Tuesday, May 15, 2018

David Thomas Roberts | "Nocturne No. 1" [link]

I've just posted a link to David Thomas Roberts' new musical composition: "Nocturne No. 1." He is a fascinating American visionary, a radical "faux naif" artist, a photographer of the American landscape, and a marvelous composer. This is the kind of artist the US deserves and needs. Click here for his new composition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOQqyj1GD-0

Smokey Robinson | "Ooh Baby Baby" [link]

Below is a link to Smokey Robinson's great classic record, performed live: "Ooh Baby Baby," as I now will attempt to post some iconic pop and jazz performances.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Douglas Messerli | "There's No Business Like Show Business" (from Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun", as part of Messerli's "My Favorite Musical Theater Songs)

“There’s No Business Like Show Business”

Composer: Irving Berlin
Performer: Betty Hutton and cast from movie version of Annie Get Your Gun
Composer: Irving Berlin
Performer: Ethel Merman (from the movie of the same name)
Composer: Irving Berlin
Performers: Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, and Barbra Streisand, 1963
Composer: Irving Berlin
Performer: Elaine Stritch (from At Liberty)
Composer: Irving Berlin
Performer: Rosemary Clooney, 1985
Composer: Irving Berlin
Performer: Nathan Lane and chorus
Composer: Irving Berlin
Performer: Shirley Bassey, 1990

Given my arbitrary decision to chose only fifty best theater songs—there probably will be further such lists—I had only one more choice in the middle of May, and I suddenly realized I had not selected a single song by the great American composer Irving Berlin. Although Berlin wrote many a Broadway musical and had several hit songs in them, I have always felt that Berlin’s best music appeared in films, several of which featured songs written for them or pieces written outside of the theater context. And some of his theater musicals, Annie Get Your Gun, Miss Liberty, and Call Me Madam among them, are not my favorites. And “God Bless America,” which did appear in his musical This Is the Army, a song I truly do not like, first appeared on record with Kate Smith.

Yet, Annie Get Your Gun did have some fine songs, including “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” “I Got the Sun in the Morning” and “Anything You Can Do.” But in the end, I knew there was only one song from that same musical that I could chose: that musical anthem to all performers “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
        Nearly anyone who belt out a song has attempted to sing it, a few with rather disastrous results. The original was sung on stage by the great Ethel Merman, but I couldn’t easily find a recording of that premier and chose instead a version she sings in the musical “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” which has nothing to do with the original musical, but certainly gives us a good idea of how became such a hit. Betty Hutton and cast in the rather weak movie version of Annie. Elaine Stritch turned it into her own ballad in her At Liberty show, using it as a backdrop to her banter about her long career. Rosemary Clooney and Shirley Bassey sing beautiful, shorter versions. But perhaps the most special of all versions is sung together by three “belters” Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, and Barbra Streisand on Garland’s TV show.

The lyrics to this are among Berlin’s most clever, with their Whitman-like long lines, their many repetitions, homophones (such as no/know, etc.), and internal line rhymes, while still telling a story about show-biz lives, their downs and ups, and most of all their joy in the lights and applause and determination to “go on with the show.”

There's no business like show business like no business I know
Everything about it is appealing, everything that traffic will allow
Nowhere could you get that happy feeling when you are stealing that extra bow

There's no people like show people, they smile when they are low
Even with a turkey that you know will fold, you may be stranded out in the cold
Still you wouldn't change it for a sack of gold, let's go on with the show

The butcher, the baker, the grocer, the clerk
Are secretly unhappy men because
The butcher, the baker, the grocer, the clerk
Get paid for what they do but no applause.
They'd gladly bid their dreary jobs goodbye for anything theatrical and why?

There's no business like show business and I tell you it's so
Traveling through the country is so thrilling, standing out in front on opening nights
Smiling as you watch the theater filling, and there's your billing out there in lights

That this witty song was even imagined for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show is almost unimaginable, and the song almost didn’t make the cut since he supposed the musical’s producers, Rodgers and Hammerstein, didn’t like it. Thank heaven it stayed in and worked so marvelously.

Los Angeles, May 14, 2018