Clockwise:Nat King Cole; Tony Bennett; Rosemary Clooney; Mario Lanza; and Les Paul & Mary Ford.
Well, yesterday was my cousin Margie's birthday, so I asked her to name the year, and I would do a post for her. She picked 1951, which is kinda exciting, as I hadn't covered it before! So, before I go any further, I thought I would give everyone a chance to meet my cousin, pictured below to the left of Eric Himan (and her sister Eileen on the right) from a show she went with me in January at the World Cafe Live! in Philadelphia, also featuring Levi Kreis and Jason Antone.
The first clip of the post will be the #5 song from 1951 according to the Billboard chart. The song is Be My Love, with lyrics by Sammy Cahn and music by Nicholas Brodzsky. The song first appeared in the 1950 movie The Toast of New Orleans, where it was sung by Kathryn Grayson and Mario Lanza. It was recorded by Lanza, and the following year made it to #1 on the chart. Like my beautiful cousin, Lanza was a Philadelphia native. Here is the version of the classically-trained tenor.
It is nigh-on impossible to resist Rosemary Clooney's cute and flirty recording of Come On-A My House. The song, written by Ross Bagdasarian and writer William Saroyan, was written in 1939, but was largely ignored until recorded by Clooney. There are reports that Rosemary did not like the song, which became a trademark of the singer.
The #3 song on the year-end chart belonged to the husband/wife team of Les Paul & Mary Ford, introduced by legendary Hollywood 'cowboy' Gene Autry. 1951 was a huge year for the pair, who sold over 5 million records, and had How High The Moon on top of the Pop chart for 9 weeks. The jazz standard was written in for the 1940 Broadway show, Two For The Show, with lyrics by Nancy Hamilton and music by Morgan Lewis. The duo combined the Jazz and Rock sound to give their own unique sound to the music they performed. Les Paul was a real innovator, manufacturing guitars that carried his name, as well as maintaining a strong career as a performer. Here is their song, How High The Moon.
The #2 song for the year was sung by the great American crooner, Tony Bennett. Because of You was written by Arthur Hammerstein and Dudley Wilkinson in 1940. It was Bennett's first #1 song, and it stayed atop the chart for 10 weeks, and sold over a million copies. Later, Bennett rerecorded the song for the 2006 album Duets: An American Classic. He sang it with the glorious voice of kd lang. The song also featured a beautiful trumpet solo by Chris Botti.
And finally, the #1 song for the year 1951 was recorded by the astounding Nat King Cole. Written by Sidney Lippman with lyrics by Sylvia Dee, Too Young went to #1 on the Billboard chart, and stayed there for five consecutive weeks. There were plenty of other versions of the song, including one by the King of Pop while still a member of the Jackson 5, and by Donny Osmond in 1972 on the Here's Lucy show.
So, it only seems appropriate that I end this tribute to my cousin Margie with the song Too Young, for it age is just a number, and the real age a matter for the mind, then Margie is indeed still far too young to remember any of these songs. So I will continue to celebrate Margie, including this photograph I took in her South Philly kitchen, with my sister Kathy and my niece, Mandy.