Friday, November 25, 2011

A Love Story

         Everyone in my generation knows who Irving Berlin is, or was, and all of us have heard and know many of the hundreds of songs he wrote. What is not so well known or remembered is the story of his love affair with his wife and the songs he wrote to note its ups and downs. He had been married briefly, in February 1912, but his wife contracted typhoid fever on their honeymoon in Cuba and died in July at the age of 20. For the next dozen years he worked full-time at his craft and became one of America's most successful songwriters.

       In 1925 he met a young socialite, Ellin Mackay, 16 years younger than himself. It was love at first sight for both of them. She was the daughter of a millionaire, Clarence Mackay, the head of AT&T, and he strongly opposed the affair. Both were public figures and the affair was prominently played up in the tabloids----the immigrant Jewish songwriter and the debutante Catholic heiress. Mackay did everything he could to hinder the love affair, even sending his daughter off to Europe hoping she would forget him while they were apart. When they married in 1926, Mackay disowned his daughter and disinherited her from a substantial fortune. (They were reconciled after a few years as grandchildren came along and the marriage appeared to be permanent.) The marriage actually lasted 62 years, until Ellin died in 1988. Berlin died just nine months later, in 1989, at the age of 101.
       During their turbulent courtship, Berlin wrote some of his most endearing torch songs, especially at the times when they were apart. A few examples: All By Myself; What'll I Do (When You Are Far Away); All Alone; and Remember. When they were together and happy, he wrote one of the great upbeat songs of our times--Blue Skies, which was recorded by all the recording artists of the era. Then, when they were married, he wrote one of the great love songs of our times--Always-- and gave it to his wife as a wedding present. The royalties from that song alone made Ellin Mackay Berlin an independently wealthy woman. Here are the lyrics for these two ever-popular songs:

I'll be loving you, Always, With a love that's true, Always, When the things you've planned, Need a helping hand, I will understand, Always, Always. Days may not be fair, Always, That's when I'll be there, Always, Not for just an hour, Not for just a day, Not for just a year, but Always.

Blue Skies, smiling at me, Nothing but blue skies, do I see. Bluebirds, Singing a song, Nothing but bluebirds, all day long. Never saw the sun, Shining so bright, Never saw things, Going so right. Noticing the days, Hurrying by, When you're in love, my How they fly. Blue days, All of them gone, Nothing but blue skies, From now on.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Inventions On Display

       Early in 2011, the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem featured an exhibit of important inventions developed by Israelis over the past sixty years of the country's modern existence. Some forty-five inventions were chosen for display, but it should be noted that not all the companies invited to participate did so and not all the important inventions were included. Nonetheless, many of those chosen have made an impressive contribution for the benefit of mankind generally and for Israeli society specifically. 
       An outstanding example is a micro-irrigation process in which water is released in slow drips to provide precise irrigation quantities to certain crops. Developed by Netafim, a kibbutz owned company, it is especially valuable in areas where water is in short supply. The company now operates in 112 countries with thirteen factories around the world. Another company, HydroSpin, is developing a pipe generator that supplies electricity to monitor such water control systems in remote areas where access to electricity is not readily available. In the field of water control, another development has the potential for worldwide change in the coming years. It is the process of extracting air from water, a unique system developed by Like-a-Fish company that will enable scuba divers to operate without air tanks. More important, it will enable submarines to remain submerged for extended periods and it will make possible underwater research habitats for science experiments.
       Several inventions in the field of medicine are included in the exhibit. An optical heartbeat monitor utilizes a revolutionary camera and laser light to view the heart as it beats in order to detect unusual motion. Anyone who has ever undergone surgery and been attached to monitors that record all the various bodily functions that must be measured during the recovery period will appreciate this---a device that can be inserted either into or under a mattress to monitor and display all the necessary vital-sign measurements for the duty nurse, with no annoying or uncomfortable contact points attached to your body. Another device, developed by The Given Imaging Company, is the Pillcam, a pill containing a tiny camera that can view and transmit pictures of the entire gastrointestinal tract as it winds its way through the body. It has already saved lives by disclosing abnormalities from the inside that would never otherwise have been detected early enough to treat successfully.
       Dozens of other innovations and inventions are on display in this exhibit, far too numerous to describe in this limited space. And this says nothing about the remarkable advances made in Israeli medical research in the treatment of various diseases. For example, the disease known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS, for which there is no known cure and which usually causes death within five years of its onset, is undergoing a groundbreaking experimental study at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem that has the potential for slowing or even stopping the progression of this disease. Patients from all corners of the world come to Jerusalem for treatment of medical problems, a true tribute to Israel's continuing contribution for the betterment of mankind.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Von Tilzers

