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December 25, 2015

Song of the Day #1299

Song of the Day: Mary, Did You Know?, music by Buddy Greene, lyrics by Mark Lowry, was originally recorded by Christian recording artist Michael English, though there have been many lovely renditions of it, including those by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd, and Pentatonix [YouTube links]. It is also on Mary J. Blige's 2013 Christmas album, "A Mary Christmas." Check it out on YouTube; but the rendition that blew me away was her live take on it at this year's lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in New York City. There's a poor quality TV taping of it on YouTube, but it captures Mary's soulful delivery. Merry Christmas to all; whatever your spiritual beliefs, I wish you peace and good will, always.

December 24, 2015

Song of the Day #1298

Song of the Day: The Christmas Shoes, words and music by Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom, was recorded by the Christian vocal group NewSong. It charted on the Country chart, but went to Number One on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in 2001. The song has been panned by quite a few critics, but whatever your spiritual beliefs, this is just one of those songs that tugs at your heart. Check it out on YouTube. A Merry Christmas Eve to all; and don't forget to track Santa on Norad!.

December 13, 2015

JARS: New December 2015 Issue and A Forthcoming 2016 Blockbuster

You folks didn't think that I've been listening to so much Frank Sinatra over the last 19 days, leading up to "The Frank Sinatra Centenary", that I forgot to work diligently with my colleagues toward the production of the year-end edition of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, did you?

From our home page:

Volume 15, Number 2 (Issue 30, December 2015) of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, published by Pennsylvania State University Press, is the current issue, continuing our tradition of multiperspectival, interdisciplinary studies of Ayn Rand and her times. And like every issue in the history of the publication, we always take pride in publishing the work of at least one new contributor to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, a further indication of just how important the study of Rand has become. The current issue is our thirtieth issue; we have published a total of 290 essays by 152 different authors (obviously, some authors have been published in JARS more than once). The bottom line is that if someone had told me in 1999 that such statistics were possible, I would not have believed them. At most, I figured there were a few dozen scholars out there who would be willing to publish in a Rand journal, but even fewer, once you consider that some authors in Rand-land would refuse to appear in a journal that would dare "sanction" the publication of essays from Slavoj Zizek, Bill Martin, and Gene Bell-Villada to George Reisman, David Kelley, and various members of our Editorial and Advisory Boards, to name but a few. But those authors outside our orbit have always had an open invitation to publish in this journal; if the Berlin Wall can fall down, anything is possible.
And so, in concluding our Fifteenth Anniversary Year, we offer another provocative issue. Eric B. Dent and new JARS contributor John A. Parnell, contribute an essay that makes the Objectivist case for reconciling economics and ethics in business ethics education. Continuing the pedagogical theme, Edward W. Younkins discusses the treatment of business and businesspeople in Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and how these paradigmatic heroic portraits have been used in college-level business courses.
We then move onto the conclusion of Roger E. Bissell's Opus (Part 1 appeared in the December 2014 issue of JARS), which rethinks issues in epistemology, logic, and "the objective," by mining the insights of Rand's unit-perspective view of concepts. The issue ends with a lively discussion between Michelle Marder Kamhi and Fred Seddon, inspired by Seddon's December 2014 review of Kamhi's book, Who Says That's Art? A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts.

NEW DECEMBER 2015 JARS

Readers can access the full abstracts and contributor biographies relevant to the contents of this year-end edition of the journal.

I'd like to continue quoting from the announcement of the new JARS, because, well, 'you ain't seen nothin' yet':

JARS readers should savor the new December 2015 issue, because we won't publish another issue until next December. 2016 is going to be a banner year in the history of this journal. The December 2016 issue will be the first double-issue in our history (Volume 16, nos. 1 & 2). Our "Call for Papers" on the topic of "Assessing the Work and Legacy of Nathaniel Branden" has resulted in a symposium of considerable size, featuring submissions from an international group of scholars, providing critical, interpretive perspectives from disciplines as varied as literature, history, politics, and, of course, psychology. In fact, a sizable proportion of our contributors have no connection to Objectivism whatsoever, but they speak as professional psychologists who learned much from the man who many consider to be the "father" of the self-esteem movement in contemporary psychology. The issue will also include the first print publication of "Objectivism: Past and Future," a 1996 transcribed Branden lecture (and Q&A session). And we will also publish the most extensive annotated bibliography ever assembled of Branden's work and the existing secondary literature. This will be such an historic issue, that Pennsylvania State University Press, which typically publishes a regular print run, and its JSTOR electronic version, has also committed to the publication of a stand-alone e-book / Kindle edition.

