physical and psychological effects of war (even so-called "good wars") on those who survive it. Best Director William Wyler took home one of seven competitive gold statuettes won by this superb film (the producer, Samuel Goldwyn, also won the Irving Thalberg award and another individual also received an honorary award---more on that in a moment). A deserved Oscar went to Best Actor Frederic March (though Dana Andrews, Myrna Loy, and Teresa Wright are all equally wonderful in their roles). The Best Supporting Actor, Harold Russell, also received an honorary award for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." Russell had lost both hands in World War II, and got along just fine with two hooks. One philosopher from whose work I have learned much, apparently despised this film and "It's a Wonderful Life" (for shame!), because it had subliminal pink propaganda (like references to bankers "with a heart," etc.). I could write a few articles about how far she missed the mark (like I did for "A Christmas Carol" and "Ben-Hur"), but, suffice it to say, sometimes you can appreciate works of art on many different levels, even if some mixed premises ooze into the script. This film came out a year after the end of the most horrific war in human history, one that this particular philosopher opposed. But there's a reason the American public responded to the film. The struggles of its survivng veterans were palpable and resonated with its war weary audience. One of the aspects of this film that got well deserved recognition was Friedhofer's soundtrack. And for that, Bravo, Maestro!
Song of the Day: Notorious ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Roy Webb, opens this 1946 suspense film with a lovely romantic theme with ominous undertones. This was the second collaboration of two cinematic giants: Director Alfred Hitchcock and Actor Cary Grant, who share the distinction of never having won an Oscar in a competitive category. They did receive honorary Oscars at the end of their careers (for which Hitchcock said at the podium, "Thank you"). It is said that Grant swore never to make another film with Hitchcock after "Suspicion" (1941), but this second collaboration, which co-starred the wonderful Ingrid Bergman, is a classic stomach churner. Bergman starred previously in Hitchcock's "Spellbound" (1945) and with her other "Notorious" co-star, Claude Rains, in "Casablanca" back in 1942. Like "Casablanca," this film has its share of villainous Nazis. Grant and Hitchcock would go on to make two additional films together: "To Catch a Thief," and my favorite one of all: "North by Northwest." "Charade" could be mistaken for a Grant-Hitchcock collaboration, but alas, it wasn't (though it's often referenced as "the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made").
Song of the Day: Anatomy of a Murder ("Flirtibird") [YouTube link], composed by jazz legend Duke Ellington, captures the salacious, scandalous themes explored in this superb 1959 courtroom drama, starring a wonderful cast that included Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, and George C. Scott. Seductive and sexually charged, this track was also recorded by the great Duke, featuring his cornet player Ray Nance (who could also play a mean jazz violin). Check it out on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Rocky ("Gonna Fly Now") was composed by Bill Conti, with lyrics by Carol Collins and Ayn Robbins, and was performed on the soundtrack album with vocalists DeEtta Little and Nelson Pigford. The song defined a series of films tracing the boxing adventures of Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone) and in American popular culture, it has become a song celebrating the champion character of the underdog. Indeed, it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of July 2, 1977, a virtual theme signifying the victory of the American underdog against the British Empire, which culminated in a Declaration of Independence on July 4th (Stallone himself was born on July 6th). Indeed, "Rocky" became the little "underdog" picture that could: It was 1977's Best Picture of the Year, though Conti lost in the Best Original Song Oscar category (he also lost in the Scoring ctegory to "Star Wars" composer John Williams, at the 20th Annual Grammy Awards). Check out the Grammy Awards tonight, and check out the Conti single [YouTube link] as well as a terrific rendition by the big band of Maynard Ferguson [YouTube link], a trumpeter whose high notes have sometimes challenged the superior hearing of dogs. But this human thinks the Rocky track Rocks!
Song of the Day: My Cousin Vinny ("Bible Belt") was written and performed by Travis Tritt over the end credits to this utterly hilarious 1992 film, with wonderful performances by Joe Pesci, and Best Supporting Actress Oscar-winner MarisaTomei, who nailed it perfectly: she is the quintessential cinematic cuginette. Maybe only genuine Brooklynites can truly appreciate all the in-jokes and hilarity of the Brooklynese on display in this comedic classic. The original version of this song appeared on Tritt's 1991 album, "It's All About to Change," with different lyrics; check out the original here (featuring Little Feat) [YouTube link]. But Tritt actually re-wrote the lyrics specifically for this film and those lyrics fully encapsulate the film's plot and theme. Check it out on YouTube.
Song of the Day: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ("It's On Again") was composed by Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar, with a little help from Pharrell Williams, all in collaboration with Hans Zimmer, who scored this second film, released in 2014, in the Andrew Garfield reboot of one of my favorite superheroes. I mean he's not from Gotham City or Metropolis, pale copies of the real New York! He's from Forest Hills, Queens! Check it out on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Blues in the Night ("Blues in the Night"), music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, earned its place in the Great American Songbook. The title track of the 1941 film (the film's working title was actually "Hot Nocturne"), it was nominated for a Best Song Oscar, but lost to "The Last Time I Saw Paris" (from "Lady Be Good"). The song was delivered on film by William Gillespie (YouTube link), but there have been so many superb versions of this trailblazing American song; check out renditions by Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Jimmie Lunceford, Artie Shaw (with Hot Lips Page on vocals), Rosemary Clooney, Jo Stafford, Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee, an ambitious Mel Torme-Buddy Rich collaboration, Quincy Jones (whose version is heard in the 2001 film version of "Ocean's Eleven"), and there's even a take on the song by jazz-rock fusion band Chicago [all YouTube links]. Talk about a cross-generational impact. This one's a keeper.
Song of the Day: Erin Brockovich ("Useless") [YouTube link] is a composition by Thomas Newman of the very famous Newman Dynasty. He is the youngest son of the immortal Alfred Newman, one of the greatest film score composers from the Golden Age of Hollywood. That dynasty also ncludes brrother David, uncles Lionel and Emil, cousin Randy, and nephew Joey. Despite 12 Oscar nominations, Thomas Newman has yet to win a golden statuette; but his minimalist score for the 2000 film "Erin Brockovich" is one of his best. The film features a superb Best Actress Oscar-winning performance by the irrepressible Julia Roberts in the title role.
Song of the Day: Ocean's Eleven ("Title Sequence") [YouTube link], composed by Nelson Riddle and designed by Saul Bass, is a swinging affair for the chicest of chic Rat Pack films, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson, and so many other wonderful performers who hit the Vegas Strip for the ultimate scam. But the real question is if those Groundhogs are scamming us, because it looks like it's going to be a long winter up here in the Northern hemisphere. Thank goodness we're kept warm by this hot and fiery Nelson Riddle chart from the original (and best) 1960 version of the film.
Song of the Day: Sunday in New York ("On Frantic Fifth") [YouTube link], music by the very jazzy Brooklyn-born Peter Nero, gets Our Annual Film Music February Off To A Flying Start. Nero even appears in the 1963 film showing off his piano chops. This cue captures some of the frenzy one might find even on a beautiful "Sunday in New York." I featured the title track to this film back in 2005, the year I kicked off my tribute to cinema music (though not with a link to the Mel Torme-performed song that can be heard in the opening credits or Joe Pass on 12-string guitar [YouTube links]). So stay with us right up to 22 February 2015, the night that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards achievement in scoring and song. And if you're anywhere near the greatest city on earth, enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday in New York.
Song of the Day: Beautiful People features the music and lyrics of Marco Benassi, Allessandro Benassi, Jean Baptiste, and Chris Brown, who recorded this song in 2011. Check out the official video and Brown's performance on the 2011 VMAs. I can think of no better way to start off 2015 than with a song that tells us "It's your life" and to celebrate the love and beauty inside. A happy and healthy 2015 to all!
Song of the Day: Wonderful Christmastime features the lyrics and music of the best recorded version of this song by Paul McCartney in 1979 [YouTube link]. Members of McCartney's band, Wings, participated in the promotional video [YouTube link], but it is the Great Sir Paul that carries the sole credit. There have been covers of this song, but why try the rest when you've got The Best? It has become a seasonal staple. A Wonderful Christmastime to one and all! Now go and track Santa's progress on NORAD!
Song of the Day: Rapper's Delight is credited to Sylvia Robinson, Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, Master Gee, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, Grandmaster Caz, and Alan Hawkshaw. Big Bank Hank, aka Henry Jackson, who passed away on November 11, 2014 after a long battle with cancer, was a member of the Sugarhill Gang, which recorded this utter classic of American popular hip hop music, riffing on the infectious bass line of Chic's "Good Times" composed by Edwards and Rodgers. It also sampled from the disco hit "Here Comes that Sound Again" by Love De-luxe. In 1979, perhaps my favorite year of Disco Music [YouTube WKTU medley, though it ends prematurely], at 19 years old, there wasn't a dance club I went to that didn't feature the great 14-plus minute 12" recording of this track [YouTube link], which, in 2011, was made part of the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, among those culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant recordings of the twentieth century. We (my friends and I) could practically rap along with every word of the hilarious lyrics. "Ho-tel Mo-tel, Holiday Innnnn..."Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" gave us an equally hilarious take on this rap hit: a superb editing and splicing of footage from newsman Brian Williams (with a little help from Lester Holt and Kathy Lee Gifford). Check that out on YouTube (and check out Fallon's comedic interview with Brian Williams, Part One and Part Two and Brian doing "Baby Got Back" [YouTube links]).
Song of the Day: My Way, with English lyrics written by Paul Anka, was set to music by Claude Francois and Jacques Revaux, for the French composition, "Comme d'habitude." It was popularized by the Chairman of the Board, and though it was never my favorite Frank Sinatra recording, there is a dignity to the lyrics that cannot be denied. Derek Jeter used the song for a Gatorade commercial, in which he says farewell to his many fans. Check out that Gatorade advertisement on YouTube as well as the full song as recorded by Ol' Blue Eyes. Today, Derek Jeter completed his exemplary career in baseball with his 3,645th hit (a lifetime .310 average). He was replaced by a pinch runner, Brian McCann, after hitting a Baltimore chop in the third inning, at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. His infield hit drove in a run, and the Yanks went on to win the game 9-5. The Red Sox fans gave him a standing ovation, not only when he departed the game, but also in a pre-game ceremony honoring him (where even Yaz showed up!). The seventh inning stretch featured a rendition of "God Bless America" by Ronan Tynan (who often performed the song at Yankee Stadium) and a gorgeously arranged version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," by guitarist Bernie Williams, a former Jeter teammate. This was a classy sendoff to one of the greatest ballplayers to grace any sports field, and the Fenway crowd showed the respect and appreciation one would expect from any crowd so steeped in the history of baseball. Okay, and yes, I've been crying, and I'm going to miss one of my all-time favorite Yankees. Bless you, Derek, in all your future endeavors.
Song of the Day: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work ("Opening Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Paul Brill with Amber Rubarth, opens the 2010 documentary about the life and career of a great comedian,author, and Red Carpet fashion critic. Over the last several weeks, I feel as if celebrities have been dropping like flies: Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Don Pardo, Richard Attenborough, and now, fellow Brooklynite, Joan Rivers, who died today at the age of 81. The music is spacey and haunting with snippets of the star's comic lines. Those lines were sometimes so over the top that only a big band could match the volume of the laughter she created. I last saw her critiquing the fashions at the VMAs and the Emmys, just last week. And ultimately, it was the melody of that laughter that endures; check out some of her greatest TV moments and an E! celebration of her work. Cultural icon, outrageous, and irreverent, she was the consummate entertainer. Few people have made me laugh harder; I will miss her. Oh, grow up!
Song of the Day: Jurassic Park ("T-Rex Rescue and Finale";), composed by John Williams, is one great way to celebrate Richard Attenborough, who played the film's visionary John Hammond in this classic Spielberg dinosaur flick, "unintended consequences" gone wild. Attenborough passed away at the age of 90 on August 24th; he was a fine actor who graced such films as "The Great Escape", and who showed his Oscar-winning directorial chops on the sprawling epic that was "Gandhi". Check out this tense moment in music that brought us to the film's finale [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Loving You, music and lyrics by Michael Jackson, begins with the line: "Hello, August moon, where are the stars of the night?" This August, if MJ had been here, he would have seen a glorious moon at its closest approach to the earth in 2014. Now, like the cicadas who issue their lyrical calls every August in Brooklyn, New York, we are still "loving you" for the lyrical and melodic music you've left behind, MJ. In celebration of the day of his birth, here's a YouTube moment to cherish (and the demo too!), one of my favorite songs from his most recent posthumous album.
Song of the Day: A Place with No Name features the music and lyrics of Dewey Bunnell, Dr. Freeze, and Michael Jackson. Today begins a mini-tribute to the late King of Pop, who was born on the 29th of August 1958. This song was posthumously released as part of the recent MJ album, "Xscape". The song is, in many respects, derived from "A Horse with No Name," but has an integrity of its own, making it one of the melodic highlights of the new collection. Upon hearing a snippet of the track back in 2009, Bunnell and Gerry Beckley of America expressed their gratitude to MJ: "We're honored that Michael Jackson chose to record it and we're impressed with the quality of the track. We're also hoping it will be released soon so that music listeners around the world can hear the whole song and once again experience the incomparable brilliance of Michael Jackson. . . . Michael Jackson did [the song] justice and we truly hope his fans -- and our fans -- get to hear it in its entirety." It's really poignant." And now the world can hear it, and it is both poignant and truly wonderful. With a rhythmic pulse similar to "Leave Me Alone," the song pops; check it out on YouTube. And check out the recording MJ did prior to this album's post-production.
Song of the Day: 24 ("Theme"), composed by Sean Callery, captures all the urgency and tension of this remarkable series, for which Callery has won multiple Emmy Awards. This summer's reboot ("Live Another Day") was one of my all-time favorite seasons of this suspenseful morality tale, starring the intense Kiefer Sutherland as the tortured Jack Bauer. Check out the television version and the Full Orchestra Version. And so ends our annual mini-tribute to TV Themes. And watch the Emmy Awards tonight!
Song of the Day: Mickey Mouse Club ("The Mickey Mouse Club March") was composed by the original Disney variety show's primary adult host Jimmie Dodd. Among the original Mouseketeers were such kids as Annette Funicello and Sharon Baird. The show aired intermittently from 1955 to 1996. Check out the original march on YouTube and its 1990s update, which featured young kids named Britney (Spears), JC (Chasez) (later of NSYNC), Keri (Russell), Christina (Aguilera), and Justin (Timberlake), a few of whom went on to appear and/or win a statuette on the MTV Video Music Awards, a show that happens to be airing on TV tonight.
Song of the Day: Winky Dink and You ("Theme Song"), composed by John Marion Garth and John Redmond, was one of the most memorable TV shows of my youth. The CBS children's show was in syndicated revival by the time I was watching it. Hosted by Jack Barry (who joined Mae Questel on vocals), it is credited by Bill Gates as the first "interactive" TV show. It invited you to draw on the television screen (with protective covering, of course, though sometimes crayon marks seemed to make it onto the screen anyway). Check out the adorable track on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Queer As Folk ("Dive in the Pool"), composed and performed by Barry Harris, featuring Pepper Mashay, is a signature track from the first season of this path-breaking Showtime series, based on its British counterpart. With its "Let's Get Soak and Wet" motif, it practically defined the series. Check out the original mix on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Saturday Night Live ("Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the legendary Howard Shore and performed by the SNL Band, opens one of the longest running comedy shows on American television. And tonight, the voice of its 96-year old announcer, TV Hall of Famer Don Pardo, who has held the job for 38 seasons, has been silenced. His sad passing doesn't take away any of the joy that he brought to one of the funniest gigs on TV. In tribute to Pardo, and kicking off my annual tribute to TV themes in anticipation of the Emmy Awards (to be broadcast on August 25th), enjoy the music!! [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: To Have and Have Not ("How Little We Know") features the words and music of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael, who is the pianist accompanying Lauren Bacall in her smoldering 1944 screen debut in this film, loosely based on Ernest Hemingway's famous work. (It is "Lauren" who is mentioned among the smoldering celebrities rapped about by Madonna in her terrific dance single, "Vogue" [YouTube link].) Check out Lauren's performance of this song on YouTube. Still, Bacall's most famous words in the film had little to do with music, even if it was lyrically melodic to the ears of her co-star, and future husband, Humphrey Bogart. She tells him: "You know how to whistle, don't you Steve? You just put your lips together and blow" [YouTube link]. It left him whistling, indeed. Sadly, the accompished actress passed away yesterday at the age of 89.
Song of the Day: We Are Family, music and lyrics by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers, was a Number One 1979 R&B Hit for the group Sister Sledge. But it is eternally wedded to the hilarious 1996 comedy, "The Birdcage," which starred Nathan Lane and Robin Williams, who died yesterday from an apparent suicide. The Oscar-winning Williams was one of the most manic comedic geniuses I've ever seen in stand-up or on screen, and the grace with which he shared his talent with this world will be deeply missed. I loved him in this film, one of my favorite comedies. A remake of the 1978 film, "La Cage aux Folles," it also features great comedic turns by Gene Hackman and Hank Azaria. RIP, Robin Williams. Check out the Sister Sledge single, the 1979 Extended Dance Remix, and the scene in which it is used in the 1996 film.
Song of the Day: The Great Escape ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, is one of my all-time favorite themes from one of my all-time favorite POW adventures. And this 1963 film is full of adventure and suspense, with an all-star cast that included Steve McQueen in a sizzling iconic cinematic moment on a motorcycle trying to escape the Nazis. The film also featured the always affable, down-to-earth gentlemanly actor, James Garner, who passed away on 19 July 2014.
Song of the Day: I Will Say Goodbye, music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, is a gloriously melodic, if sad, song from the Legrand-Bergman songbook. My favorite instrumental version of the song is by jazz pianist Bill Evans [YouTube link], with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund (and it actually won a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo in 1981). Among the fine vocal interpretations are renditions by Sarah Vaughan, Jack Jones, Lena Horne (from that classic Monsanto-sponsored Legrand special), and Carmen McRae with the Shirley Horn Trio. Last night was about "Goodbye" in many ways; Derek Jeter, baseball icon, played in his final All-Star Game, and went 2 for 2, shining just as brightly on the field. He is pure class, and this Jeter fan has had teary eyes ever since he announced that this will be his last year as a professional baseball player. It's going to be tough saying goodbye at the end of the season. Check out this sweet Jordan commercial tribute [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Always, words and music by Irving Berlin, is a 1925 gem that Berlin wrote as a wedding gift for his wife. The song has been recorded so many times by artists from Frank Sinatra to Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday, who gives it a swing feel [YouTube links]. But its most memorable spin, for me, can be heard in the greatest sports film of all time, in my view, the 1942 Lou Gehrig biopic, "The Pride of the Yankees." Check out one scene from the film [YouTube link], featuring singer Bettye Avery, with Gary Cooper playing the immortal Gehrig and Teresa Wright, his wife Eleanor (Cooper and Wright received Best Actor and Actress nominations, respectively; only Wright walked away with the gold statuette, but for her Best Supporting Actress role in the Best Picture of that year, "Mrs. Miniver"). Seventy-five years ago today, Gehrig gave one of the most remarkable speeches in all of Americana, saying goodbye to 60,000+ Yankee faithful in attendance at a 1939 Indepedence Day ceremony at Yankee Stadium. Check out the speech as given by Gehrig, as emulated by Major League Baseball, and also as immortalized in celluloid history by the wonderful Cooper [YouTube links] (and that's the real Babe Ruth appearing in the film). Gehrig later passed away from ALS, a disease known to many as "Lou Gehrig's Disease." Gehrig was one of the Yankees' most memorable team captains; today's Yankee captain, Derek Jeter, in his final career season, recently tied Gehrig's franchise record for lifetime doubles. For Yankees fans, for fans of America's game, Gehrig will always be the Iron Horse; on this Independence Day, we say Happy Birthday, America, and we celebrate Gehrig and the national passtime with a song written by one of America's most celebrated songwriters.
Song of the Day: I Know A Place, words and music by Tony Hatch, was one of those perennial favorites requested by the regular clientele of the Stonewall Inn. On the weekend of 28-29 June 1969, the site became Ground Zero for a drag queen-led riot against police harassment of gay and lesbian establishments. It is among the events that gave birth to the modern American movement to protect the individual rights of gays and lesbians, and it is in honor of that event that I post this song on this date. The song was recorded most famously by Petula Clark, but has also been recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr., with the Buddy Rich Band [YouTube links], and Vi Velasco, whose rendition features jazz guitarist Carl Barry, my Bro.
Song of the Day: Rock the Boat, words and music by Waldo Holmes, was a #1 Billboard Hot 100 single, that was bubbling in the Top Ten on this very date in 1974, when Derek Jeter was born. On this date, on the occasion of his fortieth birthday, I think we can safely say that Derek has "rocked the boat" for fans of the game throughout his stellar career. Having announced that this will be his final year as a professional baseball player, Derek leaves us with many rockin' moments to remember throughout a stellar career. Check here [YouTube link] for the original Hues Corporation single and Celebrate Jeter, Captain of the Yankees, and of my pinstripe heart, now and forever.
Song of the Day: The Love You Save, music and lyrics by The Corporation, Motown's Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, and Deke Richards, went to Number One, the third of four straight number one singles released by the Jackson 5, which held that position on the Billboard chart for two weeks, 27 June through 4 July 1970. But Casey Kasem, who passed away yesterday, was always one week ahead of the curve, giving us a weekend countdown that reflected the chart of the following week's Tuesday release of Billboard. So the song had actually dropped to the number two position on the 4th of July debut show of Kasem's classic, "American Top 40 (AT40)." I can't help but credit Kasem with stoking my love of pop music as I grew up listening to his show on the radio, whether it was in the dead of winter or on the hot sands of Manhattan Beach through Brooklyn's steamiest summers. This song was one of my favorite early Jackson 5 songs, made all the more poignant because its lead singer is no longer with us either. Check out the original single here, and while you're listening, save a little love too for screen and stage actress Ruby Dee, who passed away on June 11th, the great and endearing Don Zimmer, who passed away on June 4th, and the ultimate gentle man of baseball, Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres Hall of Famer, who sadly passed away today, at the young age of 54. All of them gone too soon.
Song of the Day: Friday the 13th ("Opening Theme") [YouTube link], composed by jazzman Henry Manfredini, clearly exhibits the composer's Bernard Herrmann "Psycho" lineage. What better way to mark a rare full-moon Friday the 13th on a rainy and grim New York June day. ("I love New York in June, How About You?"... but this one's been too rainy and it feels like March!). Nevertheless, a few thunderstorms will add to the atmosphere of watching this film. Manfredini actually composed for the whole "Friday the 13th" franchise, but the original 1980 Jason was the best (especially in that famed Hockey mask, so appropriate on a weekend in which the New York Rangers are struggling for the Stanley Cup, right now having won only 1 frightening game to the LA Kings, who are one game away from winning that horror series). The first two John Carpenter produced-"Halloween" films are, in my view, better examples of the post-1960s evil slasher genre, all of which owes its spirit to Hitchcock's utterly brilliant "Psycho." In any event, Friday the 13ths have been typically "good luck" days for me, having signed contracts for books on those days, in fact, but it's always fun revisiting a horror film from the vault.
