Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern | "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine" from Show Boat, My Favorite Musical Theater Songs

 “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man of Mine”

Composers: Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, Show Boat
Performer: Helen Morgan, 1932
Composers: Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, Show Boat
Performer: Judy Garland, 1944
Composers: Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, Show Boat
Performer: Ava Gardner, 1951 movie version
Composers: Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, Show Boat
Performer: Ella Fitzgerald, Jerome Kern Songbook, 1963
Composers: Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, Show Boat
Performer: Barbra Streisand
Composers: Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, Show Boat
Performers: Kiri Te Kanawa and Nathalie Cole, 1997

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8d/Show-Boat-1928.jpg/300px-Show-Boat-1928.jpgPoor Julie La Verne, a singer on the Cotton Blossom show boat, who is not only told that she can no longer perform on the boat because of being partly black, but soon after loses, Steve, the man, as she explains to Magnolia, daughter of the boat’s owner, Cap’n Andy Hawks, that she can’t help lovin’ until she dies. Is it any wonder that by play’s end she has become a destitute alcoholic?
      In the original, Helen Morgan sang the role which gives two of the show’s best numbers to her, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “Bill” (not an original song for which Hammerstein retooled the lyrics).
     The better of these two, however, is Hammerstein’s and Kern’s new one, particularly since the work brilliantly sketches a narrative of a woman so desperately in love that she cannot resist what she knows will help to destroy it.
It’s simply a case of destiny, Hammerstein’s lyrics proclaim, as impossible to change as anything else in nature, including the swim of fish and the flight of birds:

Fish got to swim and birds got to fly
I got to love man till I die
Can't help lovin' that man of mine
Tell me he's lazy
Tell me he's slow
Tell me I'm crazy, maybe, I know
Can't help lovin' that man of mine
      
Helen Morgan played Julie again in the 1936 film version, while Ava Gardner sang the song in 1951 film. Since then there have been dozens of interpretations. I’ve chosen just four of them by Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, and an unlikely pairing of Kiri Te Kanawa and Nathalie Cole from 1997.

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