♫ My Way ♫ … Annnnnnnd … (Redux)

Tonight I am in an introspective mood.  Angst-ridden, vexed, and a bit despairing, I sought a song or two that could cheer me.  I strayed from my usual Stevie Wonder/Lionel Richie cure, and went further back … back to a simpler time, but was it really?  At any rate, back to the music of our parents or our early childhoods.  If you ask my faves from back in that day, I would immediately answer:  Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Louis Armstrong.  So tonight, let’s just go with the first one … a redux from May 2019 … two of my favourite Sinatra songs …


Ellen correctly noted that I have never played a Sinatra song here, and the reason is that I thought perhaps he wouldn’t have a mass appeal, though I grew up on Sinatra and like his voice and much of his music just fine.  At any rate, the suggestion was to play his iconic song, My Way, as a tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes.  I debated, for I was rather more inclined to play New York, New York.  And finally, I threw up my hands and said “What the heck … I shall offer them both”.  Since the lyrics are on-screen with the first video, I present only the lyrics to accompany the second.

The lyrics to My Way, released by Sinatra in 1969, were written by Paul Anka and set to the music of the French song Comme d’habitude co-composed and co-written (with Jacques Revaux), and performed in 1967 by Claude François. Anka’s English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song. The song was a success for a variety of performers including Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Sid Vicious. Sinatra’s version spent 75 weeks in the UK Top 40, a record which still stands.

Paul Anka heard the original 1967 French pop song, Comme d’habitude (translation: As Usual) performed by Claude François, while on holiday in the south of France. He flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. In a 2007 interview, he said, “I thought it was a shitty record, but there was something in it.” He acquired adaptation, recording, and publishing rights for the mere sum of one dollar, subject to the provision that the melody’s composers would retain their original share of royalty rights with respect to whatever versions Anka or his designates created or produced. Some time later, Anka had a dinner in Florida with Frank Sinatra and “a couple of Mob guys” during which Sinatra said “I’m quitting the business. I’m sick of it; I’m getting the hell out.”

Anka went back to New York and re-wrote the song for Sinatra …

“At one o’clock in the morning, I sat down at an old IBM electric typewriter and said, ‘If Frank were writing this, what would he say?’ And I started, metaphorically, ‘And now the end is near.’ I read a lot of periodicals, and I noticed everything was ‘my this’ and ‘my that’. We were in the ‘me generation’ and Frank became the guy for me to use to say that. I used words I would never use: ‘I ate it up and spit it out.’ But that’s the way he talked. I used to be around steam rooms with the Rat Pack guys – they liked to talk like Mob guys, even though they would have been scared of their own shadows.”

Anka finished the song at 5:00 in the morning, called Sinatra who was performing in Vegas, and the rest is history.

Frank Sinatra died on May 14, 1998, at the age of 82, after a heart attack.  The next night, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue, the lights at the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor, and the casinos stopped spinning for one minute.  Wow … now that’s a tribute!

New York, New York
Frank Sinatra

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I wanna to wake up, in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap

These little town blues
Are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one, top of the list
King of the hill, a number one

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York
And
If I can make it there
I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York
New York
New York

Songwriters: Fred Ebb / John Kander
New York, New York lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Mack The Knife ♫

I’ve only played this once before, mid-2019, and it’s a song that deserves another run, plus I learned some things from readers last time ’round that I have added this time, such as two versions, one by Ella Fitzgerald and one by Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra!

Now, turns out this song has an origin that I was completely unaware of until I first researched it.  It was originally written in 1928 by German composers Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht for a play The Threepenny Opera.  I found out from Janet G (aka Tidalscribe) that Weill was later exiled from Germany and his music was labeled ‘degenerate’ by none other than Adolf Hitler!

My favourite version is Louis Armstrong’s that was released in 1956, perhaps only because I became a fan of Louis’ around the time I learned to walk, or perhaps because I am old and set in my ways … once somebody does a song, does it well, then why does every other Tom, Dick and Harry need to try to do it better?  However, for many, the Bobby Darin version is the only one worth hearing, so … I offer that one, too.  And then last time when I played it, Jack Collier said he preferred the Sinatra version, and Emily (aka Zombie Flamingos) mentioned that her fave was the Ella Fitzgerald one!  You can’t go wrong with any of those artists, so I’ll put all four here and you can listen to all, or pick a favourite!