        I'd wager a hefty sum that if I asked a dozen people at random if they ever heard of the Von Tilzers, they'd say "no". They were a family in the music business, composers, lyricists and music publishers starting with the oldest brother, Harry, around the turn of the last century. (Anyone named Harry cannot be all bad.) Actually, there were five brothers and their family surname originally was Gumm. It was Harry who used his mother's maiden name, Tilzer, and then added the Von in front of it because he liked the sound of it and thought it added an air of distinction. (Just as an aside, by the way, those who are trivia buffs may recall that Judy Garland's real name was Frances Gumm, but I don't know if she was kin to the Von Tilzers.) Anyway, Harry was a piano-playing composer and vaudeville singer in the `1890s and so good at it that he was offered a partnership in a music publishing firm. That firm published his hit "A Bird In a Gilded Cage" , lyrics by Arthur Lamb, which sold several million copies of the sheet music and put Harry's name on the map.

        In 1902, Harry went on to found the Harry Von Tilzer Music Company, which became one of the most important publishers in the history of American popular music. In addition to publishing Harry's songs, It also listed songs by George Gershwin and other composers. (We'll talk about Gershwin another time.) Among Harry's most successful songs, with sales in the millions, were "On a Sunday Afternoon", "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie," and "I Want a Girl, Just Like the Girl, That Married Dear Old Dad." Four of Harry's brothers adopted the Von Tilzer name and also went into the music business. Jules became President of Harry's Company. Will Von Tilzer became head of the Broadway Music Company. Jack Von Tilzer co-counded and directed the York Music Company. And younger brother Albert Von Tilzer wrote some popular songs that swept the country.

        It was Albert who wrote the music to the most popular sports song ever written, "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" (lyrics by Jack Norworth in 1908) which everybody in America who has ever attended a major league baseball game has heard. It is usually played during the seventh inning stretch. In a story written about him in his later years he revealed that he had never been to a ball game until twenty years after he wrote that song. Among his other songs was "Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey" with lyrics by Junie McCree, in 1910. But the song we remember most fondly, the one that emerged as the most popular song of the WW II era, is "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time", with lyrics by Neville Fleeson, written in 1920. Even today the fabulous recording by the Andrews Sisters, some 70 years since they recoded it, and more than 90 years since Albert composed it, is still in demand.

I'll be with you, in apple blossom time,
I'll be with you to change your name to mine,
One day in May, I'll come and say,
Happy the bride that the sun shines on today.
What a wonderful wedding there will be,
What a wonderful day for you and me.
Church bells will chime, you will be mine,
In apple blossom time.

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd,
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame,
For it's one, two, three strikes you're out,
At the old, ball game.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Love Song

