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Mark Steyn

Steyn's Song of the Week

The Quality of Mercer

Mark is en route to New York to start a week of media appearances to launch his new book, The [Un]documented Mark Steyn. You can find full details in our "On The Air" box at right. Hugh Hewitt, who'll be interviewing Mark on Monday, says:

"Moon River and Me" @MarkSteynOnline '09 essay on Johnny Mercer alone worth the price of book

Well, that's very kind of Hugh. So, to mark the book's publication tomorrow, here's a little bit more of Steyn on "Moon River" and him. Five years ago, Mark presented a two-part audio special to celebrate the centenary of Johnny Mercer. One of the most successful and prolific of American songwriters, John Herndon Mercer was born November 18th 1909 in Savannah, Georgia. In this encore presentation of part one of Mark's centenary tribute, he introduces the Mercer catalogue with performances of "Moon River", "Jeepers Creepers", "Fools Rush In", "Blues In The Night", "Too Marvelous For Words", "Ac-Cen-Tchu-Ate The Positive", "That Old Black Magic", "Goody Goody", "Hooray For Hollywood", "Skylark" and many more, as sung by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Fred Astaire, k d lang, Louis Armstrong, Rita Hayworth, the Mills Brothers, Rosemary Clooney, Clint Eastwood and others, including Johnny Mercer himself. Simply click the button above - and be singing along within seconds.

"Moon River And Me", Mark's essay on Mercer, appears in The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, which is published today in the US and Canada. You can buy it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million in America, or Indigo-Chapters, Amazon and McNally-Robinson above the 49th Parallel. It's also available in eBook format via Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks et al.

And stay tuned for Part Two of Mark's audio tribute to Johnny Mercer next weekend at SteynOnline.

from Steyn's Song of the Week, October 19, 2014

 

Night And Day

What's the connection between the Muslim call to prayer and Fred Astaire?

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(You'd Be So) Easy To Love

Eighty years ago this month Cole Porter wrote one of the loveliest ballads in the American Songbook:

You'd be so Easy To Love
So easy to idolize, all others above...

A top-rank Porter standard, recorded by Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Artie Shaw, Johnny Mathis, Carmen McRae, Charlie Parker, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Bill Evans, Julie London, Stephane Grappelli, Sammy Davis Jr, Doris Day, and on and on and on, forever. Yet the guy it was written for didn't care for it. William Gaxton was the leading man in Porter's new Broadway show Anything Goes, and eight decades ago he and the rest of the cast were getting ready to open in Boston at the end of the month...

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The Party's Over/Just In Time

It's twenty years since Jule Styne died - back in September 1994. By then he was the last of the Broadway giants, the composer of Funny Girl, Peter Pan and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and perhaps the greatest of all American musicals Gypsy; the prodigious hitmaker of "Time After Time" and "People" and "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend"; the guy who'd supplied all those sidewalk Santas and shopping malls with "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" I write about him in Mark Steyn's American ...

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Loch Lomond

Continuing our post-referendum Scottish theme this weekend, here's a song whose best-known lines figured in a lot of glib commentary in recent weeks - "Will Scotland take the high road, etc?" This essay is adapted from Mark's book A Song For The Season, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the Steyn store: O you'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road And I'll be in Scotland afore ye... The best known Scottish song of all time is the one about ...

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Can't Take My Eyes Off You/The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore

Mark celebrates the late Bob Crewe and two Sixties classics

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God Bless America

The following essay is adapted from Mark's book A Song For The Season: In the weeks after September 11th, several commentators wanted to know why everyone was singing "God Bless America" rather than the national anthem. The song was everywhere in those early days, and various musicologists were called upon to speculate learnedly on why this song had caught the public mood: Perhaps "The Star-Spangled Banner" requires too great a range, perhaps its complex use of melismas demands a professional ...

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Over The Rainbow

Last week we marked the 75th anniversary of The Wizard Of Oz, but without getting to the film's big song. It's about five minutes in, when we're still in drab, dusty, cheerless, broken-down black-&-white Kansas. Dorothy has tried to tell her folks about an unpleasant incident involving Miss Gulch, but Aunt Em advises her to "stop imagining things" and "find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble". Dorothy wanders off, taking the injunction seriously. "Do you think there is such a ...