If you're not a subscriber now, join the excitement and subscribe today! Check out our 2016 price schedule here.

December 12, 2015

Song of the Day #1297 (The Sinatra Finale)

Song of the Day: That's Life, words and music by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, is one of my absolute all-time favorite Sinatra recordings, an album title track that went to the Top Five (a #4 singles hit) on the Billboard pop chart, smack in the middle of the rock-dominated Beatles era. It also hit #1 on the Easy Listening chart for three weeks (December 1966 to January 1967). It had been previously recorded by others, including O. C. Smith [YouTube link]. But unlike Smith's slower, bluesier version, Sinatra swaggers through it and makes the song his own. He first performed the song on his television special, "A Man and His Music, Part II." The TV version, however, takes a backseat to the recorded version [both YouTube links], which was produced by Jimmy Bowen and conducted by Ernie Freeman.

Uplifting a glass, Francis Albert Sinatra offered this toast on more than one occasion: "May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine." Sinatra passed away in 1998, at the age of 82. But if I were blessed to live to 100, the loveliness of his recorded performances gives me the opportunity to hear "The Voice" on my way to the Pearly Gates... or whetever warmer climates my Maker has in store for me. But today is not about obituaries; it is about births, rebirths, resurrections. For today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra. We conclude with One Hundred toasts to a man who was indeed a poet, the so-called "poet laureate of loneliness," but no less a poet of joy. He was the recipient of Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys (and he has three stars on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame," commemorating his work in film, television, and recording, respectively). I've tried to provide this tribute with a widescreen version that encompasses all of his artistry, but ultimately, I have always returned to song, for it is here that his magic conjoins the supreme method actor to the supreme musician. He could introduce the Grammy Awards [1963 video], and haul home a wagon full of them. He was a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner (1965), a Grammy Trustees Award Winner (1979), and a Grammy Living Legend Award winner (1994; presented to him with style by U2's Bono) [Grammy video link]. He has five albums and eight singles inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Among his "Hall of Fame" albums are: "Come Fly with Me" (1958; inducted in 2004); "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely" (1958; inducted 1999); "In the Wee Small Hours" (1955; inducted 1984); "September of My Years" (1965; inducted 1999); and "Songs for Swingin' Lovers!" (1956; inducted 2000). Among his "Hall of Fame" singles: "The House I Live In" (1946; inducted in 1998); "I'll Never Smile Again" (1940, with Tommy Dorsey and the Pied Pipers; inducted in 1982); "I've Got the World on a String" (1953; inducted in 2004); "I've Got You Under My Skin" (1956; inducted in 1998); "My Way" (1969; inducted in 2000); "One for My Baby" (1958; inducted in 2005); "Strangers in the Night" (1966; inducted 2008); and the "Theme from 'New York, New York'" (1980; inducted 2013). I've got links to each of them on "My Favorite Songs."

It took a bit of thought to come up with a musical finale best suited for the occasion. "My Way" could have played the part, but it is already among my ever-growing list, used thematically for a commercial by Hall-of-Fame-bound Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, to mark his retirement from professional baseball. Surely the lyrics, written by Paul Anka are even more appropriate for Francis Albert Sinatra, who retired several times along the way, only to come back to that music, which was hard-wired into his DNA. He sings of a life that's full, acknowledges the few regrets he's had along the way, and takes pride in the "charted course" he planned. He admits his doubts, his loves, his joy, his "share of losing." He concludes with the ultimate statement of individual integrity: "For what is a man, what has he got, if not himself, then he has naught to say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows, I took the blows. And did it My Way."

Alas, given my policy of never repeating a song, I can still appreciate its significance as one of Sinatra's signature pieces. But, for me, the very first words of the song provide an almost maudlin context. If this Centenary Sinatra Tribute has proven anything, it is that the end was not near, even when Sinatra passed away in 1998. When I think of Sinatra, so many themes come to mind, so many definitive renditions of songs from the Great American Songbook that were stamped by Sinatra in an almost autobiographical way. As appropriate a song as "My Way" was, for Sinatra, a statement of individual integrity, it is still sung when "the end was near." That end will never come as long as humans have ears to hear with and minds and hearts to think and feel with.