        Of all the thousands upon thousands of memorable popular songs ever written, the great majority of them were love songs. And of all the romantic songs of love and devotion, some of the most enduring and endearing were the songs of parting and separation. One such song came to my attention with a back story that tugged at my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I first heard it when Larry Clinton's orchestra recorded it with his songbird, Bea Wain, on the vocal in 1939. It didn't get much play at the time but later, when millions of GIs were going to war overseas, it became a little more popular and again in 1952 during the Korean War it enjoyed a revival with a rendition by Jane Russell in a movie "The Las Vegas Story".
        It never attained great popularity in the top ranks of recordings, but the words grabbed me from the start and prompted me to look into it. What happened was that someone sent this poem to Hoagy Carmichael and asked if he thought it could be set to music. Hoagy worked on it, made a few changes to the lyric to fit into his melody, and then forgot it. That was in 1937. A couple years later, in 1939, looking through his files he found it again and arranged to publish it, but nobody knew who had written the poem. He and his publisher started a search and advertised in newspapers and magazines to find the author. It turned out to be Mrs. Jane Brown Thompson of Philadelphia, who had written it as an ode to her deceased husband and had it published in a magazine. It was introduced to the public on a network radio program by Dick Powell, one of the foremost singers and movie stars of that era. But Mrs. Thompson never heard it. She had passed away one day before the broadcast.
        Here is the lyric. Can anyone read these poignant words and not feel the sadness and the deep grief that lonely widow was expressing?

I get along without you very well, Of course I do, Except when soft rains fall,
And drip from leaves, Then I recall, the thrill of being sheltered in your arms,
Of course I do, but I get along without you very well.
I've forgotten you just like I should, of course I have,
Except to hear your name, or someone's laugh that is the same,
But I've forgotten you just like I should.
What a guy, what a fool am I, To think my breaking heart could kid the moon.
What's in store? Should I try once more? No, it's best that I stick to my tune.
I get along without you very well, of course I do,
Except perhaps in Spring, but I should never think of Spring,
For that would surely break my heart in two.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Iran: The Growing Threat

        The Soviet Union used to boast that it was the "worker's paradise", a phony claim that the free world saw through. In the same way, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Republic claims to stand for the oppressed of the earth, while it oppresses its own people mercilessly. Early in 2010, when it appeared there would be May Day demonstrations in Tehran, the regime rounded up and jailed trade unionists to forestall any such actions. Labor Unions in Europe and America, who usually object to such suppression of workers' rights by a repressive regime, said nothing.

        After the growing problem of Iran's threat to its neigbors in the Middle East and to the world at large and, most especially to the state of Israel, became apparent, there were dozens of articles in the media on this subject. All agreed that Iran's government is a theocratic dictatorship, that it ruthlessly stamps out dissent, that it represses women and violates all the principles of human rights, and that it continues its efforts to acquire nuclear waepons and to develop long range missiles to carry them. Since then, however, the emphasis on Iran's threat has diminished and the public's attention has drifted to other subjects. Well, lest we forget, let me remind you of some recent developments in Iran's insidious quest for world recognition and acceptance.
         The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations has recently elected Iran to a seat on the Women's Rights Commission. Actually, that group was formerly called the Commission on the Status of Women, but it was getting a bad press so it changed its name. It now describes itself as the UN's principal global policy making body for, get this, "gender equality and advancement of women...." Even the US Mission to the UN, which in previous years could be counted on to point up the irony of such inappropriate  acts, raised no objection to this travesty. It did not call for a vote but went along with Iran's election by acclamation.
        In addition, Iran was one of sixteen new members elected to four-year terms on the UN's Commission on Science and Technology for Development, and one of fifteen elected to the governing council of UN-Habitat, which is the UN's Settlement Agency.  Venezuela, that stalwart champion of democracy under Hugo Chavez, was also elected to this body.  And the UN's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has seated four members by acclamation, including Iran.  It should be noted, too, that Iran sits on the governing council of the UN Environment Program and on the Executive Boards of UNICEF and the UN Development Program.        
         When, not if but when, Iran acquires nuclear weapons, it will become the most powerful regional force in the Middle East.  Not only will it dominate the Middle East, it will become a dominant power in the United Nations, as well. It can then be expected to increase its overt support for the terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and it will most likely try to control shipping in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly half the world's oil exports flow. There is also a genuine fear that Iran, which has proven its willingness to supply arms and munitions to those fighting the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, may also be willing to provide nuclear weapons and/or technology , together with missiles, to those same enemies of the US, as well as to Hugo Chavez in this hemisphere. Such a move would greatly affect the entire political structure of the Americas.      