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Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead

This month marks the 75th anniversary of one of the greatest and most enduring film musicals ever made, and one of the few to match the dramatic ambition of the best Broadway shows. The Wizard Of Oz gave us a standard song that won the Oscar that year and was potent enough to provide Eva Cassidy with a posthumous hit in the 21st century. We'll get to that next week, but for this week's Song of the Week here's one of my personal favorites from a truly marvelous score: Ding-Dong! The Witch Is ...

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They Didn't Believe Me

When this weekly feature began eight and a half years ago, our Song of the Week Number One was "San Francisco", to mark the centenary of the 1906 earthquake. But, if I'd been thinking about a Number One song in more profound terms, our Number One song would have been the song we're finally getting round to almost a decade later - because this week's song was really the Number One song for an entire school of songs. As Mel Tormé put it, when Jerome Kern composed this melody, he "invented the popular song". If your idea of a popular song is "Call Me Maybe" or "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" or "The Tennesee Waltz", Tormé's claim is a bit of a stretch. But it's not unreasonable to claim that with this tune Kern invented what we now call the American Songbook - standards that endure across the decades and can be sung and played in almost any style. It is, thus, the Number One Song, the first and most influential entry in that American Songbook...

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A Greasepaint Medley

Three hit songs from one flop Sixties musical

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The Boy Next Door part two

To mark the centenary of composer Hugh Martin, here's the second part of Mark's two-part audio tribute to the man who gave the world "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"...

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I'll Never Smile Again/Put Your Dreams Away

As I mentioned yesterday, we're having a mini-Canadian festival on this long weekend for Simcoe Day and whatnot. This month marks the centenary of one of my favorite Canadian songwriters, albeit one who retired far too early, and we're celebrating with her two biggest hits. The section on "I'll Never Smile Again" is adapted from my book A Song For The Season: "I'll Never Smile Again/Until I smile at you..."

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(I'm In Love With) A Wonderful Guy

A few weeks back, apropos "June Is Bustin' Out All Over", I mentioned that we hadn't done a lot of "month" songs in the years we've been running this feature. Some months - mostly spring ("April Showers", "April In Paris") and fall ("September Song", "September In The Rain") - seem to lend themselves to musicalization. If "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" is about as big a hit title as the sixth month of the year has ever produced, the eighth (which looms this very week) can't even manage a title ...

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Cinderella Rockefella

What with all the Jew-hate around on the streets of Europe in recent days, I thought it would be nice to have a big Europop hit from that fleeting cultural moment when the Continentals regarded Israel not merely as a normal sovereign state but in fact a rather cool and enviable one...

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Fly Me To The Moon

I wouldn't want June to recede too far into the rear mirror without noting that it marked the 50th anniversary of a great and historic recording that, before the Sixties were out, burst the bounds of the planet. In June 1964, Frank Sinatra and Count Basie were in the studio making their second album together, It Might As Well Be Swing. The arranger was Quincy Jones, and his work for the set included a chart Frank kept in the act all the way to his very last concert...

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How About You?

Dominion Day looms - on Tuesday. We always like to have a Canadian song for the national holiday, and what could be more Canadian than...

I like New York in June
How About You?

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Put On A Happy Face

Some musical advice from Mark's graduation season

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Nessun dorma

The all-time great World Cup song

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Georgia On My Mind

Steyn celebrates the song Ray Charles used to hum in the back of his car on the way to the gig - until one day his driver told him to record it.

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June Is Bustin' Out All Over

Well, it's the beginning of June and that means June is bustin' out all over! Except that June doesn't really bust, does it..?

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The Battle Hymn of the Republic

This essay is adapted from Mark's book A Song For The Season:

Memorial Day in America – or, if you're a real old-timer, Decoration Day, a day for decorating the graves of the Civil War dead. The songs many of those soldiers marched to are still known today – "The Yellow Rose Of Texas", "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", "Dixie". But this one belongs in a category all its own...

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Yesterday When I Was Young/She

Ninety years ago this Thursday a baby boy was born in Paris ...well, that was the first unexpected plot twist. He was supposed to be born in America...