Mack the Knife
Louis Armstrong … Bobby Darin

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it, ah, out of sight
Ya know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, oh, wears old MacHeath, babe
So there’s never, never a trace of red

Now on the sidewalk, huh, huh, whoo sunny morning, un huh
Lies a body just oozin’ life, eek
And someone’s sneakin’ ’round the corner
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

There’s a tugboat, huh, huh, down by the river don’tcha know
Where a cement bag’s just a’drooppin’ on down
Oh, that cement is for, just for the weight, dear
Five’ll get ya ten old Macky’s back in town
Now d’ja hear ’bout Louie Miller? He disappeared, babe
After drawin’ out all his hard-earned cash
And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor
Could it be our boy’s done somethin’ rash?

Now Jenny Diver, ho, ho, yeah, Sukey Tawdry
Ooh, Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Oh, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town

I said Jenny Diver, whoa, Sukey Tawdry
Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky’s back in town
Look out, old Macky’s back

Songwriters: Kurt Weill / Bertolt Brecht / Marc Blitzstein
Mack the Knife lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

♫ River of Dreams ♫

I had no song in my heart tonight … still seething and grieving over the wolves … and had decided to skip my music post today, when our friend Michael (Oikos-Editorial) from Germany commented on the Billy Joel song I played a few nights ago, Honesty, and said he also liked this one by Joel.  Well, the title didn’t start any fires in my poor ol’ tired mind, but when I listened, I remembered the song well and … the rest, as they say, is history.  Thank you, Michael, for salvaging my music post today!

Billy Joel gets a lot of song ideas in his dreams, and often struggles to remember them when he wakes up. For this song, however, he woke up with the song in his head, but tried NOT to write it …

“I thought, Who the hell am I to try to pull off this gospel song, so I took a shower to wash this song away. I sang it in the shower and knew I had to do it.”

Hey … I sing in the shower!  D’you think I might have a hit song just waiting to be released?

This is a very spiritual song where Joel, who identifies himself as an atheist, includes some biblical imagery, including the line, “Through the valley of fear,”  Joel also says that the river is a religious image, as “there’s baptizing in a river and you have to cross the river – people are getting dunked in the river and there’s rivers of blood.”

The cover of the River Of Dreams album was painted by supermodel Christie Brinkley, who was Joel’s second wife.  I did not know this!  

river-of-dreams

Joel performed this song at the Grammy Awards ceremony in 1994, where it was up for Record of the Year (it lost to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”). Joel, backed by a large gospel choir on a set designed to look like a church, used the false ending about two-and-a-half minutes into the song as an opportunity to make a point: instead of waiting a beat and continuing the song, he stopped cold, looked at his watch and said, “Valuable advertising time going by… dollars.” Joel later said that he was protesting because producers cut off Frank Sinatra’s acceptance speech earlier in the telecast when Sinatra was given a Legend Award.

This song did well worldwide … it reached #3 in both the U.S. and UK, and #2 in Canada, Austria, Ireland and Switzerland, and hit #1 in New Zealand.

The River of Dreams
Song by Billy Joel

Lyrics
In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To the river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

Even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
I try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep
I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I’d never lose
Something somebody stole

I don’t know why I go walking at night
But now I’m tired and I don’t want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn’t take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I’ve been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To a river so deep
I know I’m searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind

In the middle of the night

I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I’ve never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That runs to the promised land

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams

In the middle of the night

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Billy Joel
The River of Dreams lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ That’s Life ♫

Clive and I have been talking via comments on my music posts, about the influence of our parents on our music tastes.  No, I don’t mean when they pounded on the bedroom door and yelled, “Turn that noise down right now!!!”, but rather the music they listened to, indoctrinated us to.  Though both of my parents have been dead for decades, I can still remember their music choices … for my mother it was Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and my dad was secretly in love with Edith Piaf and Judy Garland.  I suppose that as a result, I do love Sinatra, Martin, and Garland … never did become a fan of Piaf.  

