Tag Archives: Perry Como

Goodbye to an Eternal City

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain
Rome, Italy


Arrivederci Roma (English: “Goodbye, Rome”) is the title of a popular Italian song, composed by Renato Ranucci (Renato Rascel), with lyrics by Pietro Garinei and Sandro Giovannini. It was published in 1955 and was featured as part of the soundtrack of the 1958 Italo-American musical film with the same title, released as Seven Hills of Rome in English. In the movie, the song is sung by Mario Lanza, who starred in the film. Carl Sigman wrote the lyrics for the English language version of the movie.

The film tells the story of Marc Revere (Mario Lanza), an American TV singer of Italian heritage who travels to Italy in search of his jet-setting fiancée, Carol Ralston, played by Peggie Castle. Revere moves in with his comical and good-hearted cousin Pepe Bonelli (Renato Rascel), a struggling artist who also befriends a beautiful young girl, Raffaella Marini (Marisa Allasio), whom Revere had met on a train, and who develops a crush on him.

After some difficulty, Revere lands a contract to sing in a fine nightclub, but misses his opening night due to unforeseen circumstances during a date with Carol. A helicopter sequence showcases landmarks of Rome from the air. This would be Lanza’s next-to-last film, for he died a year later on October 7, 1959.

Among the selections that Lanza sings in the film is Arrivederci Roma, performed in the Piazza Navona (and recorded) with a young street urchin, Luisa Di Meo. In typical Lanza fashion, the star had encountered the youngster while in Rome and insisted on her appearing in the film. Lanza also performs a sequence of imitations of famous singers of the era — Perry Como, Frankie Laine, Dean Martin, and Louis Armstrong – performing When The Saints Go Marching In and committing to film what was one of his favorite party performances. Opera selections include “Questa o quella” from Rigoletto

Sigman, who had a great deal of success as an English lyric writer for foreign tunes, had fallen in love with the Italian language during World War Two and always hoped that he would find a way to write a song featuring the word “Arrivederci.” He just loved the sound of that word, and this tune provided the perfect melodic opportunity. When he submitted the finished lyric, he was not surprised that the publisher asked him to change one line. Just about all publishers asked for at least one change, if only to prove that they were paying attention. Knowing this, Sigman usually had a backup line at the ready, and in this case he substituted “City of a million moonlight places” for a line that has been forever lost. The song is not a touristy song, but rather one of the many melodies of those unforgettable ’50s and ’60s in which Rome was by far the most romantic, lively, imaginative and hospitable place on earth.

Arrivederci (or a rivederci), which literally means “until we see each other again,” is a common Italian equivalent of “goodbye.” The original lyrics express the nostalgia of a Roman man for the dinners and short-lived love affairs he had with foreign tourists who came to Rome. It recalls the popular legend associated with the Trevi Fountain.

There is a lesser known version of the song, with the same melody but a new set of English lyrics by Jack Fishman, published in 1955 entitled Arrivederci Darling. Both versions of the song, in Italian and English, enjoyed lasting and widespread success in the following years.

The song charted in 1955 with a recording by (“Her Nibs, Miss”) Georgia Gibbs. The song charted later in the 1950s with versions in 1958 by Roger Williams and Mario Lanza
The most famous version in English of the song was by Perry Como, but it was also recorded by a wave of Italian-American singers, including Vic Damone, Connie Francis, Dean Martin, and Jerry Vale. Many non-Italian-Americans have covered it as well, including Abbe Lane with Tito Puente & His Orchestra, and Percy Faith,

THE LYRICS

Arrivederci Roma (Goodbye to Rome)
Music – Renato Ranucci; English lyrics – Carl Sigman

Arrivederci Roma,
Goodbye, goodbye to Rome.
City of a million moonlit places,
City of a million warm embraces,
Where I found the one of all the faces
Far from home!

Arrivederci Roma,
It’s time for us to part.
Save the wedding bells for my returning,
Keep my lover’s arms outstretched and yearning,
Please be sure the flame of love keeps burning
In her heart!

City of a million moonlit places,
City of a million warm embraces,
Where I found the one of all the faces
Far from home!

Arrivederci Roma,
It’s time for us to part,
Save the wedding bells for my returning,
Keep my lover’s arms outstretched and yearning,
Please be sure the flame of love keeps burning
In her heart!

Arrivederci Roma,
Roma, Roma, Roma …

THE RECORDINGS
Arrivederci Roma
Georgia Gibbs
Mario Lanza
Roger Williams
Vic Damone
Perry Como
Connie Francis
Dean Martin
Jerry Vale
Abbe Lane
Percy Faith
Ray Charles Singers

Arrivederci Darling
Anne Shelton
Edna Savage
Jo Stafford

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Banned in Boston and Everywhere Else For That Matter

While I was researching my last posts for music pertaining to D-Day, I became acutely aware that a significant number of songs were recorded a cappella in 1943. Vocalists such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Dick Haymes were singing without orchestral accompaniment and backed by a vocal chorus. I found out that these recordings were the result of a recording ban by the musicians’ union that began in 1942.

