Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 79 - 13 Songs and Music From the Second World War Era, 1939 - 1945

1 - Sing, Sing, Sing, written by Louis Prima, 1936

Performed here by the Louis Prima Orchestra and danced by the Floogees, a Dutch Lindy Hop group. This is my favorite wartime music, no comparison. When I was 18, I performed in The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo as a civilian dancer, and one of the two pieces we danced was a 40's medley which started with Sing, Sing, Sing. Unfortunately I broke a bone in my foot before the show, so I had to drop out of the 40's piece, which had a lot of hopping moves. I did manage the Rockettes piece, though, which was mostly kick-stepping.

Meanwhile...who knew the Dutch could groove like that?!?

2 - Swing jam session by Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart, 1941

This has got to be the most ferocious swing dance sequence you'll ever see. Performed by Whitey's Lindy Hoppers in a sequence from the film Hellzapoppin, a group of domestic employees puts on an impromptu jam session and explodes into dance backstage. To me, this scene foreshadows the coming breakout of African Americans from their pre-war social roles. Once again, their wartime travels to Europe exposed African American culture to a worldwide audience.

3 - Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, written by Don Raye and Hughie Prince, 1941

Performed by the Andrews Sisters. I can't separate wartime music from the sound of the Andrews Sisters - and this song is the quintessential WWII song for me.

They made him blow a bugle for his Uncle Sam
It really brought him down, because he couldn't jam
The Captain seemed to understand
Because the next day the Cap' went out and drafted a band
And now the company jumps when he plays reveille
He's the boogie-woogie bugle boy of Company B

4 - Strip Polka, written by Johnny Mercer

This tune appeared on the album For Our Armed Forces Overseas, one of a series of recordings by V-Disc, a wartime collaboration between the US government and private record labels. Meant to 'motivate soldiers and improve morale,'(Wikipedia) Strip Polka was on the 1942 Hit Parade for the Andrews Sisters.

There's a burlesque theatre where the gang loves to go
To see Queenie the cutie of the burlesque show
And the thrill of the evening is when out Queenie skips
And the band plays the polka while she strips

"Take it off", "Take it off" cries a voice from the rear
"Take it off", Take it off" Soon it's all you can hear
But she's always a lady even in pantomime
So she stops! And always just in time

5 - I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire, written by Eddie Seile, Sol Marcu, Bennie Benjamin, Eddie Durham, 1941

Performed by The Ink Spots

The Ink Spots were a highly influential quartet whose rich vocal style led to the doo-wop groups of the 1950's. Their song currently appears on the trailer for Fallout 3, an action role-playing game just released Tuesday.

I don't want to set the world on fire
I just want to start
A flame in your heart
In my heart I have but one desire
And that one is you
No other will do

I've lost all ambition for worldly acclaim
I just want to be the one you love
And with your admission that you feel the same
I'll have reached the goal I'm dreaming of

Believe me!
I don't want to set the world on fire
I just want to start
A flame in your heart

6 - Moonlight Serenade, written by Glenn Miller, 1939

Performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the clip is from the 1954 film The Glenn Miller Story starring James Stewart in the title role. Moonlight Serenade typified the Miller Sound, which features a clarinet lead for the saxophone section.

7 - Minor Swing, written by Django Reinhardt, 1937

Performed by Django Reinhardt's Quintette du Hot Club de France, featuring violinist Stéphane Grappelli. Reinhardt was a Belgian gypsy who became one of Europe's first important jazz musicians. He survived the war even though gypsies were among the targets of the Nazi's ethnic cleansing. "He was especially fortunate because the Nazi regime did not allow jazz to be performed and recorded. He apparently enjoyed the protection of the Luftwaffe officer Dietrich Schulz-Köhn, nicknamed 'Doktor Jazz', who deeply admired his music." (Wikipedia)

The photo above was taken by Doktor Jazz and shows Django Reinhardt standing in front of La Cigale in Paris with a Nazi officer, four African-American musicians and a Jew. So much for Nazi ideology. Swing, baby, swing!