That said, my music choices on any given day usually reflect my mood of the moment.  Tonight, I had already selected a song, but ‘on the way to the forum’, as they say, I passed by this one by Frank Sinatra from 1966 that made me stop, back up, listen, and … oh yeah!  Perfect!  Speaks to the darkness, with a promise of sunlight soon.  My favourite line is …

“I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
A pawn and a king”

… for it resonates … I’ve been a teacher, a bus driver, a waitress, a researcher, and an accountant … never quite found my niche.

This song was written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon. Kay became a successful music publisher, and Gordon made a mark as a producer. Sinatra had a lot of ups and downs in his personal and professional life, and this song was a great showcase for his spirit and resilience. The phrase “That’s Life” is often used to convey disappointment, but here Sinatra sees all the good things that life brings.

Sinatra sang this with a scowl in his voice that was out of character, but exactly what the song needed. A story circulated that producer Jimmy Bowen told Sinatra, after the recording session, to get out of his car and back in the studio to re-record the vocal, which made Frank very angry and resulted in his edgy vocal.  Says co-writer Dean Kay …

“I’m the writer of ‘That’s Life’ and was sitting five feet away from Frank Sinatra and producer Jimmy Bowen when they listened to the playback of the first take,” he said. “It was then and there that Bowen asked Sinatra to take a second pass at the song. It’s a common myth that Bowen followed Sinatra to his car and made him come back into the studio for another take. It is true that Sinatra, famous for doing almost everything he did in one take, was not happy to do it again. And, it is true that his displeasure is manifested in the extra bite in his performance, which is exactly what Bowen was looking for. The ‘My, My’ ending was directed at Bowen in a ‘how do you like that, Charlie’ sort of way. The first take ended with, ‘Oh, yeah.’

‘My, My’ is the catch phrase that has been associated with the song – and Sinatra – from that night forward. Frank Sinatra recorded my song when I was 26. I have been, and will always be, grateful for his magnificent recording that changed my life forever.”

Following the success of Sinatra’s version, it was subsequently recorded by a number of artists including Aretha Franklin, James Booker, Shirley Bassey, James Brown, Van Morrison, David Lee Roth, Michael Bolton, Michael Bublé, Russell Watson, Deana Martin, and even, believe it or not, Willie Nelson.

While That’s Life was first recorded by Marion Montgomery, the song came to the attention of Frank Sinatra when he heard O.C. Smith’s chart-climbing cover in his car in 1965. He stopped the car, called his daughter Nancy and told her to find the publisher of the song because he wanted to record it; she did. Sinatra first performed the song on his television special A Man and His Music – Part II in 1966, with an arrangement by Nelson Riddle.

The recorded version, made after the taping to the TV Special, was arranged and conducted by Ernie Freeman and produced by Jimmy Bowen. The trio had previously worked together earlier in 1966 on Strangers in the Night, which got Sinatra the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal.

That’s Life
Frank Sinatra

That’s life
(That’s life)
That’s what all the people say
You’re riding 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
Stomping 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 quitting, 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 cutting out but my heart won’t buy it
But if there’s nothing shaking come this here July
I’m gonna roll myself up
In a big ball and die
My, my

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Gordon Kelly L / Thompson Dean K
That’s Life lyrics © Bibo Music Publishing, Inc.

♫ I Only Have Eyes For You ♫

I had a song picked out … two songs, actually.  And then I discovered that I had already played both Chances Are and Everlasting Love.  Back to the drawing board.  I was in the mood for some really old 1950s tunes, and the first one that came to mind was this tune by the Flamingos.  I listened … I liked … I’m playing!  Simple, yes?

This song dates back to even before my time … eons ago!  It was written by Henry Warren and Al Dubin for the Busby Berkeley movie musical Dames in 1934, where it was introduced by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.

The Flamingos recorded it in 1959, and it also appeared on the American Graffiti soundtrack from 1973.