James Caesar Petrillo

James Caesar Petrillo

Why this happened is the subject of this post.

On 1 August 1942, the American Federation of Musicians, at the instigation of union president James Petrillo, called a strike against the major American recording companies because of disagreements over royalty payments. Beginning at midnight, 31 July, no union musician could record for any record company. The strike did not affect musicians performing on live radio shows, in concerts.

Petrillo had long thought that recording companies should pay royalties. When he announced that the recording ban would start at midnight, 31 July 1942, most people thought it would not happen. After all, the United States had just entered World War Two on 8 December 1941 and most newspapers opposed the ban. But by July, it was clear that the ban would indeed take place and record companies began to stockpile new recordings of their big names. In the first two weeks of July, for instance, these performers recorded new material: Tommy Dorsey, Bing Crosby, Charlie Barnet, Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, and Glenn Miller. Incidentally, in the case of Glenn Miller, these would be his last recordings as a civilian bandleader. By the last week of July, there was a long list of performers cutting records, including Count Basie, Woody Herman, Alvino Ray, Johnny Long, Claude Thornhill, Judy Garland, Glen Gray, Benny Goodman, Kay Kyser, Dinah Shore, Spike Jones, and Duke Ellington, among others.

At first, the record companies could release these new recordings to meet listeners’ needs from their unissued stockpiles, but eventually this supply was exhausted. The companies also re–released deleted records from their back catalogues, including some from as far back as the mid-1920s. One re–release that was especially successful was Columbia’s release of Harry James’ All or Nothing at All, recorded in August 1939 and released before James’ new vocalist, Frank Sinatra, had made a name for himself. The original release carried the usual credit, “Vocal Refrain by Frank Sinatra” in tiny type. It sold about five thousand copies. When the record was re–released in 1943 with Sinatra given top billing, the label read, “Acc. Harry James and his Orchestra” in tiny type below. It was a portent of things to come. The re-released record was on the best–selling list for eighteen weeks and reached the number two slot on the Billboard charts.

As the strike extended into 1943, record companies bypassed the striking musicians by recording their popular vocalists singing with vocal groups filling the backup role normally filled by orchestras.

The strike had an effect on radio shows that used recorded music due to the limited amount of new recordings. Radio programs that relied mainly on records found it difficult to keep introducing new music to their listeners. Martin Block, host of WNEW’s Make Believe Ballroom radio show, circumvented the ban by having friends in England send him versions of records produced in the United Kingdom where the ban was not in effect. He was forced to discontinue this practice after the station’s house orchestra staged a retaliatory strike, which was settled when WNEW agreed not to broadcast records made after 1 August 1942.

Some recording companies did not have an extensive backlog of recordings and they settled with the union after just over a year. Decca Records settled in September, 1943, agreeing to make direct payments to a union-controlled “relief fund,” followed shortly by Capitol Records on 11 October 1943. Capitol had only issued its first records on 1 July 1942, thirty days before the strike began.

Other recording and transcription companies continued to demand that the musician’s union rescind its ban on musicians recording for those companies.
But the union refused to budge, and with competing companies having made new recordings for more than a year, RCA Victor and Columbia finally capitulated, agreeing to substantially similar terms as the other recording companies on 11 November 1944. The end of the strike was not the end of the royalty issue, however. As television was beginning, there were questions regarding musicians and royalties from this new medium, and a similar strike was called for 1948, lasting close to a year, ending on 14 December 1948.

One unexpected result of the strike was the decline of the importance in popular music of the big bands of the 1930s and early 1940s. The strike was not the only cause of this decline, but it emphasized the shift from big bands with an accompanying vocalist to an emphasis on the vocalist, with the exclusion of the band. In the 1930s and pre–strike 1940s, big bands dominated popular music; after the strike, vocalists dominated popular music. Before the strike began, there were signs that the increasing popularity of singers was beginning to reshape the big bands. When Frank Sinatra joined Tommy Dorsey’s band in 1940, most selections started with a Tommy Dorsey trombone solo. By the time Sinatra left the band in 1942, his songs with the band began with his singing, followed by any solos by Dorsey or others.

During the strike, vocalists could and did record without instrumentalists; instrumentalists could not record for the public at all. (Vocalists were not in the union as they were not considered musicians). Until the war, most singers were props. After the war, they became the stars and the role of the bands was gradually subordinated.
The other major cause of the decline of the big bands was World War II itself – and the resulting loss of band members to the military, curtailment of traveling by touring bands because of gasoline rationing, and a shortage of the shellac used to make records.

One more devastating event, that actually predates the AFM ban, also had a tremendously negative impact on big band music and the Big Band era. This was the ASCAP – BMI war of 1941. ASCAP (American Society of Authors, Publishers, and Composers) wanted more money from the radio networks to use their member’s songs. The networks refused and for nearly a year all ASCAP songs were banned from airplay and remote usage. At first the music suffered greatly as BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.,) had nowhere near the list of talented, and well known, composers like the George and Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin and others, as had ASCAP. In addition the networks imposed a “no ad-libbing” rule on broadcast performances! This rule required solos be written out and approved by the networks so no parts of ASCAP songs would seep into improvised solos! The loss in song quality, inspiration, and energy on live broadcasts was noticeable to the public. Then, not long after this obstacle was traversed, came the ill-timed recording ban described above.

