I didn’t punch her.
But let me tell you…
I was REALLY CLOSE, man. REALLY, REALLY CLOSE.
So, what did this poor, misguided soul say that got me so fired up? Let me paint a picture for you.
I was sitting at a table during my best friend’s wedding reception several years ago, and they were playing some music overhead before the dance started. A song by Frank Sinatra played and next, one by Dean Martin. A teenage girl at the table next to me said loudly, “It’s so weird that they’re playing Christmas music!” the other girl replied, “Yeah, I know!”
I cannot express to you how the fire boiled within my chest.
These two, precious, children had NO IDEA that there is a WHOLE OTHER WORLD of music that exists outside of pop radio and Christmas songs. My heart broke. Into a thousand pieces. All over the ground. My entire world tilted on its axis. My eyeballs blew out of their sockets. (Have I laid enough drama into this yet) Honestly? I can’t believe it has taken me THIS LONG to write about that moment. Lord knows, I’ve given that moment probably the lion’s share of my verbal rants about music over the last few years.
This is unacceptable. This CANNOT HAPPEN.
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL! Our future as a culture depends on it, people! MUSIC…REAL MUSIC, with REAL INSTRUMENTS, is eternal. It will live on and I’m making sure of it. 🙂
When I was 16, I got to know Frank Sinatra. I always knew his name (my Dad’s a musician and made sure I knew these things), but when I was 16 I really dug in.
I bought one CD: “Sinatra Sings the Great Sammy Cahn.” And from there, I got my education into the Great American Songbook. Sinatra sang it all. I started buying more Sinatra compilations and borrowing my grandma’s CDs. I learned about The Rat Pack and started listening to Dean Martin’s hits, as well. I worked at a video store at the time, so I rented any movie we had that Frank starred in…on VHS. My favorite by far was High Society. It introduced me to Louis Armstrong and the Bing Crosby that existed outside of White Christmas. I recently learned that my grandma claims the song featured at 1:23 in this trailer as my grandparents’ wedding song. And 2:26? Can I be “Sensational”, Frank? 😉 And 3:58–that ‘tude!!! How can you NOT love this guy?!
In college, I loved studying for my Art History class at Starbucks. Back then, they used to almost exclusively play standards. Starbucks had a very metropolitan, classy feel and I LOVED soaking that up while I read about classic painters and artistic movements across Europe. During my senior year of college I started collecting records. And that really put things into high gear. I LOVE going to Hymie’s Vintage Records in Minneapolis and digging through the classics. I feel AT HOME in that aisle. Today, my collection is bursting at the seams. I have NO MORE ROOM for records, right now. It’s a beautiful thing and a horrible thing simultaneously.
I just want to share a few of my favorite classic vocal tracks. They’ve settled into my heart over the years and are SO SPECIAL to me. I can’t imagine growing up oblivious to this beauty.
“Time After Time” – Frank Sinatra
I love this story, you guys. I could tell it 100 times. And I probably will over the course of my life. I discovered this song sitting on my bedroom floor in high school, cutting up magazines. (Predictable, I know.) As soon as I heard these lyrics, my heart swelled. I replayed it over and over that evening. What Frank does in this song…he makes those words SOAR. It’s just so beautiful. SO- here’s the story: When I was in New York City for the 2nd time ever, I was with my two best friends at a little Italian restaurant on the West side. There was a man who easily could’ve been the reincarnated Louis Armstrong playing piano, there. I asked him if he knew, “Time After Time,” and was careful he didn’t think I was talking about Cyndi Lauper’s version. He nodded and launched into the most INCREDIBLE rendition of Time After Time next to the original that i could possibly imagine. I tipped that man $20. I wish I could’ve tipped him $200. It was a moment I’ll never forget and I honestly get a little verklempt thinking about it!!
“A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” – Nat King Cole
Now, lots of the greats have recorded this song. I’ve heard ’em all. Anita O’Day, Sinatra, Bing, even Bobby Darin…but I have to hand it to the King on this one. These vocals are buttah. I mean, wow. It’s the transitions in this one that get me. How he slides from one soaring note to a quiet, subdued one, up the scale and down, he nails it over and over. Now, with this one, you HAVE to turn it up. Turn it up all the way. Let it wash over you. You’re about to be transported. (See Also: Autumn Leaves and ‘Tis Autumn)
“Stars Fell On Alabama” – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
It’s hard for me to pick just ONE Ella and Louis collab to mention here. Because I love so many of them. But what I really love about this version of “Stars Fell on Alabama” is how slowwwwwly they’ve broken it down. Every little nuance is given attention, not one little detail is overlooked. Ella’s perfection (SPEAKING of vocal transitions…she may be the queen) carries it through on a breeze. It’s so intimate, on vinyl you feel like they’re right there in your living room with you, lounging and sipping cocktails.
“But Not For Me” – Harry Connick Jr.
Lots of people have tried to reform the classics into something modern that an evolving culture would care about. Michael Buble? You’re ok. But Harry…no one compares to Harry. So I chose to include HIS rendition of the standard, “But Not For Me,” here. Sinatra sings it best, for the record, with all the sadness and desperation only he’s capable of drizzling all over a lyric. But Harry made people take notice and REMEMBER when he recorded this as part of the soundtrack for When Harry Met Sally.
And JUST for a bit of adorable fun, Harry singing in 2008 with his then 11-year-old daughter. LOVE!! (Any Friends superfans out there might be interested in knowing his wife is Jill Goodacre, Chandler’s vestibule blackout companion. PERFECTION.)
And finally…as my love for the standards and the classic vocalists continues to grow over time…who am I listening to, now?
Lately, it’s all about Chet Baker. I recently came across this song and have been swimming in it in the evenings. Just today, I heard his rendition of “That Old Feeling” and fawned all over that as well. Beauty. So understated, so quiet, so intent. I LOVE IT.
Seriously y’all. Educate yourselves and educate others. Pandora, AccuRadio, Spotify–you have many resources.