RSS

Tag Archives: Ella Fitzgerald

“You Couldn’t Be Cuter” – Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields

1344342170-mI like to sing to my cat. I’m not sure she appreciates it; she usually just stares at me with her big eyes. But I keep singing, because I can’t help it. I have this urge to sing to someone and only my cat is relatively receptive to this. The sad truth is that, unlike in movies, people are not willing to sit still while you serenade them for a few minutes…even if you do sound like Dorothy Lamour, Doris Day or Ella Fitzerald (which I do not, alas).

But still, I defiantly sing on!

The latest song I have had in my head is “You Couldn’t be Cuter.” The music was written by Jerome Kern (of Show Boat fame) and the lyrics by Dorothy Fields (who wrote the lyrics for Kern’s songs in Swing Time). It was written for Irene Dunne to sing in the comedy The Joy Of Living. She plays a Broadway singer who evidently doesn’t know how to enjoy life until Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. come along. Has anyone seen it? I never have, but I usually enjoy Irene Dunne, so I am curious to check it out sometime.

Irene Dunne seems to have appeared in a number of Jerome Kern musicals: Roberta (with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), High, Wide and Handsome, Show BoatSweet Adeline. Since Jerome Kern represents a transitional figure between European Operetta and American popular music, perhaps it isn’t surprising that her voice turned out to be well suited for his music. He wrote some of the loveliest melodies of all the great American composers. Can you imagine Irene Dunne singing George Gershwin? Not as well…though I’m sure she must have at some point or other.

Anyway, Irene Dunne was not generally a recording artist and so when “You Couldn’t Be Cuter” was first heard on radio, it was performed by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra and it became a hit.

And where would we be without Ella Fitzgerald. She sang this song as part of her Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook.

I am not sure who the vocalist is, but this version is done by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra.

 
15 Comments

Posted by on April 22, 2016 in Music

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Video

“You’re the Top”

So, I’m taking a brief break from my blog. A dearth of ideas (I’m clearly not watching enough movies right now) coupled with a busier week than usual has resulted in little blogging. I was straining to think of something for Friday, but then it occurred to me that chatter for the sake of chatter probably does not make for compelling reading. But I will be back Monday…and will still be online reading blog posts.

However, today I thought I would post a song that I absolutely adore. I’m in the process of learning the lyrics. At the moment, I keep singing the first few verses ad nauseam. “You’re the Top” was written by Cole Porter for his 1934 musical, “Anything Goes.” It was introduced by Ethel Merman. The musical never did get a good film adaptation, but has been revived multiple times on Broadway, most recently in 2011. I even got to see it once in Seattle (though I thought the tap dancing was a bit flaccid, but perhaps my standards are a bit high).

The lyrics are delightful, but filled with so many contemporary allusions that I went in search of an article that provides historical annotations to the lyrics, which I definitely recommend reading.

Here is a somewhat bleary video featuring Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby in the less than faithful 1936 film adaptation (half the songs were apparently removed to make way for songs written specifically for Crosby). But the rapport between them is fun. The lyrics have, however, been considerably modified.

And Ethel Merman again in a 1934 recording.

And I can’t leave out Ella Fitzgerald. She is pure pleasure to listen to.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on March 16, 2016 in Music

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

“Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead!”

Margaret-hamilton-the-wicked-witch-in-the-wizard-of-oz_editMost people have a passing familiarity with the name of George Gershwin, even if they can’t name a song that he wrote. The same is true with Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein (actually most people can name a song by the duo, even if they aren’t sure which part of “Rodgers and Hammerstein” wrote the music and which part wrote the words – took me years to figure it out). But most people have never heard of Harold Arlen, even though he wrote the music for one of the most famous songs ever written, found in one of the most beloved movies ever made: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. The same is true of E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, the lyricist.

As JazzStandards notes, not many other songs are routinely recorded from The Wizard of Oz, apart from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (which more than makes up for it by its total ubiquity). “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” did have a strange and brief resurgence after the death of Margaret Thatcher in 2013 (which was made worse when the BBC refused to play the song – sung by Ella Fitzgerald – in full and was then accused of censorship). But apart from that, the song appears to have enjoyed its greatest popularity in the 1960s, when a whole spate of recordings were made, most prominently by Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Sammy Davis, Jr., and The Fifth Estate. Glee also recorded a version in 2009.

My favorite version, by far, is Ella Fitzgerald’s jazzy recording from 1961, which is just plain fun. You can’t help wanting to dance a little.

In 1966, the composer himself recorded an album called Harold Sings Arlen (with a Friend). The friend, in this case, is Barbra Streisand.

I was not previously familiar with The Fifth Estate, a band formed in the 1960s, but one of their biggest hits (so big it was released around the world in 5 different languages) was “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” in 1967.

I did find one relatively recent recording. Here is Harry Connick Jr. from his album released in 2001, Songs I Heard.

And if you can handle the overwhelming static, here is a radio clip of Judy Garland singing the song. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the voice speaking at the end is Bob Hope’s.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Music

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: