“When did you leave heaven?” may not be in anyone’s list of the worst pick-up lines (which, in 2019, are far more salacious) but I doubt that it would effectively start a conversation with an attractive stranger — I mean a conversation where the response was more promising than “Get away from me.” But the impulse to call someone we’re attracted to divine is venerable and strong.
There are many songs where the loved one is described as an angel, but here’s a tender and witty one, music by Richard Whiting, lyrics by Walter Bullock, from the 1936 film featuring Alice Faye, SING, BABY, SING (a song revitalized by the cheerful Bill Crow). Follow me into adoration territory in swingtime.
Henry “Red” Allen in all his glory, playing and singing, 1936:
and a more famous version from 1942 with a famous clarinetist under wraps for two minutes, a session led by Mel Powell, and featuring colleagues from that clarinetist’s orchestra except for Al Morgan and Kansas Fields.
Thank goodness for the first forty-five seconds devoted to that hero, Lou McGarity, before it becomes Mel’s own Bobcats:
Mel Powell, Jimmy Buffington, Bobby Donaldson, a dozen years later, and one of my favorite recordings — a Goodman Trio without the King:
Something you wouldn’t expect, Big Bill Broonzy, 1956:
and the intensely passionate reading Jimmy Scott gave the song in 2000 (with our hero Michael Kanan in duet):
and the Master. Consider that stately melody exposition, how simple and how moving, and Louis’ gentle yet serious reading of the lyrics is beyond compare. Complaints about the surrounding voices will be ignored; they’re the heavenly choir:
Love has the power to make the Dear Person seem so much better than merely human, and this song celebrates it. As we do.
May your happiness increase!