        Until now, neither Europe nor the US has met this challenge head on, but time is growing shorter when the issues surrounding Iran's quest for nuclear weaponry will have to be confronted squarely. There is increasing speculation by many international pundits as to the possibility that Israel may feel compelled to take military action, since it is threatened most directly and specifically by Iran's acquisition of nukes. The lack of action by Europe and the US makes that possibility more likely.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Love You Sweetheart

        In 1909, 102 years ago, composer Leo Friedman and lyricist Beth Slater Whitson, wrote a song called "Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland". They sold it to the biggest music publisher in Chicago, Will Rossiter, who bought it outright for a rumored $50.00. The song swept the country and the sale of the sheet music made the publisher a wealthy man. Although there was no contractual arrangement to pay royalties, it was customary for a publisher who made huge profits on a song to share at least some portion with the writers. Rossiter refused to do so. Understandably unhappy with him, Friedman and Whitson wrote another song in 1911, which they took to another publisher who promised to pay royalties to them depending on sales. That song, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart", actually became the best selling song of all time over the past 100 years. Sales of the sheet music alone, millions upon millions of copies and still in demand, as well as recordings by orchestras and singers, made the writers and the publisher independently wealthy.

        Here we are, in 2011, 100 years later, and both those songs are still popular. What's the secret of such success? In my view, it's simple words coupled with an easily sung tune expressing a heartfelt emotion that any of us can relate to. So, sing along with me.............

Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland              Let me call you sweetheart
Under the silvery moon,                          I'm in love with you.
Meet me tonight in Dreamland                 Let me hear you whisper
Where love's sweet roses bloom.              That you love me, too.
Come with the lovelight gleaming             Keep the lovelight gleaming
In your dear eyes, so true;                        In your eyes so true.
Meet me in dreamland,                             Let me call you sweetheart,
Sweet dreamy dreamland,                         I'm in love with you.
There let my dreams come true.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Israeli Democracy Index

        Each year, for the past seven years, a group called the Israeli Democracy Index (IDI), measures the performance of Israel's democratic institutions and issues an anual report card to the country's top leadership. Pres. Shimon Peres received the report card at the end of November for 2010. Israel is unique in this regard, since no other country among all the nations of the world undertakes a systematic self-examination to determine how well or poorly its institutions function.
        IDI's report for 2010 measured public perceptions of the nation through a series of national and international public opinion surveys. The report addressed internal Israeli public attitudes toward its own values and behavior, as well as Israel's majority-minority relations, citizen opinion regarding it's performance as a democracy, and Israel's performance in comparison to that of other democratic countries. Some of the findings may surprise us.
We in the U.S. tend to view Israel through the lens of America'a democratic institions, so it should come as no surprise that almost three quarters of the population (72%) say they do not trust the political parties, although most of them do not believe tha parties should be abolished. The same high percentage (70%) support and have confidence in the institution of the Presidency. (Shimon Peres is becoming increasingly popular.) More than half the people (54%) Have confidence in the Supteme Court, while 44% do not. Less than half (41%) have confidence in the police.
        With respect to democratic principles, four fifths of the Jewish population (82%) believe that medical care should be free, regardless of whether the patient has insurance, while only 40% of the Arabs feel this way. But here is a surprising statistic----only 43% of the general population feel that it is equally important for Israel to be both a Jewish and a democratic state, while 31% think the Jewish component is more important and only 20% think democracy is more important. Almost two thirds of the people (60%) believe that it would be better for Israel to have a few strong leaders than all the democratic debates and legislation, and more than half of them would prefer a government of experts who make decisions on professional rather than political considerations.
      One particular finding calls Winston Churchill to mind. He once said that democracy is the worst form of government imaginable, except for all the others. By the same token, more than four fifths of the population (81%) agree that Israel's democracy is not perfect, but that it is better than any other form of government. More than half of them believe that the country should hold observing law and public order before the ideal of democracy. On a scale of one to ten, the Jewish public rates Israel's democracy at 5.4 while immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) rate it slightly higher at 5.6 and the Arab public slightly lower at 5.1.
       More than half of Israeli veterans (56%) think that people who have never served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) should not be eligible to vote or run for public office, but a higher percentage (62%) of Russian immigrants and 76% of the ultra-Orthodox disagree. Half of the general public favors equal rights as between Arabs and Jews, but the more orthodox the group, the greater the opposition to equal rights. Only 33.5% of secular Jews oppose the idea, while 51% of traditional Jews and 65% of Orthodox Jews oppose it. Almost two thirds (62%) of the Jewish population believe that as long as the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs continues, the Arab citizens of Israel should have no voice in Israeli scurity or foreign policy decisions. Interestingly, slightly more than half (51.5%) of the overall Jewish public agrees that only immigrants who are Jewish as defined by Halakha should be granted automatic citicenship. Only one third of the Russian immigrants agree, while almost nine tenths (88%) of the ultra-Orthodox agree.
        In most international rankings, Israel follows the established democracies and ranks close to the new democracies of East Europe, Central and South America. It's standing has neither improved nor dimished in recent years. In equlity between the genders, it ranks higher than any of the new democracies. In terms of political stability, Israel ranks last among the democracies studied.

