A friend posted this jubilant photograph about a week ago, and it’s stayed in my mind as the epitome of joyous freedom. The splendidly happy fellow is Cooper (he asks that his last name not be used: he’d rather frolic than answer mail).
The photo raises the question: “How could I have such joy in my life?” and I don’t pretend to have the answer: these are not joyous times for those whose eyes are open. But one spiritual panacea has to be music: the sounds that make our eyes bright and our tails wag.
When I saw Cooper’s portrait, “I’m as happy as a pup,” ran through my head, and I tracked it down to the Gershwins’ THINGS ARE LOOKING UP, and the thread went straight to Mr. Astaire, then to Lady Day. It’s a poignant version, with Buck Clayton whispering I CAN’T GET STARTED in our ears, then Billie approaches the possibly jubilant text with a hint of poignant tentativeness — can this be true? — the sound of someone who has known sadness and is wary of embracing joy too unguardedly. Her delivery of the bridge is so tender (I think of MANDY IS TWO, a few years later) but her second offering of the title is more exultant, as if she had crossed the fiery river to safety and could relax and contemplate the much more real possibility of joy. (All of this in under two minutes.) Teddy Wilson’s sixteen bars characteristically glisten, but it pleases me so much to hear Vido Musso, consciously or otherwise, sounding so much like a wordless Billie. Completely touching and genuine.
Teddy Wilson And His Orchestra : Buck Clayton , trumpet; Prince Robinson, clarinet; Vido Musso, tenor saxophone; Teddy Wilson, piano; Allan Reuss, guitar; Walter Page, string bass; Cozy Cole, drums [as Swing Roo (d) ] on label, Billie Holiday, vocal; New York, November 1, 1937:
This post is for Cooper (who obviously has so much to teach us) and my friend, for Charles of Sammut, for Penny Bengels, Pika Skjelbred, Winston and Harriet Comba, and a thousand other sentient beings who know how to love, how to frolic.
And if you think I demean Lady by linking her to Cooper, consider this:
and this, which even though it’s stiffly posed, the dogs don’t mind:
and this tenderness:
May your happiness increase!