Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive

26 07 2012

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive—H. Arlen/J. Mercer, 1944 (Recorded July 26, 2012) Wikipedia reports that Johnny Mercer came up with this lyric after attending a sermon by Father Divine, where “you got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative” is supposed to have been an actual quote by the (in)famous preacher.

The song was used in the Bing Crosby-Betty Hutton movie, Here Come the Waves. I yanked this arrangement by listening to the master himself, Johnny Mercer, in his recording with Paul Weston’s (aka Jonathan Edwards) band and the Pied Piper vocal group. I sang it through straight, playing the Glyph ukulele, and then added maracas and background vocals.

This song is dedicated to all my pals who, this very weekend, are attending the Hollesley Ukulele Festival, aka “Raystock,” over in Hollesley, Suffolk, England. Hope to see you guys there in 2013!

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Last Night When We Were Young

10 07 2012

Last Night When We Were Young—H. Arlen/E.Y. Harburg, 1935 (Recorded July 10, 2012) Harold Arlen told Alec Wilder that he wrote this song expressly for opera singer/actor Lawrence Tibbett. Tibbett’s performance of the song was cut from the movie, Metropolitan, though, but the tune lived on in well-known pop versions by Sinatra and Judy Garland, among others.

I love the song, and tried my best to do it justice. Represented here is version 10 of my recorded efforts, so, yeah, I tried and tried! Since there is a loud vocal part toward the end, I kept getting the levels wrong, blowing out the recording during the lung-busting measure. This cut turned out ok, technically and performance-wise, although I still sing it better in the shower. ;°)





My Old Man

17 06 2012

My Old Man—B. Hanighen/J. Mercer, 1933 (Recorded June 17, 2012) It’s said that Johnny Mercer and Bernie Hanighen wrote this tune expressly for one of Johnny’s favorite acts of the day, the popular string-and-vocal band, the Spirits of Rhythm. In the spirit of Father’s Day, I dedicate this song to my old man, who died just a couple of days after his 60th birthday way back in September of 1982. Hope there’s barrels of whisky keeping you frisky wherever you are, you ol’ devil! (I don’t believe in an afterlife, but still.)





Like Someone in Love

15 06 2012

Like Someone in Love—J. Van Heusen/J. Burke, 1944 (Recorded June 15, 2012) I’ve been on a Jimmy Van Heusen kick lately. Edward Chester Babcock has long been in the Top Five of my favorite songwriters, along with Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, and Cole Porter. (E. C. Babcock was Van Heusen’s birth name—he changed it at the insistence of a radio program manager who thought “Babcock” sounded, well, too “cocky.” As the story goes, Babcock looked out the window and, seeing a Van Heusen shirt truck driving by, changed his name on the spot.)

Back in the early 1990s, when I first heard the album, Rosemary Clooney Sings the Music of Jimmy Van Heusen, I was hooked. An inventive songster, Van Heusen is most closely associated in his early career with Bing Crosby and later on with Sinatra. I was prompted to record these numbers because I’ve been reading the engrossing book, “The House that George Built” by Wilfrid Sheed, and I’ve just finished the chapter about Van Heusen. What a character, that Jimmy! Read Sheed’s book if you have any interest in these song standards. It’s excellent.





But Beautiful

15 06 2012

But Beautiful—J. Van Heusen/J. Burke, 1947 (Recorded June 15, 2012) This song was written for the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour flick, Road to Rio. Bing sings it to Dorothy, natch.

I learned this tune years ago and have not played it in quite a while until I decided to make this recording. It took a bit of practice, but it’s sort of like riding a bicycle: I jumped right back on, fell off and skinned my knees a couple of times, but soon I was riding around the block.





My Heart Is a Hobo

15 06 2012

My Heart Is a Hobo—J. Van Heusen/J. Burke, 1947 (Recorded June 15, 2012) Here’s another tune from a Crosby movie, this time, Welcome Stranger. Bing sings it with a fishing pole in his hands while sitting next to Barry Fitzgerald. The masculine lyric changes the line from “Hates the stay-home gal that I am” to “Hates the stodgy guy that I am,” but I altered it to “Hates the stay-home guy that I am.” Small difference. I like to stay home, so it fits that way. ;°)





My Ship

2 06 2012

My Ship—K. Weill/I. Gershwin, 1941 (Recorded June 2, 2012) This bittersweet ballad comes from the Weill/Gershwin Broadway musical, Lady in the Dark, and introduced by Gertrude Lawrence in character as Liza Elliott. I first fell in love with the tune by way of Johnny Hartman’s recording from his 1964 album, The Voice That Is!

Here’s a provocative quote by Ira Gershwin about the song. When the Hollywood movie of Lady in the Dark was made in 1944, “My Ship” didn’t make the final cut. Gershwin was bemused by this decision. From Wikipedia:

“Later, when Lady in the Dark was filmed, the script necessarily had many references to the song. But for some unfathomable reason the song itself—as essential to this musical drama as a stolen necklace or a missing will to a melodrama—was omitted. Although the film was successful financially, audiences evidently were puzzled or felt thwarted or something, because items began to appear in movie-news columns mentioning that the song frequently referred to in Lady in the Dark was ‘My Ship.’ I hold a brief for Hollywood, having been more or less a movie-goer since I was nine; but there are times….”

Hollywood. There are times, indeed.

A note about this recording: This is another of my early-morning, before-the-first-cuppa-joe efforts, where my voice is still, um, textured. I used the 1920s Lyon & Healy soprano ukulele and sang it straight through, with a touch of added reverb.

Oh, one more thing—also snatched from Wikipedia…I had to post this picture of Kurt Weill. It’s charming. ;°)