Friday Song, Rudy Vallee, LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES (Ray Henderson and Lew Brown, 1931)

Here’s an odd one. Until a few years ago, I thought I couldn’t stand the song I have now chosen as my Friday Song. I found it schmaltzy, melodically uninteresting  – the worst kind of middle-of-the-road crowd-pleaser. I defy anyone to listen to  the Judy Garland version or the song, or Dean Martin and  Bing …

Friday Song: Harry Nilsson, WITHOUT HER (1967)

When he died in 1994 at the age of 52, Harry Nilsson left behind several versions of himself. There was the almost spookily pure-voiced singer of ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ (written by Fred Neil) for the film Midnight Cowboy; or the fringe figure who appears in documentaries about as the Beatles’ favourite American band; or the misfit, …

Friday Song: Andrew Bird, HOW YOU GONNA KEEP THEM DOWN ON THE FARM? (Young, Lewis and Donaldson, 1918)

Something rather interesting happens when a good contemporary artist decides to cover a song from the distant past.  When James Taylor sang ‘Oh! Susanna!’, a Stephen Foster from the mid nineteenth century came out out like a modern(-ish) folk song. Jen Chapin’s version of ‘Over There’ the stirring patriotic song from 1917 turns it into …

Friday Song: Eddie Cantor, HUNGRY WOMEN (Jack Yellen and Milton Ager, 1928)

Should there be a trigger warning for listeners of this week’d Friday Song? Almost certainly. It makes gender assumptions that some might find offensive. Its premise is based on the patronising assumption that, on a date,  men will pay for dinner. And was it really acceptable to make a joke about hunger when the Great …

Friday Song: Clara Sanabras, THE DANCE OF SOLITUDE (DANCA DA SOLIDAO, 1972)

One of the more unusual CDs in my collection – and one of the most frequently played – is Clara and the Real Lowdown by Clara Sanabras,  which was produced by her musician husband Harvey Brough. It was this album which introduced me to the genius of Paolo Conte, a previous Friday songster, whose ‘Sparring …

Friday Song: Paul Simon, STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS (1975)

If ever there were a song which showed how far songwriting travelled in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it is Paul Simon’s extraordinary, enigmatic ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’. In its story, its melody, the atmosphere it evokes,  its general air of mysterious confession, it is in my view one of the best …

Friday Song: Gene Austin, I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING (Fats Waller, Harry Link and Billy Rose, 1929)

Fats Waller was quite often in trouble. A man who lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle back in the 1920s, he had impressive appetites  –  gin, food, women, cars – and was mind-bogglingly hopeless in the making and losing of money. The word ‘unreliable’ doesn’t begin to cover his eventful career. And in late 1929, …

Friday Song: Dan Hicks, BOTTOMS UP (1994)

How did I miss Dan Hicks? His seductive blend of gypsy jazz and bluegrass, his cool and sassy lyrics, his bloody-minded determination not to fit it into any particular genre  – all of that is tailor-made for me. Yet, until a couple of years ago, he was no more than a fringe figure to me. …

Friday Song, Georges Brassens, FERNANDE (1972)

This week’s Friday Song will be a great encouragement to those brave British patriots who fear that too great a proximity to Europe will corrupt and pollute our glorious culture. The story of Georges Brassens, and more specifically his song ‘Fernande’, is proof that across the English Channel,  a world exists that, in matters of …

Hoagy Carmichael, HONG KONG BLUES (1939)

The killer words ‘Tin Pan Alley’ frequently appear in  accounts of Hoagy Carmichael’s career. That seems to me inaccurate. He was in many ways one of the first authentic singer-songwriters. Whereas the often brilliant Tin Pan Alley composers were writing songs for a market – they could be sung by anyone –  Carmichael had a …