I conclude this tribute with one of those quintessential Sinatra recordings, which expresses the guts of the kick-ass "I-ain't-beaten-yet" genre that Sinatra championed. This is the Sinatra for whom the end is never near and it certainly resonates with me and so many others, expressing a universal motif for people who have faced life head on, and who won't give in to anything or anyone who "get[s] their kicks, stompin' on a dream." When you focus on these lyrics, it is as if Sinatra could have written the song himself. He is the prizefighter personified who gets knocked down, bruised, battered, bloodied . . . but still, somehow, gets back on his feet and stays in the ring. . . He stands up because, and only because, this is a life worth living and fighting for.

That's life (that's life) that's what all the people say. You're ridin' high in April, shot down in May. But I know I'm gonna change that tune, when I'm back on top, back on top in June.
I said that's life (that's life), and as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin' on a dream. But I don't let it, let it get me down, 'cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin' around.
I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king. I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing: Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.
That's life (that's life), I tell you, I can't deny it, I thought of quittin' baby, but my heart just ain't gonna buy it. And if I didn't think it was worth one single try, I'd jump right on a big bird and then I'd fly.
I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a king. I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing: Each time I find myself layin' flat on my face, I just pick myself up and get back in the race.
That's life (that's life), that's life, and I can't deny it, many times I thought of cuttin' out, but my heart won't buy it. But if there's nothing shakin' come this here July, I'm gonna roll myself up in a big ball a-and die.
My, my!

Sinatra could understand and communicate a remarkable range of human emotion, for he lived it: as an actor, a singer, a concert performer, he could embody everything from grief to ecstasy, from defeat to defiance. We complete our tribute and commemorate his birthday as one of the greatest artists to have ever graced this world. Bravo, Ol' Blue Eyes.

The entire series of essays, songs, and Facebook announcements have been collected and edited into a single essay, which can be found on my website: "The Frank Sinatra Centenary: Celebrating an American Icon."

December 11, 2015

Song of the Day #1296

Song of the Day: Drinking Water (Agua De Beber), music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Brazilian lyrics by Vinicius de Moreas, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, was not in the original line-up of songs that appeared on the 1967 Grammy-nominated album "Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim." (Though one thing is for sure: I don't think Sinatra was drinking water!) Instead, it appeared in the 1971 album, "Sinatra & Company"; it was also included in the fully reconstituted Sinatra-Jobim collaboration, a 20-track compilation, "Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings," released in 2010. I did a double "Song of the Day" dose on December 8th, and I can still list almost every song Sinatra ever recorded with Jobim, so I'm squeezing at least one more in before tomorrow's finale. It's just such a melodic, lyrical, flowing tune, with lyrics like "Your love is rain. My heart the flower." All I can say is: Rio hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics, and if, in the Opening Ceremonies, there is not a single mention of Jobim and all the other magnificent Brazilian artists who gave birth to this lilting melodic genre, impacting American music, and music throughout the world: Well, it's practicaly grounds to boycott the Games! In any event, celebrate this Sinatra-Jobim collaboration [YouTube link]. And for those who would like the DVD collection of all four "Man and His Music" television specials, one of which featured Jobim, check it out on Amazon.com.