Song of the Day: Love Never Felt So Good features the music and lyrics of Paul Anka and the late great King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Is there any doubt that this lifelong fan of MJ would not have fallen in love with this new release from a posthumous collection of previously unreleased MJ tracks ("Xscape," an album critic Jim Farber gave Four Stars)? It's even better because the single features a duet with the very much alive Justin Timberlake, who has long credited MJ as being one of his greatest influences. JT gave an utterly amazing concert at the mint-condition Barclays Center in my home town of Brooklyn last year that I had the privilege of seeing; he is a remarkable, multi-talented (okay, and adorable) performer, and MJ would have been proud of the ways in which JT integrated MJ influences, including a cover of "Human Nature" in a medley with his own "What Goes Around" [YouTube clip here]. Check out the official video of this song, which is a true paean to MJ in and of itself. There's also an extended dance mix. And check out the original cover of this tune by Johnny Mathis, who released it in 1984. I'm moved to tears for all that was lost with MJ's passing, but in the sadness there are tears of joy for all that he's left behind.
Song of the Day: Wicked ("For Good"), music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, is from one of the finest Broadway musicals I've ever seen. If ever there were a musical showing us a kind of "transvaluation of values" in such an entertaining way, I don't know of one. But it was terrific, precisely because of its clever inversions, twists and turns, fabulous music, and stirring performances (in the original run that I saw ten years ago, with standouts, Tony-nominated Kristin Chenowith and Adele Dazeem). Oops, I mean, Idina Menzel, who won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. The show endures. And so does Dazeem! This past week, the 68th Annual Tony Awards celebrated the tenth anniversary year of this charming musical, which actually opened on Broadway in October of 2003, with a performance of this song, one of the best. Check it out in its Chenowith-Menzel incarnation on YouTube.
Song of the Day: That's Jazz [YouTube link], an impromptu tune put together by Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald at the Grammy Awards, broadcast in February 1976. Sadly, Mel and Ella are no longer with us; but we are living in an era where jazz is almost never mentioned (or featured) as a category during the Grammy broadcast, so seeing something like this is like the discovery of a rare gem from some sort of paleolithic era in television history. Enjoy!
Song of the Day: Despicable Me 2 ("Happy"), words and music by Pharrell Williams, is one of 2013's Oscar-nominated songs in the "Best Original Song" category. It's a #1 Billboard Hot 100 song that channels some wonderful R&B influences, from Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Check out the official music video and one that uses "Despicable Me" characters to showcase the lyrics. Watch the Oscar telecast tonight to see if it wins its category. Dare I say it: This song really makes me feel happy. And that's the way I'd like to conclude this year's tribute to film music.
Song of the Day: The Third Man (Theme) [YouTube link] is a famous theme composed by Anton Karas through extensive use of the zither, a 40-string Middle European cousin to the guitar. This 1949 film noir classic, directed by Carol Reed, stars Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten (of "Love Letters" fame, a 1945 film whose screenplay was written by Ayn Rand), and Alida Valli (of "We the Living" fame, the Italian 1942 film version of the Rand novel, later restored by Duncan Scott and re-released with English subtitles in 1986).
Song of the Day: With a Song in My Heart (title track), music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart, is sung in the 1952 film by Jane Froman, who is played by Golden Globe winner and Oscar-nominated Best Actress Susan Hayward. This biopic tells the story of Froman, who was crippled in an airplane crash on 22 February 1943, and who went on to entertain the troops in World War II, despite her serious injuries, which required nearly 40 surgical procedures in the years thereafter. The legendary Alfred Newman won the Oscar for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, and the film also received nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Thelma Ritter), Best Costume Design, Best Color, and Best Sound Recording (Thomas T. Moulton). The title track [heard in this great overture, with Froman's vocals], of course, originated in the 1929 Rodgers and Hart Broadway musical, "Spring is Here", which, itself, is a great song. The title track in this film has also been featured in other films, including: the 1948 film, "Words and Music," where it gets a classic Perry Como treatment [YouTube link] and the terrific "Young Man with a Horn" (1950), featuring a loving performance by Doris Day and trumpeter Harry James [YouTube link]. Other definitive recordings by Ella Fitzgerald and The Supremes [YouTube links] illustrate just how deeply this standard has become a part of the Great American Songbook.
Song of the Day: BUtterfield 8 ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Bronislau Kaper, has that lush quality that Kaper brings to anything he touches with his musical sensibility and jazz inflections (take a listen to Bill Evans and Eddie Gomez on "Invitation" or
Kaper himself [YouTube link]). This theme opens the 1960 film that brought Elizabeth Taylor her first Oscar for Best Actress. On this date, in 1932, Taylor was born.
Song of the Day: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ("Showdown") [YouTube link], composed by Alexandre Desplat, encompasses all the passion of the ultimate film of the great series of feature films dramatizing the ultimate showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. A truly terrific piece from a truly terrific scene, illustrating the art, and the power, of a great score. (If you ask me, the people who give out Oscars truly missed the boat, so-to-speak, in virtually ignoring all the films of this series.)
Song of the Day: Flight ("Opening") [theost excerpt], composed by Alan Silvestri, is the pensive opening theme for the 2012 film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Denzel Washington, who gives a superb Oscar-nominated performance. The film provides hair-raising moments of suspense and poignant moments of raw honesty.
Song of the Day: Never Say Never Again ("Main Title") is the title track to the one "unofficial" James Bond film not produced by Albert Broccoli and company; it's a 1983 remake of "Thunderball" with a theme song that featured the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the music of Michel Legrand (who celebrates his 82nd birthday today! Joyeux Anniversaire, Michel!!!), and the vocals of Lani Hall, who performed with Brasil 66. With a cluster of talent like that, the song still doesn't hold a candle to the original "Thunderball," but I still think it's a mini-miracle that, with lawsuits hanging over the film, Legrand was still able to draw from his jazz roots and come up with a score fully consistent with the 007 musical canon. Listen to the title track on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Samson and Delilah ("Main Title")[YouTube link], music by the legendary Golden Age film score composer, Victor Young, is the perfect main theme for this DeMille directed 1949 film; it captures the grandeur, the flaws, the love, and the devastation to come. Starring Victor Mature as Samson and Hedy Lamar as Delilah, it is one of those memorable Hollywood Biblical epics. And here's a point of trivia: it is the film's title that is on the marquis of the movie theater where the townspeople have gathered in the George Pal-produced 1953 sci-fi classic "War of the Worlds," as they witness the first of many "meteors" falling in the Los Angeles area, as part of an invasion from Mars.
Song of the Day: Demetrius and the Gladiators ("Prelude") [YouTube link] features a score composed by Franz Waxman, who had two tough acts to follow: the stupendously successful film for which this one stood as a sequel, and its equally stupendous soundtrack, written by one of the Golden Era's Greats. This 1954 film was a "sword and sandal" sequel to the 1953 epic, "The Robe," which was actually filmed twice: once in the typical "flat screen" process of the day, and a second time in the revolutionary widescreen format of "CinemaScope," for which 20th Century Fox got an honorary Oscar (though, as a sidenote, for me, the performances in the "flat screen" version of "The Robe" are far better than its widescreen sibling). The sequel picks up where "The Robe" leaves off. Waxman wisely kept reverential musical references to certain heartfelt themes composed by Alfred Newman for this film's predecessor. Listen up to 2:30 in the first YouTube link above to see how well Waxman incorporates the Newman motifs, while providing us with a strong score that stands on its own merits.
Song of the Day: Sleuth ("Theme") [YouTube link], composed by John Addison, opens up the 1972 mystery, the last film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a dangerous game of daring wits played to perfection by strong Oscar-nominated performances for Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine (both of whom lost to Marlon Brando, who played Don Vito Corleone in "The Godfather"). The theme almost sounds circus-like, but it is precisely a circus we watch, albeit the kind that includes the thrilling task of walking a tightrope without a net.
Song of the Day: North By Northwest ("Crash of the Cropduster") [YouTube link], composed by Bernard Herrmann for this 1959 cinematic Hitchcock gem, is as much about what music is not heard as much as it is about what is heard. This scene is the ultimate in Hitchcock iconography; Cary Grant is alone, with vast empty plains stretching for miles in every direction, as he awaits the arrival of the nonexistent George Kaplan. Suddenly, he is being chased by a cropdusting plane with a trigger-happy pilot. The whole scene is without accompanying music at first, as Cary runs from the plane, finding cover in crops until the cropduster flushes him out to re-target him. But as Cary flags down a huge fuel truck, the plane unavoidably crashes into the truck and disintegrates into flames. The suspenseful music begins with the crash. When Hitchcock and Herrmann were in sync, they knew when to let the action speak for itself, and when to let the music enhance the scene. Herrmann's non-score to this truly iconic scene is as effective as Rozsa's non-score during the chariot race in "Ben-Hur," also a 1959 film: we have a "Parade of the Charioteers" before the race and music announcing victory in its aftermath. But during the scene, we are assaulted by the deafening noise of the crowd, the horses and chariots, the tramplings, the sound and fury of a race to the death. (A similar pattern is used in the film "Independence Day," where at the Zero Hour, all of America's key monuments and cities are destroyed, the music not engaging us until the very end of that apocalyptic series of events.) In any event, the cropduster scene is one of my favorite scenes in one of my all-time favorite Hitchcock films. In honor of my mother, who was born on this date in 1919, I post it; she passed away in 1995, but seeing her Cary was among the few things that could perk her up even in illness. The film is often thought of as the first "Bond" film, before 007 made his cinematic 1962 debut, and it is not difficult to see why.
Song of the Day: Valley of the Dolls ("Theme") was composed by Andre Previn and Dory Previn for the 1967 film version of the Jacqueline Susann novel (Mr. Spock in "Star Trek: The Voyage Home" clearly understood "The Greats" of the twentieth century). The original recording of the song was to be sung by Judy Garland, who had been fired from the film. It was sung by Dionne Warwick. There is a John Williams arrangement of the song in the film; his arrangements were noted by the Academy, and became the first of his 49-to-date Oscar nominations, this one for "Best Score Adaptation." And then there is the single version from Warwick's album [YouTube link]). Listen to the Dory Previn version as well [YouTube link]. For all its kitsch and camp, the film depicts tragedy, and there are so many tragedies that go beyond the film; one need only remember that Sharon Tate was one of its stars.
Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Salute for Messala") [audio clip at that link] is a 10-second cue composed by the legendary Miklos Rozsa, which is heard in the 1959 MGM epic upon the arrival of Judah Ben-Hur's childhood friend, Messala, who has returned to Jerusalem, a tribune of Rome, ready to assume command of the Roman garrison. To me, despite the flaws and corruptions that have engulfed the soul of the man who becomes Ben-Hur's nemesis, this particular cue, designed to express the requisite regality, also expresses strength of character and certainty of purpose. And it was a cue that never showed up on the umpteen versions of this film's soundtracks that had been released since the film's 1959 debut. That was rectified in 2013 by FSM Golden Age Classics, with the release of an utterly definitive 5-CD collection illustrating the complete brilliance of Rozsa's Oscar-winning score, one of the 11 Oscars that remains an Academy Award record (tied, but never bested by "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"). Since the beginning of Notablog, I've highlighted many cues from this soundtrack. Of this, one can be certain: On February 17th of any year, you'll find a "Ben-Hur" selection: in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and the tradition continues today. It's my 54th birthday, after all, and it allows me to offer an annual salute to my all-time favorite movie and my all-time favorite score.
Song of the Day: The Deer Hunter ("Cavatina") [YouTube link] is a piece composed by Stanley Myers, and was first heard in the 1970 film "The Walking Stick." Singer Cleo Lane added her own lyrics to the piece, and recorded it as "He Was Beautiful" [YouTube link], accompanied by classical guitarist John Williams. But it was that guitarist's version of the composition that is best remembered as the theme to one of the most shattering antiwar films ever made: "The Deer Hunter" (1978), starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, and Meryl Streep.
Song of the Day: Second Hand Rose, music by James F. Hanley, lyrics by Grant Clarke, was introduced with comic musicality by Fanny Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1921. In 1968, it was featured in the Brice biopic, sung to comic perfection by "Funny Girl" Barbra Streisand, who shared her Oscar that year in a rare tie with another actress, Katharine Hepburn, for her strong performance in The Lion in Winter. (The tie was announced on the Oscar broadcast by yet another great Oscar-winning actress: Ingrid Bergman [YouTube link]. Hepburn [YouTube link] appeared on only one Oscar broadcast: on 2 April 1974, the year of the streaker, to present the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.)
Song of the Day: Ruby Gentry ("Ruby") features the theme song Heinz Eric Roemheld of the classic 1952 King Vidor-directed film, starring Jennifer Jones, Charlton Heston, and Karl Malden. There have been so many instrumental versions of this song: one featuring the sterling harmonica work of Richard Hayman in 1953 (though I was first introduced to the song during Hayman's apppearance on the Boston Pops Orchestra show on PBS; Arthur Fiedler was a long-time mentor to Hayman; check out the original single on YouTube). Other famous instrumental versions include the one recorded by Les Baxter ]YouTube link], also released in 1953, with Danny Welton on harmonica), and a vocal arrangement, with lyrics added by Mitchell Parrish, for the legendary Ray Charles [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Man on Fire ("Smiling") [YouTube link], composed by Harry Gregson Williams, is featured in the 2004 film, directed by the late Tony Scott. It also has the distinction of being heard in an Omega watch commercial (Omega site featuring the advertisement). It's a really sensitive piano composition.
Song of the Day: The Little Colonel ("Stair Dance") [YouTube link] created a magical moment in cinematic history, pairing the great tap dancer, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and the late great Shirley Temple. In later years, she became a diplomat, and added the surname of her husband, becoming "Shirley Temple Black." But it was not the added surname "Black" that broke the color barrier; it was Shirley's joyous appearances in films like this 1935 gem that did more to mow down racial stereotypes by showcasing great and precious talent. Shirley Temple will always be remembered as that endearing little girl in so many wonderful movies from the 1930s; but it was roles like these that truly showed what a trailblazer she was (check out "The Littlest Rebel" as well). She passed away 10 February 2014 at the age of 85 ... RIP Shirley.
Song of the Day: The American President (Main Theme) [YouTube link], composed by Marc Shaiman, is a stately theme that opens the 1995 film, starring Michael Douglas as widowed President Andrew Shepherd, who falls for Annette Bening as Sydney Ellen Wade, an environmentalist lobbyist. The film has many of the trappings of contemporary liberalism in terms of its politics and its cast of characters, and it served as an inspiration to writer Aaron Sorkin, who launched the equally idealistic liberalism of the brilliant TV series "The West Wing," which began in 1997. But it is not the politics that interest me here. This is a film with a lot of heart, plenty of laughs, and much poignancy. In anticipation of President's Day, I highly recommend the Shaiman soundtrack.
Song of the Day: All My Loving, written by Paul McCartney (but credited to both McCartney and John Lennon), was the song that opened up the set that The Beatles performed in their first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," 50 years ago this very day. It was the ultimate symbol of the "British Invasion" appearing on one of the most popular variety shows of its day; indeed, 73 million people are estimated to have seen The Beatles that Sunday night, and I was among them. A sample of this song also made it into the 1964 film, "A Hard Day's Night," a black and white classic of the comedy-musical genre. Beatlemania had begun, and popular music would never be the same. Check out the single version, an excerpt from the "Ed Sullivan" performance on 9 February 1964, and its sample in "A Hard Day's Night" [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Pinocchio ("I've Got No Strings"), music by Leigh Harline, lyrics by Ned Washington, is heard in the Walt Disney animated film that made its debut on this date in 1940. In the film, the song is sung by Dickie Jones, the voice of Pinocchio [YouTube link here]. My favorite version is the jazzy, swinging recording of Barbra Streisand for her utterly superb album, "My Name Is Barbra" [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Funny Lady ("Isn't This Better?"), words and music by John Kander and Fred Ebb, is a sweet song from "Funny Lady," the 1975 sequel to "Funny Girl" The film continues the (highly fictionalized) story of Fanny Brice, centering on her relationship with songrwriter Billy Rose, played by James Caan. Check out Streisand's lovely rendition here on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Peter Pan ("You Can Fly!"), words by Sammy Cahn, music by Sammy Fain, is one of the highlights of one of my favorite childhood Walt Disney Films, released on this date in 1953. The vocals in the original Disney cartoon are provided by Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske, The Jud Conlon Chorus, and The Mellomen. One of the really enchanting things about my childhood is that my mother used to read me bedtime stories all the time, and so many of them came from "Walt Disney's Story Land". So I knew this lovely story before having seen the Disney clasic. Check out this joyous tune in a scene from the film on YouTube here.
Song of the Day: Suspicion ("Main Title") [Amazon.com excerpt], music by Franz Waxman, is the first collaboration between the absolutely debonair Cary Grant and the master director, Alfred Hitchcock. This 1941 film also starred Joan Fontaine, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress. The estranged sister of Olivia de Havilland, the two of them are the only siblings to have won lead Oscar awards. Amazingly, she is also the only actor to win an Oscar under Hitchcock's direction. Sadly, she passed away at the age of 96 on 15 December 2013. She is survived by sister Olivia. The Waxman score is not the only one that the famed composer did with Hitchcock; he also composed the soundtracks to the 1940 film, "Rebecca," and the 1954 film "Rear Window."
Song of the Day: Capote ("Out There") [YouTube link], composed by Mychael Danna, is a simple theme that holds within it the complexity of the person at the center of the 2005 film, Truman Capote, and the complexity of the performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won a Best Actor Oscar for the role. Sadly, this 46-year old actor passed away yesterday; death need not be tragic, since it is an organic part of life, but when it comes so young to an actor with so much talent and promise, I can find few other words to describe it. RIP PSH.
Song of the Day: Judgment at Nuremberg ("Overture") [YouTube link], composed by Ernest Gold, offers a kaleidoscope of themes from the magnificent film starring among others the great Spencer Tracy (who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar), Burt Lancaster, and Oscar-winner Maximilian Schell, who passed away yesterday at the age of 83. The film is a morality tale about those who executed the orders of the Third Reich in perpetuating one of the greatest mass murders in human history. Playing the attorney Hans Rolfe, Schell had the difficult task of representing the reprehensible defendants, and he does so with dignity and integrity, and won a well-deserved Academy Award. (Other shattering performances are offered by Judy Garland and Montgomery Cliff, each of whom was nominated in their supporting categories). Directed by Stanley Kramer, it is one of my all-time favorite films. RIP Maximilian Schell.
Song of the Day: The Hawaiians ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, opens the 1970 film I saw (a sequel of sorts to "Hawaii," covering the later chapters of James Michener's book) at the Somer Highway Theatre in Brooklyn, New York, where its star Charlton Heston made an appearance to promote the film. I was awestruck; I could not believe the redness of his hair or all the freckles. Just the previous year, I'd seen "Ben-Hur" for the first time, at the Palace Theatre, and here he was in Brooklyn: Judah Ben-Hur, Michelangelo, Moses in the flesh. Anyway, today begins my annual film music tribute, now beginning its ninth consecutive year, leading up to the 86th Annual Academy Awards.
Song of the Day: Get Lucky [YouTube link to the official video, with lyrics], words and music by Pharrell Williams and the great Nile Rodgers (he of the band "Chic" providing us with some of the most memorable sounds of the disco era), recorded by them as the house music band Daft Punk, for the album "Random Access Memories," one of my absolutely favorite albums of 2013. The album took home honors for "Album of the Year." while this song was named Record of the Year(the full list of Grammy winners is here) and also received a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The band is a mixture of Old School and cutting edge; this song has got that wonderful retro feel. The album also won for Best Dance Electronica Album and Best Engineered Album, Classical. But nothing prepared me for the sweetly transformative performance of the song on the Grammy telecast last night [YouTube link here],with its subtle "Le Freak" Chic references, and the cameo live appearance by Stevie Wonder, who provided the melodic mash-up, intermingling his utterly magnificent "Another Star".
Song of the Day: Same Love, words and music by Ben Haggarty, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lewis, is the fourth hit single from the album "The Heist," by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. A radical departure from within the world of hip hop, it is a tribute to sexual equality in the institution of marriage. For that alone, it deserves all the praise and attention it gets. The song is nominated for "Song of the Year," at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, which is on CBS tonight. Enjoy!
Song of the Day: Behind the Groove features the words and music of Richard Rudolph and Mary C. Brockert, whose stage name was Teena Marie. I've been a bit 'behind the groove' in getting a Notablog entry up for the new year, so here's wishing health and happiness to all my readers in 2014. Listen to the extended version of this classic R&B hit from the 1980 album "Lady T" on YouTube here.
Song of the Day: The Most Wonderful Day of the Year ("The Island of Misfit Toys"), words and music by Johnny Marks, is one of those melancholy songs that turns out fine in the end, because you know that Santa Claus swings by and picks them up and finds them homes, after all. It's been a particularly "misfit" year for the Sciabarra family; lots of family illness, an apartment fire that will take months from which to recover, but if this is not the time of year to be counting one's blessings I don't know a better time. It's Christmas Eve, so follow Santa on NORAD, and have a wonderful holiday. Listen to the version from the animated classic [YouTube here].
Song of the Day: The Lion in Winter (Main Title) [YouTube link], composed by John Barry, is from the Oscar-winning soundtrack to the brilliantly acted 1968 film featuring tour de force performances by Oscar-winner Katharine Hepburn (who tied with Barbra Streisand in "Funny Girl" for the Best Actress award, a first in Oscar history) and Best Actor Oscar-nominated Peter O'Toole. O'Toole, one of my all-time favorite actors, passed away at the age of 81 on 14 December 2013. He was nominated a total of eight times without an Oscar win, a record (though he did receive a lifetime achievement award in 2002). In this film, O'Toole revisits a role that had previously earned him another Best Oscar nomination, King Henry II of England, in the 1964 film "Becket" where he played opposite the equally brilliant and (almost) equally winless Richard Burton (seven lifetime Oscar nominations without a win). In that earlier film, O'Toole's Henry II is a heartbreaking shattered man, destroyed over his obsessiveness for Thomas Becket, his friend, played by Burton, whom he names Archbishop of Canterbury in the hope of having an ally to control an increasingly unruly church. But Becket finds his integrity to the dismay of his King and the "unnatural" love they share is doomed. Both actors earned Oscar nominations and lost. Doom underscores the plot for "Lion in Winter," but in ways that display the corrupting machinations of power. The role earned O'Toole another Oscar nod, and another Oscar loss. Today marks winter's arrival in the northern hemisphere. It is all the more appropriate to tribute this great actor on this day as we march toward the light; he was truly a lion on stage who brought a great light to the art of cinema.