Here is a sampling of these recordings made during the recording ban of 1942-1944.
Bing Crosby
If You Please
Oh What A Beautiful Morning
People Will Say We’re In Love
Sunday, Monday Or Always
Perry Como
Goodbye Sue
Have I Stayed Away Too Long
I Love You
Lili Marlene
Long Ago And Far Away
Frank Sinatra
Close To You
I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night
A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening
Oh, What A Beautiful Morning
People Will Say We’re In Love
Sunday, Monday Or Always
You’ll Never Know
Dick Haymes
For The First Time
I Heard You Cried Last Night
I Never Mention Your Name
In My Arms
It Can’t Be Wrong
Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey
Wait For Me, Mary
You’ll Never Know
Dinah Shore
I’ll Walk Alone
Ethel Merman
Move It Over
Ginny Simms
Irresistable You
The Song Spinners
Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer
Johnny Zero
The King Sisters
It’s Love, Love, Love
Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet
The Trolley Song
The Four Vagabonds
Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer

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It’s As Easy As A-B-D

alphabet

Question: What happens when you eat alphabet soup while playing Scrabble?
Answer: You write acrostic songs.

Acrostic songs are songs that go through the alphabet, making each letter stand for something in the process. An example of an acrostic song was recorded in 1948 by the Buddy Kaye Quintet that reached the number twenty-seven position on the Billboard charts, and later by Perry Como and others, called “A” You’re Adorable (also known as The Alphabet Love Song). Here are the lyrics:

“A” YOU’RE ADORABLE (THE ALPHABET LOVE SONG) 1948
Words and music by Buddy Kaye, Fred Wise, Sid Lippman
alphabet4

When Johnny Jones was serenading Mary
He sure could quote a lot of poetry
But he’d much rather tell ‘er what he learned in his speller
When they both attended PS 33

(A) you’re adorable
(B) you’re so beautiful
(C) you’re a cutie full of charms
(D) you’re a darling and
(E) you’re exciting
(F) you’re a feather in my arms

(G) you look good to me
(H) you’re so heavenly
(I) you’re the one I idolize
(J) we’re like Jack and Jill
(K) you’re so kissable
(L) is the love light in your eyes

M, N, O, P (you could go on all day)
Q ,R, S, T (alphabetically speaking, you’re OK)

(U) made my life complete
(V) means you’re very sweet
W, X, Y, Z
It’s fun to wander through
The alphabet with you
To tell (us what?) I mean (uh-huh?)
To tell you what you mean to me
(We love you alphabetically)

The hit version of the song was recorded by Perry Como, with The Fontane Sisters in 1949. The song was on the Billboard charts for fifteen weeks, reaching the number one position for two weeks.

Also in 1949, another recording by Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae was also very popular. The recording was released by Capitol Records. The recording appeared on the Billboard charts, lasting fifteen weeks and peaking at position number four.

Still another popular recording was by the Tony Pastor Orchestra. The recording appeared on the Billboard charts, lasting eight weeks and peaking at position number twelve.
Some non-charting versions of the song were recorded by John Lithgow, Dean Martin, Mike Douglas, and Jimmy Dorsey.

THE RECORDINGS
Buddy Kaye Quintet (vocals by Artie Marvin) ”A” You’re Adorable (The Alphabet Song)
Perry Como with the Fontane Sisters, orchestra conducted by Mitchell Ayres ”A” You’re Adorable
Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae, with Paul Weston and his Orchestra A” You’re Adorable
Tony Pastor and his Orchestraa (vocals by Tony Pastor, The Clooney Sisters, and the Band) “A” You’re Adorable (The Alphabet Song)

OTHER NON-CHARTING VERSIONS
John Lithgow “A” You’re Adorable
Dean Martin “A” You’re Adorable” (Live!)
Mike Douglas “A” You’re Adorable (The Alphabet Song)
Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra (vocals by Dorothy Claire and the Band) “A” You’re Adorable

alphabet2

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Show Me!

I Dream of You by Charlotte Lawson

I Dream of You
by Charlotte Lawson


When Eliza Doolittle launches into her musical tirade against Freddy Eynsford-Hill in Alan Jay Lerner’s and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady, the audience is treated to one of the great moments in the musical theater. Eliza sings of her irritation with Freddy, her new suitor, in the following lyrics:
Words! Words! Words!
I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?

Eliza follows her tirade with a plea to be shown Freddy’s feelings via actions instead of just his talking about how he feels about her. “Show me,” sings Eliza. Her song is a great song and a show-stopper.

