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Gene de Paul: Afterthoughts

This recording of Jessye Norman singing ‘Afterthoughts’ with Michel Legrand at the piano is remarkable. I love it—the tone of her, the risk-taking, the musical chemistry between them both and the journey they take us on. What a gift they left us…

Composer: Gene de Paul; Lyrics: Carolyn Leigh

Michel Legrand: You Must Believe in Spring

It’s been a Bach week, but I’m departing from my faith-based musical life for today. I’m feeling melancholy since spring is finally here. The Norwegians, after months of non-stop darkness and no sunshine, view the first day of spring as the saddest day of the year, since they can already sense the end of it, and the oncoming winter. But we (and they) still yearn for spring every year. Now that the buds are budding, we are here, staring it in the pistils and stamens. And to celebrate it, and its departure, here is Bill Evans and Tony Bennett. “You Must Believe in Spring”, composed by Michel Legrand with lyrics by the Bergmans. It must be time for me to have another look at The Umbrellas of Cherburg. Michel Legrand really has an amazing compositional voice. He’s all heart.

Barbra Streisand sings “A Piece of Sky”

As I was listening to songs to share, today I kept coming back to Barbra Streisand. Love her or hate her, there is something timelessly vulnerable and honest about her sound. Authenticity is what a listener craves, and Barbra always delivers.

This song comes from the film Yentl, which tells the story of a Jewish girl from Poland who defies all expectations to follow her dreams. Yentl assumes the name and appearance of a man in order to pursue her education, eventually leaving Europe to pursue a life of greater freedom in the United States.

Not only does this song remind me of the promise and freedom of this great country I call my home, but it also inspires me to reach out of my comfort zone and set my sights both high and wide. One particular passage of lyrics stands out:

The more I live, the more I learn
The more I learn, the more I realize
The less I know

Each step I take 
Each page I turn 
Each mile I travel only means
The more I have to go

What’s wrong with wanting more?
If you can fly, then soar!
With all there is, why settle for
Just a piece of sky?

Please enjoy “A Piece of Sky” from Yentl, sung by Barbra at her best.

Michel Legrand: You Must Believe in Spring (Tony Bennet and Bill Evans)

Today is definitively the first day of autumn. I cannot ignore the fact that the days are shorter, that deadlines are growing tighter, and that I never seem to have enough time to get everything done. My mood must have something to do with this endless election, which is like a 29-month pregnancy—at the end of which you might be giving birth to a monster. On days like this I need a re-set button. Bill Evans and Tony Bennett come to the rescue with a song I find very reassuring at this time of year: “You Must Believe in Spring.” The music is by Michel Legrand, the English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. It comes from the 1967 French movie-musical Les jeunes filles de Rochefort. The original French words are fairly generic—your typical sailor looking for an elusive love all over the world. The Bergmans transformed the treacle into something resembling gold, and Legrand’s tune is sensual, laconic, and comforting.

Listening to Bill Evans collaborate with Tony Bennett, I am reminded of the power of simplicity. As Evans said, “Truth and beauty, that’s all. Just keep going after truth and beauty.”

You Must Believe in Spring:

For a treat, if you have the time, a 30-minute medley from mid-70s television. It begins with my favorite Bill Evans clip of all time, the theme from :The Bad and the Beautiful”:

And if you’re curious, here is the song as heard in the original movie:

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