Tag Archives: songs of the 1950s

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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The River is Wide and Deep

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The line, “The river is deep and the river is wide, hallelujah!” is from Michael, Row The Boat Ashore, originally, a Negro spiritual first noted during the American Civil War at Saint Helena Island, one of the Sea Islands of South Carolina, but those words could just as easily refer to another song.

That other song is entitled Across the Wide Missouri (also called Oh Shenandoah or simply Shenandoah) is a song of uncertain origin, dating at least to the early nineteenth century. Shenandoah was first printed as part of William L. Alden’s article “Sailor Songs,” in the July 1882 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.

The song had become popular as a sea chanty with sailors by the 1880s. Sea Songs and Shanties, Collected by W.B. Whall, Master Mariner (First edition in November 1910), states that the song probably originated from American or Canadian “voyageurs,” who were great singers. Thomas Moore drew inspiration from them in his Canadian Boat Song. The author goes on further and states that he heard the song sung over fifty years prior to publishing the book, which places its origin at least a fair bit earlier than 1860. Besides sung at sea, this song figured in old public school collections.

Alfred Mason Williams’ 1895 Studies in Folk-song and Popular Poetry called it a “good specimen of a bowline chant.” One popularly accepted explanation, taken from a 1931 book on sea and river chanteys entitled Capstan Bars, the author, David Bone has the song’s origins in Virginia. Bone maintains that Oh Shenandoah originated as a river shanty song and became popular with crews on sea faring vessels in the 1800s, and is basically a boatman’s song.

George Caleb Bingham immortalized the jolly flatboatmen who plied the Missouri River in the early nineteenth century. These same flatboatmen were known for their chanties, including the lovely Oh Shenandoah. This boatmen’s song found its way down the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to the American clipper ships, and thus around the world.

The Jolly Flatboatmen (1846) by George Caleb Bingham

The Jolly Flatboatmen (1846)
by George Caleb Bingham


Another feasible explanation is that Oh Shenandoah originated with Scot-Irish settlers and the lyrics referred to their term of confinement as indentured servants. “The seven (long) years” mentioned in most lyrics was the common term of indenture servitude in early America. Over the years, the song has been known by different titles including, Shennydore, The Wide Missouri, Across The Wide Missouri, The Wild Missourye, The World of Misery, Solid Fas, Rolling River and Oh Shenandoah.

The song was featured in the 1951 film Across the Wide Missouri, based on historian Bernard DeVoto’s book, Across the Wide Missouri. The film dramatizes an account of several fur traders and their interaction with the Native Americans. The song was also heard as a part of a medley in the 1962 Cinerama film, How the West Was Won and was prominent in the soundtrack of the 1965 movie, Shenandoah, starring James Stewart.

There are many sets of lyrics. Some lyrics tell the story of a roving trader in love with the daughter of an Indian chief; in this interpretation, the rover tells the chief of his intent to take the girl with him far to the west, across the Missouri River. Other interpretations tell of a pioneer’s nostalgia for the Shenandoah River Valley in Virginia, or of a Confederate soldier in the American Civil War, dreaming of his country home in Virginia. The song is also associated with escaped slaves. They were said to sing the song in gratitude because the river allowed their scent to be lost.

While the origin of the song is unclear, in the 1950s, writing credits were given to Erwin Drake and Jimmy Shirl and it was their version that charted for both the Paul Weston and Hugo Winterhalter recordings.

Here are the lyrics that are associated with versions of the song from the 1950s.

THE LYRICS

ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI (1950)
Words and music by Erwin Drake and Jimmy Shirl

Oh, Shenandoah’s my native valley.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah is my native valley.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, it’s far I wander.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, it’s far I wander.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah has rushing waters.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah has rushing waters.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, I love your daughters.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, I love your daughters.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, I long to see you.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, I’m boun’ t’ leave you.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, I’m boun’ t’ leave you.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Oh, Shenandoah, I’ll never grieve you.
Aa-way, you rolling river!
Shenandoah, I’ll never grieve you.
Ah-way, we’re bound to go, ‘cross th’ wide Missouri!

Another version of the song

My lady love she stands a waitin’ far across the wide Missouri
On the banks I hear her calling to me
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri.

For seven years I’ve been a roamin’ seven years I led the valley
Now I live just for my true love to see
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri.

I’m pushin’ off when dawn is breaking goin’ cross the wide Missouri
Where my love she stands a waitin’ for me
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri
A ro a ro la lee across wide Missouri. (a ro la lee)…

By the 1950s and 1960s, Across The Wide Missouri or Shenandoah was solidly anchored in the American music culture. Two recordings made the Billboard charts in 1951. Both recordings were released under the title Across The Wide Missouri. The recording by Paul Weston and his Orchestra, with the Norman Luboff Choir reached number nineteen on the Billboard charts and following close behind at number twenty-one was a recording by Hugo Winterhalter’s Orchestra and Chorus, with the vocal refrain by Stuart Foster.

Others groups during the Folk Music Revival of the 1960s, such as The Weavers, The Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four, wrote their popular versions of the song and included the song in their albums and concerts.

More recently, Bruce Springsteen released yet another version of Shenandoah on his 2006 album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. The listener cannot help but feel the energy of the song as Springsteen brings the song to climax and the music begins its fade to the soft chords at the end.

Whatever the origins of the song may be, the song has the distinct feeling of pure Americana.
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THE RECORDINGS
Click on arrow to hear the song
Paul Weston and His Orchestra (vocals by The Norman Luboff Choir)
Hugo Winterhalter, His Orchestra and Chorus (vocals by Stuart Foster)
OTHER RECORDINGS (NON-CHARTING)
Ray Price
The Kingston Trio
The Weavers
Harry Belafonte
John McDermott
The Robert Shaw Chorale
How the West Was Won (film)
Across the Wide Missouri (film)

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