I Dream of You (More Than You Dream I Do), a song written by Marjorie Goetschius and Edna Osser and published in 1944 is a song that addresses this same subject. The song concerns a dilemma that just about every couple in love has faced, namely, convincing the other that one’s love is real. Though the song was written in a different era, it could just as easily have been sung by Freddy Eynford-Hill in response to Eliza Doolittle’s challenge of “Show me!” The poor love-sick voice states his case with these words:
You’re completely unaware, dear
That my heart is in your hand
So for love’s sake won’t you listen
And try to understand

I dream of you, more than you dream I do
How can I prove to you this love is real

You’re mean to me, more than you mean to be
You just can’t seem to see the way I feel

When I am close to you, the world is far away
The words that fill my heart my lips can’t seem to say

I want you so, more than you’ll ever know
More than you dream I do, I dream of you

Charted versions were recorded by Andy Russell, by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra, by Frank Sinatra, and by Perry Como.
The recording by Andy Russell was released by Capitol Records It first reached the Billboard magazine charts on 21 December 1944 and lasted 3 weeks on the chart, peaking at #5.
The recording by Tommy Dorsey was also made in 1944 and reached the Billboard charts in December of that year and lasted 8 weeks on the chart, peaking at #4.
The recording by Frank Sinatra first reached the Billboard magazine charts on 18 January 1945 and lasted 4 weeks on the chart, peaking at #7.
The recording by Perry Como was made on 8 December1944 and reached the Billboard magazine charts on 18 January1945 and lasted 1 week on the chart, at #10.

To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, right click on the song title, then right click on Save target as
Charted versions
Andy Russell I Dream of You
Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra, vocals by Freddie Stewart I Dream Of You
Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra I Dream Of You
Perry Como with orchestra (unidentified) I Dream Of You

Non-charted versions
Alma Cogan I Dream Of You
Les Brown and his Band of Renown, vocals by Doris Day I Dream Of You
Mildred Bailey, Paul Barron and his Orchestra I Dream of You
Count Basie and his Orchestra I Dream Of You
Jerry Lewis I Dream Of You

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Homecoming

gonna love him5

Perhaps the most memorable film about the aftermath of World War Two was The Best Years of Our Lives. The ironic title refers to the troubling fact that many servicemen had “the best years of their lives” in wartime, not in their experiences afterwards in peacetime America when they were forced to adapt to the much-changed demands and became the victims of dislocating forces. However, it could be argued that the servicemen also gave up and sacrificed “the best years of their lives” – their youthful innocence and their health – by serving in the military and becoming disjointed from normal civilian life.

The story depicts the lives of three enlisted men who face an uncertain future at the end of World War Two. Army Sergeant Al Stephenson (Fredric March) comes home to a family that has grown up while he was away at war and a banking job where his bosses have little interest in supporting the men who risked their lives in the name of freedom. Handsome decorated Army Air Force captain and bombardier, Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) faces a dead end job and a war bride he barely knows. After losing his hands in battle, sailor Homer Parrish (Harold Russell), the hometown’s former football hero, has a harder time adjusting to others’ attitudes and his own fear of pity than any physical challenges. The challenges of each of these three homecoming veterans capture the spirit of a country recovering from a war that affected the lives of every American. The movie never glosses over the reality of altered lives and the inability to communicate the experience of war on the front lines or the home front. The Best Years of Our Lives was the first major Hollywood production to deal with the problems faced by veterans returning from World War Two. At the time, most producers thought the war-weary public was more interested in escapist entertainment, but producer Samuel Goldwyn proved them wrong by turning this into the top-grossing film of the decade.

Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo in a scene from The Best Years of Our Lives

Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo in a scene from The Best Years of Our Lives


Approaching the subject of coming home after World War Two from a different perspective was a song by Frances Ash entitled, I’m Gonna Love that Girl (Guy) Like She’s (He’s) Never Been Loved Before. As can be seen from the way I have written the title, the song can be sung by either a female or male singer. The song speaks of the years of separation and waiting, of the feelings of missing and kissing, and of the hopes of never parting again and of being together forever. In its own way, I find the song every bit as poignant as the film The Best Years of Our Lives. Read the words in the context of the aftermath of a devastating and dislocating war and you will see what I mean. I have used here the words as if sung by a returning serviceman.
I’m gonna love that gal
Like she’s never been loved before
I’m gonna show that gal
She’s the baby that I adore

When she’s in my arms again
Our dreams will all come true
Then the years between might never have been
We’ll start our lives anew

I’m gonna kiss that gal
Like she’s never been kissed before
And though I miss that gal
She’s the baby I’m waitin’ for

We’ll never part again
She’ll hold my heart again
Forever and ever more
I’m gonna love that gal
Like she’s never been loved before

At the time of its first popularity in 1945, this song charted on the Billboard charts with recordings by two artists – Perry Como and Benny Goodman. Other non-charted versions were made by Dinah Shore, Randy Brooks, Betty Grable, and Paula Green. To listen to a version of the song, click on the song title. To download a song, right click on the song title, then right click on Save target as.
Charted versions

Perry Como, Russ Case and his Orchestra I’m Gonna Love That Gal
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, vocals by Dottie Reid I’m Gonna Love That Guy

Non-charted versions

Dinah Shore (from the 25 October 1945 radio show, Bird’s Eye Open House with Dinah Shore) I’m Gonna Love That Guy
Randy Brooks and his Orchestra, vocals by Marion Hutton I’m Gonna Love That Guy
Betty Grable (from the 1951 film Call Me Mister) I’m Gonna Love That Guy
Paula Green and her Orchestra, vocals by Paula Green I’m Gonna Love That Guy (Like He’s Never Been Loved Before)

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The “Iffy-ness” of a Love

saturday night

If I Loved You is a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel.