Friday, July 8, 2011

On Delegitimization

        The never-ending war against Israel has entered a new phase over the past couple years, a tactic called "delegitimization", that is gaining momentum with each passing day. It questions Israel's right to exist as a Jewish nation, and even its right to defend itself against military attack. For example, when close to 200 rockets were fired on Israel from Gaza at the end of 2010, all at civilian targets, one hit the grounds of an Israeli kindergarten while parents were dropping off their children. Israel complained to the UN Security Council about this clear violation of international law and warned that it will continue to exercise its right to defend itself. In response, the UN Middle East envoy, Robert Serry, agreed that Israel has a right to self-defense, but it must be "consistent with international humanitarian law" and he urged Israel to take every "precaution to ensure Israeli forces do not endanger civilians in Gaza." This is delegitimization. Israel had been attacked, but the UN did not blame the attackers. It only defined the level of acceptable response by Israel. It amounts to a free pass for Hamas which launched the attacks and urges restraint on Israel in its own defense, which the UN urges on no other country.

         But the delegitimization campaign is not aimed at military action alone. It is aimed at almost every aspect of Israel's existence, and not only its existence as a modern state in the community of nations, but also its existence as a Jewish state with the Kingdoms of David and Solomon 3,000 years ago and the very existence of the Jewish people over the past 5,000 years. While most of the effort to deligitimize Israel has been in the international arena, thare is an increasing incidence here in the US now, mainly on college campuses and among some Christian and Muslim religious groups, as well. Especially disturbing is the incidence among some young Jewish activists, too. As recently demostrated on the distinguished "Sixty Minutes" program, Lesley Stahl questioned the existence of King David, an iconic figure who is featured so prominently in Jewish history. She did so on the very site where they are excavating King David's palace, exactly where the Bible said it was. And despite the overwhelming amount of archeological evidence corroborating so much that is recorded in the Bible, the Arabs are now insisting that the Jewish people never were connected to the land of Israel at all and that the establishment of a Jewish state there is a mistake that must be nullified.

        Many of Israel's detractors claim that Israel is guilty of human rights violations and that the Jewish state is an "apartheit" state citing its treatment of its Arab citizens, despite the fact that the Arab citizens of Israel enjoy more freedom and more rights than the Arabs of any of the 22 Arab states in that region of the world. Through an international coalition called BDS, that is, Boycott, Divestment and Sanction for Palestine, they try to organize boycotts against Israeli artists and academics to prevent them from participating in international events such as concerts or conferences, and to divest from Israeli companies or companies that do business in Israel. The goal, of course, is to undermine Israel's legitimacy.