Song of the Day #1295

Song of the Day: Strangers in the Night features the English lyrics of Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder,and the music of Bert Kaemfert, who actually composed the instrumental as part of the score for the 1966 film, "A Man Could Get Killed." The Sinatra recording is the title track of his 1966 album (also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra"), and was one of only two singles of his in the rock era to go to #1. It reached #1 on both the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening charts. The album became Sinatra's most commercially successful release among the many he released throughout his career. And in 1967, though he won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for "A Man and His Music," he received two additional Grammys recognizing this song: Record of the Year (his first win in this category, despite seven former nominations) and Best Male Vocal Performance. Over the years, this was never one of my all-time Sinatra favorites (and it is said that it wasn't one of Sinatra's own all-time favorites either). It was akin to the case of Stevie Wonder, an artist who has given us such brilliant albums as "Innervisions" and "Songs in the Key of Life,"and an array of wonderful compositions, from "Superstition" to "All in Love is Fair" to "Another Star." And then he receives an Oscar for Best Original Song and a matching Golden Globe for "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (from the 1984 film, "The Woman in Red"). Like Sinatra's "Strangers," Wonder's tune became his most commercially successful single, going to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B, and Adult Contemporary charts. As I said, Wonder's song was really never one of my favorites (and the critics were not kind to it either). But then, it grew on me. And that was primarily due to the fact that I watched the 1999 Kennedy Center Honors, where Stevie was one of the honorees. One tribute segment featured jazz pianist Herbie Hancock accompanying jazz vocalist Diane Schurr, who spoke authentically about how she, as a blind woman, had received such inspiration from Wonder. What followed was a completely altered jazz-infused rendition of the song; if you have never seen or heard it, check out this musical magic on YouTube, and you'll find out why it eventually became an entry on "My Favorite Songs." But "Strangers" is another matter entirely. It was difficult to like, and became increasingly difficult to embrace as the culture grabbed onto it, satirized it, and butchered it countless times to the point of sacrilege. It was even the title of a gay porn film (and the lyrics lend themselves to the chance meetings of people in forbidden places) and then came a Teddy and Darell 1966 gay parody [YouTube link] that is now considered part of Queer Music History 101. In any event, I gave in because something in that song just grew on me over time, particularly because of its fade out, when we hear that utterly famous Sinatra-ism. All together now: "Do-Be-Do-Be-Do." It became one of those phrases that have been eternally incorporated into the American Zeitgeist from Sinatra's repertoire (another being "Ring-a-Ding-Ding!", the title track from Sinatra's 1961 album). It just endears the song to me on another level entirely. In the 1970s, I used to wear a T-Shirt that said, on successive lines: "To Be is To Do" - Socrates; "To Do is to Be" - Sartre; "Do Be Do Be Do" - Sinatra. A Centenary Tribute to Sinatra without this would just not be complete. Listen to the original #1 Hit by Frank Sinatra on YouTube. Stay tuned for a Double "Song of the Day" today!

December 10, 2015

Song of the Day #1294

Song of the Day: September of My Years, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title track of an album released in late 1965, to coincide with Sinatra's 50th birthday. The festivities led to a surge of popularity, or, what might be termed a resurrgence of interest in one of America's great talents. The singer received the Grammy Awards for Album of the Year in two successive years: with this album and the 1967 album, "A Man and His Music" (he holds the record for having won this award three times, tied with Stevie Wonder, and several other artists; "Come Dance with Me" was Sinatra's first win in this category). Yes, in the rock-and-roll era of the 1960s, non-rock artists (like Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Stan Getz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto) still had a chance in hell to win Album of the Year. The title tune from Sinatra's album offers just one moment from a blockbuster collection of music, jam-packed with reflections on the "autumn" of his life. It includes one of my absolutely all-time favorite Sinatra recordings: "It Was a Very Good Year" [YouTube link] for which he won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Male. This was the same year that Sinatra was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (previously awarded only once before, in 1962, to one of those who had a great impact on our Centenary birthday boy: Bing Crosby). This album was arranged and conducted by the great Gordon Jenkins. This song is also found on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Listen to it on YouTube. Throughout this Centenary tribute, I've mentioned several times that Sinatra made an impact on jazz, just as jazz made an impact on Sinatra; but people have wondered whether it is proper to call him a "jazz singer." In truth, Sinatra defied strict categorization, but the great musician and composer, Billy May, who was one of the seminal arrangers and conductors of some of the finest songs in the Sinatra Songbook, once said: "If your definition of a jazz singer is someone who can approach [a song] like an instrumentalist and get [the written melody] across but still have a feeling of improvisation, a freshness to it, and do it a little bit differently every time, then I would agree that Frank is."