The song was introduced in Carousel by John Raitt as “Billy Bigelow” and Jan Clayton as “Julie Jordan.” The song was performed in the 1956 Carousel (film) version by Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. Carousel was the second musical by the team of Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics). The 1945 work was adapted from Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play Liliom, transplanting its Budapest setting to the Maine coastline.

In the show, the characters of Billy Bigelow and Julie Jordan sing this song as they hesitantly declare their love for one another, yet are too shy to express their true feelings.
If I loved you, time and again I would try to say
All I’d want you to know
If I loved you, words wouldn’t come in an easy way
`Round in circles I’d go
Longin’ to tell you but, afraid and shy,
I’d let my golden chances pass me by

Soon you’d leave me, off you would go in the mist of day
Never, never to know
How I love you, if I loved you

The song was inspired by lines of dialogue entirely drawn from Ferenc Molnár’s Liliom, the source material for the musical. The twelve-minute “bench scene,” as it is called, in which Billy and Julie get to know each other while sitting on a park bench and which culminates with the song, If I Loved You is considered to be one of the most completely integrated pieces of music-drama in the American musical theatre and probably the single most important moment in the evolution of contemporary musicals.
Here is the dialogue from Liliom upon which the song is based:
LILIOM
Do you love me?

JULIE
No, Mister Liliom.

LILIOM
Then why do you stay here with me?

JULIE

Um nothing. [There is a pause. The music from afar is plainly heard.]

LILIOM
Want to dance?

JULIE
No. I have to be very careful.

LILIOM
Of what?

JULIE
My character.

LILIOM
Why?

JULIE

Because I’m never going to marry. If I was going to marry, it would be different. Then I wouldn’t need to worry so much about my character. It doesn’t make any difference if you’re married. But I shan’t marry and that’s why I’ve got to take care to be a respectable girl.

LILIOM
Suppose I were to say to you I’ll marry you.

JULIE
You?

LILIOM

That frightens you, doesn’t it? You’re thinking of what the officer said and you’re afraid.

JULIE

No, I’m not, Mister Liliom. I don’t pay any attention to what he said.

LILIOM

But you wouldn’t dare to marry anyone like me, would you?

JULIE

I know that that if I loved anyone it wouldn’t make any difference to me what he even if I died for it.

LILIOM

But you wouldn’t marry a rough guy like me that is, eh if you loved me

JULIE

Yes, I would if I loved you, Mister Liliom. [There is a pause.]

LILIOM

[Whispers.] Well, you just said didn’t you that you don’t love me? Well, why don’t you go home then?

JULIE
It’s too late now, they’d all be asleep.

LILIOM
Locked out?

JULIE
Certainly.
[They are silent a while.]

LILIOM

I think that even a low-down good-for-nothing can make a man of himself.

JULIE

Certainly.
[They are silent again. A lamp- lighter crosses the stage, lights the lamp over the bench, and exits.]

LILIOM
Are you hungry?

JULIE
No. [Another pause.]

LILIOM

Suppose you had some money and I took it from you?

JULIE
Then you could take it, that’s all.

LILIOM

[After another brief silence.] All I have to do is go back to her that Muskat woman she’ll be glad to get me back then I’d be earning my wages again.
[Julie is silent. The twilight folds darker about them.]

JULIE

[Very softly.] Don’t go back to her [Pause.]

LILIOM

There are a lot of acacia trees ‘round here. [Pause.]

JULIE
Don’t go back to her [Pause.]

LILIOM

She’d take me back the minute I asked her. I know why she knows, too [Pause.]

JULIE

I can smell them, too acacia blossoms
[There is a pause. Some blossoms drift down from the tree-top to the bench. Liliom picks one up and smells it.]

LILIOM
White acacias!

JULIE

[After a brief pause.] The wind brings them down.
[They are silent. There is a long pause as before]

Except for the ending, the plots of Liliom and Carousel are very similar. Consider the plot lines of the two works.

In Molnár’s Liliom, Andreas Zavocky (nicknamed Liliom, the Hungarian word for “lily,” a slang term for “tough guy”), is a carnival barker who falls in love with Julie Zeller, a servant girl, and they begin living together. With both discharged from their jobs, Liliom is discontented and contemplates leaving Julie, but decides not to do so upon learning that she is pregnant. Desperate to make money so that he, Julie and their child can escape to America and a better life, Liliom conspires with a scoundrel named Ficsur to commit a robbery. The robbery goes badly, and during the crime, Liliom stabs himself. He dies, and his spirit is taken to heaven’s police court. As Ficsur told Liliom while the two waited to commit the crime, would-be robbers like the two of them do not come before the Highest Judge of All – God Himself. Liliom is told by the magistrate that he may go back to Earth for one day to attempt to redeem himself of the wrongs he has done to his family, but first he must spend sixteen years in a fiery purgatory.