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Waterloo

Four decades ago, "Waterloo" hit Number One in the British charts, and the four Swedes never looked back, except to check whether their hot pants had split...

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My Lady Nicotine

Mark explores the art of the cigarette song

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Tea For Two

One of the biggest pop standards of the 20th century celebrates its 90th birthday this month. Exactly nine decades ago - April 21st 1924 - a new musical comedy opened in Chicago on its pre-Broadway tour. The plot was the usual fluff - three couples in Atlantic City, complications ensue, etc. It should have been a breeze, but it wasn't going well...

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Rock Around The Clock

Six decades ago - April 12th 1954 - a chubby-faced kiss-curled man pushing 30 with a backing group named after a theory published in Synopsis Astronomia Cometicae in 1705 went into the recording studio at the Pythian Temple on West 70th Street in New York and sang a song written by a man born in the 19th century...

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Luck Be A Lady

A musical postscript to our Marlon Brando movie night

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Blue Moon

A Rodgers & Hart classic - after three false starts...

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Till There Was You

The 50th anniversary of the Beatles' only showtune

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On The Good Ship Lollipop/Animal Crackers In My Soup

Shirley Temple - singer, dancer, actress, and rock'n'roller

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Angel Eyes

Mark celebrates a classic saloon song

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Almost Like Being In Love

A song for Groundhog Day?

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The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Pete Seeger and the "folk song" he stole

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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Number One in January 1934 ...and January 1959

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A Marshmallow World

Mark tells the story behind "his" Christmas song, and presents an audio special celebrating the man who wrote it...

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The Boy Next Door

Hugh Martin, composer, lyricist, vocal arranger, pianist, singer, actor and the man who gave the world the great seasonal gift of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", was born one hundred years ago this week...

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Camelot

As the years go by I grow less and less interested in grassy knolls and all the rest, but I am struck by one genuine, non-conspiracy-theorist feature of November 22nd 1963...

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All Or Nothing At All

Mark celebrates the very first entry in the Sinatra Songbook - and one that stayed with him from big bands to disco

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Ain't That A Kick - Sammy Cahn All The Way

(Audio)To mark the centenary of one of the most successful songwriters of all time, Steyn presents a brand new Song of the Week audio edition, celebrating the man who wrote "Come Fly With Me", "Teach Me Tonight", "The Tender Trap", "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!", "All The Way", "Call Me Irresponsible", "My Kind Of Town (Chicago Is)", and many more.

It's over two hours of great music and stories, including special material from the SteynOnline archives.

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Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?

For Bastille Day it seemed appropriate to have a French number for our Song of the Week. Unfortunately, this one's British, but it does have an accordion...

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An Esther Williams Medley

To mark the passing of MGM's million-dollar mermaid: "On A Slow Boat To China", and "Baby, It's Cold Outside".

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Light My Fire

How a psychedelic anthem from the summer of love became an easy-listening blockbuster

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What A Diff'rence A Day Made

A day late for Cinco de Mayo, here's Steyn's Song of the Week: the most successful composition by Mexico's first successful female composer.

~and don't forget, if you like Mark's Song of the Week essays, some of his most requested are collected in his book A Song For The Season - including many songs for national days, from "America The Beautiful" to "Waltzing Matilda". You can order your personally autographed copy exclusively from the SteynOnline bookstore.

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The Sheik of Araby

April 29th apparently marks the anniversary of the launch of the Islamic conquest of the Iberian peninsula in the year 711. So I thought it would be fun to have a suitably Islamo-dominant number for our Song of the Week.

~and don't forget, some of Mark's most popular Song of the Week essays are collected in his book A Song For The Season. You can order your personally autographed copy exclusively from the SteynOnline bookstore.

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Easter Parade

An audio special in which Mark traces the story of the only Easter standard in the American songbook

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ON THE AIR

On Monday Mark launches his new book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn live coast to coast on TV with Fox & Friends at 8:15am Eastern Time on Monday morning and live on radio with Sean Hannity Monday afternoon, 3pm Eastern Time/ 12 noon Pacific

~Later he joins The Hugh Hewitt Show nationwide at 6pm ET/ 3pm PT

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