December 09, 2015

Song of the Day #1293

Song of the Day: Somethin' Stupid, words and music by C. Carson Parks, is a duet with Frank and his daughter Nancy Sinatra. It appears on the 1967 album, "The World We Knew." It is also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra." This song sung between two lovers hit Number One on the Bilboard Hot 100 singles chart, a near-miraculous occurrence in the rock era, perhaps helped a bit by Top 40 DJs who insisted on calling it "The Incest Song." But in truth, Sinatra scored 209 hits on Billboard's pop singles chart; 127 of these made the Top 20, 70 of these made the Top 10, and 10 of them peaked at Number One. As I pointed out back in July 2015, Sinatra actually was featured on the first #1 single ever recorded for the first national Billboard chart in 1940. He hit #1 again with "There Are Such Things" in 1942; "In the Blue of the Evening" in 1943; "All or Nothing at All" in 1944; "Five Minutes More" in 1946; and "Mam'sele" [YouTube links] (from the 1947 film, "The Razor's Edge"). But only two additional Number Ones came to Sinatra in the post-1958 "rock era" of the Hot 100 chart: "Strangers in the Night" in 1966 and this sweet duet in 1967 [YouTube link].

December 08, 2015

Song of the Day #1292

Song of the Day: You Were There, words and music by Buz Kohan and Michael Jackson, was performed by Michael Jackson in 1989 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Sammy Davis, Jr. in show business. Michael's performance received an Emmy Award nomination. Today, marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of Sammy Davis Jr., an inner-circle member of Sinatra's Rat Pack. Check out Jackson's performance [YouTube]. Throughout my "Song of the Day" entries, the reader will find so many celebrations of Davis's artistic talents. He was one of the great "song-and-dance men" of any generation and was unafraid to tackle songs from any generation. Check out the highlighted songs from my own list. First and foremost on that list, of course, is Davis's own rendition of MJ's "Bad," [YouTube link], and then a dazzling Davis line-up, including: "Come Back To Me"(with a bit of "Birth of the Blues") recorded live with the slammin' swingin' Buddy Rich Orchestra jazzing up the Vegas strip at the Sands Copa Room [YouTube link]; with that same band and setting doing "I Know a Place" [You Tube link]; "MacArthur Park," with its lush orchestration [YouTube link]; "Me and My Shadow," performed with Sinatra and a little Ring-a-ding-ding charm [YouTube link]; "Once in a Lifetime," which Davis performed in a 1978 Broadway revival of "Stop the World: I Want to Get Off" [YouTube link]; a Disco-fied "That Old Black Magic" [YouTube link]; the jazzy "Too Close for Comfort" [YouTube link]; an absolutely lovely rendition of "We'll Be Together Again," performed with Brazilian classical and jazz guitarist Laurindo Almeida [YouTube link]; a definitively terrific version of "What Kind of Fool Am I?" [YouTube link]; and "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)?" [YouTube link]. Even though I feature "I've Got the World on a String," as part of the continuing Centenary Sinatra Tribute, I have added this MJ tribute song, where the "Six Degrees of Sinatra" work out quite well. After all, the young Michael Jackson once did a comedic Sinatra Tribute of sorts [YouTube link]. MJ was actually present for what Sinatra's son, Frank Jr., called his father's last great day in the studio. Quincy Jones, who had produced albums for both Sinatra and Jackson, conducted the orchestra for that 1984 album, which would be Sinatra's last solo production: "L.A. is My Lady." During the sessions, Michael and Frank hung out together. Quincy said it was remarkable to see the two most dominant artists of their generation chatting, laughing, and taking photos together [YouTube links]. And they were certainly both united by their love of Sammy Davis, Jr., who would have turned 90 on this date. So here's to the unique bond between Sammy, Mikey, and Frankie. All of them gone too soon.

Song of the Day #1991

Song of the Day: I've Got the World on a String, music by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by Ted Koehler, was first heard in the 1932 Cotton Club Parade, introduced by both Cab Calloway and Bing Crosby. The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1953, and reached #14 on the Billboard "most played" chart. It appeared as the lead track on his 1956 album, "This is Sinatra!", which constituted his first Capitol Records compilation set. Arranged by Nelson Riddle, it became a staple of the Sinatra Songbook, and was recognized in 2004 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences as a Grammy Hall of Fame recording. It is one of those songs that is almost inseparable from Sinatra's rendition, even though it has been covered by so many wonderful artists through the years. Indeed, I'll never forget an instrumental rendition by sweet trumpeter Bobby Hackett [YouTube link; and that's Carl Kress on guitar), who went on to record so many of those romantic mood music albums produced by The Great One, Jackie Gleason. Gleason was so impressed by how background music magnified romantic scenes in the cinema that he once said: "If [Clark] Gable needs music, a guy in Brooklyn must be desperate!" [And be warned: the Jackie Gleason Centenary is Coming in February!] Johnny Carson [YouTube link] turned that same thought around; he once acknowledged the role of Sinatra's music as background to his own romantic encounters and he asked Sinatra: "When you're in a romantic mood, and you're trying to 'make out,' whose records do you put on?" Check out the Carson link for Sinatra's answer (and a surprise guest). Well, this song may not be soft, cuddly, and "romantic," but it celebrates the ecstatic state of being in love. And if its bouncy rhythm helps you in your romantic romps, more power to you! Because no Centenary Tribute is complete without this swinging original Sinatra recording [YouTube link].