On his return to Earth sixteen years later, Liliom encounters his daughter, Louise, who like her mother is now a factory worker. Saying that he knew her father, he tries to give her a star he stole from heaven. When Louise refuses to take it, he strikes her. Not realizing who he is, Julie confronts him, but finds herself unable to be angry with him. Liliom is ushered off to his fate – presumably Hell – and Louise asks her mother if it is possible to feel a hard slap as if it were a kiss. Julie reminiscently tells her daughter that it is very possible for that to happen.

The "Bench Scene" from Liliom, starring Madeleine Ozeray and Charles Boyer (France, 1934)

The “Bench Scene” from Liliom, starring Madeleine Ozeray and Charles Boyer (France, 1934)


In Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, the story revolves around carousel barker Billy Bigelow and millworker Julie Jordan. Two young female millworkers in 1873 Maine visit the town’s carousel after work. One of them, Julie Jordan, attracts the attention of the barker, Billy Bigelow. When Julie lets Billy put his arm around her during the ride, Mrs. Mullin, the widowed owner of the carousel, tells Julie never to return. Julie and her friend, Carrie Pipperidge, argue with Mrs. Mullin. Billy arrives and, seeing that Mrs. Mullin is jealous, mocks her; he is fired from his job. Billy, unconcerned, invites Julie to join him for a drink. As he goes to get his belongings, Carrie presses Julie about her feelings toward him, but Julie is evasive. Carrie has a beau too, fisherman Enoch Snow, to whom she is newly engaged. Billy returns for Julie as the departing Carrie warns that staying out late means the loss of Julie’s job. Mr. Bascombe, owner of the mill, happens by along with a policeman, and offers to escort Julie to her home, but she refuses and is fired. Left alone, she and Billy talk about what life might be like if they were in love, but neither quite confesses to the growing attraction they feel for each other. It is here that the song, If I Loved You is introduced.

A month later, the townsfolk are preparing for a summer clambake with Julie’s cousin Nettie Fowler. Julie and Billy are now married and live with Nettie, but Julie confides in Carrie that Billy has hit her, Carrie is more smitten with her love life, introducing Mister Snow to the girls. Billy is rude to both Enoch Snow and Carrie and goes off with the despicable Jigger Craigin, much to Julie’s dismay.

At the shipyard, Jigger and his shipmates sing about their life on the sea. He tries to recruit the unemployed Billy to assist with a robbery that he thinks will make them a lot of money. Billy is unsure as it may involve the killing of Julie’s ex-boss, Mr. Bascombe. Mrs Mullin reappears to tempt Billy back to the Carousel, but he turns her down. Julie tells him that she is pregnant and Billy is instantly happy. He contemplates life with his future son, er, or daughter, as the case may be. Everyone prepares to attend a clambake and Billy decides to join Julie, so he can carry out the robbery with Jigger.

At the clambake, Jigger makes an effort to be noticed ahead of the robbery and flirts with Carrie as Enoch finds them in a compromising position. The girls attempt to calm Carrie down and Julie gives them her philosophy on love. As the treasure hunt begins, Billy and Jigger return to shore to plan the robbery. They pass the time playing cards and staking a claim at the money they are about to steal. The robbery goes very wrong and Mr. Bascombe pulls out a gun to use on Jigger, who gets away. To escape punishment, Billy stabs himself just in time for Julie to enter and speak to him one final time. As everyone returns from the clambake, Julie is left alone with the dead Billy and Nettie Fowler helps her in her hour of need.

Billy is greeted by a Starkeeper who takes him to heaven. The Starkeeper tells Billy that he did not do enough good to get into heaven, but can still return to earth for one day to redeem himself. Fifteen years have passed in a flash and he tells Billy he should return to earth to help his daughter Louise. Looking down from “up there” Billy sees Louise alone on the beach, lonely and bitter, being taunted by the children of Carrie and Enoch. Billy steals a star before deciding to help her on earth.

Julie is visited by Carrie and her perfect family who tell her about their recent trip to New York. Their oldest son tries to flirt with Louise, but she is mean to him and he taunts her about her father. Louise is angry, and Billy lets himself be seen, startling her on her porch. He offers her the star, but loses his temper, slapping her after she refuses to take it. She runs to get her mother as Billy requests to be made invisible. Louise asks if it is possible to be hit and not feel a thing, and Julie tells her that it is.

At Louise’s graduation ceremony, the class is encouraged not to be held back by their parents or bask in their success, but instead to live for themselves. As the ensemble sings You’ll Never Walk Alone, Billy tells his daughter to believe in the words, and she reaches out to a classmate, determined not to live life as a loner. Billy tells Julie that he loves her and as they unite with a new power, Billy is granted access to heaven. The music then swells, we see “The End” flash on the screen, and we know that we have witnessed a beautiful love story with an almost happy ending.

