Who doesn’t love the famous Liszt song about the Lorelei? There she is, that infamous temptress, combing her flaxen hair, singing her siren song to lure hapless sailors to their deaths upon the rocks…
Well, long before I sang that great work (with Steve Blier at a 1990 NYFOS concert of ballads), I knew a different Lorelei song by Gershwin, as sung by the great Ella Fitzgerald in her 1960 live album Ella in Berlin. Not only was it unusual to hear the verse of any pop standard in the 1960’s, but listen to how Ella’s pianist (Paul Smith) spices it up by adding clever musical commentary. Heaven.
If you don’t know this album, download it immediately, or listen to it all on YouTube. Every song is a winner, especially the hilarious version of Mack the Knife where she forgets the words, and makes up some unbelievable lyrics of her own. (And of course, don’t miss her legendary five-and-a-half minute scat. It is one of the most spectacular in all of jazz.)
Back in the days of knights in armor,
There once lived a lovely charmer,
Swimming in the Rhine,
Her figure was divine.
She had a yen for all the sailors,
Fishermen, and gobs and whalers.
She had a most immoral eye.
They called her Lorelei.
She created quite a stir
And I want to be like her.
I want to be like that gal on the river,
Who sang her song to the ships passing by,
She had the goods and how she could deliver,
She used to love in a strange kind of fashion,
With lots of heigh, ho-de-ho, hi-de-hi
And I can guarantee I’m full of passion,
Like the Lorelei.
I’m treacherous, ja, ja,
Oh, I just can’t hold myself in check.
I’m lecherous, ja ja.
I want to bite my initials on a sailor’s neck
Each affair has a kick and a wallop,
For what they crave I can always supply.
I want to be just like that other trollop,