Tuesday, September 23, 2014

April Showers - A Lullaby

This morning the Earworm gave me two songs.

"April Showers" and the French national anthem "La Marsiellaise".

I think I will focus on the first.

"April Showers". Written by Louis Silver and B. G. DeSylva it was introduced in a 1921 Broadway show called "Bombo" and featured "Jollie" himself, Al Jolson, surly one of the most electrifying acts ever to tread the boards.

He was born Asa Yoelson in Snrednicke, Lithuania in 1885 (once again that incredible connection between the Eastern European Jew and American music) and died in this country in 1950 after completing an exhausting tour of Korea, entertaining the troops, something he insisted on doing through two wars.
"Jollie" without blackface.

I like Al Jolson. In spite of the "black-face" he worked in. With white gloves and highlighted eyes and mouth, Jolson became, for his time, the Elvis of the music industry.

Don't get me wrong. Working in "black-face" nowadays would be considered racist, rude, and ridiculous. But Jolson didn't have a prejudicial bone in his body. Frankly, he was too busy promoting himself and his act to be bothered with hating anybody. He had a phenomenal ego and was always pushing his way to the front. But racially biased? Never.

And the Elvis part? Several sources, including the tome "The American Songbook" by Ken Bloom (published in 2005 by Blackdog and Levanthal) states that he was connection between jazz, ragtime and the popular "square" ballads at the turn of the last century, Like Elvis and Irving Berlin he made black music palatable to the white audience.

He sold that song and wrung out your heart at the same time. Catch him on Youtube. Even the more recent stuff shows the power he had with an audience.

The critic Robert Benchley said that ".... the word personality isn't strong enough for what Jolson has. And unimpressive as the comparison may be, the only one in history to equal his power was John The Baptist."

Wow. Elvis and JtB all in one piece'

But back to "April Showers" as a lullaby.  Ask Rose and my children.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, my kids requested lullaby's from me or my wife as we tucked them into bed after a long day of school or play and we would oblige.

Rose would sing those songs her own parents would sing to her. Songs like "Playmate, Come Out And Play With Me" or perhaps from the James Taylor songbook - "Sweet Baby James"....."The first of December was covered with snow and so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston." You know the rest.

My parents, a generation before hers, had such ditties as "Mairsy Doats", "Sue City Sue" and others including the post title, "April Showers". The song contained in its lyrics what many call the "bluebird effect". A song with bluebirds mentioned was popular. Like:

Barry's lastest CD.
"So keep on looking for a bluebird and listening for a song whenever April showers comes along." - "April Showers". Or:

"If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why oh why can't I" - "Over the Rainbow".

So I would sing songs to them as I did to the kids from my first marriage. In their case, sometimes they would carry transistor radios to bed and listen to a story-telling over the air from a show I did in the evening over the local station WEMJ in Laconia NH in the 1970's.

Some other songs I would sing as lullaby's?

Pat Boone's "April Love", The song "Buffalo Gals" from the perennial Christmas classic "It's A Wonderful Life", Jimmy Driftwood's - "Tennessee Stud" and Barry Manilow's "Copacabana".
By the way. Have you heard Barry's surprise album for Halloween? Its a cd filled with duets he does with only dead people. Yep.

More from the Earworm tomorrow.

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