Song of the Day: The Answer is Yes [YouTube link] is a lovely composition by Jane Hall, wife of the legendary jazz guitarist, Jim Hall, who passed away Tuesday, 10 December 2013, having just turned 83 on 4 December. There are few musicians who have touched me as deeply as this stupendous guitarist. He had a deeply melodic sense; his understated solos were matched only by his brilliant capacity at interplay with the many legends with whom he performed and recorded. I feel as if I've lost a friend, one that I never met, but whose music touched my heart and soul in ways that only a truly personal relationship could. Just a cursory look at "My Favorite Songs" reveals the extent of the impact his musical legacy has made on my life. For example (and this is just a sampling of Hall recordings mentioned therein): the Jim Hall-penned "All Across the City" [YouTube link at 27:41], (from the enchanting "Intermodulation"): a duet album featuring the mesmerizing interplay of two of the greatest practitioners of the art form: Hall and the legendary pianist Bill Evans [see my entry on 4 December 2007]; "Concierto de Aranjuez" (YouTube link) is the title track from the 1975 album "Concierto," an inspired jazz interpretation of the second movement of the great Rodrigo composition with an all-star line-up, arranged by Don Sebesky. Also from that album is my absolutely all-time favorite jazz instrumental rendition of the Cole Porter gem, "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" [YouTube link], which features a seamless series of solos and utterly breathtaking interplay by Hall (on guitar), Paul Desmond (on alto saxophone), Chet Baker (on trumpet), Roland Hanna (on piano), Ron Carter (on bass) and Steve Gadd (on drums) [featured on 22 January 2005]. Back in 1997, in his liner notes to the CD re-release of "Concierto," Steve Futterman articulates what I've always felt: the improvisation on this album feels as if it is flowing from a single mind-set, expressed in different instruments. When Hall, Desmond, and Baker intertwine in contrapuntal conversation on the Porter song, for instance, "they sound like the same soloist playing three separate instruments"; "Down the Line" [YouTube link; from Hall's album "Commitment"] is a paean of sorts to Bill Evans's classic "Conversations with Myself"; on this composition, Hall overdubs his electric guitar with the acoustic guitar sounds of the handmade instrument designed by Jimmy D'Aquisto, who carried on the craft of his great teacher: John D'Angelico [see my entry of 30 January 2006]; and finally, "Scrapple from the Apple" [YouTube link] from one of the greatest live recordings ever put to vinyl: the 1975 album, "Jim Hall Live," with a trio featuring Don Thompson on bass and Terry Clarke on drums. The last time I saw Hall perform live was at a loving concert in which he participated in tribute to another legendary guitarist: Chuck Wayne. Alas, if there is a band in Heaven, I know not. But if we are to question whether that band just added one class act to its divine personnel, clearly "The Answer is Yes."
Song of the Day: I'm Leaving It Up To You, music and lyrics by Don "Sugarcane" Harris and Dewey Terry, was first recorded by them, as the Doo Wop duo Don and Dewey [YouTube link]. Their R&B-inflected version spent 2 weeks at #1 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart in 1957. Recorded also by Dale and Grace [YouTube link], it was also a selection on Linda Ronstadt's 1970 album "Silk Purse" [YouTube link here], with a lovely country lilt and a fiddle solo (most likely by Gil Guilbeau, as a nod to Don Harris who was himself a violinist). Even Donny Osmond and Marie Osmond brought the song to the top of the Adult Contemporary chart in the summer of 1974 [YouTube link here]. Technically speaking, the number one pop hit on this day in 1963 was "Deep Purple," but the Dale and Grace version of this song topped the chart on 23 November 1963, the day after one of the most infamous events in American history: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Whatever one thinks of JFK and his political legacy, the shooting in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on this day, fifty years ago, was a watershed event, a symbolic turning point, a signal of all the violence and brutality that consumed the decade to come: the Vietnam war, the urban riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Robert F. Kennedy, and the growing discontent and distrust in government, that ultimately brought down another president in the Watergate scandal: Richard Nixon, who lost to JFK in the 1960 election and resigned the office in 1974. Check out CBS's streaming video, beginning at 1:38 p.m. today, when Walter Cronkite interrupted the soap opera "As the World Turns" with a special bulletin. I was only 3 years old that day; we were at my grandmother's house because she had fallen and was badly injured. I remember a weekend of non-stop television coverage. I remember seeing Jack Ruby shooting and killing the alleged Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald [check out the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination, television coverage of the Oswald shooting, and various breaking reports from the major networks on November 22nd]. These events, for a 3 year old, seemed totally incomprehensible, but judging from the reaction of all my elders, they were truly horrific. Now, at age 53, I still look at that day and the days that followed with a degree of incomprehensibility.
Song of the Day: Minor Swing, music composed by Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, was performed memorably by the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, featuring Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli [YouTube link]. But there are also wonderful versions by David Grisman and Stephane Grappelli (also featuring monster bassist Eddie Gomez) [MySpace link] and the version adapted by Rachel Portman [YouTube link] as one of the standout themes from the Oscar-nominated score for the wonderful 2000 cinema morality tale, "Chocolat," which starred Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. Today is a standout day for chocolate, or, at the very least, one of the classic chocolate-coated cookies: Mallomars are officially 100 years old today! Happy birthday to one of my favorite seasonal cookies.
Song of the Day: Enter Sandman, written by Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, and Lars Ulrich, is the Metallica song that allows us to celebrate the exit of The Sandman himself, legendary relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of the game, with the most regular season and postseason saves in baseball history. One of the Core Four, who sports five World Series rings, he is the last active Major League Baseball player to wear the Number 42 (the MLB-wide retired number of the trailblazing Jackie Robinson), now retired at Yankee Stadium, on a ceremonial day that greeted him to the field as Metallica performed this song live in his honor (a theme song for Mo upon his entrance in any save situation at The Stadium). As we stand on the precipice of this year's World Series, the postseason isn't the same without him (or the Yankees for this frustrated fan), but no season will ever be the same without Mo. Here's the official video from the band and their appearance at Yankee Stadium on Mo's Day.
Song of the Day: You'll Never Walk Alone, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is one of the standout songs from the great 1945 Broadway musical, "Carousel." It has been performed by everyone from Christine Johnson (in the original Broadway musical), Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Shirley Jones and Claramae Turner in the 1956 film version (and finale) to Tom Jones, Barbra Streisand, and Jerry Lewis, who sang this song religiously at the conclusion of every Labor Day telethon he hosted from 1964 to 2010 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (all YouTube links). (Thanks to Michelle Kamhi and Louis Torres, my friends, who sent me the Tom Jones link.) There are few songs that sum up my own feelings of appreciation to those members of the FDNY who saved our apartment and our lives, as they battled a fire in my room, which, if it had had one more minute to breathe, could have consumed the rest of our home. My deepest thanks as well to all those who have offered their support as we recover from that fire, which occurred a week ago today. I had just received copies of the second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and it was my honor to inscribe the very first shrink-wrapped copy "To the company" of the FDNY, our heroes, "with love and admiration always . . ." for their bravery and courage. Though we have lost much, we count our blessings, which are more; we are thankful that we are alive to contemplate both losses and blessings. Part of the reason that a song such as this remains legendary is, of course, due to its lyrics. As David Hinckley wrote in his review of "Oscar Hammerstein II: Out of My Dreams" (a PBS biography): "You gotta have some powerful cards to even get into the discussion of the 20th century's great lyricists, and it's a tribute to Oscar Hammerstein II that no one even needs to look at his ID. Just think 'Oklahoma!', 'South Pacific', 'The Sound of Music' and 'The King and I'---you know, shows like that. He could be prickly to work with, but the results were worth whatever it cost, and this show wisely sticks to what mattered most, the songs that will be sung as long as humans have working lips" (see here; but this statement appeared in the Sunday New York Daily News "New York Vue" section for the week starting 4 March 2012).
Song of the Day: All in the Family ("Those Were The Days") [YouTube link], music and lyrics by Charles Strouse, is recognized as one of the Top Fifty Television Themes of All Time. Its iconic status in the history of TV themes is only eclipsed by the iconic status of this remarkably daring show, which simultaneously made us collapse with laughter and confront the social prejudices that are as relevant today as they were when Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin introduced this show on the CBS Television Network. Part of what made the show work was the real chemistry between its two prime players; no less than Lucy and Ricky, Alice and Ralph, Edith and Archie have become part of the culture of television excellence. And this year, it is especially poignant to end our mini-tribute to TV themes with the song that introduced the world to Lear's comedy, and to the brilliance of Emmy-winning actress, Jean Stapleton, who passed away on 31 May 2013. Tonight, when they do that Emmy Awards "In Memoriam" tribute section to people who have passed away, expect an ovation for this wonderful actress. And take a listen to that opening theme once more. So comes the end of our mini-tribute to television music.
Song of the Day: The Meow Mix Theme, music by Thomas G. McFaul, lyrics by Ron Travisano, was a hit for Ralston-Purina cat food, and it has undergone a few transformations. How could a tribute to TV (and earlier radio) music not bow its head to the creativity that has been unleashed within the advertising community? This one, from the 1970s initially, is part of "The Jingle Hall of Fame." Check out a few variations on the theme: here, here, a 1920s spoof, the Cee Lo Meow Mix Remix and opera singer Richard Troxell's take on Jimmy Fallon.
Song of the Day: Arrest and Trial ("Theme"), composed by Bronsilaw Kaper, is played deliciously by Jimmy Rowles on his "Lilac Time" album (take a listen here). It's from a short-lived ABC television 1963-64 drama, but for me, it's another feather in the cap of the guy who wrote "Invitation," one of my absolutely favorite songs... we're talking a "desert island disc."
Song of the Day: Monsanto Legrand Jazz Interlude [mp3 link] is a composition (whose name I just made up) by the incomparable Michel Legrand, and the only time I have ever heard it is on a television show broadcast on our local Channel 5 (now a Fox affiliate) back in 1972ish, as part of the occasional series, "Monsanto Presents." The cassette tape that I made of that special night of music was done by placing a primitive microphone right up to the television set and hitting the record button. I have never been able to find this track anywhere, I have never been able to track down the show in searches popular and obscure, but if there were ever a great example of the artistic heights to which television can take us, it is this burning jazz track that features the greatest musicians "that love can buy," as Michel puts it. The soloists (in order) are jazz giants: tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, trombonist J. J. Johnson, trumpeter Pete Candoli, pianist Dave Grusin, drummer Shelly Manne, bassist Ray Brown, and on organ, Michel himself. The only proof, apparently, that the show was ever broadcast (except for my cassette recording of it) is this photo featuring, ironically, the all-star line-up of this very track. The show also featured great performances by Lena Horne, Jack Jones, and Michel himself (doing utterly heartbreaking renditions of such songs as "The Summer Knows" (from "Summer of '42") and "What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" Because this recording was made with an old home cassette recorder, without a direct line to an audio line-in, it turns out that the truly best soloist of the bunch can be found only on my recording of it: it is my brother's beautiful (and long-departed) Irish setter, Shannon, who can be heard doing his version of jazz interplay over solos by Manne and Brown. It's the best jazz interplay between dog and man ever recorded. And I am proud to be able to present what appears to be the only existing recording of what has come to be a timeless classic in my own TV memory book.
Song of the Day: The Dick Van Dyke Show ("Theme") [YouTube link], music by Earle Hagen, rare lyrics by Morey Amsterdam, is heard at the beginning of one of the most iconic television shows of its era. Check out YouTube also for this precious moment on "The Rachel Ray Show," with Dick Van Dyke singing the rare lyrics, with Mary Tyler Moore looking on.
Song of the Day: The Fugitive ("A New Love"),composed by Peter Rugolo, captures the alienation of the central character, Dr. Richard Kimble, played with subtle brilliance by the great David Janssen, as he searches, week after week, for the One-Armed Man who killed his wife. Dr. Kimble would have been executed had he not been "reprieved by fate" in a train wreck that freed him en route to "the death house" (as told to us with characteristic authority by the narrator William Conrad). Each week viewers saw a man torn between his struggle to survive in pursuit of the justice he deserves, while encountering characters who either need him (and the strength of character he provides) or who test his integrity. Through it all, he proves as unshakeable as Lieutenant Philip Gerard (played with relentless obsessiveness by Barry Morse), whose concern is not the justice of the verdict, but in apprehending the convicted killer and carrying out the sentence the law requires. There are so many magnificent episodes in the four-year series (which I watched over the past year on DVD), including such gems as "The Girl from Little Egypt" (season 1), "Angels Travel on Lonely Roads" (a two-parter from season 1) and "The Breaking of the Habit" (season 4) (all three episodes of which provide us with a terrific star turn by the great Oscar-winning actress Eileen Heckart), and, of course, the final two-parter episodes of the series, "The Judgment," Parts 1 and 2, in which both Kimble---and Gerard---finally confront the One-Armed Man. Those episodes remain among the most-watched finales in the history of television (a 50.7 rating and a 73.2 audience share). This show was a morality tale for sure, with an obvious debt to Hugo's "Les Miserables." Its cast and guest stars were consistently splendid and its first three seasons were as close to classic film noir for television as has ever been seen (it went "in color" in the final fourth season). Fifty years ago today, the show debuted on the ABC television network. I can agree with Stephen King who understood how the series turned everything on its head, questioning the justice of 'the system'. As he put it in the Introduction to The Fugitive Recaptured by Ed Robertson, it was "absolutely the best series done on American television." After seeing the show for the umpteenth time, I confess to "A New Love" for it and its wonderful soundtrack by the great Peter Rugolo. Happy Fiftieth!!!
Song of the Day: Blue Bloods ("Reagan's Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Rob Simonsen (on a show to which composer Mark Snow, of "X-Files" fame also contributes), is a wonderful theme for a show whose passion is not drawn so much from the danger and violence of New York City police life, but from the trials, tribulations, and poignant bonds of love among
the individuals of a family working in various areas of law enforcement. It often moves me emotionally, as does the theme every time I hear it. It stars, among others, a strong Tom Selleck and combustive Donnie Wahlberg.
Song of the Day: The Syncopated Clock, composed by Leroy Anderson, was the theme song (as recorded by Percy Faith) for "The Late Show," a late-night ritual for generations of New York tri-state TV watchers, which presented terrific movies nightly on WCBS television. Listen to the classic theme here in full and the shorter opening used for the TV incarnations.
Song of the Day: One Life to Live ("Brand New Start") [YouTube at that link], composed and recorded by Iza, featuring Snoop Lion, is the new theme song used for an old soap favorite that ended its run on ABC television after 43 years on January 13, 2012. But the show was reborn online and can be accessed at hulu.com and other venues; this is a nice slick theme, recorded by one of the show's biggest fans (who has made a few cameos on the show as well): Snoop Dogg (Lion now).
Song of the Day: The Adventures of Superman ("Superman March")" [YouTube link], composed by Leon Klatzkin, opened one of my favorite childhood superhero shows. Considering that the Superman character is celebrating his 75th anniversary this year, I can think of no better way to kick off my annual mini-tribute to television themes, in honor of the upcoming broadcast of the Emmy Awards. The series ran from 1952 to 1958, and starred George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman.
Song of the Day: Blame it on the Bossa Nova, music by Barry Mann, lyrics by Cynthia Weil, was a huge Top Ten 1963 hit for the great Eydie Gorme, who passed away yesterday at the age of 84. Her discography was truly varied and wonderful and her many playful and swinging duets with husband Steve Lawrence were legendary. She will be truly missed. Listen to this song on YouTube, so reflective of a great era for pop music.
Song of the Day: Captain America ("Theme Song"), composer mysteriously unknown, was the classic theme song to the 1960s Marvel Super Heroes cartoon. It's a favorite from my childhood, and while there have been lots of takes on Captain America, this one still holds a special place in my heart. Take a look at the animated opening theme [YouTube link], and have a safe and happy Independence Day!
Song of the Day: West Side Story ("A Boy Like That" / "I Have a Love"), music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is heard in one of the greatest musicals ever to grace the Broadway stage, made into a huge hit 1961 film. In the musical, the song is a duet between Anita (played by Chita Rivera) and Maria (played by Carol Lawrence). Check out the original soundtrack recording on YouTube here (set to "West Side Pony"), and the wonderful film adaptation here, in which Anita is played by Rita Moreno (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) and Maria is played by Natalie Wood (the voices heard on the film recording are actually those of Betty Wand and Marni Nixon, respectively. Tonight, enjoy the Tony Awards.
Song of the Day: Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In, lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni, music by Galt MacDermot, is a medley of two songs from "Hair," the Broadway hit that was nominated for a 1969 Tony Award for Best Musical. The track was the first medley to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, performed with an R&B-jazzy groove by The 5th Dimension. As a 9-year old Aquarian, I fell in love with the recording the first time I heard it. In 1969, the Score scored a Grammy for what is now called "Best Musical Theater Album." And this particular medley won a 1970 Grammy for Record of the Year. Check out The 5th Dimension recording on YouTube and each song performed separately by the original Broadway cast: The Age of Aquarius and The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In). Tomorrow, the Tony Awards will be broadcast on CBS.
Song of the Day: Jason and the Argonauts ("Skeletons"), composed by Bernard Herrmann, provides the atmospheric musical motif for one of the greatest special effects achievements in the storied history of legend Ray Harryhausen, who passed away today at age 92. Check out this iconic scene from the fun 1963 fantasy film on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Jesus of Nazereth ("Jesus of Nazareth") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the stupendous Maurice Jarre, is a loving overture heard throughout the epic television miniseries, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, probably the best story of Christ I've ever seen in any medium. The film features a sensitive performance by Robert Powell in the title role, and memorable appearances by Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Anthony Quinn, Ernest Borgnine, James Farentino, Anne Bancroft, Christopher Plummer, Rod Steiger, Olivia Hussey, and so many others. A Happy Easter to all of my Eastern Orthodox compadres!
Song of the Day: Sweet Caroline, words and music by Neil Diamond, was a huge hit for the singer. Today, a few days after the horrific massacre at the Boston Marathon, the song takes on an even more poignant tone than its original intent as a paean to the young Caroline Kennedy. A perennial at Fenway Park, it was played after the 3rd inning on April 16, 2013 in Yankee Stadium, as the New York Yankees faithful sang along in solidarity [YouTube link] with those whose lives have been forever altered by the events in Boston. On a day when Yankees and Diamondback players all wore #42 in tribute to a famed Brooklyn Dodger, this was as sweet a gesture as one could find among great sports rivals, who put aside competition for a day, in remembrance. The Fenway Faithful did the same in the days after 9/11, when they sang along to "New York, New York." I watched the Stadium crowd rise to the occasion, and I now can't listen to the song with dry eyes. Stand tall. Check out the full Neil Diamond recording.
Song of the Day: Return of the Jedi ("Return of the Jedi") [YouTube link], composed by John Williams, is from the third entry in the "Star Wars" film franchise (officially "Episode VI" of the series). Roger Ebert, who passed away today, famously defended the series on "Nightline" (clip at that link) back in 1983; he and the late Gene Siskel brought us years of entertaining film critique in their "At the Movies."
Song of the Day: Drive By, words and music by Patrick Monahan, Espen Lind, and Amund Bjorklund, was recorded by the band Train. The full song can be heard on YouTube, but I must admit that I have a sentimental attachment to it because it was featured in a Tri-State New York-area Ford car commercial starring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeter misses Opening Day 2013, despite having started for 16 of the last 17 years. He's still on the mend from last year's devastating post-season ankle break. I wish it were all an April Fools' Day joke, but it isn't. Still, baseball is back in New York today, Big Time! For the first time since 1956, when the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers each held Opening Day festivities, two New York teams are opening at home today: the New York Mets host the San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees host the Boston Red Sox (and they are dedicating their games to those who lost their lives in the Newtown tragedy). Here's hoping that The Captain joins the party before too long. But for now: Play Ball!
Song of the Day: Pennies from Heaven, music by Arthur Johnston, lyrics by Johnny Burke, was the title song introduced in the 1936 film by Bing Crosby [YouTube clip from the film]. Crosby's version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004. It has also been performed by Billie Holiday (with guys like Benny Goodman on clarinet, Teddy Wilson on piano, Ben Webster on tenor sax, and Jonah Jones on trumpet), the Swinging Chairman of the Board, that other Pope Francis (Albert Sinatra) with the Count Basie Orchestra, tenor sax legend Stan Getz with pianist Oscar Peterson and guitarist Herb Ellis, and the irrepressable Louis Prima and saxman Sam Butera, among scores of others [all YouTube links]. It's just a nice way of sending the humble riches of heaven to those who are celebrating Passover and Easter this week; my own family celebrates Easter in May, one of those rare times when the Easter of Eastern Orthodoxy comes in late Spring.
Song of the Day: Suit & Tie features the words and music of Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley, Jerome "J-Rod" Harmon, James Fauntleroy, Terence Stubbs, Johnny Wilson, Charles Still, Sean "Jay Z" Carter (who raps) and Justin Timberlake (who sings). This is the lead single to JT's newest album, "The 20/20 Experience," which is released today. The track is a sweet Old School throwback, with touches of MJ, Curtis Mayfield and the great Solar group, The Whispers. JT is in all his R&B glory, effortlessly moving through rhythmic ticks and melodic riffs, modal voicings and a killer falsetto. And Jay Z glides characteristically with Sinatra-esque ease above and behind the beat. Check out the full video on YouTube [video link] and a sizzling remix [video link] by resident 92.3 FM NYC DJ Jay Dabhi and Chachi [music link].
Song of the Day: Runnin' Wild, music by A. Harrington Gibbs, lyrics by Joe Gray and Leo Wood, is a 1922 tune that epitomizes the Roaring Twenties. It has been recorded by so many artists, including the great Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and his masterful jazz violinist partner Stephane Grappelli and their Quintet of the Hot Club of France [YouTube music clip]. And then there's a swinging version with Ella Fitzgerald [YouTube music clip]. But the most memorable cinematic take on this tune remains the one performed by Marilyn Monroe in the uproarious 1959 Billy Wilder comedic romp, "Some Like It Hot." The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning one for "Best Costume Design, Black and White," but it got swept aside in the 1959 "Ben-Hur" onslaught. The film starred Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon donning their best drag to join an all-girl band, in an attempt to escape incognito from "Spats" Columbo (played by George Raft) and the Chicago mob, seeking to silence them for having stumbled upon the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. There are so many classic moments to this incredible film including a memorable turn by Joe E. Brown. This film earned its rightful place at the top of AFI's 100 Years, 100 Laughs and is among my all-time favorite comedies. Check out this wonderful "Runnin' Wild" YouTube moment from the film. And so ends our Annual Tribute to Film Music.
Song of the Day: Where Love Has Gone ("Main Title"), words and music by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, is the title track to the 1964 soaper, which starred Susan Hayward, Bette Davis, and Mike Connors (who went on to TV detective fame as "Mannix"). Walter Scharf composed the score, but this Cahn-Van Heusen song is performed over the opening credits by the great Jack Jones [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: 55 Days at Peking ("So Little Time [The Peking Theme]"), lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, music by Dimitri Tiomkin, is heard on the soundtrack to the 1963 historical epic, starring Charlton Heston, David Niven, and Ava Gardner. Tiomkin received Academy Award nominations for both this song and the film's score. The soundtrack features the performance of Andy Williams, who passed away on 25 September 2012 and left us memorable recordings of everything from classic melodic movie themes to classic Christmas perennials. On this date, we also remember those for whom there was "so little time," who died, twenty years ago, in the first attack on the World Trade Center. Check out Andy Williams on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy ("George Smiley") [YouTube link], composed by Alberto Iglesias, is the jazz-influenced main title to the 2011 film starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley. This is a pensive, chill track from the Oscar-nominated Iglesias score. Last night was anything but chill, though; Seth McFarlane had a hilarious debut as Oscar host, and the show featured wonderful tributes to movie music, including a lovely ode to Marvin Hamlisch by Barbra Streisand, a show-stopping performance of "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey during a 007 celebration, and a performance by Adele, who took home a gold statuette for the newest Bond theme, "Skyfall." The 2013 Oscars are now history, but Film Music February continues till month's end.
