Archive for the Category »Songs from Movies «
Earlier this year I mentioned that I play the saxophone in a community band and had a great time at our spring concert playing the tune “But Not for Me,” which was composed by George Gershwin. Yesterday during our fall concert, we played two more pieces by Gershwin so I thought why not do what I did then and discover what, if any ties they had to classic movies.
I hope you won’t mind though if I share a little story with you first. As I was getting ready for the concert, I was feeling way more nervous than usual (I could barely eat my lunch!) and was not feeling at all confident in my playing abilities.
But a funny thing happened as soon as we walked onto the stage, sat down, and started playing our first piece. All my nervousness seemed to vanish in an instant, and I realized that I love to perform on stage in front of an audience!
Now that might not sound like a big deal, especially to those of you who have any kind of stage experience, but as a once extremely shy introvert who has struggled my whole life with social awkwardness, unhealthy perfectionism, and a fear of doing pretty much anything in front of large groups, I never would have expected to find myself in that situation, especially since I don’t exactly possess a ton of musical talent. I’m not quite sure why I never felt that way at previous concerts, but it was quite an exhilarating revelation and now I can’t wait for our next one!
As for the two Gershwin pieces we played, the first was actually a medley of the songs “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Bidin’ My Time” and the other one was “Strike Up the Band.” They weren’t quite as fun to play as “But Not for Me” but it is always satisfying to play tunes that I am familiar with, so I really enjoyed performing them.
“Someone to Watch Over Me” was originally composed for the 1926 musical Oh Kay! and was introduced by English actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence. Lawrence, who was at one time close friends with English playwright Noel Coward, was known mostly for her career on stage in London and New York.
The song has been recorded by quite a few artists over the years including Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Rosemary Clooney, Barbra Streisand, and my personal favorite, Frank Sinatra. Sinatra also sings the song in the movie Young at Heart (1954), which co-stars another one of my favorite singers Doris Day.
“Bidin’ My Time” was featured in the 1943 version of Girl Crazy starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, the same movie that “But Not for Me” appeared in. I guess our director really likes music from that movie.
I love the scene in which Judy Garland sings the song with a quartet of singing, dancing cowboys. If you happen to check it out, which you can (and should!) here on YouTube, make sure to stick around till the end for a fun appearance in the number by Mickey Rooney.
The song was also recorded as a single by Teddi King, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and opera singer Willard White among others. My favorite version is Sarah Vaughan’s with her rich vocals bringing something extra special to the song.
As for the song “Strike Up the Band,” I was expecting to find out that it appeared in the 1940 movie of the same name, which like Girl Crazy starred Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. But I discovered instead that it was written for a 1927 Broadway musical and other than the title had no relation to the film.
Do you have a favorite version of any of these great George Gershwin standards? Have you ever performed them on stage? If so, I’d love to hear your story!
Yesterday I performed in a concert with my band (I play the saxophone in a community band), and by far my favorite of all the pieces we played was the jazz standard “But Not for Me,” which was composed in 1930 by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin.
I think it might be the most fun piece we’ve ever played. Well except for maybe the time we played songs from the musical Hair. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” especially was an absolute blast to play!
Anyway, when I got home I decided to look up the history of “But Not for Me,” and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it has ties to classic film. Turns out it was originally written for the 1930 musical Girl Crazy, a play that by most accounts made Ginger Rogers a star and helped launch the career of Ethel Merman. On opening night of the play, the pit orchestra included the likes of Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, and Jimmy Dorsey. Boy, would I have loved to have been there for that!
The song was also performed by Judy Garland in the film version of Girl Crazy from 1943, and it appeared in the movies Manhattan (1979), When Harry Met Sally (1989), and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Continue reading »
What do old movies and classical music have in common? I’m sure there are many possible answers to that, but for me it’s that I once thought they were both boring and something I would never enjoy. I have only myself to blame for the way I felt about old movies, but with classical music? I sort of blame McDonald’s for that one!
Okay, so I’m only half joking about that but if you remember this popular McDonald’s commercial from 1986 it might help to understand why (although after reading the comments on YouTube, I think I may be the only one who didn’t like it!) Continue reading »
While listening to a movie related podcast the other day, I heard the popular tune “Hooray for Hollywood” and I have not been able to get it out of my head since! I didn’t know much about the song, but because I was pretty sure it held a significant place in the history of Hollywood, I felt like I should know more about it. I’ve heard the melody many times but realized that I didn’t even know any of the lyrics to the song other than the words of the title, so I thought I’d do a little research on its history.
The song “Hooray for Hollywood” was composed in the late 1930′s by Richard Whiting, who is also known for the standards “Ain’t We Got Fun” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” the latter made famous by Shirley Temple in the movie Bright Eyes (1934). It was first featured in the movie Hollywood Hotel (1937) starring Dick Powell, Rosemary & Lola Lane, and Ted Healy. It was sung by Johnnie Davis and Frances Langford, who were accompanied by Benny Goodman and his orchestra. Continue reading »
Yesterday I stumbled upon one of those “This Day in History” sites, and it caught my eye that it was the 57th anniversary of the day the song “Rock Around the Clock” was recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets. Normally an odd numbered anniversary of something isn’t going to be of much significance to me, but it stood out to me for several reasons. The first reason is that I absolutely love early rock and roll from the 1950′s. Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and of course Bill Haley and the Comets are just a few of the names in a long list of artists that I enjoy listening to.
The song also makes me think of the tv show Happy Days, which was one of my favorites growing up. Bill Haley recorded a new version of the song in 1973, and it was used as the show’s theme song for the first two seasons, until just like Richie and Joanie’s brother Chuck, it disappeared from the show. Continue reading »
As a resident of the state of Wisconsin as well a huge football fan, I’ve certainly been no stranger to the world of union disputes lately. With the labor unrest in Madison and the battle between NFL players and owners both dominating the news, it was quite timely but totally coincidental that I decided to watch a movie whose plot basically revolves around a union dispute.
However, there was just a *slight* difference in the amount of money being fought over in the movie. By slight I mean billions of dollars (in the NFL) vs. 7 ½ cents an hour. Sounds a bit ridiculous I know, but the movie I’m referring to is a musical comedy from 1957 called The Pajama Game, which centers around a union in a pajama factory fighting for a 7 ½ cent raise. With $1/hr. being the minimum wage in 1957, 7 ½ cents probably did seem like a lot back then, but it’s funny how insignificant it seems now compared to the amounts currently being contested. Continue reading »