Frank Sinatra recorded this in 1962 with the Count Basie Orchestra, and Johnny Mathis named an album after this song in 1976. The Count Basie Orchestra did it again in 1990 with George Benson; Art Garfunkel made a very romantic version on his 1975 Breakaway album, which topped the UK chart, reached #18 on the US Hot 100, and was a #1 Adult Contemporary hit. The Lettermen did a version in 1966, and Jerry Butler covered it in 1972.  WHEW!  You know a song is good when that many artists cover it!

The Flamingos’ version was arranged and co-produced by Terry “Buzzy” Johnson, a Baltimore native who joined the group as a first tenor in 1956. Fellow Flamingo Nate Nelson encouraged him to go crazy with the song, but he couldn’t figure out what to do with it. All he knew was the other versions were way too vanilla for his taste. The answer finally came to him in a dream.  Says Johnson …

“I was laying down in my room with the guitar on my chest, playing around with the chords, but no matter what I tried it just didn’t fit. Finally, it was about 12 or one in the morning, and I was so tired that I fell asleep, and in my dream I heard ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ just the way it came out on our record. I heard the ‘doo-bop sh-bop’ [backing vocals], I heard the way the harmony would sound – I heard the harmony so clear, and I heard the structure of the chords. As soon as I woke up, I grabbed the guitar off my chest and it was like God put my fingers just where they were supposed to be. I played those chords and I heard the harmonies, and so I called the guys. I woke them all up and I said, ‘Come over to my room right now! I’ve got ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’!’

They were like, ‘Are you crazy? It’s almost four o’clock!’ and I said, ‘I need you all now, otherwise I may not be able to remember.’ So they came to my room, all of them grumbling, and when they heard me do it they looked at me like, ‘What the hell is this?’ They laughed at me: ‘What’s ‘doo-bop sh-bop, goo-bop sh-bop, boo-bop sh-bop, loo-bop sh-bop, shoo-bop sh-bop”?’ You see, although in my dream it was ‘doo-bop sh-bop’, I had everybody doing a different thing, changing things around to make sure no one could really pick out what we were saying.”

George Goldner, who produced the track with Johnson, didn’t think it was commercial enough to be a single, so the group kept it as an album track and recorded a cover of Russ Columbo’s Goodnight Sweetheart for the first single. That is, until DJs got wind of I Only Have Eyes For You and changed their mind.

Jake Carey (bass) was the shortest member of the group, which made it difficult when he couldn’t reach the mic at the same level as the other guys during the recording session, where the music and vocals were being recorded simultaneously. To his dismay, they asked him to stand on a stack of phone books.

“He was mad as hell. He said, ‘I’m not a midget!’ but we told him, ‘We’re not going to bend our necks down to suit you. The mic has got to be at a certain level for all of us.’ So, we put Jake on three or four phone books and that’s how we recorded, with the background singers on one mic and the lead guy on another.”

Art Garfunkel performed his rendition on the second episode of Saturday Night Live, which aired on October 18, 1975 and was hosted by Paul Simon.

My own preference is The Flamingos version, but … I also like the Garfunkel version, and since I have so many UK readers,  I shall offer up both versions tonight.

I Only Have Eyes for You
The Flamingos

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you
(Sha bop sha bop)
(Sha bop sha bop)
(Sha bop sha bop)
(Sha bop sha bop)
(Sha bop sha bop)

Are the stars out tonight (sha bop sha bop)
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright (sha bop sha bop)
I only have eyes for you dear
(Sha bop sha bop)

The moon may be high
(Sha bop sha bop)
But I can’t see (sha bop sha bop) a thing in the sky
I only have eyes for you

I don’t know if we’re in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
(Sha bop sha bop)

You are here
(Sha bop sha bop)
And so am I
(Sha bop sha bop)

Maybe millions of people (sha bop sha bop) go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Al Dubin / Harry Warren
I Only Have Eyes for You lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc

♫ Trini Lopez — A Brief Tribute ♫

I am a bit remiss with this post, but … better late than never.  On Tuesday, singer Trini Lopez died at age 83 of complications from the coronavirus.  Those of you my age (or even older 🦕 ) will likely remember him for his versions of If I Had a Hammer (1963), La Bamba (1963), Guantanamera (1980), and Lemon Tree (1980).  