Song of the Day: Skyfall ("Main Title"), words and music by Paul Epworth and Adele Adkins, who performs the song at the opening of this 2012 film, one of the best Bond songs in one of the best Bond films ever. It boasts a fine Oscar-nominated score by Thomas Newman. It has all those sexy, ominous Bond chord changes underlying its melody. And while Daniel Craig is no Sean Connery, he still is Daniel Craig, and, as 007, he faces off with a classic Bond villain in Javier Bardem. And Judi Dench is still wonderful as M and we even have a new Q in Ben Whishaw and a Moneypenny and an Aston Martin. This is a great way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise, which has its share of Oscar nominations. This song is also nominated in the Best Original Song category. Enjoy the Oscars. And enjoy the song [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde, music and lyrics by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander, was recorded in 1967 by Georgie Fame [YouTube music link]. The tune is not heard in the 1967 film, "Bonnie and Clyde," which starred Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker and Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow, the notorious Depression-era bank robbers. But the song was inspired by the film. The film score was written by Charles Strouse; the movie won Oscars for Estelle Parsons (Best Supporting Actress) and Burnett Guffey (Best Cinematography).
Song of the Day: This is My Affair ("I Hum a Waltz") [MySpace clip at that link], lyrics by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel, is introduced in this thoroughly entertaining 1937 susupense film by the amazingly talented Barbara Stanwyck, who co-starred with Robert Taylor. The movie also starred Victor McLaglen, Brian Donlevy, Frank Conroy as President William McKinley and Sidney Blackmer as President Theodore Roosevelt. I have to admit that this is the first, and may be the last, film I've ever seen in which President McKinley figures in an undercover government operation to foil bank robbers. I saw this rare gem (which has been screened with at least five different titles) on TCM not too long ago and was astounded that I hadn't seen it before. I loved it, and also found myself humming this tune for days. Check out the film here; the melody of this charming song is used in the "Main Title" at 00:38 and Stanwyck's turn can be heard at 01:36:44, and the theme rises again at the film's conclusion at 01:38:55.
Song of the Day: Portrait of Jennie, music by J. Russel Robinson, lyrics by Gordon Burdge, is not heard in the film of the same name, but it was a hit for the unmistakable Nat King Cole. The 1948 film is a classic fantasy starring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten (who were paired in several other films, including the 1945 classic, "Love Letters," with a screenplay by Ayn Rand). This film also includes memorable turns by Ethel Barrymore and Cecil Kellaway. Check out the Nat King Cole version and a sweet trumpet turn by jazz musician Blue Mitchell, with Junior Cook on tenor sax and Harold Mabern on piano.
Song of the Day: The Pink Panther ("It Had Better Be Tonight"/"Meglio Stasera"), composed by Henry Mancini, is one of my all-time favorite Mancini tunes (along with the original Pink Panther theme too). It is also known as "Meglio Stasera," with Italian lyrics by Franco Migliacci and English lyrics by the one and only Johnny Mercer. It is featured in the original 1963 "Pink Panther" flick, which starred Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, David Niven, Robert Wagner, Claudia Cardinale, and our mischievous Pink cat. Check out the original instrumental theme, the Fran Jeffries version from the film, an Ennio Morricone version with vocalist Miranda Martino, and wonderful vocal versions by Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, Buddy Greco, Donna Summer and the swinging Michael Buble [YouTube links]. As far as instrumental versions, here's one great big shout out for the 12-string guitar rendition by the great jazz musician Joe Pass.
Song of the Day: Patton ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by the legendary Jerry Goldsmith, is easily identifiable from those very first reverberating brass tones. It can be heard at the opening of the terrific 1970 film, in which George C. Scott gave an Oscar-winning Best Actor performance as the famous U.S. general, even if he declined to accept the gold statuette. The Oscar-nominated score is one of the best of the genre and this is one of my favorite war films.
Song of the Day: Where the Boys Are ("Dialectic Jazz") [YouTube film clip at that link], composed by the marvelous Pete Rugolo, is featured in the 1960 film. The film includes a score by George E. Stoll (check him out playing a Venuti-like "cross-bow" jazz violin solo along with a few other innovations!) and pop music from Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, with a hit title track sung by Connie Francis, who was the star of the movie. There's even a tune ("Have You Met Miss Fandango?") by Victor Young and Stella Unger. Rugolo composed music that was utterly sublime for one of my favorite television shows of all time, one whose 50th anniversary I will celebrate later this year: "The Fugitive." This music, however, is played to the hilarious hilt by Frank Gorshin's "Dialectic Jazz Band" in the film. (Gorshin was one great Riddler on the campy 60s "Batman" TV show.) With a title such as "Dialectic Jazz," just how on God's good earth could I possibly resist?
Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Arrius' Party") [YouTube link], composed by the great Miklos Rozsa, is a sedate but celebratory theme, from my all-time favorite film, the 1959 epic, "Ben-Hur." Each year, on this date, since I inaugurated "My Favorite Songs," and since February has traditionally been that time of year spent in tribute to film music, I have featured a selection from this, the greatest of movie soundtracks. I saw the film again last night, as part of TCM's "31 Days of Oscar," and it remains the greatest "intimate epic" of all time, in my view. Listening to the 5-CD "Complete Soundtrack Collection" released as a part of FSM Golden Age Classics, I will forever be in love with this music. Happy 53rd birthday to me!
Song of the Day: Aliens ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by James Horner, opens "Aliens," the best of the sequels to the iconic 1979 film. This action-packed 1986 film was directed by James Cameron, and starred, once again, Sigourney Weaver as a kick-ass Ripley. Cameron-Horner is as distinctive a collaboration as Hitchcock-Herrmann and Spielberg-Williams. This track is from one of the best scores (and one of the best films) in the sci-fi/horror genre.
Song of the Day: Alien ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is one of those unforgettable science fiction-horror themes that conjures up images of an entire film and the franchise to which it gave birth. "In space, no one can hear you scream," went the advertisement. But screams were aplenty in this 1979 iconic film, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. This is one of my all-time favorite films of the genre, with a creepy score to match.
Song of the Day: I Love You (Je t'aime), lyrics by Harlan Thompson, music by Harry Archer, is the 1923 chestnut from the Broadway musical, "Little Jessie James." It was featured prominently in the great Billy Wilder-directed 1953 World War II POW flick, "Stalag 17" (which boasts a soundtrack by Franz Waxman). You can check out the scene, where the song can be heard for around five minutes, starting at 4:20 at this YouTube clip. At 6:08 begins an unmistakably sweet solo by the legendary jazz violinist Joe Venuti. The guy singing in the scene is Ross Bagdasarian, who, under the name David Seville, created Alvin and the Chipmunks. The song is reprised as the film scene continues here, where "Animal" finally gets to dance with "Betty Grable". "Stalag 17" is one of my all-time favorite war flicks; William Holden received a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actor. What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with these Three Little Words?
Song of the Day: What's New Pussycat ("Main Title"), words by Hal David, lyrics by Burt Bacharach, was the delightful theme to the 1965 comedy starring Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, and Woody Allen, in his film debut. The Academy Award title song has been covered by many artists, but my favorite remains the rendition provided by Tom Jones for the soundtrack [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ("Dragon Flight"), composed by Alexandre Desplat, is one of the most exhilarating musical moments of the fantastic 2011 final film in the Harry Potter film franchise. Check this out on YouTube. Though Desplat's wonderful soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media" in 2012, it lost to "The King's Speech," composed by Alexandre Desplat! Last night's Grammy's had just as many surprises.
Song of the Day: The Enforcer ("Rooftop Chase") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Jerry Fielding, boasts an absolutely sizzling big band arrangement that simultaneously reflects and drives this energized 1976 installment in the "Dirty Harry" film franchise, starring Clint Eastwood. Check out a film montage that features this cue.
Song of the Day: It's You or No One, words and music by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, can be heard in the 1948 movie, "Romance on the High Seas," sung by Doris Day in her first film role. Check out the scene in the film where Doris Day sings the song for Jack Carson. And check out nice versions by Bobby Darin and jazz guitarists Joe Giglio and Carl Barry (my bro!) and jazz bassist David Shaich, live at The West End, NYC.
Song of the Day: Blues in Hoss' Flat, composed by musician Frank Foster, is one of those infectious perennial Count Basie numbers that does not owe its origins to the movies. But there is music that achieves eternal shelf life just from a cinematic association, as we have seen with "Cinderfella" Jerry Lewis. In this instance, it's "The Errand Boy," with the irrepressible Jerry Lewis once more.
Song of the Day: Hi Lili Hi Lo, music by Bronislau Kaper, lyrics by Helen Deutsch, was first recorded by Dinah Shore in 1952 (YouTube clip at that link), but the song was featured in the 1953 movie "Lili," starring Leslie Caron, who performed a duet with Mel Ferrer in the film [YouTube link]. Kaper, who wrote one of my all-time favorite film songs ("Invitation"), won the Oscar for this film's soundtrack for "Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture." But by far, my all-time favorite instrumental of this sweet song is that performed by the trailblazing pianist Bill Evans and stupendous bassist Eddie Gomez on their incomparable duet album, "Intuition" [check out that version at this YouTube link]. That album, a Desert Island Disc if ever there were one, also features the duo's equally incomparable version of Kaper's "Invitation" [YouTube clip at that link].
Song of the Day: The Sugarland Express ("Main Theme") [YouTube clip at that link] marked the first of many fruitful collaborations between composer John Williams and director Steven Spielberg. This was Spielberg's first feature film. The main theme for this 1974 film, starring Goldie Hawn, features the superb harmonica work of the stupendous Toots Thielemans. Check out a suite from the soundtrack on YouTube.
Song of the Day: My Week with Marilyn ("Marilyn's Theme"), composed by Alexandre Desplat, is performed brilliantly on solo piano by Lang Lang on the wonderful soundtrack (with music by Desplat and Conrad Pope) to the 2011 film. The melancholy theme is restated on the tracks "Marilyn Alone" and "Remembering Marilyn" (YouTube clips at each link). It has a mournful quality to it, but also one of innocence and depth, all qualities captured by Marilyn Monroe, played well by Michelle Williams. The former Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, gave this film a fine review on his "Mayor at the Movies," so it is only fitting to give that late Mayor a fine review for his colorful years at the helm of his beloved city. Today, he is laid to rest at Trinity Cemetery, having passed away on Friday, February 1, 2013.
Song of the Day: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein ("Main Title") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Frank Skinner, captures both the chills and the laughs of the classic film that drops the immortal comedic duo into the horrors of the Universal monster franchise. Skinner's wonderful score for this 1948 film was given a Halloween tribute by conductor Wlliam Stromberg and the Golden State Pops Orchestra [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: North By Northwest ("The Station"), music by the great Bernard Herrmann, is from my favorite Hitchcock film of all time. This particular cue is on the soundtrack album (listen to it here) for a scene in which Cary Grant tries to elude the authorities and his would-be killers by escaping on the 20th Century Limited at Grand Central Station. That Station opened its doors at midnight on February 2, 1913, and is, today, celebrating its centennial. In this scene from the 1959 cinematic gem, Grant approaches the ticket window at the fabled station, shading his eyes with dark glasses. The ticket clerk, played by Ned Glass, knows he is dealing with a fugitive and asks Grant: "Is there something wrong with your eyes?" "Yes," Grant says, visibly irritated, "they're sensitive to questions." Check out the scene on YouTube, which features our Centennial Station in all its glory.
Song of the Day: Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head, words and music by Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, won the Oscar for Best Original Song from the Oscar-winning Best Original Score for the fun 1969 film, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. At the time, I was pissed that this song beat out one of my favorites of all time ("What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?"). But this was a #1Billboard hit by B. J. Thomas, and it's a great way to start off my annual tribute to my favorite movie music. Check out the track on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Call Me Maybe features the words and music of Tavish Crowe, Josh Ramsay, and Carly Rae Jepson, a young Canadian singer and songwriter who delivers the most infectious song of 2012. It provides what was probably "the year's most gripping hook," making it "one of the most irrefutable teen-pop songs in history," as New York Daily News music critic Jim Farber attests. It also sported an adorable music video with a gay twist [YouTube link], but before too long, as Farber reminds us, everybody got in on the act, from the college frat boys of Ramapo Kappa Sigma to the Tennessee "Call Me Gaybe" boys to the cast from "Glee" to the U.S. Olympics Swimming Team [YouTube links]. It's a song that should be on any year-end countdown. Tonight we'll be counting down till the ball drops in Times Square. Have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year's Eve!
Song of the Day: A Christmas Carol (aka "Scrooge"; "Main Title") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Richard Addinsell, who mixes the sounds of a traditional carol ("Hark! The Herald Angels Sing") with a grim theme of beckoning menace, foreshadowing the fate-altering tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, played in this 1951 film by the utterly superb Alastair Sim (of all the cinematic treatments of this timeless Charles Dickens tale, this one is my favorite). Addinsell wrote one of my all-time favorite popular concertos ("Warsaw Concerto"). And he's in fine form here too. There are one or two neat videos on YouTube that provide an entertaining side-by-side comparison of the various Scrooges portrayed in film over the past century or so. This concludes my mini-tribute to music from Christmas-oriented films, "in keeping with the situation" of this holiday season.
Song of the Day: It's a Wonderful Life ("Main Title") composed by Dmitri Tiomkin, is one of the most recognizable themes of all holiday movies. Though initially released to lukewarm reception, this 1946 Frank Capra film became a classic over the years as it was shown again and again on television especially around the holidays. It is one of my all-time favorite movies with a stupendous cast, led by Jimmy Stewart, whose character learns, through the lightness and darkness of his experiences, that his actions (like the actions of every individual) have ever-widening ripple effects on the people with whom he comes into contact (and even some people he'll never meet). And I love the Tiomkin score. You can watch the movie online on YouTube; check out the opening theme in the first minute or so.
Song of the Day: The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima ("Main Title" / "Miracle of the Sun"), composed by Max Steiner, opens the 1952 film, which tells the story of Lucia dos Santos, who claimed to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917, in Portugal. Check out the film on YouTube, especially the opening minutes, where Steiner's main title is heard, and the "Miracle of the Sun" (starting around 1:35 on...). The legendary composer's score received an Academy Award nomination.
Song of the Day: The Song of Bernadette ("Prelude"), composed by Alfred Newman, opens the reverential 1943 film, starring Jennifer Jones, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Bernadette Soubirous, who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France. The opening theme has hints of Newman's later theme for "The Robe." Check out the film on YouTube, especially the opening minute or so, where this lovely theme is first heard. Newman won the Oscar for Best Original Score for this soundtrack.
Song of the Day: Miracle on 34th Street ("Main Theme") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Cyril J. Mockridge, opens the joyous 1947 film of the same name, starring an absolutely magical Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. Gwenn won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and the film won Oscars for Best Writing, Original Story and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, as well. Check out a suite from the film on YouTube!
Song of the Day: Rise, Ye Shepherds, music by Franz Waxman, lyrics by Mack David, is a wonderfully melodic carol original to the score for the 1962 film, "Taras Bulba," starring Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis. The entire film is on YouTube here; this rare selection is at 26:17. Merry Christmas to All (on that "Norad Tracks Santa" link, check out, especially, the U.S. Air Force of Liberty's jazzy rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" when Santa hits the Northeast)!
Song of the Day: The Dirty Dozen ("Main Theme") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Frank De Vol, is the percussive-heavy military theme to the memorable all-star 1967 film. Today is the last repeating date [12-12-12 12:12] of this century, and the cleanest of the 'dirty dozens' that we will see for a millennium.
Song of the Day: Bossa Nova U.S.A., composed by Dave Brubeck, is the sweet lyrical title track from the composer's 1963 album featuring the great jazzman's classic quartet, with alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Brubeck, who passed away today, was one of the greatest innovators in modern jazz. Listen to this song on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Baby Be Mine, words and music by Rod Temperton, is Track #2 on the stupendous Michael Jackson album, "Thriller," which was released on this date, 30 years ago. This recording predates "Spice of Life" but both songs have that same sweet Temperton groove. Listen to the track on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Spice of Life features the words and music of Derek Bremble and Rod Temperton, who has had many hits with Michael Jackson. Recorded by The Manhattan Transfer, this song was a Top 40 hit on both the pop and R&B charts, from the group's 1983 album "Bodies and Souls." It features a sweet harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder. Check out the track on YouTube. Today is a day of many spices giving life to so many wonderful foods on the plates of so many family members and friends who survived Hurricane Sandy in the tri-state area. We embrace our countless blessings on this robust Thanksgiving especially, a celebration of the spice of life.
Song of the Day: Swept Away, words and music by Sara Allen and Daryl Hall (who provides the guitar solo), was a terrific #1 1984 dance track recorded by Diana Ross. So, the Detroit Tigers Swept Away the New York Yankees in 4 straight, and the San Francisco Giants (not the New York Football Giants, who barely swept away the Dallas Cowboys yesterday) did likewise to the Tigers, winning the World Series in 4 games. And here in the New York tri-state area, we dig in so as not to be Swept Away by Hurricane Sandy. Check out the Arthur Baker 12" club mix on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Scattin' the Blues was performed by The Divine One, Sarah Vaughan, on so many of her live concert dates. One version of it can be found in a performance with Bill Mays on piano, Bob Magnusson on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums, live at the 1971 Monterey Jazz Festival [YouTube link]. But my all-time favorite version, by far, made its television debut on the New York-area PBS affiliate, WNET-TV, on this very date in 1974, "In Performance at Wolf Trap" [mp3 link]. When I was 14 years old, I actually recorded this performance right off my television with an old Panasonic portable cassette recorder, but it is preserved in high quality audio by the absolutely indispensable Archival Television Audio, which presents the whole magnificent PBS show from Wolf Trap, starring drummer Buddy Rich and his great band doing a hard-swinging medley from "West Side Story" [check out an alternative take on YouTube, introduced by Frank Sinatra], and Sarah Vaughan, with a great trio featuring a blazing Carl Schroeder on piano (no relation to that Schroeder), a terrific bow-solo by fine bassist Frank DeLaRosa, and the combustive Jimmy Cobb on drums. For me, Sassy's pyrotechnic scatting on this performance is as good as it gets.
Song of the Day: Grenade features the words and music of Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Claude Kelly, Andrew Wyatt, Brody Brown, and Bruno Mars, who recorded the song for his debut album, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans." The song ranks with some of the best F-U pop songs of relationships (sing it Ella!) gone wrong (the Great Tony and Eydie too!). Mars is today's birthday boy; he has a new album coming out soon. Check out the official video of one of his best [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Goldfinger ("Dawn Raid on Fort Knox") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by John Barry, expresses all the urgency of a classic James Bond score, from my all-time favorite 007 film, "Goldfinger." On this date, in 1962, the very first James Bond franchise flick made its debut: "Dr. No". On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Bond phenomenon, long live 007!
Song of the Day: Empire State of Mind features the words and music of Alexander Shuckburgh, Angela Hunte and Jane't "Jnay" Sewell-Ulepic, Bert Keyes and Sylvia Robinson (a sample from their "Love on a Two-Way Street"), Alicia Keys and Shawn Corey Carter, otherwise known as Jay-Z, both of whom perform on the recording. Tonight, Jay-Z opens up eight concert dates at Brooklyn's new entertainment arena: the Barclays Center, where Jay-Z's basketball team, the newly named Brooklyn Nets, will open their season in October. Professional sports will return to Brooklyn for the first time since Dem Bums left. This is a paean to the city where Jay-Z was born. And any song with a shout out to Sinatra gets Two Thumbs Up in my book, any day. Tonight, Brooklyn gives the Empire State another jewel in its crown. Check out the official video.
Song of the Day: Bad, words and music by Michael Jackson, is the title track to MJ's "Bad" album, which, on this date twenty-five years ago, debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart. The video, directed by Martin Scorsese, features choreography that is a paean to the great musical, "West Side Story." The 25th aniversary of the album's release (officially, on 31 August 1987) is being commemorated this year by "Bad 25", a special remix 3-CD re-release package, and a Spike Lee-directed documentary, which premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. The original music video was filmed at the Brooklyn subway station at Hoyt-Schermerhorn. And the track includes a hot solo by one of my all-time favorite jazz organ players, Jimmy Smith. Check out the full music video version, the short-form music video, the Kids version, the 12" remix, the David Guetta remix, the Electro Mix by Ballistic, the new Afrojack remix, featuring Pitbull and DJ Buddha, and cover versions by country artist Ray Stevens, "Weird Al" Yankovic (a "Fat" parody), the Chipmunks, and the cast from "Glee".
Song of the Day: Smash ("Let Me Be Your Star"), words and music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, is the central melodic motif of the NBC show, "Smash." I truly enjoyed Season One (its songs and soundtrack too) and look forward to the next season. This song was heard throughout the series, but was performed in a smashing duet in the pilot episode by Megan Hilty (as character Ivy Lynn) and Katharine McPhee (as character Karen Cartwright). Check out the single from the "Smash" cast album and a version performed by Megan Hilty on New Year's Eve with Carson Daly. The show has already received a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Best Choreography (beating another of my favorite shows: "So You Think You Can Dance") and this song is nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Music and Lyrics. Tonight is a night full of stars on the Primetime Emmy Awards.
Song of the Day: Smash ("Touch Me"), words and music by Ryan Tedder and Brent Kutzle (of OneRepublic), Bonnie McKee and Noel Zancanella, graced "The Coup," one of the episodes from NBC's fine musical series, "Smash." This song, sung by "American Idol" alumnus Katharine McPhee, is a really good dance track. Check out the full song, the Jody Den Broeder Radio Edit, Jump Smokers Extended Mix, and the version seen on the show.
Song of the Day: National Geographic ("Fanfare") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the immortal Elmer Bernstein, is one of those themes that is heard a few times before getting eternally embedded in one's brain. Da da da daaaaaaaaaaaaa da... It was once voted by Fast Company Magazine [YouTube clip at that link] as one of the most addictive sounds in all the world. Check out the abbreviated version of memory [YouTube link] that opened every "National Geographic" special of my youth (and I still get the Society's magazine).
Song of the Day: The 4:30 Movie ("Moving Pictures") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Joe Raposo, opened up one of the most memorable New York tri-state area film shows of the 1960s and 1970s, when local networks actually showed movies instead of talk shows during the day. I remember it when it was a 90-minute show on WABC-TV, and it would typically devote a whole week to the airing of classic genres or actors, or classic films, such as "Ben-Hur." The theme music still brings a big smile to my face.
Song of the Day: Chiller Theatre ("Horror Upon Horror") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Wilfred Josephs, was the opening theme music for the Saturday night WPIX-TV classic horror movie show. The theme made the hair of many New York tri-state area kids of the 1960s stand on end (including this one). The show was hosted early on by the great Zacherley before switching to the film montage of memory, with clips from such films as "Plan 9 from Outer Space," "The Cyclops," and "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman." There were other memorable "Chiller Theatre" openings, but this one was the real ... chiller.
Song of the Day: The World at War ("Main Theme") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Carl Davis, opened every episode of one of my favorite TV documentary film series. The series was narrated by the great Laurence Olivier, and this music captures the sadness and struggle of war. In honor of the upcoming Emmy Awards, I begin my mini-tribute to music on television.
The new issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be on its way to subscribers within the next couple of weeks. And with it comes an announcement of a major breakthrough for the journal and for Rand scholarship as well.
First, let's take a look at the new issue, which is coming out in the thick of the U.S. Presidential campaign, and which includes a few essays that try to make sense of contemporary politics:
Preface - The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies: The Best is Yet to Come - Chris Matthew Sciabarra
The Logic of Liberty: Aristotle, Ayn Rand, and the Logical Structure of the Political Spectrum - Roger E. Bissell
Ayn Rand Shrugged: The Gap Between Ethical Egoism and Global Capitalism - Andre Santos Campos
A Defense of Rothbardian Ethics via a Mediation of Hoppe and Rand - Cade Share
Ayn Rand and Deducing ‘Ought’ from ‘Is’ - Lachlan Doughney
The Childs-Peikoff Hypothesis - Dennis C. Hardin
In keeping with our current policy of archiving back issues, fully accessible and free of charge to all those who visit our website, today marks the online debut of Volume 11, Number 1 (PDFs for each of the essays in that issue can be found at that link). That issue, dedicated to the memory of one of our founding Advisory Board members, philosopher John Hospers, features provocative essays by James Montmarquet, Samuel Bostaph, Robert Hartford, Walter Block, Robert L. Campbell, and Fred Seddon.
