Friday, September 19, 2014

One Song - Many Paths

Russ. You always look good with a tux.
Today the song I found perched in my brain was "Prisoner of Love", a powerful ballad written by Russ Columbo and Clarence Gaskill with lyrics by Leo Robin, who wrote the words to several hits, including "Love In Bloom" (remember Jack Benny and his fading violin?) and "Louise" for Maurice Chevalier. Ah, I can see him now, strolling down the Rue de la Paix with his straw hat and cane...lower lip bulging....Awww-haw-haw my cheri! But , I digress.
When I first heard the song this morning, the name Russ Columbo (Born Euginio Ruggerio Rudolpho Columbo in the early part of the last century) came to mind, for it was he who first made a major recording of this very emotional number. Well, he was part composer. I'm not sure which part.
He was one of the first musicians (he was a whiz bang violinist as well as snappy baritone) to realize the intimacy of the newer microphones like the ribbon and condenser developed in the late 20's and 30's. It was he along with Bing Crosby who recognized how personal a song could get and the other crooners soon fell in line.
However, his career was cut short by fate a little over eighty years ago, on September 2, 1934  when Columbo and a photographer friend, Lansing Brown Jr. were fooling around with a pair of antique dueling postols in Browns apartment. When he (Brown) lit one and it went off the bullet ricocheting and hitting him in the heard. He died awhile later. Who knows how far he could have come. He might have easily rivaled "Der Bingle" for he was, shall we say, a bit more handsome then Harry Lilias.
Nevertheless, Bing admired him and learned the art of hugging the microphone and slowly making love to it,
I like Russ's version of the song along with a do-over a few years later in 1946 by Perry Como, the "Singing Barber". Como's approach to singing was as laid back as you can get without falling asleep at the mic. However his version is one of the few songs that makes the hair stand up on my head, no pun implied. He really injected it with a little passion, especially towards the end.
But the song does not stop in your grandparents time. Oh no my friends.
In 1957 "The Platters" did a version which rose into the the top 100 on the charts. It wasn't as big a hit as "The Great Pretender" or "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" but tenor Wayne Miller put his own spin on this ageless song.
Did I say "soul" earlier?
Well it don't get more soulful then James Browns version.
Yes, if you remember back in the 60's "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" busted his chops on this ageless melody.
So as I follow the tunes I arise with each morning, I find I am rowing a boat in a deep and endless sea of memories and information.
So long till tomorrow.

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