And Your Favorite Song Is?

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I like a variety of music. Some even classical. Johann Strauss. Anyone who says “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” is not one of the prettiest songs ever written is tone deaf. Beethoven’s Fifth is a little strong, but you have the softer side of Ludwig B with “Fur Elise”. Bach’s too heavy for me. Liszt comes in lighter, but I never could adapt to his songs. Mozart could cheer you up with some of his whimsical music.

What is amazing to me is the fact the early songwriters wrote their music using a harpsichord. That approaches the sound of a piano to a degree, but how they wrote notes that transitioned brilliantly to piano is a stroke of genius.

Today’s music is not music. Hip-hop and gangsta rap. You talk about moral turpitude going down the drain. And Hank Williams has probably turned over several times in his Montgomery grave at what they call country today. Someone better go out and see if the dirt on top of his grave has been disturbed.

I’m certainly no expert on music, although I did plink away on the piano keys for a while. I do have more than a passing interest in it. I wrote three songs that were recorded. One was a Christmas song that was recorded, or cut as they sometimes refer to it, in Atlanta. It got quite a bit of local play. How do I know this? My BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) check told me. But it only hit locally and didn’t break nationally and that was that.

The other two songs (one record) were cut in Birmingham in a small studio. This recording studio was run by a fellow who knew what to do. He partitioned off the instruments, and put a mike on each of them. When the recording was over, he could bring up or lower the sound on any instrument in the session without having to re-record. I think he had to recut the guitar. On a guitar when you go say from like G to C, the guitar player does not lift his fingers as he slides down the guitar, and that slide produces a sound you don’t want on the record. A recording company picked up the record, but this was during the time of payola where record companies were paying DJ’s to play their records, and this record company did not want to pay. Payola was illegal, but most record companies did it anyway.

Bobby Mizell had a cut of “Heart and Soul”, an upbeat piano version, made at this same studio. One of the majors picked it up. He went out to Los Angeles to recut, and it became a mid-size hit. I listened to the original cut and the L.A. cut, and I thought the local cut was better. Only in Hollywood. You can go to YouTube and find Bobby.

I have not forgotten that I promised my readers a patriotic song. I have written it and the music. I’m still thinking about it. Have I got the right music for the words? Do I have the right words for the music? I promise you one of these days you’ll turn on your speakers to hear it.

One of the outstanding English singers during WWII was Vera Lynn. She was a big hit with English troops, making several appearances. One of her best hits which was a favorite of mine was “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart”. A nostalgic song, “When I Grow Too Old to Dream”, drew a lot of attention. Oddly enough one of her big songs was a recording of “Lili Marlene” a German song with American words added.

Marlene Dietrich, the American actress and singer” was of German descent, but disavowed Hitler early on, and became a favorite of our troops in WWII. Her rendition of “Lilli Marlene” in 4/4 march time as well is quite stirring. It’s in German.

Sometime later a song that caused you to put on your memory cap came along. “Those Were the Days”. The song has moments where you can laugh or cry, depending on what comes up from the past. If you like banjo, you’ll love the opening.

Lawrence Welk’s orchestra had a recording of “Whispering Hope” with Bob Ralston playing no less than the harpsichord. Bob came to the Alabama Theatre one time, and put on quite a piano concert. He had taped some songs the previous day, and actually played several duets with himself. Bob’s aunt was the lead lady in the first movie that was shown at the Alabama Theatre in 1929, along with Neil Hamilton, the police chief in the later TV Batman series.

Eddie Arnold’s recording of “Nobody’s Darling But Mine” is about as clean and clear a recording as you will ever get. Eddie’s voice and low-key instrumentation. Even if you are not a country music fan, you will love this.

And the original Platters with “Only You” and “The Great Pretender”. Earl Grant’s “At the End of the Rainbow.” B. J. Thomas on Hank’s song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” except for the wail at the end. He delivered the song, now fade quietly. Many considered Frank Sinatra one of the best. I only ever liked one song he recorded “Cycles”, so true to life. And Tom Jones with one of his not so familiar “Those Funny, Familiar, Forgotten Feelings”. I think on Tom most would have gone with “Green, Green Grass of Home”, which was also a good song.

Nat “King” Cole with one not everyone would think “Ramblin’ Rose”. Nat also recorded one of the strangest songs ever, even though it became a hit for him. It was called “Nature Boy” which was actually about a jungle guy. Maybe it was a belated tribute to Tarzan. Can’t say. The opening sequence to the song is in a minor key. I think if you ask any pro singer whether they had rather leave town, or start a song in a minor key sequence, they would leave town. If you start in a major key and shift to a minor, it’s not bad. If Nat got this on one take for the cut, he did a phenomenal job.

And the haunting “When You and I Were Young, Maggie”, a true song written by a man whose wife died young, and this is his tribute to her. When you know the story behind the song, and listen to the chorus, you can imagine his tears that fell on the paper as he wrote it.

The song that eluded me for quite some time came from the opening of the original movie “We’re No Angels” with Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov and Nita Talbot. A remake was done starring Robert DeNiro, but the same intro was not used.

I kept trying to find out the name of it, because, even though it was sung in French, and I have no idea what is being said (I took Spanish in high school) it has to be one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

Someone sent me a video of the movie, and lo and behold, the name of the song was not identified on the box the video came in or on the video itself.

Finally one day on the Internet I ran across a Greek singer named Nana Mouskouri, and noticed two or three French songs she had recorded. She sings in about four different languages. I had no idea who she was, but she had sold 80 or 90 million albums. The first French song I played of hers was “Plaisir D’amour”. That was the song.

If you listen to that song and are not moved, you’d better check and see if your movement is broken. Nana’s perfect pitch augments the violins that are in the foreground of the rest of the background music. The chorus or bridge goes into a minor key, but Nana’s so smooth you hardly notice. Nana may be too old to record anymore, but don’t die without hearing this song.

One other song you might want to give a listen to is the Statler’s version of “Amazing Grace” in their final 2002 concert in Salem, Virginia. They started in Virginia and used that venue for their last public appearance together. I don’t tamper with anybody’s religion, but listen to it, and let me know if religion did cross your mind.

I could go on forever, and pull a number of songs from my long-play records or tapes, but I’ve highlighted some of the best. Good listening.

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