Thursday, July 21, 2016

For the love of old pop tunes, one story at a time

Harry on his 92nd birthday, June 16, 2013.

Earlier on this blog I posted some of Harry’s music-themed articles for his community newsletter in Leisure World, Silver Spring, MD. Here are two more he wrote at age 92. He would have been thrilled to know his stories would spread his love and appreciation for these songs to a wider audience.

June 17, 2013
Maybe You’ll Be There

Some songs become popular because of the melody. Some because of the lyric. And some because the lyric and the melody comprise a perfect blend. Here’s one where the words grabbed me and the melody was only secondary. It’s one of the great “torch songs” that lament a love lost and the never-ending hope that it will return. I strongly believe that this kind of song, and these words in particular, could only be written out of personal experience. The words were written by Sammy Gallop, a successful lyricist who had written the words for a great many top-rated songs, including such gems as “Elmer’s Tune”, “Holiday for Strings”, “Somewhere Along the Way”, and many others. He committed suicide in 1971, which is why I believe that this song truly reflects the anguish of a man who has lost the love of his life.

The music was composed by Rube Bloom (1902 – 1971), a multi-talented entertainer who was a music arranger, a singer, a band leader, an author and a recording artist, as well as a composer. Among his most successful songs were “Day In, Day Out”, “Fools Rush In, Where Angels Fear To Tread”, “Don’t Worry ’Bout Me”, and many others.

Many of the well-known singers of our times recorded this song, from Frank Sinatra to Diana Krall, but perhaps the best one was by the Gordon Jenkins orchestra and chorus.

Maybe You’ll Be There (Lyric)

Each time I see a crowd of people,
Just like a fool I stop and stare,
It’s really not the proper thing to do,
But maybe you’ll be there.

I go out walking after midnight,
Along a lonely thoroughfare,
It’s not the time or place to look for you,
But maybe you’ll be there.

You said your arms would always hold me,
You said your lips were mine alone to kiss,
Now after all those things you told me,
How can it end like this?

Some day if all my prayers are answered,
I’ll hear a footstep on the stair,
With anxious heart I’ll hurry to the door,
And maybe you’ll be there.

August 20, 2013
The Way You Look Tonight

My husband and I have been practicing the Fox Trot to Michael Buble’s version of the song my dad talks about here. Now we know the backstory.

In the field of popular music song-writing, which has long been dominated by men, one woman stands out. Dorothy Fields (1905 – 1974) was one of the very first successful female songwriters for both Broadway musicals and Hollywood movies. She was born into show business. Her father was Lew Fields, an immigrant from Poland who rose to stardom as a vaudeville comedian and later became a Broadway producer.

Her career as a professional songwriter began in 1928 when she started working with composer Jimmy McHugh. Together they wrote “On the Sunny Side of the Street”, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby”, and “Exactly Like You”, among many others. In the mid-1930s she started writing lyrics for other composers, most notably Jerome Kern. She worked with him on the movie version of “Roberta” (“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”) and, in 1936, on the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie “Swing Time”, for which they wrote “The Way You Look Tonight”. That song earned the team of Fields and Kern an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Dorothy Fields wrote the lyrics for another song that Astaire and Rogers sang in “Swing Time” called “Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off and Start All Over Again”, which President Obama used in his first inaugural speech in 2009. He said, “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of rebuilding America.” I wonder if he knew where that phrase originated – in a lyric by Dorothy Fields.

After her stint in Hollywood, Fields returned to New York and wrote the books for a number of Broadway shows, including “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” with Arthur Schwartz and some of the Cole Porter shows. She also wrote the book for “Annie Get Your Gun” for which Irving Berlin wrote the music. All told, Dorothy Fields wrote more than 400 songs over a period of 50 years, and the words she wrote have been sung by every recording artist of our times. Many of her songs are still on the air waves today, including such perennial favorites as “I Won't Dance”, “Lovely To Look At”, “I Feel a Song Coming On”, that sarcastic gem of a love song “A Fine Romance”, and, one of the most often quoted love songs of all time, “I’m In The Mood for Love.”

The Way You Look Tonight (Lyric)

Some day, when I’m awfully low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you, and the way you look, tonight.

Yes, you’re lovely, with your smile so warm, and your cheeks so soft, there is nothing for me but to love you, and the way you look tonight.

With each word your tenderness grows, tearing my fears apart, and that laugh that wrinkles your nose, touches my foolish heart.

Lovely, never never change, keep that breathless charm, won’t you please arrange it ’cause I love you, and the way you look tonight.

Copyright 2016, Elaine Blackman

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