Today’s song is one of my favorite ballads. It’s from the 1951 movie musical Royal Wedding, which is not a great film. Lerner later said his own contributions made him cringe. But a score that has “Too Late Now,” “You’re All the World to Me” (to which Fred Astaire danced on the ceiling!) and the audacious “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You, When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life” is not chopped liver.
Royal Wedding was Lerner’s first Hollywood effort and he was teamed with composer Burton Lane, whose hits included “Everything I Have Is Yours,” “How About You?” “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” and “Old Devil Moon.” Lerner and Lane wrote a number of good songs together over the course of four collaborations — Royal Wedding, an unproduced movie musical of Huck Finn (1951-53) and the Broadway musicals On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965; with some new songs for the 1970 film), and Carmelina (1979). They found each other hard to work with, but kept hoping the results would be worth it.
So back to Royal Wedding… It was a vehicle for Fred Astaire and the plot echoed Astaire’s personal history: he and his sister Adele had been a major musical comedy team, the toast of New York and London, where she fell in love with a British nobleman. Finding – and keeping – a leading lady for Royal Wedding proved complicated. June Allyson was cast, but became pregnant and couldn’t do the role. Judy Garland began rehearsals, but was unable to keep to the schedule. Finally, Jane Powell stepped into the part, stayed in the part, and introduced this song, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
“Too Late Now” was written with Garland in mind. The music came first, and Lerner, who was back in New York, first heard it on the phone, long distance from California. This clip from the 1960s shows just how well the song suited Garland, but caveat emptor, she has altered some words.
Bonus track: Nancy LaMott, the first person I ever heard sing this song.
For my last selection this week, I am spotlighting Eydie Gormé. A terrific entertainer and one of my all-time favorites.” I use the word entertainer as besides great vocals, she always seemed to deliver on all levels.
She was born in Manhattan in August 1928 to Nessim and Fortuna Gormezano, Sephardic Jewish immigrants. She got her big break and her recording debut in 1950 with the Tommy Tucker Orchestra and Don Brown. In 1953, she made her first television appearance, and met her future husband, singer Steve Lawrence, when they were booked for the original The TonightShow, hosted by Steve Allen. She went on to have both successful solo and duo careers (with her husband) that lasted until her retirement in 2009. She died four years later in August 2013. Her solo career included crossover success in the Latin music market both on the domestic and international levels.
I’ve chosen a video clip from a 1966 Ed Sullivan show (I very well may have seen it then). I was already aware of her by this time, mostly because of her 1963 pop hit “Blame It on the Bossa Nova.”
“What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” is from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (book & lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, music by Burton Lane) that starred John Cullum and Barbara Harris.
The focus and intensity and emotion she brings to this performance is breathtaking. And the way she sells it in simple “stand & deliver” style blows me away. I get goosebumps every time I watch it. Sadly I never heard her live and I had multiple opportunities. Thankfully we have these classic performances on the internet accessible at just a few clicks.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this week. Next week, I hope you will continue to listen as I bring you some holiday favorites. And if you are enjoying this blog, please share it with others!
p.s. I also offer a second video of Gormé from about ten years earlier performing “I’ll take romance” (music by Ben Oakland, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II). An interesting fact about this song, the opera singer Grace Moore premiered it in 1937. Search it out and listen to her interpretation…a complete 180 from Gormé’s.
“What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?”
“I’ll Take Romance”
About two months ago I told Claire I would finally do Song of the Day and she proposed the weeks of December 12–16 and 19–23. So you’ve got me for the next two weeks, or maybe that should be, I’ve got you. These blogs have really represented NYFOS’s motto, No Song Is Safe From Us, and I hope in these next two weeks to continue that with a range of genres and styles and voices.
I’ve been with NYFOS since March 2001 but I’ve known the organization and the guys longer, since back in my Carnegie Hall days in the 1990’s. During my time with NYFOS I’ve been introduced to a wealth of repertoire but I like to think that I came with my own library of songs & singers…so let’s get going.
Eileen Farrell. I seriously hope you are not saying, “Who’s that?” She was an America soprano whose career spanned five decades, 1940’s–1980’s, and her repertoire was much like the NYFOS motto, she could sing just about anything, and do it beautifully. Her voice was truly remarkable, a force of nature. To get a sampling of her range, watch the 1955 film Interrupted Melody, which starred Eleanor Parker as the Australian soprano Marjorie Lawrence. Farrell supplied the singing voice.
As much as I am tempted to offer something operatic or classical, and there’s quite a bit on Youtube both video & audio, instead I am offering you her popular/jazzy side. The two tracks below are from her CD, “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues” released in 1960.
I’m a huge “girl singer” fan and know all of the great and not so great voices up through today (I’m terrific at drop the needle). Farrell easily holds her own with Ella, Rosie, Doris, Sarah, etc. Every time I hear any of her popular song tracks I am blown away. How did she do it and then turn around and wow you with Verdi or Strauss or Wagner?! If you are not familiar with her, please do more research on the internet, especially if you are a young singer. I don’t have regrets but I sure wish I had heard her live.
Now get swinging with Eileen!
“Ten Cents a Dance” from the CD I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues
“Old Devil Moon”
p.s. I have a terrific backstage (at Carnegie Hall) story from 1994 that involved me and Marilyn Horne on the subject of Ms. Farrell, whom Marilyn knew very well. Ask me about it in person.
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