An interesting bit of trivia:  Lopez formed his first band in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the age of 15. Around 1955/56 Trini Lopez and his band worked at The Vegas Club, a nightclub owned by Jack Ruby, the nightclub owner who assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald.

In late 1962, after Lopez’ contract with King Records expired, he followed up on an offer by producer Snuff Garrett to join the post-Holly Crickets as vocalist. After a few weeks of auditions in Los Angeles, that idea did not go through. He landed a steady engagement at the nightclub PJ’s, where his audience grew quickly. He was heard there by Frank Sinatra, who had started his own label, Reprise Records, and who subsequently signed Lopez.

His debut live album, Trini Lopez at PJ’s, was released in 1963. The album included a version of If I Had a Hammer, which reached number one in 36 countries (#3 in the United States), and was a radio favorite for many years. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Lopez scored 13 chart singles through 1968, including Lemon Tree.  Beyond his success on record, he became one of the country’s top nightclub performers of that era, regularly headlining in Las Vegas.  In 1969, NBC aired a Trini Lopez variety special featuring surf guitar group The Ventures, and Nancy Ames as guests. The soundtrack, released as The Trini Lopez Show, has him singing his hits with The Ventures as his backing band.  Lopez was still recording and appearing live in the years leading up to his death. He took part in a benefit concert to raise money for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and appeared as a guest performer in a number of shows held in Maastricht in the Netherlands with the Dutch violinist and composer André Rieu. 

Lopez’ popularity led the Gibson Guitar Corporation to ask him in 1964 to design a guitar for them. He ended up designing two: the Trini Lopez Standard, a rock and roll model based on the Gibson ES-335 semihollow body, and the Lopez Deluxe, a variation of a Gibson jazz guitar designed by Barney Kessel. Both of these guitars were in production from 1964 until 1971, and are now highly sought-after among collectors.

  • In 1993, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to Lopez.
  • He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003.
  • On May 15, 2008, his 71st birthday, Lopez was inducted into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars.

As I mentioned a few nights ago, I am a lover of Latin music and Trini was one of my favourites, and I couldn’t decide which of my favourites to play for you tonight.  So … I decided to give you four to choose from!

R.I.P. Trini Lopez, and thank you for leaving us some beautiful music!

♫ Something ♫

Day #4 of Beatles’ Week …

This was the only song written by George Harrison released as a single by The Beatles.  Harrison wrote this during a break while they were working on The White Album. It was not recorded in time for the album, so Harrison gave this to Joe Cocker, but Cocker didn’t release it until after The Beatles did.

This seemed to be inspired by Harrison’s wife, Pattie, but he claimed he did not have anyone in mind when he wrote it. In her 2007 book Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me, Pattie Boyd wrote:

“George wrote a song called ‘Something.’ He told me in a matter-of-fact way that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful and it turned out to be the most successful song he ever wrote, with more than 150 cover versions. George’s favorite version was the one by James Brown. Mine was the one by George Harrison, which he played to me in our kitchen. But, in fact, by then our relationship was in trouble. Since a trip to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in India in 1968, George had become obsessive about meditation. He was also sometimes withdrawn and depressed.”

Harrison came up with the title and the first line after listening to a James Taylor song called Something In The Way She Moves.

There are over 200 cover versions of this song on record, making it The Beatles’ 2nd most covered song, after Yesterday, which has … wait for it … over 1,600!!!  The question here becomes, is there anyone who hasn’t covered Yesterday?

Frank Sinatra called this “The greatest love song ever written.” He often performed it in the ’70s.  High praise indeed!

The video is from the promotional clip for Something that was shot in late October 1969, not long after Lennon privately announced that he was leaving the band. By this time, the individual Beatles had grown apart and so the film consisted of separate clips of each Beatle walking around his home, accompanied by his wife, edited together. The four segments were edited and compiled into a single film clip by Neil Aspinall.