        An important factor in the delegitimization effort was the Goldstone report, which, representing the UN Human Rights Council, accused Israel of violating international law in Operation Cast Lead. The fact that Goldstone himself subsequently repudiated the report has not deterred the UN or the Palestinians from continuing to use it as an instrument to further delegitimize Israel. The UN has referred the question of Israel's conduct in "deliberately targeting civilians" in the Gaza war to the Fourth Geneva Conventioin for Switzerland to adjudicate and to the International Criminal Court. The United States, which has veto power over any UN action, strongly objected, knowing full well that the overwhelming Islamic majorities in the UN would take similar actions against the US if it succeeds in its actions against Israel.

        Meanwhile, the Palestinians are planning to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian State, which they will declare unilaterally, in September. The General Assembly may grasnt such recognition as still another attempt to delegitimize Israel, but the US could exercise its veto power in the Security Council. If this happens, Israel's opponents would put Israel in the worst possible light and they would embarrass the US, as well. In effect, the UN is at the center of the campaign to discredit and delegitimize Israel. Why? Because the Arab states, together with the other Islamic states in the world, have an overwhelming numerical advantage. At the same time, the minority of so-called free or democratic ountries, mainly in Western and Eastern Europe, are uniformly anti-semitic and have little sympathy for the only Jewish State in the world. So the UN wages its relentless political campaign against the Jewish State and its only defender has been the US. Until now, anyway.

        As former Bristish Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the Quartet's envoy to the Middle East, said not long ago, these delegitimization efforts are "an affront", not only to Israel, but to "those everywhere, in every part of humanity who share the values of a free and independent human spirit." The best answer to those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state, he said, "lies in the character of Israel itself, in the openness, the fairmindedness and creativity of the Israelis."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Words and Music

Every now and then someone asks me which is more important in a song--the lyric or the melody.  That's like asking which leg is more important, your right or your left.  But the question reminds me of the famous story about Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein.  She was at a party once where she heard two women talking about the musical "Showboat".
    "I just loved that song 'Old Man River' that Jerome Kern wrote," one woman said.  "Oh, no," Mrs. Hammerstein broke in, "Jerome Kern did not write that song.  What Jerome Kern wrote was "Tum,Tum. Tetum, Tum Tum Tetum'.  It was my husband, Oscar Hammerstein, who wrote 'Old Man River'."   She was right, of course.  Kern wrote the music and Hammerstein wrote the lyric and no one can say which is most important to the song's success.  The two fit together perfectly.  You cannot imagine any other words that would fit so well to that melody.  And it is this coming together of words and melody that demonstrate the musical genius in American popular songs of our era----say the first half of the 20th century.

    Another question I'm often asked is which came first,  the words or the melody.  That's  a little harder to answer.  It depends on who the composer is and who the lyricist is.  There are examples of both instances.  In another instance of the partnership between Kern and Hammerstein, when the Germans took Paris in 1941, Oscar Hammerstein wrote a nostalgic little poem mourning the loss of one of his favorite cities.  It was "The Last Time I Saw Paris" and he gave it to Jerome Kern who promptly wrote the melody that made the poem famous.   Who of us has not heard that song and ached for the people of Paris because of it?  I was in Paris not long after we liberated it in the Fall of 1944 and the song was played everywhere, no longer an ode to sorrow but now a joyful paean to triumph and liberty.

    There are examples the other way, too.  Richard Rodgers, in the first half of his musical career, worked closely with Lorenz Hart, the genius lyricist who gave us so many memorable songs.  Rodgers would compose a melody and play it for Hart who would seem to forget it immediately.  Days later he would scribble some words on a scrap of paper or an old envelope and out of that process would come such unforgttable songs as Manhattan, My Funny Valentine, The Lady is a Tramp and dozens of others.  So, in the end, who can say which is more important, the words or the music.  We can only marvel at the poets of Tin Pan Alley, as they have been dubbed, and the masters of music who, together, gave birth to American popular music.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Every successful person encounters failure now and then, and this is especially true for song writers. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, one of the greatest songwriting teams of modern times, didn't always come up with a hit. Here's a story of a failure.