The "Bench Scene" from Carousel, starring Jay Clayton and John Raitt (1945)

The “Bench Scene” from Carousel, starring Jan Clayton and John Raitt (1945)


Molnár’s ending was unsuitable for Rodgers and Hammerstein. After a couple of false starts, Hammerstein conceived the graduation scene that ends the musical. Rodgers explained his rationale for the changed ending, “Liliom was a tragedy about a man who cannot learn to live with other people. The way Molnár wrote it, the man ends up hitting his daughter and then having to go back to purgatory, leaving his daughter helpless and hopeless. We couldn’t accept that. The way we ended Carousel it may still be a tragedy but it’s a hopeful one because in the final scene it is clear that the child has at last learned how to express herself and communicate with others.” For those who needed a happier ending to the original Molnár play, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel filled the bill.

Of all the memorable songs from Carousel, only three made the Billboard charts: You’ll Never Walk Alone, June Is Bustin’ Out All Over and If I Loved You.

Here are three versions of If I Loved You from the cast albums and the movie soundtrack:
First, the John Raitt and Jan Clayton version from the 1945 original cast album of Carousel; If I Loved You
second, the John Raitt and Eileen Christy interpretation of the song, an extended version from the 1965 Lincoln Center Production of Carousel; If I Loved You
and lastly, the Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones handling of the song, from the 1956 motion picture version of Carousel.If I Loved You

The song has been recorded by many artists, four of which charted on the Billboard charts.
Perry Como, Russ Case and his Orchestra (#3) If I Loved You
Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra (#7) If I Loved You
Bing Crosby, John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra (#8) If I Loved You
Harry James and his Orchestra, vocals by Buddy DiVito (#8) If I Loved You

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

Richard Rodgers and
Oscar Hammerstein II

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A Christmas classic “just like the ones we used to know”

white christmas
In my last post, I wrote of dreams and hope. What better way of following that idea than with the number one song about dreaming – White Christmas. Now, how’s that for a smooth segue?

In January, 1940, Irving Berlin raced into his office and said to his secretary: “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — hell, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written.” The song was, of course, White Christmas. Berlin later dropped the original verse that poked fun at a well-off Californian who, amid orange and palm trees, longs for a traditional Christmas “up north”:
The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.
There’s never been such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it’s December the twenty-fourth, —
And I am longing to be up North —

But he kept the now-famous choruses that begin:
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.

White Christmas is a pleasant holiday song that reminisces about an old-fashioned Christmas setting and has become the second most popular Christmas song, surpassed only by Silent Night. In the seventy plus years since the song was written, White Christmas comes the closest that any secular writing can come to being considered a carol.

The song has very little to do with the meaning of the religious holy day, for that religious Christmas is neither white fluffy snow, nor nostalgic sleigh bells, nor even beautiful Christmas cards.

It has often been noted that the mix of the melancholy – “just like the ones I used to know” – with the comforting images of home – “where the treetops glisten” – resonated especially strongly with listeners during World War Two.

The song begins by dreaming of snow. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know . . .” Snow is every child’s dream. And snow, as we know, is certainly one thing that we associate with Christmas. After all, how does Santa Claus arrive in his sleigh without snow? That it was probably not a snowy Christmas that first Christmas millennia ago is not really relevant to us. Christmas is celebrated in December; snow often comes in December, at least in the Northern Hemisphere; hence the association of snow and Christmas.

After lovingly looking at snow on glistening tree tops, the song longingly looks at the past. The song dreams of sleigh bells. “. . . To hear sleigh bells in the snow.” During World War Two, more than anything else, White Christmas was one of the strongest links our armed forces had with home, whether they were in the mud of a southern training camp, or in the dust of Northern Africa, or in the rain of Italy, or in the tropical forests of the South Pacific, or on a storm-tossed destroyer in the North Atlantic, or in the bitter cold of Bastogne. Now, White Christmas did not necessarily draw those homesick men and women to a home as it really was, but rather to a romantic spell of security and peace, of childhood bliss, of bright promises, and of merry hearts. I have the feeling though that of those whose eyes became misty as they heard or sang the words of the song, few had ever heard a sleigh bell! Yet, the song still resonated with those who were far away from home and hearth.

Finally, White Christmas dreams of Christmas cards. “. . . With every Christmas card I write.” Now, I know how easy it is to be cynical about Christmas cards. Perhaps you remember that classic cartoon in Punch some years ago. A woman, addressing her cards, says to her significant other: “We sent them one last year, and they didn’t send us one, so they probably won’t send us one this year because they’ll think we won’t send them one because they didn’t send us one last year, don’t you think – or shall we? Well, we may survey the mountain of cards to be addressed and groan, but the massive stack is not all that bad and sending cards does involve thinking of friends, recapturing past moments, and reaching out to others.

The first public performance of White Christmas was by Bing Crosby on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941.He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records in 1942, and it was released as part of an album of six songs from the film Holiday Inn. In that film, Bing Crosby sings White Christmas as a duet with actress Marjorie Reynolds, though her voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. The unique feature of the “Holiday Inn” in the film was that the inn of the title was a night club and a restaurant that opened only on holidays, and was closed the rest of the year.