Something
The Beatles

Something in the way she moves
Attracts me like no other lover
Something in the way she woos me

I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

Somewhere in her smile she knows
That I don’t need no other lover
Something in her style that shows me

Don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

You’re asking me will my love grow
I don’t know, I don’t know
You stick around, now it may show
I don’t know, I don’t know

Something in the way she knows
And all I have to do is think of her
Something in the things she shows me

I don’t want to leave her now
You know I believe and how

Songwriter(s) George Harrison
Producer(s) George Martin

♫ New York, New York ♫

Sometimes a bit of nostalgia isn’t a bad thing, y’know?  My first 18 years were spent between San Francisco and New York, with a few other locales thrown in for fun … my father was what’s known as a “troubleshooter”, which took us back and forth, here and there, hither and yon.  Much of what molded me, however, came from the two aforementioned cities.  That was where I learned that “people is people” no matter what their skin colour, or what kind of house they live in.  That’s where I learned to embrace the differences, take joy in the exchange of cultures, to try new foods, speak new languages, and enjoy it all.  Y’know, people say that big cities are cold, dangerous places, but … they are what you make of them.  As I’ve aged, I’m less inclined to want to live in the city … instead, I envision a small, isolated place to call my own.  But, back in the day, the city was … excitement.  It was life.  Sometimes, I just like to hear Tony Bennett sing I Left My Heart in San Francisco or Sinatra belt out New York, New York.  Well, enough of my introspection and nostalgia … let’s get the show on the road!

I always have and always will associate this song with Frank Sinatra, and I forget that it was actually Liza Minnelli who debuted it in the 1977 film of the same name, which was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Minnelli and Robert De Niro as musicians and lovers. It was written for the film by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote many songs for her, including the Cabaret songs Maybe This Time and Yes.

Frank Sinatra began performing this in 1978 at concerts in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. His version was released on his 1980 triple album Trilogy: Past, Present and Future, which was highly acclaimed and brought the singer back in the public eye. New York, New York quickly became one of Sinatra’s signature songs.

This was the last hit song Sinatra released. He was one of the most popular singers of the 1940s and 1950s, but took a hit when rock and roll music took hold. Still, he retained an enormous audience that preferred his meticulously crafted orchestral songs to the guitar rock and teen pop that was taking hold.

My preference, if you haven’t guessed, is the Sinatra version, but I will offer both here, as I understand that Liza Minnelli’s was more popular on the other side of the pond.

New York, New York
Frank Sinatra

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I wanna to wake up, in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap

These little town blues
Are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one, top of the list
King of the hill, a number one

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York
And
If I can make it there
I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York
New York
New York

Songwriters: Fred Ebb / John Kander
New York, New York lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Moon River ♫

Some songs, I think, are simply timeless … or perhaps it is just that I am old and nostalgia has taken hold of my mind today.  I’ve been in a dark place of late … I see too much wrong in the world and realize that my small contributions toward righting the wrongs are pretty irrelevant.  So, tonight I went searching for a song that would take me back to another time … not necessarily a simpler or better time … just a different time.

This was used as Audrey Hepburn’s theme song in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hepburn sings the song in the movie, and many have recorded this, including Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra, but the one that made the charts in 1961 was Jerry Butler’s version.  Butler’s version reached #11 in the U.S. and #14 in Canada, but it was South African singer Danny Williams’ version that topped the charts at #1 in the UK.  I listened to Danny Williams’ version and frankly, I liked it better than the rest!  I had never heard of him before, but his voice is as silk.

Henry Mancini wrote this song with lyricist Johnny Mercer. The original title was “Blue River,” but Mercer found out another songwriter was using that title.  Moon River is a real river in Savannah, Georgia, where Mercer grew up. His home overlooked the river and he had fond memories of the place. At the time, the river was known as The Back River, but was renamed Moon River in honor of the song, and Johnny Mercer’s home along the river became known as the Moon River House.  According to Mancini …

“I reckon I’ll have made around $100,000 on ‘Moon River’ within the next two years or so. It took me about 30 minutes to compose. It had to be in keeping with the character of Holly Golightly, the star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I had to bear in mind the limitations of Audrey Hepburn’s voice. I worked the whole song round a simple guitar basis, although the guitar isn’t heard much during the number.”

