Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Remembering favorite songs of the past

Sometimes a tune gets lodged in my head and I can’t shake it. I don’t mean I can’t shake my head. I can always do that. I mean I can’t shake the tune. It seems to be there for days — until it is replaced by another tune. I am not particularly worried about this phenomenon. At least I don’t hear voices, which, I have been told, is an indication of some kind of instability. I often read in the paper about anti-social types who hear voices. Relax. I am not anti-social. And I am not a terrorist, unless you consider mild outbursts of temper tantrums — extremely mild — as terrorism. The songs I hear are mainly Broadway show tunes. And I enjoy them. The ones that I hear that are not show tunes are instrumentals, for example, “Well, Git It.” I can hear that tune from beginning to end because it is so deeply imbedded in my brain. You might consider it a show tune because it was featured in the Red Skelton movie “DuBarry Was a Lady.” But it was a big hit long before the movie came out, so I am just wasting space talking about it. But I digress. The songs that rattle around in my brain are songs I have heard so many times on the original cast albums that I can hear note-by-note, which may be good or bad, depending on your outlook. Or on your musical tastes, as the case may be. “Bells Are Ringing” is one of my all-time favorite shows. I can wake up in the morning hearing “Just in Time.” The star of the show, Judy Holliday, is one of the most talented, and cutest, people who ever lived. And I can also hear her co-star, Sydney Chaplin, singing, “Independent, self-sufficient, got nobody to rely on. Every day is Independence Day, hooray!” Which brings up a sore point with me. When the movie version of the Broadway show was made, they left that song out! Not only that, in the movie they replaced Sydney Chaplin, a very talented singer and dancer, and son of the legendary Charlie Chaplin, with Dean Martin. Look, I understand why they did that. Dean was a huge star, a box office icon, and Sydney was relatively unknown. But thankfully I can still listen to the song on the original cast album. If I concentrate I can hear virtually the entire album — in my brain, that is. There are songs in the movie version of “Guys and Dolls” I can hear Marlon Brando singing when you would think they would have been assigned to Frank Sinatra. I believe Frank thought the same thing. He often sang “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” and complained that Brando sang it in the movie because Marlon didn’t have a trained voice. But he sounded pretty good to me. If you think the songs I have mentioned have a strong Broadway influence, you would be correct. But let us not forget off-Broadway shows. I have seen some great ones over the years, the best of which were “Take Five,” “Pieces of Eight” and “Dressed to the Nines.” These were at a very small cabaret called Upstairs at Downstairs. Or could it have been Downstairs at the Upstairs. Or it could have been both — and probably was, over the years. I have been enthralled with shows I have seen on Broadway, and the music they have produced, partly because of the magic involved in sitting in the audience, listening to the overture and watching the curtain go up on another great production. The best show I ever saw was “My Fair Lady.” You know all the songs as well as I do. But it was a thrill watching Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and the rest of the cast deliver them. A few more all-time favorite shows, with tunes that stick in my head, are “Bells Are Ringing,” “Most Happy Fella,” the previously mentioned “Guys and Dolls,” “Goldilocks” and “Silk Stockings.” Two other shows that must be mentioned: “New Faces of 1952” and “New Faces of 1956.” Yes, I know. It was a long time ago. But some great talent made its first appearance on the Broadway stage in those shows, including Ronny Graham, Eartha Kitt, Carol Lawrence, Paul Lynde, Maggie Smith, Inga Swenson and so many others. And many of the songs are absolutely unforgettable, for example “Guess Who I Saw Today” (one of the saddest songs ever written), “I’m in Love with Miss Logan,” “He Takes Me Off His Income Tax,” “April in Fairbanks,”Isn’t She Lovely,” The Greatest Invention in the Whole Wide World” (is a boy and a girl in love), and the hilarious take-off about Marilyn Monroe, a song called “Talent.” Yes, I can hear every one of the songs in my head. I could go on and on. But I have to stop someplace. It might as well be here.


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