The song is noted for Crosby’s whistling during the second chorus. The version most often heard today is not the original 1942 Crosby recording, as the master had become damaged due to frequent use. Crosby re-recorded the track in 1947, accompanied again by the Trotter Orchestra and the Darby Singers, with every effort made to reproduce the original recording session. There are subtle differences in the orchestration, most notably the addition of a celesta and flutes to brighten up the introduction. The recording became a chart perennial, reappearing annually on the pop chart twenty separate times before Billboard magazine created a distinct Christmas chart for seasonal releases. I have included both versions below.

Crosby’s White Christmas has been credited with selling fifty million copies, the most by any release and therefore it is the biggest-selling single worldwide of all time and has never been out-of-print since 1949.

White Christmas has the distinction of being the most-recorded Christmas song of all time and there have been more than five hundred recorded versions of the song, in several different languages. No, I am not going to list them all (you can now breathe a sigh of relief), but in the spirit of my blog I will present the significant recordings made during the 1940s and 1950s. Chronologically, those versions are:
1942: Bing Crosby (with backing vocals by the Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra) released his version of the song and it reached #1 on the Billboard charts. The Crosby version also charted #5 in 1944, #1 in 1945, #1 in 1947, #3 in 1948, #6 in 1949, #5 in 1950, #13 in 1950, #13 in 1952, and #13 in 1955. Since 1947, the version that charted was the 1947 version, not the 1942 version. Both are available for comparison below.
1942: Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra (with Bob Carroll on lead vocal) released a version of the song that reached # 16 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart.
1942: Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra (with Garry Stevens on lead vocal) released a version of the song that reached # 18 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart.
1942: Freddy Martin and his Orchestra (with Clyde Rogers on lead vocal) released a version of the song that reached # 20 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart (this same version charted on the Billboard pop singles chart again in December 1945, reaching # 16).
1944: Frank Sinatra released a version of the song (with backing orchestration by Axel Stordahl) that reached # 7 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart (this same version charted on the Billboard pop singles chart two more times: in December 1945, reaching # 5, and in December 1946, # number 6).
1945: On December 23, Kay Thompson performed her version of the song on the CBS radio program Request Performance backed by the Kay Thompson Rhythm Singers and an orchestra conducted by Leith Stevens. A recording of this radio performance has survived and I present it below. This version did not chart on the Billboard charts.
1946: Jo Stafford (with backing vocals by the Lyn Murray Singers and backing orchestration by Paul Weston) released a version of the song that reached # 9 on Billboard magazine’s pop singles chart.
1947: Eddy Howard and his Orchestra released a version of the song that did not chart.
1947: Perry Como (with backing orchestration by Lloyd Shaffer) released a non-charting version of the song.
1948: R&B vocal group The Ravens released a version of the song that reached # 9 on Billboard’s Rhythm & Blues Records chart in January 1949.
1949: Country singer Ernest Tubb (with female backing vocals by The Troubadettes) released a version of the song that reached # 7 on Billboard’s Country & Western Records chart.
1952: Singer Eddie Fisher (with Hugo Winterhalter’s Orchestra and Chorus) recorded a version of the song that did not chart.
1952: Mantovani and His Orchestra released a version of the song that did not chart.
1954: The Drifters released a cover version of the song that showcased the talents of lead singer Clyde McPhatter and the bass of Bill Pinkney. Their recording of the song peaked at # 2 on Billboard’s Rhythm & Blues Records chart in December 1954 (it also returned to the same chart in the next two years).
1957: Elvis Presley recorded a non-charting version of the song for his first holiday album, Elvis’ Christmas Album.

To listen to a song, click on the song title. To download, click on the song title, then right click on Save target as. The download should begin immediately.

Bing Crosby, with backing vocals by the Ken Darby Singers, John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra 1942 White Christmas
Bing Crosby, with backing vocals by the Ken Darby Singers, John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra 1947 White Christmas
Gordon Jenkins and his Orchestra, vocals by Bob Carroll White Christmas
Charlie Spivak and his Orchestra, vocals by Garry Stevens White Christmas
Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, vocals by Clyde Rogers White Christmas
Frank Sinatra, Axel Stordahl and his Orchestra and Chorus White Christmas
Kay Thompson, backing vocals by the Kay Thompson Rhythm Singers, Leith Stevens and his Orchestra White Christmas (Previously Unreleased)
Jo Stafford, backing vocals by the Lyn Murray Singers, Paul Weston and his Orchestra White Christmas
Eddy Howard and his Orchestra White Christmas
Perry Como, backing vocals by a mixed chorus, Lloyd Shaffer Orchestra White Christmas
The Ravens White Christmas
Ernest Tubb
White Christmas
Eddie Fisher, Hugo Winterhalter, his Orchestra and Chorus White Christmas
Mantovani and His Orchestra (instrumental) White Christmas
The Drifters, vocals by Bill Pinkney and Clyde McPhatter White Christmas
Elvis Presley, backing vocals by the Jordanaires White Christmas

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds in the scene from "Holiday Inn" in which they sing "White Christmas"

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds in the scene from “Holiday Inn” in which they sing “White Christmas”

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