Saturday Songs

This is the first of at least two blogs today.  I chose to write this one first.  Amidst all of the chaos in the world, I was reminded of a song that I often turned to when things in my life were less than stellar.  Michael Buble’ has been doing video messages on his Instagram page.  In one, he began to sing this song … and I felt that it was, indeed, a perfect song for today.

Smile – Nat King Cole

I may have posted this song once before in a blog about Nat King Cole.  The song is based on an instrumental melody written by Charlie Chaplin (loosely based on Puccini’s “Tosca”) for his 1936 movie Modern Times.  Lyrics were added in 1954 and they were based on lines from the film.

chap

You know what’s difficult to do in difficult times?  Smiling.  Try it.  It’s pretty damn hard.  While you and I are sitting in quarantine, knowing what’s going on outside, try smiling.  Not the easiest thing, but it is possible.  That’s what the song is all about. It tells you to cheer up, tomorrow will be better if you just smile.

You have probably heard that it takes more muscles and it takes more work to frown than it does to smile.  So, why work so hard?  Smile.  Give it a listen:

ac942dc945ade5e51e06ab7665af2232

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

This song is from 1967.  There are some conflicting stories about who was originally offered the song first.  Some say that Tony Bennett was offered the song, but refused.  Others say that the song was written specifically for Louis Armstrong, whom the writer of the song was inspired by as he felt Louis was good at bringing people of various race and color together.

RV-AN029_PLAYLI_GS_20140321141541

I first came to know this song because of the film “Good Morning Vietnam” starring Robin Williams.  It is interesting to note that the song was actually recorded 2 years after the film takes place (Williams’ character, a DJ, plays it on the radio).  What made me think about this song was the scene from the movie in which it was played.  While it plays, we see soldiers marching, bombs exploding, fighting and chaos in the streets, and more.

The contrast of the music of the song over these scenes are etched in my memory.  When I thought about the craziness in the world today, I couldn’t help but think of how, despite all of this, we truly live in a wonderful world.  One could easily play this song over scenes from what is going on in the world today.  It is important to find the happiness among the sadness.  It is important to notice the blue skies, green trees, white clouds, and red roses that are there to enjoy.

The only line that doesn’t fit today – is the line about shaking hands.

 

I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
For me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying
“I love you”

I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more
Than I’ll never know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Oh yeah

 

 

Tune Tuesday – Nat King Cole

 

nat_king_cole-studio_bw_4-c_capitol_photo_archives_0While driving into work this week, I heard part of a special on Sirius XM honoring Nat King Cole in honor of his 100th birthday.  The part that I heard was from a special done on WNEW radio in New York.  It was some DJ interviewing Nat, having him sing songs and play piano.  For Tune Tuesday, since his 100th birthday would have been March 17th, I thought I would share a few of my favorite Nat King Cole songs. I guess this blog should be titled Tune(s) Tuesday.

Before I post my favorites, let me say that Nat King Cole was truly one of the great voices in American music.  He was first known for being a jazz pianist (he had some classical training), and then began singing with the Nat King Cole Trio. His dad was a Baptist pastor and one of Nat’s early hits “Straighten Up and Fly Right” was inspired by one of his dad’s sermons.

In the 1950’s he became a solo performer and had many pop hits.  When Rock and Roll music came on the scene in the mid-1950’s, his career began to dwindle, but not for long.  He, like many, poked fun of Rock and Roll and often did a song in his live act called “Mr. Cole Won’t Rock and Roll”.  In the 60’s he reached the charts again with a couple hits.

He was the first African American performer to host his own TV Variety show in 1956. He had many stars on the show, but the lack of a national sponsor led to the demise of the show.  He appeared in movies Istanbul, China Gate, St. Louis Blues (playing blues legend WC Handy), and Cat Ballou (with Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin).

Nat was a very heavy smoker.  He often credited smoking for giving his voice the unique baritone sound that it had.  He even mentioned in the special I heard on Sirius XM how important it was to smoke, and even told the host that if smoked more, it would improve his singing voice.  Sadly, smoking is what led to his early death.  In 1964, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  It was only a few months after the diagnosis that he succumbed to the disease (February 15, 1965) at the very young age of 45.

0bf5bc097f33c250825823673984474e

Route 66 

With the Nat King Cole Trio – probably my favorite version of this song.

Answer Me My Love

Beautiful song about a guy who has lost his one and only.

Mona Lisa

Yes, it’s about the painting.

When I Fall In Love

WOW!  One of his best right here.  I could listen to this over and over

Autumn Leaves

One of those songs from Nat that you rarely get to hear.  It is really a wonderful arrangement and pretty song.

A Blossom Fell

My great uncle actually recorded this song when I was a kid at some local recording studio.  That was how I was introduced to this song.  I often think of him when I hear this song.

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

This one always reminds me of my days at Honey Radio.  We often played summer songs when the season changed and this was one of those songs.  It’s a feel good song – gotta love the banjo!

Smile 

A song that was written by the great Charlie Chaplin, this is one of those perfect songs.  Many have recorded this song, but Nat’s version remains the one that remains my favorite version.

L-O-V-E

Nat’s last recording.  It can be heard in many movie soundtracks and one of his best!

Nat had so many wonderful songs.  He was a talent that was taken from us much too soon.  Give a listen to his other hits Orange Colored Sky, Ramblin’ Rose, The Very Thought of You, I Love You for Sentimental Reasons, Unforgettable, and, of course, The Christmas Song.

Happy 100th Birthday, Nat!  Thanks for the music and melodies!