Our online publication of any issue lags behind the current issue by a full volume (about a year). Which means that those who wish to read the new JARS need to subscribe today!
The new issue includes a Preface, written by me, announcing a major breakthrough for the journal: a trailblazing partnership with Pennsylvania State University Press that will greatly expand the journal's scholarly reach. Here is what I have to say in the Preface (a PDF link to the full Preface can be found here):
In the Fall of 1999, the first issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS) was published, beginning a biannual scholarly discussion of Ayn Rand: her work, her life, her impact, and her legacy. Since then, we have published over 250 essays, written by over 130 authors, working across many disciplines and specialties. Our essays have covered subjects in aesthetics, anthropology, biography, business ethics, computer science, cultural studies, economics, epistemology, ethics, feminist studies, history, intellectual history, law, literary craft, literature, metaphysics, methodology, ontology, pedagogy, philosophical biology, philosophical psychology, general philosophy, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, political economy, political philosophy, political theory, psychology, and sociology. We have featured symposia on Rand’s ethics and on Rand’s aesthetics, on Nietzsche and Rand, on Rand and Progressive Rock, on Rand’s literary and cultural impact and on “Rand Among the Austrians” (that is, the Austrian school of economics, which includes such thinkers as Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard, etc.). Our content is now abstracted and indexed, in whole or in part, by nearly two dozen abstracting and indexing services, expanding our scholarly and institutional visibility.
Moreover, the journal has built a unique scholarly forum that welcomes those working from remarkably diverse interpretive and critical perspectives. Just a cursory look through our back catalogue reveals essays by such writers as the late libertarian philosopher John Hospers, laissez-faire economist George Reisman, and market anarchist Sheldon Richman, on the one hand, and the writings of American literary critic Gene Bell-Villada, philosopher Bill Martin (a self-described Maoist), and radical leftist Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, on the other hand [names linked to JARS essays].
This new issue of our periodical begins our twelfth year of publication with the announcement of a major breakthrough that has the potential to enhance the quality of this publication and increase its scholarly reach. It will also guarantee the long-term historical preservation of our entire catalogue of back issues for the benefit of future generations of scholars.
The JARS Foundation and the Pennsylvania State University Press (PSUP) have entered into a formal collaborative agreement, commencing with the publication in 2013 of Volume 13, Number 1 (Issue 25), covering five years—and beyond.
Our Editorial Board will continue to solicit new articles and attract new writers, working closely with authors and peer readers toward the publication of essays of the finest quality and capacity for intellectual provocation. PSUP will take over the business end of the journal, while the Editorial Board will focus exclusively on the intellectual side of our project. PSUP will manage all aspects of distribution and subscription fulfillment in both print and online journal editions. Our arrangement with PSUP will also provide a more systematic framework for quality control, which will structure our workflow for the submission, double-blind peer review, and tracking of articles as they make their way to publication. And once our editorial work is done, we will submit approved, completed essays to the PSUP production department, which will provide a second level of copyediting and the typesetting of all content.
PSUP will set all institutional and individual pricing, which includes print-only, online-only, or print-and-online subscriptions, inside and outside the United States. There will be options for article downloads on a newly developed website. Indeed, a robust online edition of the journal will have the added, indispensable features and services on which the scholarly community relies, including XML codes on all files, which will be used to produce printable PDFs, as well as PDFs and html files for the web, all fully searchable.
PSUP has partnered with Project Muse and with JSTOR (both its Current Scholarship Program and back issue archive), making possible the extensive digital dissemination of PSUP journals. JARS will be potentially available to thousands of new readers from private and public, domestic and international institutions, corporations, and agencies.
The most important aspect of our collaboration, however, is our plan for the preservation of the journal and its trailblazing content. PSUP participates in CrossRef and all of its journals are now archived at Stanford’s CLOCKSS (Controlled Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe). In essence, JARS, including all of its back issues dating from its 1999 inception, will be a part of the dark archive at Stanford that will preserve its content for the use of scholars and historians in perpetuity.
The good news for subscribers is that there will be only a modest rise in subscription rates. Our domestic rates have been the same since our very first issue in 1999, and JARS will remain affordable for all those whose support we have valued deeply.
We will always be profoundly indebted to those who made this journal possible, especially to the late Bill Bradford [PDF link], whose vision continues to inspire us. We know that our new partnership with PSUP will vastly increase our exposure in the international community of scholars, providing a means for preserving all of the contributions of our authors, and a context for the ever-growing electronic dissemination of our content.
Announcement also posted on the Liberty & Power Group Blog.
Song of the Day: Olympics Fanfare Medley combines the robust "Bugler's Dream," composed by Leo Arnaud and the celebratory John Williams composition, "Summon the Heroes." They are both wonderful fanfares, tributes to the indomitable spirit of the Olympics. Tonight is the closing ceremony of the exciting 2012 London Summer Olympics. Check out the Arnaud theme, the John Williams theme, and the medley.
Song of the Day: McHale's Navy ("Main Theme"), composed by Axel Stordhal, is featured in the opening credits to the popular television series that ran from 1962 through 1966. The series was actually a spin-off from a one-hour episode of "ALCOA Premiere," entitled "Seven Against the Sea." I watched the hilarious series regularly in my youth. It served as my first exposure to Ernest Borgnine, who passed away at the age of 95 on 8 July 2012, a few days after the passing of another TV icon, Andy Griffith. Borgnine was one of the greatest character actors of his generation, an Oscar-winner for his role in "Marty, and a recognizable presence in such films as "From Here to Eternity," "Demetrius and the Gladiators," "Willard," "The Poseidon Adventure," and 11'09"1 September 11. Check out the opening credits to the series and tip your hat to one of the greats.
Song of the Day: The Andy Griffith Show ("The Fishin' Hole") features the music of Earle Hagen (who whistled the theme in the opening credits) and Herbert W. Spencer and the lyrics of Everett Sloane. Just as "The Andy Griffith Show" was a spin-off of an episode of "The Danny Thomas Show," so too did it give birth to spin-offs, including "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," "Mayberry, R.F.D.," and the TV-reunion movie, "Return to Mayberry." Andy Griffith exuded an effortless warmth in his TV performances, from his self-titled show to "Matlock." And he had terrific acting chops (check out his remarkably jarring performance in "A Face in the Crowd"). He passed away yesterday at the age of 86. This theme and the famous TV show for which it was written have become part of Americana, something all the more noteworthy on this Day of Independence. Check out the main theme on YouTube and Andy himself singing it.
Song of the Day: New York City Blues, words and music by Quincy Jones and Peggy Lee, first appeared on Lee's album, "Blues Cross Country." The song, with Jones' swinging arrangement, can also be found on the TV soundtrack to the short-lived series, "Pan Am." Today, one of the great NYC landmarks is celebrating its 85th birthday with 25-cent rides (though it actually opened on June 26, 1927): the rickety wooden Cyclone roller coaster in Coney Island that I will never set foot on. Definitely not on my bucket list. Check out Peggy Lee's fabulous track on YouTube. Happy birthday to this Grand Roller Coaster!
Song of the Day: Workin' Day and Night, words and music by Michael Jackson, is a popular track from the artist's breakthrough 1979 solo album, "Off the Wall." On this date in 2009, MJ passed away. For millions of fans,the music lives on. Check out the album cut and an energetic 1992 live concert performance from Bucharest. RIP, MJ. We're still dancin' day and night to your music.
Song of the Day: Love to Love You Baby was written by Pete Bellotte, Giorgio Moroder, and Donna Summer, whose moans and groans drove the song to #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart in 1975. Temperatures are headed to the 90s in New York City, where the sweaty summer solstice arrives at 7:09 pm. Bring in the summer with Summer's wildly dirrrrty, orgasmic single, and the Big, Hot 12" ... vinyl version, and checkout Beyonce's paean to this hit in her own "Naughty Girl" track [YouTube links]. A Happy Summer!
Song of the Day: I Saw Her Standing There features the words and music of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who celebrates his 70th birthday today. The song was the opening track on "Please Please Me," the debut UK album by The Beatles. One of my all-time favorite early Beatles tunes, this one has been covered by other artists as well. Check out the grand original, and versions by The Supremes, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, and Tiffany. Happy Birthday, Sir Paul!
Song of the Day: Everything's Coming Up Roses, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is from the Broadway musical, "Gypsy: A Musical Fable," based on the memoirs of American burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee. The 1959 musical featured the choreography of Jerome Robbins, and was nominated for 7 Tony Awards, winning none (the year of this tie!). But the Tony-nominated powerhouse, Ethel Merman, starred as Mama Rose, Gypsy's mom; she sings this song famously at the close of Act I. The role was played big by Rosalind Russell in the fine 1962 movie version, Angela Lansbury in a 1974 Broadway revival, Tyne Daly in a 1989 Broadway revival, Bernadette Peters in a 2003 Broadway revival, and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film for Bette Midler in the 1993 TV version. I saw the 2008 revival with an absolutely stupendous Patti LuPone as Rose; she won the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for the role. Tonight is the Tony Awards, for which everything will be coming up roses, at least for the winners! Check out versions by Ethel, Rosalind, Angela, Tyne, Bernadette, Bette, and Patti, and enjoy the show!
Song of the Day: The Sound of Music, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is the title track from the 1959 Broadway musical and the 1965 Oscar-winning Best Picture. Ranked as #10 in the AFI Top 100 Songs in American Cinema, this memorable theme was performed by Mary Martin in the first Broadway production, Rebecca Luker in the Broadway revival, and Julie Andrews in the film version [YouTube links]. Check out Mary Martin's acceptance speech, upon winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. I wasn't around when the Broadway production debuted, but I did see the wonderful 1998 Broadway revival (and a terrific off-Broadway production too). And the film remains one of my all-time favorite musicals (featuring at least two other favorite songs). Amazingly, the original production is the only musical to have ever won in a tie (with "Fiorello!") for the "Best Musical" Tony category.
Song of the Day: Whatever Lola Wants, music by Richard Adler, lyrics by Jerry Ross, is from the 1955 Tony Award-winning "Best Musical" on Broadway: "Damn Yankees." Performed by Gwen Verdon in the musical, with the choreography of Bob Fosse, the song is the ultimate seduction by the Devil's assistant, and a musical highlight. In tribute to that other New York baseball team, the New York Mets, Three Cheers to Johan Santana, for throwing, last night, the first no-hitter in the history of the franchise, in its 50th anniversary year! Hard to believe that for a team that has had 13 pitchers who have thrown no-hitters . . . once they left the team (including such All-Stars as Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, and David Cone), it took 8,020 games into the history of the franchise to finally get one No-No all for themselves! And this is coming from a Damn Yankees fan! Bravo!!! The Mets finally Got What they Wanted! Just like Lola! Check out Gwen Verdon from the 1958 film version and two classic jazz-infused versions: Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan.
Song of the Day: I'm the Greatest Star, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, is a highlight from the classic 1964 Broadway musical, "Funny Girl," which starred a young Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice. Though nominated for eight Tony Awards, the musical won none, facing a tough competitor in "Hello, Dolly!" Streisand would win an Oscar for the role in the 1968 film version. Check out the Broadway musical version, the film version, and Chris Colfer as Kurt Hummel in a "Glee" cast version [YouTube links]. Today begins our tribute to songs from Broadway, in anticipation of the Tony Awards, on Sunday, June 10th.
Song of the Day: California Dreamin', words and music by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips, was a huge 1965-66 pop hit for The Mamas and the Papas, sporting a wonderful alto flute solo by one of my all-time favorite jazz musicians: Bud Shank, who was born on this day in 1926, and became one of the finest musicians in the West Coast jazz scene. It's not a "winter's day" in Brooklyn; we've had summer-like weather for awhile. But I'm dreamin' of a particular California attraction that celebrates its 75th anniversary today: Happy Birthday to the Golden Gate Bridge! Check out the original Mamas and Papas track, and instrumental versions by Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and, yes, Bud Shank too!
Song of the Day: Pieces of Dreams, words by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, music by Michel Legrand, is from the 1970 film, in which the title track is sung by Peggy Lee, who was born on this date in 1920. Check out versions by Jack Jones, Shirley Bassey, Johnny Mathis (on "The Tonight Show"), Barbra Streisand, and an excerpt from Peggy Lee.
Song of the Day: No More Tears (Enough is Enough), words and music by Paul Jabara and Bruce Roberts, went to #1 in 1979 on the vocal strength of Two Divas kickin' butt (and a lousy man "out that door"): Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer. How appropriate that this duet, which ends our Donna Summer Tribute, contains the longest sustained note by a female artist (Streisand, 14 seconds) of any #1 hit on the Hot 100, when the song that started the tribute ("Dim All the Lights") contains the longest sustained note by a female artist (Summer, 16 seconds) of any Top 40 hit. It's hard to measure the influence of an artist on those who have followed. To be dubbed the "Queen" (not that one, great though he was) of a genre that some have viewed with disdain is a limitation, of course, because the work of Donna Summer transcended that era. Or maybe Disco itself has lived on. People stopped using the Dreaded D-Word to describe any popular dance recordings, but the genre's influence can still be heard (in house, techno. electronica and more). And Donna was The Queen; it's clear to this fan that later dance hit-makers, from Madonna to Beyonce to Lady Gaga, owe much to Her Reign. Today, after more than a week of looking back, we have "No More Tears" moving forward. And lots of dancing left to do; check out the single version, the extended version (from Streisand's "Wet" album), and the 12" extended mix (from Summer's album, "On the Radio: Greatest Hits, Volumes I & II").
Song of the Day: MacArthur Park, composed by Jimmy Webb, has been performed by many artists through the years, including one by an actor who first took it, in 1968, to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart: Richard Harris (whose endearing performance as Albus Dumbledore in the first two "Harry Potter" films is captured in that tribute clip). Check out these other renditions: Waylon Jennings; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Stan Kenton; Woody Herman; Maynard Ferguson (my favorite jazz instrumental version); "Weird Al" Yankovic (spoofed as "Jurassic Park"); and Carrie Underwood on "American Idol" in 2005 (see 4:03-4:36), who famously quipped that she hadn't the faintest idea what the lyrics were all about! [YouTube links]. And then there's the seminal dance version by Donna Summer, recorded initially as part of a nearly 18-minute disco epic: "MacArthur Park Suite" [YouTube link] and released in 1978 as a stand-alone #1 Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Play single [YouTube link]. I used to chuckle when she let out that Snoopy-like cry, which kicked off the thumping disco beat (at 01:49 here), but her version will always rock my dance floor.
Song of the Day: On the Radio, music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Donna Summer, was recorded in 1979 by the singer for the soundtrack to the film, "Foxes." It is also featured in two versions on the singer's third consecutive #1 double-album, "On the Radio: Greatest Hits, Volumes I & II" (1979). Check out the single version, the longer "Greatest Hits" version, the extended 12" version, and a really nice compilation of the theme as it is heard throughout the 1980 film.
Song of the Day: Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger) features the words and music of Rod Temperton, Merria Ross, and Quincy Jones, who produced the 1982 album "Donna Summer," on which this song appears. This enjoyable funky track went Top Ten on the Pop, R&B, and Dance charts. Check out the album version, the extended 12" mix, the Discotech remix, and a nice remixed cover version by Sheena Easton [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: She Works Hard for the Money, words and music by Donna Summer and Michael Omartian, is the title track to Summer's eleventh studio album and her biggest hit in the 1980s. It was also a #1 R&B hit, a huge pop hit in heavy rotation at the birth of New York FM Top 40 station, WHTZ (Z-100), and in heavy music video rotation on the relatively young MTV network. Check out the famed video, the album version, and an Eddie Baez remix [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Bad Girls, words and music by the Brooklyn Dreams and Donna Summer, is the title track to Summer's 1979 album, which became a #1 pop, dance, and R&B smash. Check out the single version, the extended version, the famous medley with "Hot Stuff" and a nice live cover version by Jamiroquai [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Hot Stuff, words and music by Pete Bellotte, Harold Faltermeyer, and Keith Forsey, is one of the "essential" Donna Summer dance hits, a rock-disco hybrid, electrified by the guitar work of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Summer got a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for this #1 hit from her 1979 album, "Bad Girls." Check out the single version, an extended version, and the Funky House Remix [YouTube links]. (And an honorable mention must go to the great Steve Allen, who did a hilarious reading of the lyrics to this song on a television special.)
Song of the Day: I Feel Love was written by Giorgio Moroder, Peter Bellotte, and Donna Summer, who propelled this driving synthesized track (from her 1977 album, "I Remember Yesterday") to its exalted status in dance music history, influencing later dance styles, such as house and techno. Check out the original album version, the 12" extended mix, the famous Patrick Cowley underground 15+ minute megamix, and covers by Bronski Beat, Blondie, Madonna, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Song of the Day: Dim All the Lights was written and recorded by the "Queen of Disco," Donna Summer, the five-time Grammy Award winner who died today at the age of 63. Featured on her hugely successful "Bad Girls" album, this song, produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, was a massive hit in 1979. Its classic balladic intro shifts into the disco beat for which Summer was so famous. And the gal had amazing pipes; she was raised on gospel and electrified fans with her remarkably powerful vocal gifts. This particular song, for example, contains the longest sustained note in an American Top 40 hit ever sung by a female artist. Tonight, however, we "Dim All the Lights," as they do on Broadway in mournful tribute when a star dies; it is posted in genuine sorrow over the passing of a legend, whose music I've always danced to and loved. For the next few days, I will be offering a tribute in song that celebrates the continuing influence of Donna Summer on so many of the kaleidoscopic sounds of pop music to this day. Check out this selection on YouTube: the single and the classic 12" extended mix.
Song of the Day: Cute, composed by Neil Hefti, is one of those familiar tracks that has been heard everywhere, thanks to the famous chart Hefti wrote for the Count Basie Orchestra, featuring the fabulous fills of drummer Sonny Payne, who was born on this date in 1926. The most memorable cinematic treatment of this tune, where one can see Music as Comedy and Comedy as Music, can be found in "Cinderfella"; watch how Jerry Lewis Does the Dishes.
Song of the Day: Keep On features the words and music of Hubert Eves III and James Williams of D-Train. The group scored a huge R&B and Hot Dance Club hit with this track. I highlight it today because it was the kind of groove in heavy rotation on one of my favorite urban contemporary FM stations of all-time: WRKS-FM (98.7 FM). Today is the last day that this FM station will broadcast; it merges with that other great urban contemporary FM outlet, WBLS-FM (107.5), making way for an ESPN sports station that has been broadcasting on 1050 AM (it will, for now. simulcast). KISS-FM was well known for its unforgettable Mastermixes (one of which I've already featured: "Must Be the Music"). So today, in tribute to KISS-FM, check out the classic Shep Pettibone Mastermix [YouTube link] heard on a station that I will truly miss. Keep keepin' on.
Song of the Day: Free Again (Non C'est Rien), music by Armand Canfora and Joss Baselli, French lyrics by Michel Jourdan, English lyrics by Robert Colby, is featured on "Je m'appelle Barbra" (1966), the eighth studio album of Barbra Streisand, who, today, turns 70. The album was arranged and conducted by the great Michel Legrand, who, on February 24th, turned 80 (a belated Happy Birthday to Le Grand Michel!). Listen to the English-language version of the song from the album, and the French-language version of the song [YouTube links], which was introduced on Streisand's third TV special, "Color Me Barbra" (which first aired on CBS on 30 March 1966). This is vintage Barbra; she remains one of my all-time favorite artists and one of the most accomplished artists of her generation. Happy Birthday, Funny Girl! Forgive me, I'm getting a little Verklempt!
Song of the Day: Forget Me Nots, words and music by Terri McFaddin, bassist Freddy Washington, and singer and pianist Patrice Rushen, received a Grammy nomination for "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance." This pop, R&B and dance hit from Rushen's album, "Straight from the Heart," includes a nice sax solo by Gerald Albright. The song has been covered and sampled by several artists (most famously, Will Smith for "Men in Black" [YouTube link]), but Patrice's version is tops for pure finger-poppin' pleasure. Check out her music video, the album version, the 12" dance mix, and a really jazzy live 2009 performance with guitarist Lee Ritenour at North Sea Jazz [YouTube links]. On a day when we lost "America's oldest teenager," at 82 years of age, we pause to celebrate the life of the irreplaceable Dick Clark, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who helped us embrace the promise of every new year with his New Year's Rockin' Eve specials, and who gave us countless productions and television shows, including the trailblazing "American Bandstand," on which Patrice Rushen performed this song (Season 25, Episode 29, airdate: 29 May 1982). We forget you not ... ever!
Song of the Day: Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone features the music of Bernard Herrmann (whose immortal "Twilight Zone" theme is used to great effect) and the words and additional music of Jay Graydon and Alan Paul, a member of The Manhattan Transfer, which scored a disco hit for this jazz-influenced vocal group. The song appears on their album, "Extensions," which includes the jazz-vocalese gem, "Birdland." Check out the original promo 12" mix and the Disconet Mix [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Birdland was composed by Joe Zawinul, the keyboardist of the jazz-fusion group Weather Report, which recorded it for their seventh studio album, "Heavy Weather" (1977). Named after one of the great 52nd Street jazz clubs in New York City, which took its name from the nickname of be bop pioneer, alto saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker, it became a landmark Grammy-nominated jazz-fusion track. But the Grammy Award went to The Manhattan Transfer a few years later, for their jazz vocalese version of the celebrated track. The lyrics for the track were written by Jon Hendricks (of the always-fascinating vocalese group, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross), though Eddie Jefferson had started writing lyrics for the piece before his untimely death. The Manhattan Transfer version appears on my favorite album of theirs: "Extensions." And the album is dedicated to Jefferson. In 1980, they received Grammy Awards for Best Jazz/Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental for "Birdland" and for Janis Siegel for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices, for the same recording. Check out the original instrumental classic by Weather Report and the equally classic vocalese version by The Manhattan Transfer [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Raise the Titanic ("Suite") [YouTube clip at that link; Nic Raine, conductor], composed by the great John Barry for the 1980 film, "Raise the Titanic," gives us a kaleidoscope of the majestic, the poignant, and the reverent. On this date, at 2:20 a.m. UTC-3 ship's time, the Titanic sunk, having struck an iceberg, en route to New York harbor. Its survivors, aboard the Carpathia, would arrive at that harbor by 18 April 1912, greeted by tens of thousands of New Yorkers (check out an interesting 1929 flick: Titanic, Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube). They may never "Raise the Titanic," but this act of "raising," of "resurrecting," is appropriately noted on a day that Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter with the phrase "Christos Anesti" ("Christ is Risen"). We raise the spirit by keeping the memory of Titanic, resurrecting its history and meaning, even in song. And so ends our 6-day tribute on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its sinking.