In May, 1933, Rodgers and Hart were writing songs for "Hollywood Party", a movie featuring some top stars. They wrote one for Jean Harlow to sing, in which she prays for God's help to become a movie star. The lyric--"Oh Lord, if you're not busy up there, I ask for help with a prayer, so please don't give me the air."The song was registered for copyright in July 1933 and immediately forgotten. In 1934 the two were working on a song for a movie called "Manhattan Melodrama" that starred Clark Gable. Since they liked the melody, Hart wrote new lyrics "Act One: You gulp your coffee and run, into the subway you crowd, don't breathe, it isn't allowed."

The song was cut from the film before its release. It was registered for copyright in March, 1934 and immediately forgotten. The studio then asked for another song for a nightclub sequence in the movie, so again Hart wrote a new lyric--"Oh Lord, I could be good to a lover, but then I always discover, the bad in every man." It was sung my Shirley Ross in blackface in the movie, a big production number, and immediately sank without a trace. By then, Rodgers and Hart were sick of the melody and decided to bury it, but Jack Robbins, the head of MGM's publishing company, thought the melody would work with a new set of romantic lyrics . He persuaded the reluctant writers to give it one more try so Rodgers tweaked the tune and Hart wrote a new lyric and lo and behold, this time they struck gold.

The new/old song became an overnight sensation under the title "Blue Moon" and every major singing star in the music industry recorded it including Frank Sinatra and Billy Holiday, Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald, and countless others. Moreover, in addition to becoming a standard in mainstream music, Elvis Presley made it a hit in rock and roll and the Marcels made it a hit in doo-wap. Ultimately it became one of the biggest money making songs that Rodgers and Hart wrote, and as we all know, they wrote a great many. So here are the romantic lyrics that made it a hit on the fourth try.

Blue Moon, You saw me standing alone.
Without a dream in my heart, Without a love of my own.
Blue Moon, You know just what I was there for,
You heard me saying a payer for,
Someone I really could care for.
And then there suddenly appeared before me,
The only one my arms will ever hold,
I heard somebody whisper please adore me,
And when I looked the moon had turned to gold.
Blue Moon, Now I'm no longer alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.

Remembering 'Star Dust'

In honor of Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday on Dec. 12, 2015, I updated Harry's 2011 post on this blog by adding this photo and caption, and a link to the song he discusses below, Star Dust. Harry left behind Frank Sinatra books in his library, of course; I kept the one pictured above. He originally wrote this article for his column in the Leisure World apartment community newsletter in Silver Spring, MD.

A funny thing happened in the field of Popular Music on the way to the 21st century. Those of us who grew up in the 20th century, and that includes all of us Creekside residents and all other Leisure World residents as well, have memories of this song. We danced to this melody, we hummed along with it, we mouthed the lyrics whenever we heard it played -- we know this song. In every poll or survey of the most popular songs of the century, Star Dust was always included in the top ten and in most of them it led the list at Number One.

The melody was composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1927 as a jazz piano interlude, purely instrumental. It was not until about 1929 or 1930 that Mitchell Parrish, that master lyricist, wrote the lyrics that captured the mood so completely. Yet, Star Dust does not follow the traditional format of most popular songs, neither in words nor in music. It is much more complicated. It lends itself to almost every tempo, from fast, syncopated jazz to slow, dreamy ballad. Not many songs can do that successfully.

It has been estimated that there have been at least five hundred formally registered recordings of this song, and nobody knows how many others not registered. It has been translated into some forty languages, too. And, just to clarify, while many publishers list the title as one word, Stardust, the proper, correct title is two words, Star Dust. Every major band, every band that performed for audiences, included Star Dust in its repertoire and every singer recorded it. The most successful recordings were by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Shore and Lena Horne.