Danny Williams originally refused to sing it, saying that Johnny Mercer’s lyrics were nonsensical. But he saw the film and was so moved by it that he relented. Williams died of cancer on 6th December 2005.

With so many good versions to choose from, I was torn.  So, I am giving you a choice tonight, between Jerry Butler’s, Andy Williams’, and Danny Williams’.  Listen to one, to all, or to none … let me know what you think.

Moon River

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossin’ you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after that same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the Bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me

Writer/s: Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ My Way ♫ … Annnnnnnd …

Okay, so … on Monday, I was taken to task for failing to commemorate the 69th birthday of one of my faves, Stevie Wonder.  It was subtly suggested, by our dear friend Ellen, that I might be forgiven if I played a nice Happy Birthday tribute a day late.  Which is what I did … a lovely tribute to Mr. Wonder, if I say so myself.  And Ellen did commend me, but at the same time noted rather pointedly that I managed to miss the 21st anniversary of the death of Frank Sinatra!  Oy Vey!  I am naught but a feeble-minded old woman and can barely remember that my name is … um … well, that’s not important now.

Ellen correctly noted that I have never played a Sinatra song here, and the reason is that I thought perhaps he wouldn’t have a mass appeal, though I grew up on Sinatra and like his voice and much of his music just fine.  At any rate, the suggestion was to play his iconic song, My Way, as a tribute to Ol’ Blue Eyes.  I debated, for I was rather more inclined to play New York, New York.  And finally, I threw up my hands and said “What the heck … I shall offer them both”.  Since the lyrics are on-screen with the first video, I present only the lyrics to accompany the second.

The lyrics to My Way, released by Sinatra in 1969, were written by Paul Anka and set to the music of the French song Comme d’habitude co-composed and co-written (with Jacques Revaux), and performed in 1967 by Claude François. Anka’s English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song. The song was a success for a variety of performers including Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Sid Vicious. Sinatra’s version spent 75 weeks in the UK Top 40, a record which still stands.

Paul Anka heard the original 1967 French pop song, Comme d’habitude (translation: As Usual) performed by Claude François, while on holiday in the south of France. He flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. In a 2007 interview, he said, “I thought it was a shitty record, but there was something in it.” He acquired adaptation, recording, and publishing rights for the mere sum of one dollar, subject to the provision that the melody’s composers would retain their original share of royalty rights with respect to whatever versions Anka or his designates created or produced. Some time later, Anka had a dinner in Florida with Frank Sinatra and “a couple of Mob guys” during which Sinatra said “I’m quitting the business. I’m sick of it; I’m getting the hell out.”

Anka went back to New York and re-wrote the song for Sinatra …

“At one o’clock in the morning, I sat down at an old IBM electric typewriter and said, ‘If Frank were writing this, what would he say?’ And I started, metaphorically, ‘And now the end is near.’ I read a lot of periodicals, and I noticed everything was ‘my this’ and ‘my that’. We were in the ‘me generation’ and Frank became the guy for me to use to say that. I used words I would never use: ‘I ate it up and spit it out.’ But that’s the way he talked. I used to be around steam rooms with the Rat Pack guys – they liked to talk like Mob guys, even though they would have been scared of their own shadows.”

Anka finished the song at 5:00 in the morning, called Sinatra who was performing in Vegas, and the rest is history.

Frank Sinatra died on May 14, 1998, at the age of 82, after a heart attack.  The next night, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue, the lights at the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor, and the casinos stopped spinning for one minute.  Wow … now that’s a tribute!

New York, New York
Frank Sinatra

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I wanna to wake up, in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap

These little town blues
Are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m a number one, top of the list
King of the hill, a number one

These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York
And
If I can make it there
I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York
New York
New York

Songwriters: Fred Ebb / John Kander
New York, New York lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC