Saturday, October 13, 2012

Happy Times in 1930

Florence Welch Ruth Etting
Annette Hanshaw Dame Shirley Bassey
Clockwise: Florence Welch; Ruth Etting; Dame Shirley Bassey; and Annette Hanshaw.

Just when I think I am running out of ideas, another one pops into my head. I thought I'd take a look at songs that were on the charts in 1930, but not necessarily the top of the charts, nor necessarily by by original singers. Is that vague enough? I didn't mean it to me, but when I found this first video, I knew I was on the right track. "My Baby Just Cares For Me" was written by Walter Donaldson with lyrics by Gus Kahn. It was written for the 1930 movie version of the 1928 Broadway musical, 'Whoopee!', starring Eddie Canter. Some 30 years later, it became a trademark song of the great Nina Simone. But I have to admit, when I found this version by the gorgeous Florence Welch, I was a bit on the giddy level. So here is Florence singing "My Baby Just Cares For Me" for a New Years celebration with the brilliant Jools Holland.

"Ten Cents A Dance" was written by legendary team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1930 Florenz Ziegfeld musical, 'Simple Simon'. In fact, it was written for Lee Morse, a singer of note in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. However, Morse battled her demons, and was fired from the show in the out-of-town tryout in Boston, and replaced by Ruth Etting. She was already a successful singer, and added "Ten Cents A Dance" to the list of her hit songs. Etting's career was cut short when her gangster ex-husband shot her new boyfriend, and the headlines featured the story everywhere. Later, Doris Day would play her in the movie 'Love Me Or Leave Me', and James Cagney played the gangster Moe Snyder.

Singer Al Jolson had a big hit with the Irving Berlin song "Let Me Sing And I'm Happy" in 1930, but I found another version that I loved. Sure, there were countless very talented singers who recorded the song, but this live performance by the great Dame Shirley Bassey just hit me as something special. I think one of my favorite things about Bassey is her ability to offer something special and new in every song she sings. So enjoy Dame Shirley's take on Berlin's "Let Me Sing And I'm Happy".

The next song wsa written in 1929 by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, and recorded by Leo Reisman & His Orchestra. The recording was featured in the 1930 movie musical, 'Chasing Rainbows', as part of a grand finale that took the black and white film to technicolor. As a matter of fact, the song was featured in 15 movies by the end of 1932. The song became a big hit, and was used as a theme song for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential campaign in 1932. I chose a version recorded by the great Annette Hanshaw in 1930, capturing the way the song was originally heard by so very many, as an uptempo fun song. Over 30 years in the future, the song would be slowed down and delivered by a young singer to breath new life into the song. That singer was, of course, Barbra Streisand. But here is the perennial flapper, Annette Hanshaw, singing "Happy Days Are Here Again".

Have a great weekend!

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