Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Little Cole In Stockings

Judy Garland Della Reese
Betty Carter Patti LuPone
Clockwise: Judy Carland; Della Reese; Patti LuPone; and Betty Carter.

In this tribute to the great Cole Porter, I put together a group of ladies I think have style and substance that makes people stand up and listen. After all, to sing Porter's songs, you need a little something extra, or your song will never be heard over the din of a bunch of others singing some of the greatest songs written in the 20th Century. So, yes, these ladies hitch up their stockings on their way to the microphone, and sing for all they are worth. And that is a lot! I will begin with one of the all-time great voices, Judy Garland. Judy could pack so much punch into her voice, so much pain and anguish it felt like a punch to the stomach. Cole Porter wrote "From This Moment On" for the 1951 Broadway show 'Out Of This World'. Unfortunately, the song was cut while still in previews, but it resurfaced in another of Porter's shows. In 1953, the movie version of 'Kiss Me Kate' was released, and it included the song, which was not in the Broadway score for the 1948 opening. After all that, "From This Moment On" has become a classic, sung by some of the greats, like Judy.

The next song was so scandalous when it was written, you almost had to know it became a great Jazz classic. "Love For Sale" was written for the 1930 Broadway musical, 'The New Yorkers'. Sung by a prostitute outside a restaurant 'advertising' her wares, it was originally sung by Kathryn Crawford, with three girlfriends as back-up singers, in front of Reuben's, a popular New York restaurant. When the criticism of this started to mound, the production made the decision to have the song sung by Elisabeth Welch, who sang with back-up singers in a scene set in front of Harlem's Cotton Club. Of course, Crawford was white, and Welch African American. Sadly, this was thought to be an acceptable compromise by all. That said, the song is a great one, and here you can listen as it is sung by the great Della Reese.

When the musical 'Anything Goes' opened on Broadway in 1936, few could have foreseen the success of the score, much of which has entered in to the Great American Songbook, and sung by some of the greatest Pop and Jazz singers of the last century. That would include a little ditty originally given voice by the bold and brassy Ethel Merman on Broadway. "I Get A Kick Out Of You" quickly was recorded by many, and that continued to be the case. It doesn't hurt that there have been Broadway versions, film versions, television special versions, revival versions and West End versions. In one of those, the stellar Patti LuPone took on the role of Reno Sweeney in 1987, earning the Tony Award for Best Actress In A Musical. Here Patti sings the beautiful "I Get A Kick Out Of You".

There is a beauty in the haunting quality to Porter's "Ev'ry Time You Say Goodbye", a classic that debuted in a 1944 musical review put on by Fanny Brice's second husband, Billy Rose. However, the song seemed irresistible to the singers since, whether they were men or women. Where there are beautiful versions by Annie Lennox and Ella Fitzgerald, among others, I chose the stunning one by Jazz great Betty Carter. Carter was known for her nimble vocal technique, and was considered by many to be the best Jazz singer ever. Listen to her singing "Ev'ry Time You Say Goodbye" and you will understand why they said that.

Hope you are having a fantastic Saturday night!


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