Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Ladies Sing the Songs of Arlen & Koehler

Diana Krall photo DianaKrall_zps13721208.jpg Judy Garland photo Judy_Garland_zpsebe83cf2.jpg
Patti Lupone & Audra McDonald photo AudraMcDonald_PattiLupone_zps7363d42d.jpg Barbra Streisand photo BarbraStreisand_zpsc19aeb36.jpg
Clockwise: Diana Krall; Judy Garland; Barbra Streisand; and Will Swenson with Patti LuPone & Audra McDonald.

This week, I am taking my inspiration from a songwriting team, composer Harold Arlen and lyricist by Ted Koehler. The duo began working together in the 1920s, and continued writing together through the 1940s. During that period, they both also worked with others. They wrote for vaudeville, as well as for Broadway and Hollywood. During the 1930s, they also wrote songs for The Cotton Club, Harlem's top nightclub. There the music was performed by some of the great names in Jazz, including legendary performer Duke Ellington. Many of their songs became hits, and the artists were lining up to sing them. That would be the artists back in the day, and the artists today. The first song we'll hear is "Let's Fall In Love", written in 1933. The song was originally intended to be a nice, upbeat song, but soon many singers were putting a swing beat on it, making it the song we all know. In 1999, Jazz artist Diana Krall recorded the song for her album 'When I Look Into Your Eyes', and often played it at live shows. So here is Mrs. Elvis Costello, although you might know her as Diana Krall, singing "Let's Fall In Love".

Now, whenever Judy Garland sings a song, it becomes a classic. And when she takes on a song with music by Harold Arlen, something magical happens. Such is the case when she sang a little song in the movie 'Wizard of Oz', called "Over The Rainbow". And it certainly was not the last of Arlen's songs Judy took on. There were so many, it would be hard to remember them all. But one such song was "I've Gotta Right to Sing the Blues", written for the Broadway show, Earl Carroll's 'Vanities', which opened in 1932. It was recorded by some of the great big bands of the day, like Cab Dalloway &His Orchestra, Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra, Lee Willey & The Dorsey Brothers, and Benny Goodman & His Orchestra. The song remained popular, so it is no surprise it was recorded for her 1957 album, 'Alone'. This is Judy Garland singing "I've Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" live on 'The Judy Garland Show' in the 1960s.

The next song was written in 1929, and could be one of the more popular songs, if not the most popular of the great songs they have written. They wrote the song as a Gospel-like song, and it was first recorded by Ruth Etting in the Broadway show, 'The Nine-Fifteen Revue'. The show was not a success, closing after a one week run. The song could have easily gone away, but that was not to be. When people think of the song "Get Happy", it is the huge musical number featuring Judy Garland singing "Get Happy" in the 1950 MGM musical, 'Summer Stock'. Soon the song was a signature tune for the singer, and over a decade later, when she was performing on her television show, Garland sang with while a young Barbra Streisand sang one of her early hits, Happy Days Are Here Again", written by Milton Ager & Jack Yellen. This was a showstopper, and Streisand was nominated for an Emmy for her appearance on the show. The moment was so iconic, it was recreated by Ryan Murphy on 'Glee', featuring Lea Michele and Chris Colfer. They were not the only duo to reference the pair. As part of a PBS Special, the glorious Audra McDonald invited her friend Patti LuPone to play Judy and Barbra as they sing "Happy Days Are Hear Again/Get Happy".

The final entry tonight was written in 1941, and first sung by Helen O'Connell and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra. But it was really more than twenty years before the most notable recording was made of the song, by a young girl in New York City. In October of 1962, Barbra Streisand recorded her first version of the song, and it was released as a single. The B-side was "Happy Days Are Here Again". I guess people liked it, because the following year, Streisand was back in the studio to record a new version for 'The Second Barbra Streisand Album'. This is a wonderful video of Streisand singing "When The Sun Comes Out" live on her 1965 television special, "My Name Is Barbra"

Have a great weekend!

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