But let's come back to the funny thing. As I said, a funny thing happened. All through the 20th century, Star Dust was without a doubt the most popular song in every poll. Then suddenly, early in the 21st century , the music industry proclaimed that the Number One song of the 20th century was -- ta,ta -- Over the Rainbow. Can you believe it? Now, I like Over the Rainbow, it's a nice song written by Harold Arlen who lived down the street from me in Buffalo, NY, and Judy Garland sang it charmingly in The Wizard of Oz. But I don't care what the music industry proclaims -- it was not the most popular song of the 20th century. Star Dust was.

Sing along with me, those magic words that evoke such romantic memories:

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart,
High up in the sky the little stars climb,
As always reminding me that we're apart.
You wandered down the lane and far away,
Leaving me a song that will not die,
Love is now the star dust of yesterday,
The music of the years gone by.
Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely night
Dreaming of a song. The melody
Haunts my reverie, And I am once again with you
When our love was new, and each kiss an inspiration.
But that was long ago, and now my consolation
Is in the star dust of a song.
Beside a garden wall when stars are bright,
You are in my arms. The nightingale
Tells his fairy tale of Paradise where roses grew.
Tho' I dream in vain, In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody, the memory of love's refrain.

A Success Story

The story of Israel as an independent state on the world scene is a story of success beyond the wildest imagining and one in which Jews everywhere (and Jews are everywhere) can take justifiable pride. Consider what Israel, the 100th smallest country in the world with less than 1000th of the world's population, has accomplished in just 62 years of its current existence as a modern state, backed by 3,300 years of historic connection to its land. Charles Murray, the distinguished social scientist/historian in his book, "Human Accomplishment", focused on the fact that three-tenths of one percent of the world's population that is Jewish has contributed 25 percent of all notable human intellectual accomplishment in modern times. In the first half of the 20th century, he notes, while Jews throughout Europe and the rest of the world faced severe discrimination and legal constraints on their activities, and even despite the Holocaust in which the Germans attempted to exterminate the Jews completely, Jews won 14 percent of the Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine and literature. In the second half of that century, when Jews generally were more free to compete, that figure rose to 29 percent. And, so far in the 21st century, it is up to 32 percent.

In Israel itself, technology is the name of the game. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other country including the US---109 per 10,000 people. It also has the highest rate of patents filed per capita. It has the highest number of new start-up companies in proportion to its population and in total numbers is second only to the US---3,500, mostly in high-tech. Except for the US and Canada, Israel has the most NASDAQ listed companies. There is no question that Israel has the highest living standards in the entire Middle East and North African region of the world with a per capita income of more than $18,000 per year, even higher than England. Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all its immediate Arab neighbors combined. Some 25 percent of its workforce holds university degrees, ranking third in the industrialized world, while some 12 percent hold advanced degrees. In proportion to its population, Israel is the largest immigration-absorbing nation in the world, where newcomers arrive seeking religious freedom, economic opportunity and democracy. The fastest growing segment of Israel's population, surprisingly, is not Jewish or Muslim. It is Christians, fleeing Arab persecution in all the surrounding countries to the only country in the Middle East where they can find a safe haven.

Some of the technical advances are having a significant impact on the world. In medicine, for example, Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer, which will facilitate earlier detection and treatment . An Israeli company developed a computerized system for administering medications, thus eliminating human error from medical treatment, which accounts for so many deaths in US hospitals. Israel developed the first ingestible video camera small enough to fit inside a pill, which can view the small intestine from the inside and help doctors diagnose cancer and digestive disorders. In communications, Motorola's Israeli branch developed the cell phone technology that the whole world uses now. Most of the NT and XP operating systems for personal computers were developed by Microsoft-Israel. The Pentium-4 microprocessor and the Centrino processor were both designed and developed in Israel, as was voice mail technology. We could go on and on, but the point is that this remarkable record of accomplishment has taken place while this small country has been under siege, literally, in a continuous state of war with most of the Arab world, forced to spend an inordinate share of its national treasure on its security needs.