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June 28, 2015

Song of the Day #1262

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.

June 25, 2015

Song of the Day #1261

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].

June 24, 2015

Song of the Day #1260

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.

June 12, 2015

Song of the Day #1259

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.

June 07, 2015

Song of the Day #1258

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!]

June 06, 2015

Song of the Day #1257

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!.

June 05, 2015

Song of the Day #1256

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.

June 04, 2015

Song of the Day #1255

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].

June 03, 2015

Song of the Day #1254

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].

June 02, 2015

Song of the Day #1253

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.

June 01, 2015

Song of the Day #1252

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].