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July 23, 2014

Song of the Day #1191

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.

July 16, 2014

Song of the Day #1190

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].

July 04, 2014

Song of the Day #1189

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.