December 07, 2015

Song of the Day #1990

Song of the Day: The World We Knew (Over and Over) features words and music credits given to Bert Kaempfert, Carl Sigman, and Herbert Rehbein. It is the title track of a 1967 studio album that gave Sinatra a few hits on the rock-dominated Billboard charts. This song hit #30 on the Hot 100, and #1 on the "Easy Listening" chart, while his duet with his daughter Nancy (Somethin' Stupid," coming soon...) actually hit #1 on both charts. It is also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra." This particular song is actually based on a German composition by Bert Kaempfert. A throwback of sorts, since Kaempfert served in the German army in World War II, which, back in 1941, at this precise time, was on the verge of joining its Axis allies (Japan and Italy) in a declaration of war against the United States. (Rehbein was actually conscripted into the German army in 1941, but was assigned to the Music Corps, stationed in Crete, becoming a POW in Belgrade, until the end of World War II.) Literally, the world everyone once knew was about to change forever. And it is on this date in 1941 that Pearl Harbor was devastated by a brutal Japanese "surprise" attack, which, in retrospect wasn't much of a surprise at all, since the tensions between the U.S. and Japan were severely strained for years. Well, here it comes... the Sinatra connection the reader is waiting for (our Sinatra version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"): it was in the 1953 film, "From Here to Eternity," which won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Sinatra, that we follow the trials and tribulations of soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the months before that "date which will live in Infamy." Check out this song on YouTube. And while you're at it, check out a nice picture book from last night's CBS Grammy Special commemorating Sinatra 100.

December 06, 2015

Song of the Day #1289

Song of the Day: All of You, words and music by Cole Porter, has been recorded by many artists through the years, including jazz pianist Bill Evans, for his album, "Sunday at the Village Vanguard," his final recording with his famous trio that included Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums [YouTube link]; ten days after this live performance, the pathbreaking, innovative bassist, LaFaro, died tragically in an automobile accident. This song was recorded late in Sinatra's career, on September 17, 1979. Sinatra did a wonderful recording of the song "All of Me," which talks of a broken love affair, with poignant lyrics: "You took the part, that once was my heart, so why not take all of me?" But this song has a decidedly different message, perhaps more appealing to the "Fifty Shades of Grey" generation, with its "I'd love to take complete control of you" motif. The song first appeared on Sinatra's 1980 album, "Trilogy: Past, Present, Future," and it is found on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra," as well. Listen to the Chairman of the Board with this swinging Billy May arrangement [YouTube link]. Tonight a Grammy all-Star Las Vegas bash, taped on December 2nd, is being shown on CBS television to honor the Sinatra Centenary. Sinatra himself did many TV specials, including the three "Man and His Music" specials, which included, in its third installment, that lovely section with Jobim [see here in my opening essay], and one with The First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald; check them out in "The Lady is a Tramp" [YouTube link].

December 05, 2015

Song of the Day #1288

Song of the Day: Nice 'N' Easy, music by Lew Spence, lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman (then Marilyn Keith), is the mid-tempo title track of Sinatra's 1960 album of ballads, which went to Number One on the Billboard album chart. The songs were all arranged by the gifted Nelson Riddle. It is also featured on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra." It's one of those Sinatra recordings that has to be included on any list of his classics. Check it out on YouTube.

December 04, 2015

Song of the Day #1287

Song of the Day: Come Dance with Me, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title song of Sinatra's 1959 album, which won the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year. Sinatra also won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Male, and Billy May got a Grammy for Best Arrangement. The song can also be found on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Check out the wonderful May arrangement for a Swingin' Saloon Singer [YouTube link].

December 03, 2015

Song of the Day #1286

Song of the Day: Something's Gotta Give, words and music by Johnny Mercer, was first performed by Fred Astaire in the 1955 musical "Daddy Long Legs." Among the many other renditions of this song is Frank Sinatra's, which can be found on his 1959 album, "Come Dance with Me!" (and also on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra").The 1959 album, which spent two-and-a-half years on the Billboard chart, is the second of a trilogy of Capitol albums arranged by Billy May, preceded by the iconic "Come Fly with Me" (1958) and followed by "Come Swing with Me!." Mercer's lyrics are just wonderful, but Sinatra's ad-libbed, "Awe, let's tear it up," at the end -- just classic Blue Eyes Magic. This Sinatra rendition was later featured in the 37 minutes of film of the same name that survived, but was abandoned when its star, Marilyn Monroe, passed away, tragically. Check out Sinatra, with that fabulous Billy May arrangement [YouTube link].

In the light of yesterday's tragic shootings in San Bernadino, California, not too far from where members of my family live and work, I prefaced today's "Song of the Day" announcement on Facebook, with the following message:

So much is going on in the world around us that is tragic. And yet, I move forward with today's Sinatra Centenary "Song of the Day": "Something's Gotta Give." It's an idiomatic expression that there is just no 'give-and-take' between an "irresistible force" and an "immovable object," bless Johnny Mercer. Well, folks, Sinatra sings this one with joy and swagger; Billy May's arrangment is pure swinging bliss. But if I May, at some point, in this world of tragedies, indeed, "Something's Gotta Give." The day we stop enjoying music, and its cathartic grace, is the day we stop enjoying life. In that spirit, celebrate life and enjoy the music.

December 02, 2015

Song of the Day #1285

Song of the Day: Only the Lonely, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title song of the 1958 album we visited yesterday, a Sinatra collection of "torch songs" (songs that might be called "torturous songs" or "songs of spiritual torture or torment," a derivative of what I call the wider "Slit Your Wrists" music genre, which can include both ballads and uptunes, so-to-speak). It is said that Sinatra considered this song of his repertoire to be his favorite. It is, as author Will Friedwald notes, the "most classically oriented Sinatra recording . . . which opens with a Chopin-like piano solo played by Harry Sucoff, a classical pianist." The song can also be found on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Listen to it on YouTube. Tonight, though, nobody will be lonely at the Wynn Las Vegas's Encore Theater, where many artists gather to throw a 100th birthday bash in honor of Sinatra, which will be broadcast in prime time on CBS television on December 6th. In the meanwhile, don't forget to check out Turner Classic Movies, whose "Star of the Month" is, appropriately, Frank Sinatra. Starting tonight, and every Wednesday throughout the month, the Prime Time hours will be devoted to Sinatra films and concerts. It kicks off with the Emmy- and Peabody-award winning television special, "A Man and His Music," which marked Sinatra's 50th birthday year. Fifty years later, we're celebrating A Century of Sinatra (a Facebook link; for those interested, my daily postings to Facebook since the tribute began on November 24th, has included some interesting give-and-take among various participants, including me).

December 01, 2015

Song of the Day #1284

Song of the Day: Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was introduced by Jane Withers in the 1944 Philadelphia stage show, "Glad to See You," which never quite made it to Broadway. This song was one of those saved by Sinatra's rendition of it. Indeed, it wasn't until it appeared on Sinatra's 1958 album, "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely," that the song became a hit, and a jazz standard sung by vocalists and played by many jazz instrumentalists thereafter. Sinatra's way with a ballad led jazz legends like trumpeter Miles Davis and tenor saxophonist Lester Young to sing his praises. Miles once said that when he played "Porgy and Bess," a collaboration with the great arranger, Gil Evans, he wanted his trumpet to sound like Frank Sinatra. Both Miles and Lester wanted their solos to tell a story, in the way that Sinatra had perfected vocally. Even Quincy Jones maintained that Sinatra used his voice like a jazz saxophonist. The Enny Monaco Quartet ["Sinatra on Sax"] would agree, as would jazz pianist Oscar Peterson [YouTube links]. This song is also featured on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Check it out on YouTube.