Tag Archives: Edgar Leslie

A BLUE-EYED PAIR and A WEE HEAD

Small painful ironies emerge even in the midst of listening to and thinking about beautiful music. Ivie Anderson and the Duke Ellington Orchestra recorded the Edgar Leslie-Joe Burke song AT A DIXIE ROADSIDE DINER in July 1940 and played it on a broadcast:

The elaborate video production is the work of Tim Gracyk. But what concerns me is that these African-American musicians were singing and playing a love song in praise of a specific locale “in the heart of Caroline,” a favorite of New York City / Hollywood songwriters — where a blue-eyed pair fall in love.  However, when the Ellington band toured the American South, the roadside diners wouldn’t allow them inside or sell them food. Did it hurt to sing and play this song?

On that same emotional path . . . Lorenz Hart was a gay man at a time when his love had to be concealed.  (And he thought himself physically unattractive.)  But he spent his career turning out one song after another in praise of heterosexual bliss, or at least bliss that a heterosexual listening public could identify as their kind of attachment.  “With your wee head upon me knee,” in BLUE ROOM, is the first example that comes to mind, and there are many more.  It’s very clearly a he-and-she marriage with a trousseau, the prospect of children, and more, in this sweet performance from 1926 by the Revelers.

Did that wound him with each new song? We can’t know, but merely considering these hurts is in itself painful.

May your happiness increase!

DO YOU HAVE A JOB TO OFFER THESE YOUNG WOMEN?

WOMEN ON BENCH 1928 Paris

I know the economy is improving, but even the most gifted job applicants sometimes have trouble finding the work they seek. This distressing situation was dramatized in music by Tamar Korn, vocal; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Joanna Sternberg, string bass; Wanda Seeley, the Singing Pride of Bozeman, Montana –July 26, 2015, at Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street in New York City — through this song:

I'M AN UNEMPLOYED SWEETHEART

I imagine the scenario: the songwriters at their desk in the Brill Building, 1931:

“Look at this.  So many people unemployed.  But people don’t want to sing about that.  People want songs that make them forget their troubles.”

“Yeah, but how many songs can we write about moonlight on my canoe with you — when those poor slobs are hungry?”

“Wait.  I NEED A JOB IN LOVE.  No.  I NEED THE JOB OF BEING YOUR SWEETIE.”

“How about I NEED A JOB UNDER THE COVERS WITH YOU AND I’M A HARD WORKER“?

Long pause for cogitation and regrouping.

“How about I’M AN UNEMPLOYED SWEETHEART“?

And an obscure masterpiece — made famous by Lee Morse — was born.

Fortunately for us, the four people in the video have jobs that they do so splendidly.  We cherish them.

May your happiness increase!

 

DANCE, SIN, and HEAT

 no sinUsing Walter Donaldson’s melody and Edgar Leslie’s lyrics, Spats Langham, Mike Durham, Paul Munnery, Norman Field, Martin Litton, Frans Sjostrom, and Debbie Arthurs explain this trio of concepts to the crowd at Whitley Bay, even though it was pleasantly cool in the room. 

But two pairs of dancers — one of them stride wizard Paul Asaro (in the checked shirt) and the energetic Bridget Calzaretta — didn’t need the song’s lyrics to encourage them.  (If the other couple sees this and wants to identify themselves, they can have their names immortalized here, too.)

And for those of you who’d like to have something to sing to yourself as you mop your brow, here are the lyrics, both verse and chorus:

Verse: Dancing may do this and that, and help you take off lots of fat.

But I’m no friend of dancing when it’s hot.

So if you are a dancing fool, who loves to dance but can’t keep cool,

Bear in mind the idea that I’ve got.

Chorus: When it gets too hot for comfort, and you can’t get ice cream cones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

When the lazy syncopation of the music softly moans,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

The polar bears aren’t green up in Greenland, they’ve got the right idea.

They think it’s great to refrigerate while we all cremate down here.

Just be like those Bamboo Babies, in the South Sea tropic zones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Chorus: When you’re calling up your sweetie in those hot house telephones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

When you’re on a crowded dance floor, near those red hot saxophones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Just take a look at the girls while they’re dancing. Notice the way that they’re dressed.

They wear silken clothes without any hose and nobody knows the rest.

If a gal wears X-ray dresses, and shows everything she owns,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.