Saturday, February 22, 2014

Carrying the Olympic Torch

Ella Fitzgerald photo ella-fitzgerald_zpse969a546.jpg Jo Stafford photo jo_stafford_zps9f674c12.jpg
Dinah Shore photo Dinah_Shore_zps14cbd9a8.jpg Bessie Smith photo Bessie-Smith_zps850699b1.jpg
Clockwise: Ella Fitzgerald, Jo Stafford, Bessie Smith, and Dinah Shore.

As the Winter Olympics are winding to an end, I thought about what songs might be sung to the athletes. After all, The Olympic Games have been around almost as long as there has been music. And since there is no greater honor than winning a gold medal, it was a no brainer for me to include Ella Fitzgerald singing "Lover's Gold". The song was written by Morty Nevins and Bob Merrill and appeared on Fitzgerald's 1955 album, 'Miss Ella Fitzgerald & Mr Gordon Jenkins Invite You to Listen and Relax'. Here is Ella singing "Lover's Gold".

And while there is always a discussion about who should play in the games, and how they should do it, I always think it is best to keep it simple. And so I thought it was only right to include the next song written by the great Irving Berlin for the 1914 musical, 'Watch Your Step'. "Play A Simple Melody" was also included in the soundtrack to the iconic movie musical, 'There's No Business Like Show Business'. In 1950, vocalist Jo Stafford sang the song with Paul Weston and his Orchestra recorded the song, and did a great job. Here is Jo Stafford singing "Play A Simple Melody".

The next song first was heard in the 1938 Broadway musical 'Right This Way'. "I'll Be Seeing You" had music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Irving Kahal, and while the show was not a hit, the song proved to have great staying power. It quickly became a standard many were wanting to sing and record, for years to come. I thought this song would be a perfect choice, as something the athletes would say to one another, hoping to see one another again at the next Olympiad. I picked a version from 1957 by Dinah Shore, that has a wonderfully haunting feel to it. IT also shows off the wonderful range and depth of Shore's vocals. This is Dinah Shore singing "I'll Be Seeing You".

Now, while I have focused on the athletes, I saved this last one for the families of the men and women left at home. "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home" was a Blues song written by Charles Warfield and Clarence Williams in 1919, and it is a great song. But it wasn't a hit until 1923, when it was recorded and released by the great Bessie Smith. Smith was legendary for many reasons, but first and foremost was her ability to sing a song like few others could. She was the most popular female singer of the 1920s and 1930s, and had a profound influence on the singers that followed. Smith also had a live hard, play hard philosophy, which most likely added to her ability to sing the Blues. This is Bessie Smith singing her 1923 hit, "Baby, Won't You Please Come Home".

Have a great weekend!


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