Ella Fitzgerald

Tunes on Tuesday

I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart.jpg

In the early days of the music industry, there were far fewer protections in place for song writers than there are today, which is to say they made a lot less money – and credit – for their creations. And a popular song could be performed and recorded by numerous different musicians without being held accountable to the original songwriters.  “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” was composed in 1938 by the unforgettable Duke Ellington, with lyrics added by Irving Mills, Henry Nemo and John Redmond.  Three lyricists working together came up with this:

I let a song go out of my heart
It was the sweetest melody
I know I lost heaven 'cause you were the song

Since you and I have drifted apart
Life doesn't mean a thing to me
Please come back, sweet music, I know I was wrong

Am I too late to make amends?
You know that we were meant to be more than just friends, just friends

I let a song go out of my heart
Believe me, darlin', when I say
I won't know sweet music until you return some day

I let a song go out of my heart
Believe me, darlin', when I say
I won't know sweet music until you return some day

 

The song definitely struck a chord, because it reached number one upon its release for Ellington when he recorded it.  It was also a hit – the same year – for Benny Goodman (with Martha Tilton singing), Connee Boswell, Hot Lips Page, and Mildred Bailey.  Over the years since then, other luminaries have also recorded their own versions of it, including Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and Thelonious Monk.  Clearly, no one is ready to let this song go out of their hearts!

Tunes on Tuesday

Alexanders Ragtime Band.jpg

If you have ever been to a superstore, I'm sure you've noticed the music piped through the building. Maybe popular music of a decade ago or instrumental interpretations of your favorite tunes from the 1960s can be heard wherever you are. If you're lucky, it remains in the background.  But, if you notice it it may stick with you all day.  The American Treasure Tour is also always playing music, but ours is definitely NOT pumped in.  Our mechanical musical machines (nickelodeons, band organs, dance hall organs and music boxes) actually play instruments using complex and fascinating devices we won't even begin to try to explain here.  While some of the many songs you can hear here may be new to you, much of it is iconic.  Today, the blog is going to honor one of the songs currently echoing through my head:  "Alexander's Ragtime Band."

The famous songwriter Irving Berlin wrote this song in 1910, and it became his first major hit the next year. He never conclusively explained his inspiration for it, so there's only conjecture today, but it is believed that he wrote it in honor of a man named Alexander Joseph "King" Watzke, a musician from New Orleans, and one of the first white bandleaders to popularize the new African-American ragtime sound.  Watzke's career peaked between 1904 and 1911. There is an argument that Berlin may have borrowed from Scott Joplin in creating the song, but ultimately the credit went to Berlin and to Emma Carus, a famous vaudeville performer for whom "Alexander's Ragtime Band" became her signature song. That is not to say other singers didn't embrace the catchy tune, too.  In fact, dozens of artists have recorded their own renditions of it over the more than a century since it was first published, including Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and, of course, the Bee Gees.  

Tunes on Tuesday

I'm Making Believe.jpg

There is so much music here at the Treasure Tour, it's a challenge to know where to start.  So we do it randomly. And today, we honor a wartime song written by James V. Monaco (music) and Mack Gordon (lyrics).  The song, "I'm Making Believe" was included in the 1944 film Sweet and Low-Down, a fictional account of the life of its star, Benny Goodman as he entertained soldiers at military bases.  In the film, Lyn n Bari "sang" the song, which was in reality dubbed by Lorraine Elliott, but it was popularized by none other than Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots.  It reached the number one spot on the music charts by the end of the year.

"I'm Making Believe" was nominated for an Oscar but, during the 17th Academy Awards, it lost out to the now immortal "Swinging On A Star" from the film Going My Way, which won seven of its ten nominations that year, including Best Picture.

Tunes on Tuesday

It's Only A Paper Moon.jpg

If you love music and you've never been to the American Treasure Tour, you are truly missing out. We have a few hundred thousand pieces of music in our collection, with only a percentage of it on display. You can listen to our nickelodeons and band organs and enjoy a wall covered in classic vinyl spanning the last half of the twentieth century.  If you spend a little more time in our Music Room and look around, you will notice we also have sheet music from songs that were popular in days of old.  Which brings us to the popular 1930's song "It's Only A Paper Moon."

We promise that, when you walk into our Music Room, the sheet music for "It's Only A Paper Moon" will NOT be the first thing you see, but it's here.  Displayed above eye level with an image of Joan Leslie and Robert Hutton on the cover. The song was written in 1933 by Harold Arlen (music) and Yip Harburg and Billy Rose (lyrics), for a Broadway show called The Great Magoo. The play tanked, but the song lived on. In fact, it became quite popular, being recorded by nearly forty artists including none other than Nat "King" Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, and Frank Sinatra. The sheet music is from the 1945 film Too Young To Know.  Enjoy!