8 - When You're Smilin', written by Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin and Larry Shay, 1929

Performed by Bing Crosby, a towering presence in music, film and television. By the war years, he was a top star in radio and film, with 18 films released between 1939 - 1945, including Road to Morocco, Holiday Inn and Going My Way.

The clip features Hollywood's efforts to boost morale through USO shows. USO stands for United Service Organizations.

When you're smiling
When you're smiling
The whole world smiles with you

When you're laughing
When you're laughing
The sun comes shining through

But when you're crying
You bring on the rain
So stop your sighing
Be happy again

Keep on smiling
Cause when you're smiling
The whole world smiles with you

9 - I'll Be Seeing You, written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, 1938

Performed by Billie Holiday

Holiday was a big band vocalist during the war years, fronting for Artie Shaw among others. This made Billie Holiday the first black woman to work with a major white orchestra.

The clip features scenes from The Notebook.

I'll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through.

I'll be seeing you
In every lovely summer's day;
In every thing that's light and gay.
I'll always think of you that way.

I'll find you
In the morning sun
And when the night is new.
I'll be looking at the moon,
But I'll be seeing you.

10 - You'll Never Know, written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon, with lyrics based on a poem by war-bride Dorothy Fern Norris, 1943

Performed by Michael Buble, a modern-day crooner originally from British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada.

You'll never know just how much I miss you
You'll never know just how much I care
And if I tried, I still couldn't hide my love for you
You ought to know, for haven't I told you so
A million or more times?

You went away and my heart went with you
I speak your name in my every prayer
If there is some other way to prove that I love you
I swear I don't know how
You'll never know if you dont know now

11 - It Had to be You, written by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn, 1924

Performed by Harry Connick, Jr., another modern-day big band leader from New Orleans, Louisiana. The clip is from the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally, a film about opposite-sex friends who discover they actually love each other, which I went to see about a month before my 2-year friendship with Brad turned into love. Ask me if I found it excruciating to sit through...especially the awkward New Year's Eve kiss that's in the clip!

It had to be you
It had to be you
I wandered around
And finally found
The somebody who

Could make me be true
Could make me be blue
Or even be glad
Just to be sad
Just thinking of you

Some others I've seen
Might never be mean
Might never be cross
Or try to be boss
But they wouldn't do
For nobody else gave me the thrill
With all your faults I love you still

It had to be you
It had to be you
It had to be you

12 - Night and Day, written by Cole Porter, 1932

Performed by Frank Sinatra, this is one of my favorite songs sung by one of my favorite singers. The women in this clip wear a fabulous array of 40's hairstyles and glamorous dresses.

Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me, or far
It's no matter darling where you are
I think of you
Day and night

Night and day, why is it so?
That this longing for you follows wherever I go
In the roaring traffic's boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you
Day and night

Night and day
Under the hide of me
There's an oh such a hungry yearning
Burning inside of me
And this torment won't be through
Til you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night
Night and day

13 - We'll Meet Again, written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, 1939

Performed by Vera Lynn, an English singer known as The Forces' Sweetheart. Singing for several dance bands, including Bert Ambrose and his Orchestra, Vera Lynn's radio series Sincerely Yours sent a taste of home to British forces overseas.

Possibly the most well-known and touching of any song from the war years, this song bravely states that the singer and listener will meet again - hopefully in this life, but most definitely in the next.

We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day

Keep smilin' through
Just like you always do
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away

So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won't be long
They'll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song

We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day

I hope you enjoyed this look back at the songs and music of World War II. Join me next week for another special Thursday Thirteen in time for Remembrance Day.


Julia Phillips Smith said...

Last week I took a look at 13 Songs and Music From the First World War Era.

Yasmin said...

I love Billy Holliday...too bad she left us to soon...great post can be found here:

Sandee said...

Wow, the Dutch can indeed swing. Awesome.

Moonlight Serenade is my all time favorite. My father always said this song reminded him of WWII the most. I can see why.

I loved the Queenie one. Never had seen that one before.