Song of the Day: Titanic: A New Musical ("In Every Age"), words and music by Maury Yeston, opened on Broadway in 1997 and went on to receive five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Check out the Broadway cast album version [YouTube link]. My favorite version of this song, however, is a jazz interpretation by guitarist Frank DiBussolo. It can be found on his really nice 1998 album, "Titanic: A New Musical" [the amazon.com link provides a small sample of the piece]. So many other Titanic music projects are available and worthy of attention: "Disasters! The Disaster Movie Music Album" and "Titanic: The Ultimate Collection," both of which offer selections from several Titanic-inspired films; the lovely Alberto Iglesias soundtrack to "La Camarera del Titanic"; and a stupendous 4-disc set, "Titanic: Collector's Anniversary Edition," featuring James Horner's magnificent Oscar-winning score to the Cameron-directed film, which includes remastered versions of the two previous "Titanic" soundtrack albums, and 2 extra discs of music from the period (not to mention great liner notes and Titanic-White Star replica luggage tickets). Tonight, ABC presents the first part of a new miniseries, "Titanic," written by Julian Fellowes, co-creator of "Downton Abbey." Another 12-part BBC miniseries is forthcoming: "Titanic: Blood and Steel." It was on this date, at 11:40 pm, UTC-3 ship's time, that Titanic struck an iceberg. In a little more than 2 hours, it would sink.
Song of the Day: The Unsinkable Molly Brown ("I Ain't Down Yet"), words and music by Meredith Wilson, is featured in the 1960 Broadway musical, in which the lead character was played by Tammy Grimes, who won the 1961 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress. The 1964 cinematic adaptation garnered six Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress nomination for Debbie Reynolds who became the feisty Molly Brown on screen. Born Margaret, though her friends called her Maggie, she is known to history as Molly. A traveler on the Titanic, she was the quintessential strong woman and suffragist who, in Lifeboat No. 6, exhorted the crew to return to the waters of death, in search of survivors. On screen, so many have portrayed her, including: the independent, playful, and feisty Kathy Bates in the 1997 Cameron blockbuster; the ever-effervescent Thelma Ritter, who is named "Maude Young" but is clearly Molly, in the 1953 film, "Titanic"; and Cloris Leachman played her twice: as Maggie Brown in a 1950s dramatization for "Television Time" [YouTube link to that episode], and in the television movie, "S.O.S. Titanic". Molly Brown survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic. No wonder the character sings this song as a celebration of The Unsinkable. No better day to note it than on Friday the 13th, which happens to be both Good Friday for the Eastern Orthodox and Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Check out Tammy Grimes in the Broadway cast version [amazon.com sample] and, my favorite, Debbie Reynolds from the film version and (watch her inspire Titanic lifeboat survivors) [YouTube links]. You'll be singing: "Told Ya So! Told Ya So! Told Ya, Told Ya, Told Ya So!"
Song of the Day: Titanic ("Main Title") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Lennie Niehaus, opens the 1996 4-hour CBS miniseries, starring Peter Gallagher, George C. Scott, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Eva Marie Saint. The theme manages to capture the grandiosity of the ship, while allowing us to reflect upon the ominous events yet to come.
Song of the Day: Titanic ("Main Title") [YouTube link to the film trailer], composed by Sol Kaplan (under the musical direction of Lionel Newman), is from the 1953 American film drama starring Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck. The film won a single Oscar, for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. On April 11, 1912, one hundred years ago today, Titanic stopped in Queenstown, Ireland before embarking on its fateful voyage to America. This fine movie begins on YouTube here, and the "Main Title" is contained therein.
Song of the Day: A Night to Remember ("Main Title") [not that one], composed by William Alwyn, opens the very fine 1958 British film adaptation of Walter Lord's famous book of the same name (some of the film is available on YouTube). This particular cinematic take on one of the most definitive 20th century catastrophes stars Kenneth More, who, for me, is best remembered for his role as Young Jolyon in the great BBC series, "The Forsyte Saga" (1967). One hundred years ago on this date, Titanic began its journey, leaving Southampton in England and stopping in Cherbourg Harbor, France. Today begins our own six-day tribute to the fateful maiden voyage of Titanic. Among the multitude of provocative books on the subject is one written by my colleague and very dear friend, Stephen Cox, entitled The Titanic Story: Hard Choices, Dangerous Decisions (1999). So much music and so many films have also been inspired by this tragic event, starting with a 1912 newsreel [YouTube link], featuring its own poignant piano accompaniment. Cinematic presentations by filmmakers the world over have been presented throughout this past century: even the Nazis produced a movie, portraying the disaster as the inexorable result of sinister British capitalist greed (that 1943 German "Titanic" is actually pretty good as a film; some of its frames may have been used, without credit, in the 1958 British film highlighted here). As film scores go, I will never forget the great James Horner score to my favorite "Titanic" film of all time, directed by James Cameron. The 11-Oscar Award-winning "Best Picture" has now been re-released to theaters in 3D to mark the centennial occasion. Today, however, we turn to the majestic opening of "A Night to Remember" on YouTube, as we begin our own voyage into history, film, and music.
Song of the Day: I Can't Go for That (No Can Do), words and music by Daryl Hall, John Oates, and Sara Allen, was a #1 Pop, R&B, and Hot Dance Club track recorded by Hall & Oates for their 1981 album, "Private Eyes." This smooth "blue-eyed soul" recording has had a huge impact on popular music; it has been sampled on countless dance and hip hop tracks and its influence can even be found on "Billie Jean" (check out Daryl Hall's memories of Michael Jackson). Here are YouTube links to: the original music video, the extended 12" mix, another extended mix, and Daryl with Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo.
Song of the Day: Maneater features the words and music of Sara Allen, Daryl Hall, and birthday boy John Oates, who came into this world on this date in 1949. This has always been among my favorite Hall and Oates tracks; so in the next couple of days, I'll do a mini-H&O tribute. Check out the original version and music video of the song on YouTube, which appears on the album "H2O".
Song of the Day: Glory Days, composed and performed by "The Boss," Bruce Springsteen, appears on his huge hit album, "Born in the U.S.A." It's the perfect way to kick off the New York Yankees' 2012 baseball season, which begins today in Florida against the Rays. Check out the terrific baseball-inspired video on YouTube. And Go Yanks!!!
Song of the Day: Meet the Mets, words and lyrics by Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz, is the fight song of the New York Mets, who open their 2012 baseball season today at Citi Field. I'm a diehard Yankees fan, but I have to admit . . . uh, I actually have always liked this theme from the cross-town rivals. Play ball! And check out the Mets song [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: You Stepped into My Life features the words and music of Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, otherwise known as The Bee Gees, who recorded the song in 1976 for their album, "Children of the World" (it was also included on the "Bee Gees Greatest" hits package in 1979). Check out renditions by The Bee Gees, Wayne Newton (who, in October 1979, took the song to #90 on the Billboard Hot 100!!!), and, my favorite by far: Melba Moore (who, in February 1979, took the song to #47 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the dance chart) [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Days Go By, words and music by Victoria Horn and Steve Smith, is the Dirty Vegas recording that received the 2002 Grammy Award for "Best Dance Recording." The infectious track is best known for its use in a famous Mitsubishi commercial; also check out this hot mix, the Paul Oakenfold remix, the Mimosa remix, and the Jimmy Fallon MTV commercial parody [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Unison, words and music by Andy Goldmark and Bruce Roberts, was first recorded in 1983 by Junior for the Tom Cruise film, "All the Right Moves." Laura Branigan and Lory Bianco also recorded versions before the song became the title track from the English-language debut album of Celine Dion. That album was released on this date in 1990. It is one of my favorite uptempo Celine Dion songs. Check out the various renditions: Junior [YouTube link], Laura Branigan [amazon.com sample], Lory Bianco, and the Celine album track, the Celine dance version (my favorite), and the Kevin Unger remix, featuring rapper Frankie Fudge [YouTube links].
Song of the Day: What a Fool Believes, words and music by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, won a 1979 Grammy Award for "Record of the Year" for The Doobie Brothers. The song was featured on their album "Minute By Minute" (their original drummer, Michael Hossack, passed away last month). Michael McDonald sings lead on that recording and one of the backup singers may have been Michael Jackson [YouTube link]. One of the few #1 non-disco hits of that year, it was remixed at the time by Jim Burgess for the dance floor [YouTube link] and has been remixed several times since [YouTube links]. But check out YouTube for the Grammy-winning original, a Kenny Loggins version (released on "Nightwatch," five months prior to the Doobie Brothers' rendition), a nice 1993 live duet by its songwriters featured on "Outside: From the Redwoods" and, finally, a rendition by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin [YouTube links]. Only a fool would believe that I would only post this particular song on this particular day. But it really is one of my favorites!
Song of the Day: Tuxedo Junction features the lyrics of Buddy Feyne and the music of Bill Johnson, Julian Dash, and Erskine Hawkins, who first recorded this song with his orchestra [YouTube link]. But its most famous rendition was the smooth, slow, finger snappin' version of the Glenn Miller Orchestra [YouTube link]. Check out other versions as well: the Harry James Orchestra, The Manhattan Transfer (turning it into their own theme song), and Joe Jackson.
Song of the Day: Billionaire features the words and music of Ari Levine, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars and Travie Lazarus McCoy, who recorded the track for "Lazarus," his first studio album. With clever rapping by McCoy and the smooth vocals of Bruno Mars, I can't think of a more appropriate song to feature on a day when the country is crazy for the Mega Millions Lottery, with the largest jackpot in history now roaring past half-a-billion bucks. Hey, You Never Know! So while you're waiting for the winning numbers, check out the music video to this cool song, a Danyo Wallem remix (Explicit Content Warning!), and a "Glee" cast version as well.
Song of the Day: Make 'Em Laugh, music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed, is from the 1952 movie musical, "Singin' in the Rain," #1 on AFI's 100 Years of Musicals. The film opened 60 years ago this week at Radio City Music Hall. This song, closely based on Cole Porter's "Be a Clown," was performed with daring enthusiasm by Donald O'Connor in the film [YouTube link]. What a movie moment!
Song of the Day: Love Has Come Around, words and music by William Duckett, peaked at #4 on the 1981 Billboard Dance Chart. It was recorded by Donald Byrd's 125th Street, NYC Band for the album "Love Byrd," produced by Isaac Hayes. Initially a bop horn player, Byrd was a pioneer fusion artist, who has blended elements of jazz, funk, and soul, of which this selection is a prime example. Check out this smooth track with its memorable hook on YouTube here and here. And check out a few latter day remixes: Pink City Remix and DJ Cris Funk.
Song of the Day: I Didn't Mean to Turn You On, words and music by Jimmy Jam (James Samuel Harris III) and Terry Lewis, was a 1984 Top Ten R&B hit by Cherrelle. The music video features an homage to the 1933 blockbuster, "King Kong" [YouTube link]. A year later, Robert Palmer recorded his own version (following a trajectory similar to "You Are in My System"). The track appears on his album, "Riptide," and in a video featuring The Girls, prominent in other Palmer solo hit videos. Check out the Palmer music video and the extended video, as well as a live "American Music Awards" performance [YouTube links]. Mariah Carey also did a version of the song for the film "Glitter" that was faithful to the original Cherrelle arrangement. The soundtrack was released on September 11, 2001 (not a good sign, apparently). Check out this "Glitter" film excerpt and the soundtrack version [YouTube links]. But I still love the original full-length version that appears on Cherrelle's self-titled album [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: You Are In My System features the words and music of David Frank and Mic Murphy, who founded the band, The System. This 1982 electro-funk track reached the Top Ten on both the R&B and Dance Club Play charts, and was remade into a Mainstream Rock hit by Robert Palmer a year later. Still, my favorite versions are the percolating original 7" (the video features Mic Murphy looking a little like MJ, if you ask me) and 12" extended mixes [YouTube links]. Check out Palmer's fun remake, extended version, and an Eric Kupper Def remix, and The System's Kerri Chandler House Mix and Atmospheric Spanish Vocal House Mix as well.
Song of the Day: This is My Night, words and music by David Frank and Mic Murphy, is a selection on the fifth solo album of the only Chaka Khan: "I Feel for You." Coming on the heels of the humongous title track hit from that album, this song went to #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play Billboard chart, 27 years ago this month. I loved remixing this track for the dance floor, and it remains one of my favorites from the enormous Chaka corpus. Listen to the original album version, the 12" remix. and the video version [YouTube links]. Back in 1953, on this date, Chaka Khan was born. So this is your night and your day, Chaka: Happy Birthday!
Song of the Day: Love After War, words, music, and performance by Robin Thicke, is the title track to the artist's fifth studio album. Oozing with seductive soul, the track has a sound that reminds me vaguely of "Nite and Day" by Al B. Sure! The comparison is all the more freaky because another artist, Raheem DeVaughn, actually did a cover version of "Nite and Day" [YouTube link] on a 2009 mixtape prequel to his "Love & War MasterPeace" project. Hmmm, I'm Sure there is some kind of "love" and "war" conspiracy going on! Either way, I really love the Thicke song. Take a look at the very sexy official music video and a live "Jimmy Kimmel Live" performance.
Song of the Day: Nite and Day [not that one] features the words and music of Kyle West and Al B. Sure!, who sings this seductive #1 R&B hit on his 1988 album, "In Effect Mode." It has the kind of "sleaze beat" Quiet Storm sound appropriate for "grinding music" and its related activities. Check out the irresistibility of the original single [YouTube link]. With night and day of approximately equal length around this time of the vernal equinox, there's no better moment for a little lesson from the Old School of New Jack Swing.
Song of the Day: There'll Be Another Spring features the words and music of Hubie Wheeler and Peggy Lee, who sang this song famously with pianist George Shearing (see here too for another version) [YouTube links]. And check out jazz vocalist Diane Reeves [YouTube link], a version that appears on the soundtrack for the 2005 film, "Good Night, and Good Luck." A Happy Vernal Equinox to All; as of 1:14 a.m. EDT today, it's officially Spring for us Northern Hemisphere folks, though if you ask around New York City, most will tell you that we hardly had a winter.
Song of the Day: The Groove Line features the words and music of Rod Temperton, who would later compose such classic Michael Jackson hits as "Thriller." This song was one of the best dance tracks of 1978, recorded by the R&B-funk-disco band, Heatwave for their album, "Central Heating." Check out the single version and the extended 12" version, and "leave your worries behind . . ."
Song of the Day: Inner City Life features the words and music of electronic music master Goldie, Rob ("Timecode") Playford, and Diane Charlemagne, whose voice caresses this classic drum and bass track. It is taken from the title track of the album "Timeless," in which jungle, breakbeats, and atmospheric ambient sounds blend seamlessly with symphonic strings, jazzy inflections, and soulful vocals to produce a wondrous cross-fertilization. Listen to the full 21-minute piece from which this song emerged, and then check out these various mixes: Classic Drum & Bass, Roni Size and DJ Krust Remix, Baby Boy's Edit, Rabbit's Short Attention Span Mix, the Rabbit in the Moon Mix (courtesy of the great Paul Oakenfold), and a jazz-inspired remake featuring vocalist Jhelisa Anderson [all YouTube links].
Song of the Day: Let's Fall in Love, words and music by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, has been recorded by many performers, from Eddy Duchin to Diana Krall [YouTube links]. It has also been recorded by Irish American jazz musician Gerry Mulligan, perhaps the leading baritone saxophonist in all of jazz history. One of my favorite versions of this sweet selection from the Great American Songbook is from the album "Getz Meets Mulligan in Hi-Fi," a stupendous meeting of two legendary saxophonists, who switch it up on this delightful track: Getz plays the baritone, instead of his classic tenor and Mulligan plays the tenor [YouTube link]. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Song of the Day: The Typewriter, composed by Leroy Anderson, is one of those twentieth-century orchestral pieces that brings a smile to one's face. Today, it's posted in honor of the birthday of a comedic genius, Jerry Lewis, who was born on this date in 1926. If part of comedy is timing, then here is Exhibit A on the wonder of exquisite timing: Jerry Lewis performing this piece, from the 1963 film "Who's Minding the Store?" and also on the Colgate Comedy Hour. Happy Birthday to one of the greats!
Song of the Day: Che La Luna Mezzo Mare is an Italian folksong composed, it is said, by Paolo Citorello, but infinite variations of the song have been heard throughout the years. Growing up in the Sciabarra household, we heard the bouncy Louis Prima-Keely Smith version [YouTube link], with its funny double entendres sung in both Italian and English. Other memorable versions have been performed by Rudy Vallee, Lou Monte and Dean Martin [YouTube links]. But the most memorable cinematic take is at the wedding of the daughter of Don Vito Corleone (played by Oscar-winner, Marlon Brando) in the original Mafia Family Values Movie: "The Godfather," the Oscar-winning Best Picture, my all-time favorite gangster film, an epic crime drama directed brilliantly by Francis Ford Coppola. At the wedding, Mama Corleone (played by Morgana King) is invited to the stage to begin the verses of the classic song; an old man, not unlike many I've seen at countless Italian weddings that I've attended since childhood, gets up, and completes the verses with the kind of hilariously perverse body language that the song inspires. How appropriate to note this song today, for 40 years ago, on this date, on the Ides of March in 1972, "The Godfather" had its U.S. debut. Yes, it has a haunting Nino Rota soundtrack. But it also has a "Che La Luna" wedding scene [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: I've Got the Music in Me features the words and music of Tobias "Bias" Boshell, who was the keyboardist for The Kiki Dee Band, which released this as the title song off its 1974 album. I loved the song when I first heard it; my sister-in-law, Joanne Barry, used to give a rousing performance of it in the NYC cabaret circuit too. Check out these versions: the driving rock-oriented original Kiki Dee Band rendition [YouTube link]; the full-voiced R&B diva, Thelma Houston [YouTube link]; a jazzy Aretha Franklin, who sang it with superb jazz horn player Clark Terry on "Sweet Passion," her 1977 album. A snippet of it is heard over the closing credits of HBO's wonderful documentary, "The Music In Me" (check it out at 27:37). And finally, check out sexy Jennifer Lopez, who provides a beat-heavy version for her current Kohl's Department Store commercials [YouTube link].
Song of the Day: Stay with Me Tonight, words and music by recently deceased Brooklyn Technical High School graduate Raymond E. Jones, was a huge R&B hit for the talented musician Jeffrey Osborne, the title track of his terrific 1983 solo album. Check out this smooth and funky track on YouTube and the extended remix as well.
Song of the Day: International Love, words and music by Armando C. Perez ("Pitbull"), Carsten Shack ("Soulshock"), Peter Biker, Sean Hurley, and Claude Kelly, is a really catchy dance track from "Planet Pit," the sixth studio album from rapper Pitbull, and it features an infectious melody line delivered by Chris Brown. Check out the Official Video, as well as the Jump Smokers Remix and the Daniel Ngo Remix.
Song of the Day: Runaway Baby, words and music by Bruno Mars and Brody Brown, is featured on "Doo-Wops and Hooligans," the debut album of the talented Bruno Mars, who has dashes of Little Richard, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson in him. This song [YouTube link] harks back to old time rock 'n roll. His performance of the song on "The X Factor" [YouTube link] and on the 2012 Grammy Awards [YouTube link] show off his James Brown moves, his infectious energy, and his indisputable charm. At the Grammy's, he also gave a shout-out tribute to Whitney Houston. And he routinely tributes Michael Jackson, another pop legend gone too soon; check out YouTube links to his performances of "I Want You Back," "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "The Way You Make Me Feel," and "Dirty Diana."
Song of the Day: It's Not Right But It's Okay, words and music by LaShawn Daniels, Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins III, Isaac Phillips, and Toni Estes, is featured on the 1998 Whitney Houston album, "My Love Is Your Love." My all-time favorite uptempo Whitney track remains "Love Will Save the Day," especially the original album version (check out, as well, the Disconet remix, which builds on the original). And my all-time favorite Whitney ballad is "Saving All My Love for You," with "I Have Nothing" a close second. But this one is my absolute all-time favorite dance remix of any Whitney Houston song. The original track [YouTube link] is transformed into a scalding #1 Billboard dance chart hit by Thunderpuss [YouTube link], a testament to the raw power of a well-done remix, the sheer talent of a remixer, and a stellar example of the reason for having a non-classical Grammy remix category. As we close out our Whitney Houston dance music tribute, check out these various greatest hits medleys, which include some very popular songs not highlighted here over the past 10 days: the 1988 Whitney Houston Disconet Medley, another 1980s medley, the 2008 lovetoinfinitymegamix, the 2009 Ulti Megamix, the x2party megamix, the 2011 D.G. Megamix Medley, and another Megamix, Part 1 and Part 2. Excuse me now, 'cuz "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." RIP, Whitney.
Song of the Day: Million Dollar Bill, words and music by Alicia Keys, Kasseem "Swizz Beatz" Dean, and Norman Harris, is a song from Whitney Houston's seventh and final studio album, "I Look To You." A sample from "We're Getting Stronger" by Loleatta Holloway [YouTube link] is featured in the original mix; check out a really nice Freemasons Club Mix as well.
Song of the Day: Same Script, Different Cast, words and music by Stacey "Dove" Daniels, Shae Jones, Anthony "Shep" Crawford, and Montell Jordan, is a supreme Diva Duet from "Whitney: The Greatest Hits" (2000), featuring Whitney Houston and Deborah Cox [nice link where Cox reminisces about Houston]. Sporting a Fur Elise sample is the original mix [YouTube link]; also check out the Jonathan Peters Vocal Club Mix, which helped to propel the track to #4 on the Billboard Dance Chart.
Song of the Day: If I Told You That, words and music by LaShawn Daniels, Rodney Jerkins, Fred Jerkins III, and Toni Estes, is a duet by Whitney Houston and George Michael. The original version of this song [YouTube link] appeared on "My Love is Your Love," as a solo Whitney track. But the duet featured on "Whitney: The Greatest Hits" (2000) provided nice interplay between the two artists. This particular track never scored on the Billboard Dance Chart, but its "sleaze-beat" (a slower but still very danceable Beats-Per-Minute tempo) provides a lot of chill spaces for sexy moving. Check out the video, the smooth Johnny Douglas Mix, and Nic Mercy's Bavaro Beat Mix.
Song of the Day: Could I Have This Kiss Forever, words and music by Diane Warren, a duet by Whitney Houston and Enrique Iglesias, is a Latin-tinged dance track from "Whitney: The Greatest Hits" (2000). The original track never hit the Billboard Dance Chart, but it provides the kind of chill rhythmic pulse best for sensual dancing. Check out the original video version, the Tin Tin Out Mix, and the housed-up HQ Video Club Mix.
Song of the Day: It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be, words and music by Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, is a fun 1989 duet featuring Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin, from the latter's album, "Through the Storm." For the next few days, we turn to a few of my favorite beat-friendly duets in the Whitney canon. Check out the New Jack Swing feel of the original and the remix, and the 1999 Nic Mercy house remix.
Song of the Day: I Learned from the Best, words and music by Diane Warren, appeared as a ballad [YouTube link] on the artist's fourth studio album, "My Love is Your Love." But slammin' remixes by Hex Hector [YouTube link] and Junior Vasquez [YouTube link to the Disco Club Mix] (for which Houston re-recorded her vocals) propelled the track to #1 on the Billboard dance chart.
Song of the Day: I'm Your Baby Tonight, words, music, and production by L. A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, is the finger poppin' title track to Whitney Houston's third album and the artist's 8th #1 pop hit. Now, while I'm often a lover of remixes, this track's dance remix [YouTube link] just does not compare to the original album mix [YouTube link], with its slick shuffle beat.