Huey Lewis & The News - April 25, 2014

When the American Treasure Tour staff has a few minutes between preparing for the next group's visit and their arrival, we often find ourselves hanging out in the Music Room, just looking around.  For as many times as we have been in that glorious space, there is always something we have not noticed before - or that our jack-of-all-trades Woody may have hung while we weren't looking.  The records always inspire different reactions.  For example, Neil has always tried to emulate the no-nonsense defiance of Johnny Paycheck, while Heather pines away to the beautiful musings of Englebert Humperdinck and Bert, beloved star of Sesame Street.  Ginni favors the albums dedicated to preserving music from band organs of old, and Ross gravitates towards almost-forgotten memories of the height of 1980s music (he was practically a toddler back then, if you believe everything you read in blogs).

Huey Lewis started playing with different bands and more established musicians in the San Francisco Bay area in the early 1970s before forming Huey Lewis and the News in 1979.  Their bluesy, doo-wop, pop sound with a hint of soul worked well for them, although not right away.  In fact, they received minimal airplay until 1983, when they exploited the relatively new media of MTV, recording often-humorous videos to complement their songs.  By the time Fore! was released, their fourth album and the one we're discussing today, it went straight to Billboard's number 1 slot with the popular song "Hip to Be Square."  It became triple platinum.  It also proved to be the peak of their career, after which they have slowed down but remained active. Make sure to catch them the next time they come to your area!

QUESTION:

Huey Lewis was involved in a plagiarism lawsuit in 1984, when he accused Ray Parker, Jr. of copying his song for the theme of the popular film Ghostbusters.  Which song did Lewis accuse Parker of plagiarizing?  

a)  "I Want a New Drug"

b)  "The Power of Love"

c)  "Back In Time"

d)  "If This Is It"

e)  "The Heart of Rock & Roll"

Answer Below

HISTORY TODAY:

The story of Cuba and the story of the United States have both intertwined for centuries.  Bottom line, the U.S. has always wanted to make sure the Caribbean was safe for trade, and Cuba is in a strategic location.  So, when it looked like Cuba was preparing for a revolution to obtain independence from Spain, we were right there.  Today commemorates the declaration of war made by the U.S. against Spain in what is known as the Spanish-American War in 1898. President McKinley was not too excited about the proposition, but there was the mysterious sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor to consider and lots and lots of support in the States, by leaders of industry who saw an opportunity, the two most powerful newspaper owners created - William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer - and by people anxious to show the might of the American military.  The war itself officially lasted less than four months, although it would prove to have a long-term impact.  The U.S got irreversibly involved in overseas politics, including turning the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam into American territories while establishing a puppet government in Cuba.  

Today, we acknowledge the beginning of a war, and the beginning of a peace.  The devastation of World War II left people in many countries desperate to ensure that nothing like that would ever happen again.  On this day in 1945, even before the war was officially over, the United Nations Conference on International Organizations was convened in San Francisco, California. For two months, representatives from fifty countries discussed international peace and worked together to create the charter for what would become the UN, even before it had been determined where their offices would be located.  When John D. Rockefeller, Jr. donated highly-desired land on Manhattan Island in New York City that would become 'international territory,' it would have its permanent base.  But that was seven years away....

BIRTHDAYS:

It is part of the mission of the American Treasure Tour blog to share with you the positive - discuss elements of history that make us proud, and celebrate the birthdays of people who have contributed to society.  Today, we celebrate the 1908 birthday of Edward R. Murrow. The North Carolina native landed a job at CBS in 1935, when the network offered nothing more than radio. He stayed with them his entire career, for thirty years, and became their most-respected newscaster as he gave live moment-by-moment reports of the action in London during the Battle of Britain at the dawn of World War II.  He maintained that sense of integrity into the fifties, when he was openly critical of McCarthyism during the Red Scare.  A fascinating man, Murrow damaged his own career by his inflexible sense of integrity.  And he destroyed his body by smoking around three packs of cigarettes daily.  He died in 1965 because of lung cancer.  (The message here:  don't smoke!)

No April 25th should ever pass by without acknowledging the amazing, talented Ella Fitzgerald. The ground-breaking musician would have been 97 today.  Fitzgerald definitely had a tough run of luck as a kid.  Her father left the family before she was one, then her mom moved to New York City with her soon-to-be stepfather, and she was fifteen when her mother unexpectedly died of a heart attack.  When Ella's stepfather began mistreating her, she ran away and lived on the streets until she was able to get her break at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater on Amateur Night.  She went in to dance, but became intimidated by another act and sang instead.  It was uphill from there, and Ella Fitzgerald became one of the most famous jazz singers of all time. Her signature scat singing is sure to bring a smile to even the most serious face (and you're welcome for that alliteration!).  Happy birthday, Ella!

QUOTE:

Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do.  Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong. - Ella Fitzgerald

Answer:  a)  "I Want a New Drug."  The case settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, although it turns out there may have been credence to Lewis' accusation, since "I Want a New Drug" was used as a substitute soundtrack for the film while Parker was writing the theme song.