I ♥ Bing Crosby. What a crooner. I also ♥ Frank Sinatra too.

I couldn't get the Billie Holiday video to play, but that's another winner.

What a precious and troubled time, but this music was a wonderful part of it all.

This was even better than last week Julia.

Have a great day. :)

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Sandee - I had technical difficulties with the Billie Holiday song, but I've got version number two up now.

The Queenie song is hilarious!

Amy Ruttan said...

Great list Julia. On Rememberance Day I plan to share a bit of my favorite book about WWI, Rilla of Ingelside by L.M. Montgomery ... that's if my pregnancy hormones don't cause me to blubber even more than I do.

Shelley Munro said...

I enjoyed the trip back in time. The songs from this era are so poignant.

Mia Celeste said...

I remember Billy Holliday, the Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Glen Miller and Cole Porter, but some of the other artists are new to me. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

That’s an excellent collection, with many contrasts!

Django Reinhardt used to tell Stephane Grappelli that there was only one star at the Hot Club of France, though I’m not sure that the great jazz violinist quite agreed. I am a great fan of the QHCF and have dozens of their recordings on CD and some on original 78.

I didn’t know that Sing Sing Sing was written by Louis Prima! I’m quite surprised really. If you can, have a listen to Benny Goodman’s seven-minute recording of it, which was part of his memorable concert at the Carnegie Hall in, I think, 1940. You can hear how the audience gets right into it.

V-Discs were an excellent idea and a great morale booster for American servicemen overseas. The performers charged no fee and the records were given away free, with the condition that they should never be sold for money. Some hope! Rare examples change hands for huge sums among vintage record collectors these days.

Cole Porter once asked Frank Sinatra “Why do you sing my lyrics as though you wish they had been written by someone else?” but in the clip you give us the young (and so skinny!) Sinatra performs faithfully to the spirit of Porter’s music and sophisticated lyrics.

What a wonderful TT! Thank you!

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Nicholas - I've got a Benny Goodman version of 'Sing, Sing, Sing' that I definitely love. When I was looking for dance footage to this piece, I had to go with this clip. I've gotten quite into Prima's version now.

That's funny about Cole Porter's reaction to Sinatra's interpretation. Meanwhile, Sinatra's phrasing was one of his greatest talents. He turns the song into conversation - amazing. And the way he pulls back on the line 'in the silence of my lonely room' - *shiver*

Darla said...

Oh, these are great! I was only familiar with 5 of them, and I loved listening to the ones that were new-to-me.

Anonymous said...

Frankie!! Used to have so many pics of him on my walls as a teenager. Still love him. And that first clip is cool!

Thomma Lyn said...

What a fabulous list. I know quite a few of those songs. My grandmother who passed away four years ago would have loved to listen to these. She lived to be 100 years old, and she lived through WWI, the Great Depression, then WWII -- then so much that followed, Korea, Vietnam, first human on the moon, all the way up to our satellite and cell phone era. In many ways, she was ahead of her time, but in spirit, she was always a woman of the generation that produced these songs, what many people call the Greatest Generation.

Anonymous said...

oooh great songs! Very well done Julia!

AND I can even comment!

Robin said...

Hi Julia. I'm delighted to tell you that the random integer generator picked you as a winner in my giveaway, and since you were the first to express a preference for A Special Collection in Praise of Mothers that's the one that will soon be on it's way over to Halifax!

Congratulations, I know you'll enjoy it. Drop me an e-mail with your mailing address and I'll get it right out to you.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Robin - Squee!! Thanks so much!

Akelamalu said...

I grew up listening to my Dad singing those songs - thanks for the memory (wasn't that a song too?).

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

The musicians with Django and "Doktor Jazz" on the photo are not African-Americans, but French Caribbean musicians of the Hot Club de France who have recorded with Django – among which Robert Mavounzy and Claude Martial, who are easily recognizable from the photo on this page. I think Al Lirvat is there too.
More info about their music can be found on those liner notes for the "Antilles Jazz" /"Swing Caraïbe" CD (scroll down for the English version of text).