Song of the Day: So Emotional, words and music by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, was a #1 dance hit from Whitney Houston's second album. Check out the official music video, the original 12" extended remix, the David Morales Club Mix, the mammoth 11+ minute David Morales Emotional Club Mix (from "Whitney: The Unreleased Mixes") and a mash-up with "Black or White," by the late Michael Jackson. This was a memorable track that I mixed and remixed at weddings, engagement parties, bar mitzvahs and class reunions, when I was a mobile DJ, or, uh, "Dr. DJ," as they used to call me. "Ain't it shocking what love can do."
Song of the Day: Thinking About You, words and music by Kashif and La La, was a Top Ten R&B radio hit (not released to pop radio), and the first song by Whitney Houston to score on the Billboard dance chart, peaking at #24. It was featured on the artist's self-titled debut album. Houston passed away last month, and many have paid tribute to her in the weeks since. Today begins my own 10-day tribute. These are some of my Whitney favorites, with a twist. The artist was very well known for her power ballads. But we'll be "thinking about you," Whitney (and your cast of producers and remixers), and some of the great dance music moments you gave us. Having done a lot of DJ'ing back in the day, I spun Whitney's tracks on my turntables regularly, packing many a dance floor. This particular track can be heard in its wonderfully rhythmic original album version, a Bruce Forest extended dance mix, Ricky Be's Hard House and Trance remix, and the M-phasis RMX.
Song of the Day: As Time Goes By was written by Herman Hupfeld in 1931 for the Broadway musical, "Everybody's Welcome." But it is eternally enshrined in the minds of cinema fans worldwide for its appearance in the 1942 film, "Casablanca," starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Dooley Wilson, "Sam" in the movie, plays it, and plays it again (even if "Play it Again, Sam" is never actually uttered by Bogie). Speaking of "time," this is officially Leap Year Day, when, every four years, we add a day to our calendar. And it's also the end of Film Music February, our month-long tribute to film music. Take a look at two Dooley Wilson YouTube moments here and here. And check out instrumental versions by jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and classical guitarist John Williams. Here's lookin' at you, kid.
Song of the Day: Planet of the Apes ("Main Title" / Various) [excellent YouTube soundtrack montage at that link] features the futuristic sounds of Jerry Goldsmith, who provides the perfect musical complement to one of the most remarkable sci-fi films, with one of the most chilling, twisted endings, in cinema history. I loved this movie when I first saw it in 1968, and it has been a favorite ever since. And when I was 13, I remember going to the Sommer Highway Theater in Gravesend, Brooklyn, and seeing all five "ape" movies in a 1973 marathon upon the release of the fifth and final film in the original series: Planet of the..., Beneath the Planet of the..., Escape from the Planet of the..., Conquest of the Planet of the..., and Battle for the Planet of the... Apes). On that day, the Planet of the Apes franchise gave us 5 films for the price of 1. "Young man, in my day, we saw those films in a theater that was not a multiplex." God, do I sound old. One more thing about Jerry Goldsmith: he studied with Miklos Rozsa at USC. In his teens, Goldsmith recollects that it was "Spellbound" in 1945 that put him upon his life's path. That film featured two things with which he fell in love: Rozsa's Oscar-winning score and the great actress Ingrid Bergman. From that point on, he sought a career in film score composition and sought to marry Ingrid. As he put it in later years: 'One out of two wasn't bad.'
Song of the Day: I Fall in Love Too Easily, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is from the 1945 film, "Anchors Away," where it was introduced by Frank Sinatra [YouTube link]. The musical director Georgie Stoll received an Oscar for the Scoring of a Musical Picture, and this song received an Oscar nomination for "Best Original Song" (losing out to Rodgers and Hammerstein's gem, "It Might As Well Be Spring"). Check out versions by Keith Jarrett and Anita O'Day. One of my favorite versions of this standard can be found on "Cloud 7" [YouTube clip at that link], an early Tony Bennett album, featuring the trailblazing jazz guitarist Chuck Wayne, who was born on this date in 1923, and served as Bennett's musical director and accompanist from 1954-1957. The trumpet solo here is by Charles Panely. (And three cheers to host Billy Crystal for some truly hilarious moments at the 84th Annual Academy Awards last night; to Meryl Streep for finally getting Oscar #3, after nearly 30 magnificent acting years since Oscar #2; and to Zach Galifianakis for the Best Zinger of the Night in presenting the Oscar for "Best Original Song," today's highlighted category.)
Song of the Day: Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare (with CinemaScope Extension) [YouTube clip at that link] is one of the most recognizable, robust, and regal fanfares in all of cinema and it was written by the immortal Alfred Newman. There's no better way to provide a drum roll for tonight's 84th Academy Awards, hosted by the guy who has been my favorite host throughout the years: Billy Crystal. (Our Movie Music Month continues until Leap Year Day.)
Song of the Day: The War of the Worlds ("Main Title" / Various) [excellent YouTube soundtrack montage at that link] features a dramatic score by Leith Stevens. The movie is without a doubt my all-time favorite aliens-invading-earth film from the 1950s. This George Pal production, which was released in February 1953, was directed by Byron Haskin, and starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, who provided cameos as Tom Cruise's in-laws in the Steven Spielberg version of the H. G. Wells story. Dramatizations of this classic story started with the phenomenal 1938 "Mercury Theatre on the Air" radio broadcast of Orson Welles and have continued up till the present day. Nominated for three Academy Awards, the sci-fi classic won a well-deserved Oscar for special visual effects.
Song of the Day: The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms ("Monster Does Manhattan") [sample clip at that link], composed by David Buttolph for the 1953 film, is one of the defining and most influential film soundtracks for the whole sub-genre of "Monster Movies," which feature giant monsters stomping on contemporary cities (everything from King-sized giant apes and Atomic Age-reawakened dinosaurs to mutant ants and tarantulas). This particular film's plot has a fabulous London counterpart, released in 1959: "The Giant Behemoth," with special effects by Willis O'Brien, who was a mentor to Ray Harryhausen, the special effects wizard for Beast. After the Beast wreaks havoc in Manhattan, it decides to visit Brooklyn. Fuhgeddaboudit! It comes to a violent end at the Cyclone roller coaster, in Coney Island Amusement Park. Still, a little too close for comfort, if you ask this Brooklynite.
Song of the Day: The Wolf Man ("Main Title" / Various) [YouTube clip at that link] features an uncredited soundtrack, which included contributions from Frank Skinner, Hans J. Salter, and Charles Previn (great-uncle of Andre). Skinner has written some of my favorite scores in this genre, which will make their way to this list before too long. The 1941 film stars Lon Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot, who becomes the Wolf Man, having been bitten by the werewolf, Bela. The actor playing that role was actually named Bela: Bela Lugosi! Benicio del Toro took on the Talbot role in the 2010 remake. For an extra thrill, check out Moscow Symphony Orchestra versions of the 1941 Main Title [YouTube] and The Kill [mp3].
Song of the Day: The Bride of Frankenstein ("Main Title") is featured in the definitive score composed by Franz Waxman. This 1935 movie is the first and the best of the sequels to "Frankenstein." Directed by James Whale, it is one of the finest films in the Universal Monster Movie catalogue. Listen to the classic opening theme here [mp3 link].
Song of the Day: Frankenstein ("Main Title" / Various) [YouTube clip at that link], music by Giuseppe Becce and Bernhard Kaun, is from the soundtrack to the James Whale-directed 1931 classic Universal monster movie, starring Boris Karloff as the Monster. Today, I begin a mini-tribute within a tribute: a brief foray into my favorite "Monster Movie" soundtracks. I grew up on "Famous Monsters of Filmland" and was a regular Saturday night fan of "Chiller Theatre" and Zacherley on WPIX-TV in New York. So it's only natural to start off with one of the grand-daddies in the unnatural Universal catalogue!
Song of the Day: Hotel ("Main Title" / "Love Theme") features the music of John Keating and the lyrics of Richard Quine, who was the director of the 1967 film, "Hotel." The Keating soundtrack earned a Grammy Original Score nomination; on the album, the great jazz singer, Carmen McRae (YouTube clip at that link), who stars in the film, sings the love theme. The instrumental version can be heard in its entirety here; also, check out one of my all-time favorite renditions by Nancy Wilson (MySpace full-length clip at that link); it's from the 1968 album "Welcome to My Love," which was also one of my Mom's favorite albums; today, she would have been 93.
Song of the Day: The Children of Sanchez ("Overture"), words, music, film score written and performed by Chuck Mangione, comes from the Latin- and jazz-infused score that has a musical integrity quite apart from the fact that it's from a 1979 film, starring Anthony Quinn, that I've still yet to see! Mangione won a much-deserved Grammy Award for this album for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Listen to the 14+ minute overture on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Mommie Dearest ("Main Theme") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the perennially melodious Henry Mancini, is one of the great unheralded themes from his remarkable corpus of cinematic scores. It evokes gentility and pain, a feeling of promise, and of the ominous. And the 1981 film, entertaining as ever, features one of those eminently quotable lines in film history, uttered by Faye Dunaway, playing Joan Crawford, as she speaks before the Pepsi Cola Company Board of Trustees, which tries to dispense with her upon the death of her husband, Albert Steele, who had been Chairman of the Board: "Don't fuck with me fellahs. This ain't my first time at the rodeo." The Mancini soundtrack remains among this film's hidden gems.
Song of the Day: Ben Hur ("The Burning Desert") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the one and only Miklos Rozsa, is from my all-time favorite film, the 1959 epic known for its colossal naval battles and chariot races, but also for its intimacy and intelligence. It's been a tradition around these parts to feature a selection from this grandest of symphonic cinematic scores every February 17th. This past year, life has sometimes felt like a struggle across a burning desert; just knowing that the sounds of redemption echo on the next horizon, that the cup of human kindness awaits in the hands of my truly blessed family and loyal friends, is enough to inspire the continuing trek across the many burning deserts to come. Happy 52nd Birthday to Me (born on the day that made me "Wednesday's Child, Full of Woe") and Three Cheers to Rozsa!
Song of the Day: The Robe ("Caligula's Arrival") [YouTube clip at that link] is from the stupendous Alfred Newman score to the first CinemaScope film in movie history (the last was "In Like Flint"). I remember when I first wrote 20th Century Fox many years ago: having been used to the flat-screen version shown on TV, I finally had a chance to see the "letterbox" version that was released on DVD and I was appalled at the differences. Whoever answered me from the studio insisted that it was only a difference between a "pan-and-scan" edit shown on TV and the actual CinemaScope released to theaters. No way, I protested! This wasn't a mere difference in the angle of the lens; the acting, the inflections of the words, etc., were completely different! I was vindicated when I found out later that this sprawling Biblical epic, one of my all-time favorites, was actually filmed twice: in Widescreen and in Standard "Flat" Screen versions. As far as I'm concerned, however, the best acted version remains the standard flat-screen one, which has yet to be given a glorious Blu-Ray transfer (only a side-by-side comparison can be found as a "bonus" on the Blu-Ray). In any event, this particular track, "Caligula's Arrival," captures the might of ancient Rome, if not the seeds of insanity, in the not-yet-Emperor Caligula, played with memorable flamboyance and furiosity by Jay Robinson. When I was a kid of 9 or 10 years old, so impressed was I by Robinson's portrayal (the film was played regularly on The 4:30 Movie), that I'd don an emperor's robe (usually a larger-than-life blanket), and recite, word-for-word, the character Caligula's speech at the trial of Tribune Marcellus Gallio (played by an Oscar-nominated Richard Burton). If that wasn't a sure sign of my, uh, inner, uh, Caligula, I don't know what could have been more telling! "Senators, Romans, there exists today in our Empire, and even in Rome itself, a secret party of seditionists, who call themselves Christians..." Don't get me started... I still know that speech by heart. Which is why I knew there were differences between widescreen and flat-screen versions; Robinson's inflections differ considerably in the standard version I grew to love, a version that, unfortunately, can't be found anywhere online. (I have my own copy recorded from cable many years ago, when AMC didn't have commercial interruptions!) The actual theme ("Caligula's Arrival"), highlighted today, is stated again at 01:55:43, when the trial sequence gets under way.
Song of the Day: The Sand Pebbles ("Jake and Shirley"), composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is featured on the evocative soundtrack to this 1966 film, one of my favorite films. Check out the lovely theme with clips of Steve McQueen and Candice Bergen and pianist Mark Northam's version as well. Back in 1969, all of 9 years old, I went to see "Che!" but "The Sand Pebbles" was the first film on a double-feature bill; so deeply affected were we by the Robert Wise-directed epic that we never stayed for the main feature. This theme was later gifted with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse ("And We Were Lovers"); it has been recorded by countless artists, all indexed with full track presentations at this phenomenal page (of particular note on that page: a tender vocal version by Jack Jones and a lovely instrumental treatment by the late, great Bud Shank). And check out The Sand Pebbles Motion Picture Website in all its glory.
Song of the Day: On Green Dolphin Street, lyrics by Ned Washington, music by Bronislaw Kaper, can be heard on the soundtrack to the 1947 film, "Green Dolphin Street." The song has become a jazz standard; check out these classic versions by Miles Davis (in the rare "'58 Miles," with the "Kind of Blue" sextet, featuring pianist Bill Evans and saxophonists Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane), Bill Evans and a live Evans version with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell, the Gary Burton Quartet, with guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Chuck Israels, and drummer Larry Bunker, Anita O'Day, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Vince Guaraldi, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, and George Benson, live at the Newport Jazz Festival with the Count Basie Orchestra. Any song that celebrates "love" and the "heart" and "nights beyond forgetting," deserves to shine on this day: Happy Valentine's Day!
Song of the Day: In the Heat of the Night, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, music by the multitalented composer, conductor, arranger, and producer Quincy Jones, is featured in the 1967 film, starring Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier ("They call me Mister Tibbs!"). The Quincy Jones soundtrack received a Grammy nomination for "Best Original Score from a Motion Picture or Television Show." It's a great title song, sung by the great Ray Charles (YouTube clip at that link). Check out other notable versions as well: Bill Champlin (who sang it for the TV series) and the very jazzy Nancy Wilson (from her 1968 album, "Welcome to My Love"). The Bergmans, Jones, Champlin, Charles, Wilson, even Poitier! ... all Grammy winners in their lifetimes. Last night's memorable Grammy telecast (even Betty White won a Grammy!), with its moving memorials to Whitney Houston, Etta James, and others, reminds us to celebrate the healing power of music.
Song of the Day: I'm Every Woman, words and music by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, was a huge hit in 1978 for Chaka Khan. A #1 R&B track, the record peaked at #21 on the pop chart. It was reprised by Whitney Houston, who performed it in the 1992 film, "The Bodyguard," in which she co-starred with Kevin Costner. The song went to #4 on the pop chart and was a #1 Dance Club Hit. The soundtrack album won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, sporting Whitney's cover of "I Will Always Love You," which went on to win "Record of the Year," while Whitney herself captured the "Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female." Check out Chaka's original version here, a terrific remix from her 1989 album, "Life is a Dance," and, finally, Whitney Houston's remake, in which she gives a shout-out to Chaka as the song fades out. Tonight, tune in and see who the new winners are at the 54th Grammy Awards. And remember multiple-Grammy Award-winning singer, Whitney Houston, who passed away yesterday at the age of 48.
Song of the Day: Airport ("Love Theme") features the last soundtrack composed by Alfred Newman, who passed away less than a month before the film's release (and a month before his 70th St. Patrick's Day birthday in 1970). Nominated for 10 Oscars (only Helen Hayes walked away with a statuette, for "Best Supporting Actress"), the movie is credited as having initiated the 1970s "disaster film" genre, which reached its height, so-to-speak, in 1974, with "The Towering Inferno." The Oscar-nominated Newman score is highlighted by this lush love theme (YouTube link). (This particular take on the love theme is from "As You Remember Them," a Time-Life collection on vinyl that I've always treasured.)
Song of the Day: In Like Flint ("Where the Bad Guys Are Gals"), composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is featured in the whimsical 1967 sequel to "Our Man Flint" (1966). This was the last movie ever made in CinemaScope. This composition (which, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, became "Your Zowie Face"; listen to a sample here) has the kind of infectious melody heard throughout the film that once heard never seems to leave the psyche (and, yes, it has a similarity to another one of my favorites: "Call Me"). Check it out on YouTube here and here (along with a piece on "Spy Vogue") and in a Nelson Riddle arrangement too! And check out "The Musician's Magician" (YouTube link), a mini-"In Like Flint"-tribute to the great composer, who was born on this date in 1929.
Song of the Day: The Towering Inferno ("Something for Susan") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by John Williams, is an encore to our 80th birthday notice. It is a reminder that before he was John Williams, he was "Johnny Williams," a jazz pianist working in clubs around New York City. His early jazz sensibility is still evident in this intimate cue from the blockbuster 1974 Irwin Allen disaster flick. Check out YouTube to see the romantic scene between Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway, caressed by the sweet music of the Maestro.
Song of the Day: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ("Hedwig's Theme") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the prolific John Williams, derives from the 2001 Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated score for the first film in the Harry Potter franchise, one of my all-time favorite fantasy series. The theme became the central musical leitmotif of the entire series, as powerful a contribution to thematic cinema scoring as any that Williams has ever made in his remarkable career. Happy 80th Birthday to the Maestro! Bravo!
Song of the Day: Jurassic Park ("Journey to the Island"), composed by the living legend that is John Williams, contains some of the most majestic themes in the corpus of this great composer, who, tomorrow, turns 80 years old. The composer earned Oscar nominations for two of his scores this year; he now surpasses the mighty Alfred Newman for the all-time most music nominations (47 and counting...) in the history of the Academy Awards. This dino-mite 1993 film is one of my all-time favorite "monster movies" centering on the unintended consequences of human action. And it was another in a string of terrific collaborations between Williams and director Steven Spielberg. Check out this YouTube moment.
Song of the Day: The Verdict ("The Bottom") [sample clip at that link], composed by Johnny Mandel, captures perfectly the mind-set of Frank Galvin, a seemingly washed-up attorney, who has one last chance to take on a big case, one last chance for personal redemption. The character is played by the Oscar-nominated Paul Newman, in what was, arguably, his greatest performance as an actor. The acclaimed director Sidney Lumet, who passed away in April 2011, said this of Newman's work in the 1982 film: "The slightest gesture, the slightest look, deep riches pour out." Amen. (Oh, and This Verdict Is In and It's Not 'The Bottom' but the Very Top!: The New York Giants Win the Super Bowl!! Bravo!!!)
Song of the Day: Heaven Can Wait features the Oscar-nominated score of composer Dave Grusin. It's one of my favorite cinema comedies (actually an adaptation of Harry Segall's 1938 play of the same name, and a remake of the 1941 film, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan"). But it's also a movie whose final sequences take place at the Super Bowl. And that's where the New York Giants are today, facing off with their arch football rivals, the New England Patriots, whom Big Blue beat at the 2007 Super Bowl. (Okay, okay, I'll give handsome Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady 1/2 of 1 point, just for admitting to a "man-crush" on New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.) But I say: One Mo' Time! Go Eli Manning! Go Giants! And Go Grusin for capturing so many moods in his kaleidoscopic main theme from this 1978 film (YouTube clip at that link).
Song of the Day: It's Just Begun, words and music by Jimmy Castor, Johnny L. Pruitt, and Gerry Thomas, is one of the most famous tracks recorded by The Jimmy Castor Bunch. It is featured during a sizzling breakdance sequence (YouTube link) in the 1983 smash hit film "Flashdance." This entertaining movie sported a robust soundtrack of hit singles. And yet, this track never appeared on the soundtrack album! The track actually predates the movie; it first appeared in 1972 as the title track to the second album released by The Jimmy Castor Bunch. Castor passed away in January 2012. But his music lives on; this song, in particular, has been sampled countless times by hip hop artists. Check out the gloriously funky original on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Horror Hotel (in the U.K., known as "The City of the Dead") features the music of two composers: Douglas Gamley, who wrote the spooky themes, and Kenneth V. Jones, who composed the jazz music heard throughout. This 1960 film stars a superb Christopher Lee and a terrifically terrifying Patricia Jessel, who plays the witch, Elizabeth Selwyn, burned at the stake in Whitewood, Massachusetts on March 3, 1692 (coincident with the Salem Witch Hunts), but still living as Mrs. Newless (a play on Selwyn, spoken backwards), the owner of the Raven's Inn. It's one of my all-time favorite horror movies. Some have compared it to "Psycho," in terms of structure, but the films were released months apart (Hotel actually started shooting in 1959, a month before filming began on "Psycho"), and this Hotel is no derivative. The version released in the U.S. is slightly shorter than the U.K. original; the U.S. edit can be viewed here. The creepy Main Title by Gamley can be heard at 00:01-01:24; some of the best Jones jazz can be heard at 31:21-33:04 (my favorite at 32:49). The first human sacrifice in the movie takes place on Candlemas Eve: at the hour of "13" (the stroke of midnight, when February 1st becomes February 2nd), the bells in the churchyard ring 13 times. At which point, poor Nan Barlow (played by Venetia Stevenson) is ritually slaughtered. That makes today, uh, gulp, "Candlemas"; I say: Happy Groundhog Day (a big shout out to Staten Island Chuck and Punxsutawney Phil)!
Song of the Day: All About Eve ("Main Title") [sample at that link] opens composer Alfred Newman's Oscar-nominated score for the iconic 1950 film, which was nominated for a then-record 14 Academy Awards (tied in 1997 by "Titanic"). The film won a total of 6 Oscars, including Best Picture. It boasts an outstanding cast, led by the incomparable (and Oscar-nominated Best Actress) Bette Davis, who utters that famous line: "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night" (#9 on the list of the American Film Institute's all-time movie quotations). And a special nod to Oscar-nominated Supporting Actress Thelma Ritter, who, as Birdie, just can't believe the life story being spun by Eve (Oscar-nominated Supporting Actress Anne Baxter): "Everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end." (And check out the Live Lux Radio Theater version of the story!) Today begins my Annual Tribute to Cinema Songs, Scores and Other Compositions featured in film, a traditional Film Music February en route to the 84th Academy Awards.
Song of the Day: Golden Girls ("Thank You For Being a Friend"), composed by Andrew Gold, was the main title for this golden television comedy, which starred the late Bea Arthur, the late Rue McClanahan, the late Estelle Getty, and the very much alive Betty White, who, today, turns 90. As crazy and entertaining as ever, perfect in her comic timing, and still laughing it up on such shows as "Hot in Cleveland," the lady is poised for another 90 years! Take a look at the opening of this hilarious show, with its theme music, on YouTube. And Happy Birthday, Betty!
Song of the Day: One Life to Live has featured many lovely opening and closing themes throughout its 40+ years on television, with words and music being contributed by composers as varied as Dave Grusin and Lee Elwood Holdridge. I started watching the ABC soap opera back in 1992, when I was hooked on a storyline about an out gay teenage character named Billy Douglas (played by Ryan Phillippe). I watched the show right through its last episode on Friday the 13th of January 2012, when it ended a 43+ year run on daytime television. Listen to these incarnations of its catchy theme: Peobo Bryson, a 1980s memory, one from the early 1990s, a 1991 incarnation, a turn of the century version, and a vocal performed by Kassie DePaiva (who played Blair Cramer). Today may start the The Revolution, but I say: Viva Life (in fact, some characters/actors will move to "General Hospital")!
Song of the Day: Kiss From a Rose, words and music by Seal, went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, when it was released as the second single from the soundtrack to the 1995 film, "Batman Forever," starring Val Kilmer as the Caped Crusader. Nothing more appropriate on the day in which Pasadena, California hosts the amazing Tournament of Roses Parade. Take a look at this haunting, melodic song in two different music videos: the original and the one directed by Joel Schumacher, which is interspersed with clips from the movie.
Song of the Day: Stomp!, written by Louis Johnson, George Johnson, Valerie Johnson, and Rod Temperton, was a #1 Dance Hit in 1980 for the Brothers Johnson. The funky track was heard everywhere, on the radio, on television, in film, and even on the original Jane Fonda's Workout Record. Listen to the original 12" dance single. And Stomp your way into a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!
Song of the Day: We Are Santa's Elves, words and music by Johnny Marks, is performed by the Elf Orchestra (actually Videocraft Chorus) on the classic stop-motion animation Rankin-Bass TV special, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Check out the song scene on YouTube. And a Merry Christmas to one and all!
Song of the Day: Zanzibar, words and music by the prolific Billy Joel, is a selection from the #1 1979 Grammy Award winning Album of the Year, "52nd Street," a paean to that Manhattan Street known for its legendary mid-twentieth century jazz scene (including "Swing Street," between 5th and 6th Avenues). The recording features changing rhythms and hues, and scintillating solo work by the late, great jazz horn player, Freddie Hubbard. The second section of Hubbard's solo is faded out on the original album, but an "unfaded" version of the song is a highlight of the boxed set, "My Lives." Check out the original album version on YouTube, a "demo" version, and the "unfaded" version too, where Hubbard's extended solo is utterly stupendous. Whew! This is the first "Z" song to appear on "My Favorite Songs," and any tune that mentions "jazz guitar" gets extra points from me any time!
Song of the Day: The Lady is a Tramp, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart, made its debut in the 1937 Broadway smash, "Babes in Arms," which featured the choreography of George Balanchine. This famous Rodgers and Hart song, performed in the original musical by Mitzi Green, spoofs New York high society. The song can be found in several films as well: as background music in the 1939 film version, performed by Lena Horne in the 1948 film "Words and Music" (YouTube clip) and by Frank Sinatra in the 1957 film, "Pal Joey," singing to Rita Hayworth (YouTube clip). Check out these other clips: Tommy Dorsey (with singer Edythe Wright), Sophie Tucker, Ol' Blue Eyes again, swingin' at Caesar's Palace in 1978 and with Ella Fitzgerald, and, most recently, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, featured on "Duets II," the highest debuting #1 Billboard album by the oldest living artist. Bennett may have turned 85 in August, but on this date, 125 years ago, the Statue of Liberty opened in New York Harbor. "This chick is a champ" with a lamp, which is why she's getting a Fireworks Celebration Tonight! Happy 125th birthday, Lady Liberty!
Song of the Day: West Side Story ("Dance at the Gym"), music by the incomparable Leonard Bernstein, can be heard in the score to the Oscar-wnning blockbuster film adaptation of the great Broadway musical. The film was released to theaters 50 years ago today. This particular composition was a highlight from a stupendous New York Philharmonic performance of the grand soundtrack in sync with the grand film, which took place at Avery Fisher Hall last month. What a poetically appropriate tribute, since the movie's opening sequence was filmed on the streets where Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts now stands, and Bernstein himself was the Philharmonic's long-time music director. The film soundtrack, boasting Bernstein's music and the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, spent 54 weeks at #1. Enjoy this YouTube moment of this classic dance sequence, Latin rhythms and instrumentation conjoined to the steamy choreography of the great Jerome Robbins.
Song of the Day: Moves Like Jagger, words and music by Adam Levine, Benjamin Levin (Benny Blanco), Ammar Malik, and Shellback, was recorded by Maroon 5, and features a guest appearance by Christina Aguilera. I confess: One listen to this catchy #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit, which references Rolling Stones lead vocalist Mick Jagger, and I can't get it the hell out of my brain or my feet! Check out the Official Music Video and a live performance of the song on "The Voice."
Song of the Day: I Fall to Pieces, words and music by Garland Perry "Hank" Cochran and Harlan Perry Howard, was the first #1 Country Hit by the immortal Patsy Cline. It was released on 30 January 1961, three days after Dr. Franklin Edward Kameny submitted a petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court to review his case, Kameny v. Brucker, which protested the U.S. Army's unjust dismissal of him in 1957 from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service for being gay. He lost the case, but not the cause. Frank was an indefatigable warrior, a great trailblazer, on behalf of individual rights. I corresponded with him a few times over the years; he may have been known for his thunderous style, but I was always warmed by his gentility. So it's no wonder that many of us fall to pieces over his passing at the age of 86 on 11 October 2011. Check out Patsy Cline on YouTube.
Song of the Day: I Am A Paleontologist, words and music by Danny Weinkauf of the Brooklyn-based band, They Might Be Giants, is my nod to current TV commercial fare, which hasn't lost its knack for using catchy tunes. The original full-length track can be found on the band's album, Here Comes Science, but it has gotten its biggest airplay, I suspect, from this TV commercial for Payless Shoesource (clip at that link). The original music video, with its animated dinosaur bones, is a lot of fun. I don't know if Payless is a sponsor of tonight's Primetime Emmy Awards, but they get Thumbs (Halluces?) Up as our annual mini-TV-oriented-music tribute draws to a close.
Song of the Day: ILGWU (Look for the Union Label) (YouTube link), music by Malcolm Dodds, lyrics by Paula Green, gave us the best television commercial song from an American labor union, in my humble opinion, even if it was parodied occasionally. My enjoyment of the song was most likely colored by the fact that my mom worked in the garment industry her whole life; it appeals to the proletarian in all of us.
Song of the Day: Chock Full o'Nuts gave us a classic commercial jingle, one based on "That Heavenly Feeling," by Bernie Wayne and Bruce Silbert. The original lyrics to the jingle boasted: "Better coffee a Rockefeller's money can't buy," but when then-New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller took offense, the lyrics were changed to: "Better coffee a millionaire's money can't buy" (YouTube link). Today, however, inflation has taken its toll, and the lyrics have been adjusted accordingly: "Better coffee a billionaire's money can't buy" (two contemporary versions at the "jingle" link). The original version was sung by Page Black, wife of Chock Full o'Nuts founder, William Black.
Song of the Day: Nestle's Quik, aside from being one of my favorite childhood powdered ingredients for great (cold or hot) chocolate milk, inspired one of the classic television commercial jingles, featuring ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson, puppet Danny O'Day and Farfel, the utterly adorable hound dog. As we gear up for this year's 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, now is a good time to salute some of my favorite TV commercial jingles. This one was big in the 1950s and 1960s: N-E-S-T-L-E-S, with Farfel and this updating too.
I figured that it was about time for a "station-break," so that I could note the appearance today of "Song of the Day #1000."
Seven years ago on this date, September 1, 2004, I began a list called "My Favorite Songs." I had no clue how long I'd keep up such a list, or how many possible songs I could name among my "favorites." As I explained:
Today, I thought I'd share with my readers a new feature for "Notablog" and a new page on my site. I have been promising readers to inaugurate additional "My Favorite Things" pages, pointing to such things as favorite books, favorite albums, and even favorite songs. Why my personal aesthetic views are so interesting is beyond me... but the Favorite Things page is consistently one of the most popular pages on my "Dialectics and Liberty" website. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I provide lots of entertaining links on such pages for your enjoyment. So, I'm starting a new page today: My Favorite Songs. Rather than come up with a full list on a single day, I'll make it a regular (daily?) feature here at "Notablog." (The songs will also be added to the "Favorite Songs" list . . . alphabetically, with date of addition in [brackets]) There isn't a waking hour of any day where I don't have a song on my mind. (I suspect there are quite a few songs playing in my mind during non-waking hours as well!) Music is such an integral part of my life, that I could not for a moment imagine life without it. And the songs I love come from a variety of genres, as readers will soon find out.
Indeed, the list has evolved to encompass both vocal and instrumental music compositions, gems both seasonal and universal, from the concert hall and the opera house, from theater, film, radio, and TV, and from all genres, moving effortlessly from the classical canon, jazz, R&B, disco, and rock to pop novelties and commercial advertising ditties. And it's one of those wide-open-ended things. Music is created every day by artists the world over; so it's especially satisfying to be introduced to new material from artists I never knew existed, and to find myself exploring an astonishingly new musical universe.
And that's how I got to a thousand "favorites." Day by day. Month by month. Year by year.
But let's be real: A thousand songs? I mean they can't all be "favorites."
If everything is a favorite, then nothing is a favorite.
A few thoughts about this truism: Everything has a context. In the end, it is my deeply personal context (how dialectical!), a life's worth of experience, both sensual and spiritual, that shapes the contours of my aesthetic response. And sometimes I even surprise myself by the positive responses I give to certain compositions by certain artists whose work I would never have given the time of day to, except for the one song I ended up really liking!
And then there's always that little experiential detail that I often leave out of my "Song of the Day" entry: A particular song may be so ingrained in the memory of concrete circumstances so as to be positively Hayekian in its implications. That is, the song (or the performance of it) is one that I respond to because it relates to my very personal "knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place," as Friedrich Hayek said in his classic essay, "The Use of Knowledge in Society." The music may remind me of a person, place, or thing that makes me smile, or moves me to tears (in a good way). That's why it winds up becoming one of my favorite songs. When a reader sends me a note that voices "disagreement" with my highlighting of a certain song, my ultimate reply is: "Okay, your disagreement is noted. So start working on your own list!"
I should emphasize here that this list is not, and was never intended to be, a ranking (though the first song posted is still probably #1 in my heart for it's utterly romantic character). It would be an interesting exercise to create a few "Top Ten" song lists, by category or sub-category, drawn from that ever-growing "Favorite Songs" list.
But the truth is that among those "favorite songs" are songs that are not necessarily among my favorites. Let me explain.
A particular song may have been chosen precisely because of how it was performed by a particular artist. Indeed, there are some songs I haven't much cared for, until they were shaped by the remarkable talents of an extraordinary artist, who helped me to discover meaning where before there may have been indifference.
There are a few musicians who have so consistently captured me with their artistry that almost anything they touch turns to melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic gold. For example, the great jazz pianist Bill Evans could have played even "The Chicken Dance" (see below), and it might have found its way into "My Favorite Songs" (admittedly, a very big stretch, but it helps to make the point. Fortunately, there are no known recordings of Evans playing said song.)
Yes, there are songs on my list that could withstand the assault of even the most irritating instrument, even one made of outstretched rubber-bands (I call such timeless tunes, "rubber-band songs"; they'd sound good when played even by rubber-bands!). And there are also songs that I may never have particularly liked, but ended up loving because an artist performed an arrangement of it that provided a different spin or fresh interpretation of the lyric, which blew me away.
I should also note that while my list highlights songs that have touched my soul in some way, it also highlights those that might have just touched my, uh, booty. That is, they just make me want to move. Or they may have unbelievably infectious melodies that, once heard on a radio, stay with me for days on end.
A thousand songs chosen from the broad sweep of musical history is hardly a dent, of course; millions of musical compositions exist, and they are not listed among my favorites. Indeed, if you want to learn about compositions I absolutely and utterly despise, well, don't get me started! When I was in college, I DJ'ed many parties to make a few extra bucks, and still boast a vinyl record collection that would make some vinyl collectors spontaneously orgasm. But I was forced, practically at gun-point, to play tracks that I cringed over. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson from "Terms of Endearment": I'd rather stick needles in my eyes than be forced to play some of those songs ever again. I could easily come up with a list of those that might rival the current thousand titles! One that immediately comes to mind is "The Chicken Dance" (in the absence of said Evans version; not even a cute chicken acquits it). UGH. UGH. UGH. I cringed even looking at various YouTube videos to make the point. UGH. UGH. UGH.
The real point of "My Favorite Songs" is not to focus on the negative, but on the positive. It's fun because it's my list. And it's a list that will keep on growing as long as it remains fun to add to it.
Thanks to all those readers and artists who have sent me kind regards, suggestions, and feedback. And hearing, out of the clear blue, from some of the composers and artists whose work I have highlighted has been among the biggest thrills I've ever gotten from authoring "My Favorite Songs."
We all know what happened to Anne, after the thousand days. Well, I'm not about to lose my head over this! On to the next thousand ... and beyond!
Song of the Day: The Night Has a Thousand Eyes ("Main Theme"), music by Jerome ("Jerry") Brainin, lyrics by Buddy Bernier, is featured in the 1948 film noir, which starred Edward G. Robinson. The main theme (not the same-titled Bobby Vee hit) evolved into a jazz standard, played by such musicians as John Coltrane, Paul Desmond and Jim Hall, Stan Getz (with a little intro assist from Steve Allen), Freddie Hubbard, Joe Pass, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Sonny Stitt and Bennie Green, and McCoy Tyner (all YouTube links). And check out this sample of the vocal rendition by the great Carmen McRae. The night may have a thousand eyes, but on this date, the 7th anniversary of the inauguration of our "Song of the Day," we have reached a thousand titles on "My Favorite Songs." Here's to a thousand more (at least)!
Song of the Day: All of Me, words and music by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons, was featured in many renditions on the radio show of Danny Stiles, "The King of Nostalgia," "The Vicar of Vintage Vinyl," who passed away back on March 11, 2011. Today, we remember the stylish Stiles, who gave all of himself to the cause of preserving great American standards. Check out these performances: Ruth Etting, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington live "Jazz on a Summer's Day," Lester Young and Teddy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, the very Sassy Sarah Vaughan, Willie Nelson, John Pizzarelli, Tal Farlow and Red Norvo, Frank Sinatra swingin' at Caesar's Palace, and the one and only Pops with Chops: Louis Armstrong (all YouTube clips).
Song of the Day: Coney Island Baby, composed by Vinny Catalano and Peter Alonzo, is a 1961-62 doo-wop gem, recorded by the Excellents. It inspired everyone from Lou Reed to Tom Waits to re-imagine their own Coney Island babies. But today it is posted in tribute to all the residents of Coney Island, who live just a few Brooklyn blocks away from me, and who survived evacuation, the shutdown of the NYC subway system, and Irene herself, which was downgraded from a Hurricane to a Tropical Storm. Irene touched New York City soil when it made landfall in Coney Island around 9am this morning. So here's a doo-wop shout out: enjoy the original single by the Excellents on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Till the World Ends, written by Dr. Luke, Alexander Kronlund, Max Martin and Kesha, was recorded by Britney Spears for her album "Femme Fatale." This sizzling, apocalyptic dance track shouldn't be taken too literally, especially for those of us in the Northeast who experienced an earthquake this week, and who are now facing Hurricane Irene. No fear. We'll just dance till the world ends . . . Take a look at the official video on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Found a Cure, a #1 dance track from 1979, was written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. It appears on the Ashford & Simpson album, "Stay Free." Ashford passed away on 22 August 2011. But he left behind a musical legacy that still provides the cure; listen to the energetic, soulful 12" remix on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Lady (Hear Me Tonight), the debut single by French duo, Modjo, was written and performed by Romain Tranchart and vocalist Yann Destagnol. The recording features a guitar sample of "Soup for One," performed by Chic, for which Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards are also credited as songwriters. Check out YouTube to listen to this hot dance track.
Song of the Day: Shake, Rattle and Roll was composed by Jesse Stone (a.k.a. Charles E. Calhoun) and was recorded first by Big Joe Turner. But it was in 1954 that Bill Haley and His Comets were the first to score a Top Ten Billboard hit with this all-time classic white-hot and bluesy track. Check out YouTube for renditions by Big Joe Turner, Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, a live Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Today, NYC was shakin', rattlin', and rollin' in the wake of a 5.8 magnitude earthquake whose epicenter was near Richmond, Virginia. I felt it for sure ... but figured I was having some sort of dizzy spell.
Song of the Day: It's a Man's Man's Man's World features the words and music of Betty Jean Newsome and the one and only James Brown, whose recording of the song was a huge hit on both the R&B and pop charts. Listen to two versions by Brown: the original, a jazz-influenced reworking from "Soul on Top" with the swingin' Louis Bellson Orchestra (both YouTube links), and two versions that invert the imagery: one finely orchestrated, grinding rendition by Cher (YouTube link), and a totally deconstructed powerhouse live performance at the 2007 Grammy Awards by Christina Aguilera (YouTube link). Aguilera is a Staten Island native, which is all the more appropriate today, as the NYC borough marks the 350th anniversary of its founding in 1661. Happy Birthday, Staten Island!
Song of the Day: There Must Be a Way, music by David Saxon, lyrics by Robert Cook and Sammy Gallop, was a big 1967 hit for Jimmy Roselli, who passed away on June 30, 2011. Check out the original Roselli 45 on YouTube, and also versions by Joni James, Louis Armstrong, and the Great One, Jackie Gleason.
She was my favorite too! From the start of the season! Brava! (And three cheers to the show's creator, executive producer, and regular judge, Nigel Lythgoe, for telling some of these folks where to go!)
Song of the Day: Somebody to Love, composed by Heather Bright, The Stereotypes, and Justin Bieber, was recorded by Bieber for his album, My World 2.0. My favorite version of the pop dance hit is the "remix," performed by Bieber, with a great assist from his mentor, Usher. The "official video" is on YouTube (and JB gets 2.0 points for wearing a Yankees cap in the video).
Song of the Day: WNEW (Theme Song), composed by Larry Green, is one of the most famous station-identification themes in radio history. I note it today in tribute to the late William B. Williams, on whose show one heard this theme music frequently. In 1958, Williams took over hosting duties for the "Make Believe Ballroom," a radio show created in 1935 by Martin Block for WNEW-AM, 1130 in New York. For his incredible work in radio, Williams was recently inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. He was the man who nicknamed Francis Albert Sinatra, "The Chairman of The Board" (links to a two-part Williams interview of Sinatra). Growing up, I regularly heard Williams' wonderful, soothing voice introducing the Great American songbook to his listeners, day after day. And this theme song, which was even recorded in 1964 by Stan Getz and Bill Evans) was omnipresent. Go to YouTube to listen to the original radio version and its countless variations, including this one and that one, and those inspired by holidays and seasons (Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer), and those done in the styles of Ray Anthony, Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Les Baxter, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, Ray Conniff, Martin Denny, Les and Larry Elgart, Erroll Garner, Benny Goodman, Neil Hefti, Al Hirt, Jazz Piano, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Spike Jones, Stan Kenton, Guy Lombardo, Henry Mancini, Billy May, Glenn Miller, Gerry Mulligan, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Nat Pierce, Perez Prado, Andre Previn, Nelson Riddle, Pete Rugolo, Lalo Schifrin, George Shearing, Felix Slatkin, Bob Thompson, and Kai Winding, and then check out our host with Nat King Cole and this specially-worded tribute to William B. Williams.
Song of the Day: The Weight of Love, music and lyrics by Peter Murphy and Paul Statham, is a highlight from the 2004 solo album, "Unshattered." Peter's velvet vocals cascade over an irresistible "sleaze-beat" bass line, infused with funk and soul. "Music fills the cracks," indeed, letting "love's spirit in." He's got a great new album, but this remains a golden oldie. Listen to the full-length version on YouTube. And happy anniversary! ;)
Song of the Day: The Yankee Doodle Boy (also known as Yankee Doodle Dandy), composed by George M. Cohan, made its first splash in the 1904 Broadway musical, Little Johnny Jones. For me, nobody performs it like the magnificent James Cagney (who won a Best Actor Oscar for playing Cohan) from the great 1942 Hollywood musical, "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Take a look at YouTube, and Have a Great Independence Day!
Song of the Day: The Day the Earth Stood Still ("Prelude") [YouTube clip of opening credits at that link] was composed by the immortal New York-born Bernard Herrmann, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate today. The score for this classic science fiction film was remarkable for its revolutionary use of the theremin. Viva Herrmann!
Song of the Day: I Can't Get Next to You, words and music by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, recorded by The Temptations, was one of the choice #1 Motown hits featured in the 1969 Stonewall Inn jukebox, when it was raided by police on the 28th of June. Now, with gay marriage having been approved in New York State, the events of that night seem as if they happened in an almost alien culture. But I still salute the bravery of those who fought back in that Greenwich Village bar 32 years ago. Listen to this classic song on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Pocketful of Miracles ("Title Song"), music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, received a "Best Original Song" Academy Award nomination in 1961. The song was featured in the utterly hilarious 1961 film, starring the great Bette Davis, Glenn Ford, and the magnificent Peter Falk (who received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his hyper-comedic turn as Joy Boy). Whatever role he played (including the classic Lieutenant Columbo), Falk entertained as if it were "Christmas Every Day." Sadly, he passed away on 23 June 2011. Take a look at the opening credits choral version of this song (YouTube video at that link) and one by Francis Albert Sinatra (another YouTube link), who, it is said, was originally slated to play Dave the Dude, prior to the casting of Glenn Ford.
Song of the Day: I'm Glad There Is You, words and music by Jimmy Dorsey and Paul Madeira (aka Paul Mertz). is a perfect song to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the opening of the Empire State Building, my favorite of all NYC skyscrapers. Extraordinary you are, the King Kong of all buildings: I'm Glad There is You, still You, always ... You. Happy Birthday! And listen to Old Blue Eyes on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Love Sensation, written by Dan Hartman, was sung by roof-raising Disco Diva Loleatta Holloway, who passed away at the age of 64 on 21 March 2011. This 1980 #1 Billboard Dance Single is one of the most sampled tracks in dance music history. Its trademark sounds can be heard on recordings such as "Ride on Time" by Black Box and "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark (Wahlberg) and the Funky Bunch (YouTube clips at those links). Check out the classic Shep Pettibone Mix on YouTube.
Song of the Day: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ("Main Title") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by the great Alex North, opens the 1966 film featuring tour de force performances from each of its actors: Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis (Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner), and Elizabeth Taylor, who won a much-deserved Best Actress Oscar, and who passed away today at the age of 79.
Song of the Day: Baker Street features the words, lyrics, and performance of Gerry Rafferty, who passed away on 4 January 2011. Spotlighting the saxophone of Raphael Ravenscroft, it's a late 70s pop gem. Check out the full Rafferty version on YouTube and, among the many covers of this song, one by the Foo Fighters.
Song of the Day: The Social Network ("In Motion") [YouTube link] is a dark ambient track composed by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and Atticus Ross. It can be heard on the Golden Globe-winning soundtrack for this provocative 2010 film. The soundtrack has also been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score. Check out the 83rd Annual Academy Awards tonight to see all the winners. And so concludes this year's tribute to Movie Music!
Song of the Day: Spartacus ("Hopeful Preparations"/"Vesuvius Camp") [audio clip at that link] is featured in the Alex North soundtrack masterpiece from the inspiring and thrilling 1960 film, starring Kirk Douglas in the title role. This particular track is part of a new and absolutely stupendous deluxe CD soundtrack released by Varese Sarabande, in centenary celebration of North (who was born on 4 December 1910). The deluxe set also includes a poignant CD featuring timeless interpretations of the classic love theme, with artists as diverse as Bill Evans and Carlos Santana.
Song of the Day: Ride 'Em Cowboy ("I'll Remember April"), music by Gene de Paul, lyrics by Patricia Johnston and Don Raye, was first heard in the hilarious 1942 Abbott and Costello film, "Ride 'Em Cowboy," where it was performed by Dick Foran (YouTube film clip at that link). Other classic renditions have been performed by the very Sassy Swinging Scatting Sarah Vaughan (YouTube link) and the late, great pianist George Shearing (YouTube link), who just passed away on Valentine's Day. (And while I could have posted this in, uh, April, this great song makes my list in Movie Music February, with temperatures reaching the very April-ish 60s in snow-weary New York City!)