Steyn's Song of the Week
For the next two months Georgia's on everybody's mind ...but don't let that put you off the song
A live-performance video edition featuring two of our favorite guests - singer/pianist Carol Welsman and guitarist Russell Malone
Mark on a classic standard - now and forever
Songs about statues, marching through Georgia, virus-infected felines, and taking the town of Minneapolis...
Mark on a classic song - for good times and bad
Mark on a classic song with one tune and four different lyrics
Mark celebrates a quintessentially American song, and wishes he could find a five-and-ten-cent store to find a million-dollar baby in...
Mark remembers Herbert Kretzmer, lyricist of Les MisĂ©rables, "Yesterday When I Was Young" and much more
Someday When I'm awf'lly low When the world is cold I will feel a glow Just thinking of you... On the radio the other day, Hugh Hewitt played (for his missus) Sinatra's recording of "The Way You Look Tonight" and then mused that he had no idea who sang it originally. So I put him wise: Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers in the film Swing Time (1936). Then we got back to the usual stuff about immigration and jihad. But you'd be amazed how often the answer to "Who sang that song originally?" is Fred Astaire. He died 20 years ago this week - June 22nd 1987 - and without him the catalogues of America's greatest songwriters might be quite a bit smaller. He introduced a big chunk of the biggest songs by Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and ...
Come on an' hear! Come on an' hear! How's that for an opening? A chorus that tells you, in its very first line, listen up, you're about to hear something! What followed was "the alarm clock that awoke American popular music". That's how Alan Jay Lerner, the author of Camelot and My Fair Lady, described it to me many years ago, and you don't have to accept that premise one hundred per cent to recognize that "Alexander's Ragtime Band" was a landmark, a phenomenon, an alarm clock if not for "American popular music" then at least for its most successful practitioner. Irving Berlin is the composer and lyricist of our Song of the Week #22 ("God Bless America"), #37 ("White Christmas"), #59 ("Cheek To Cheek") and #124 ("Easter Parade"). But ...
An Australian classic via Dusty Springfield's brother and a peerless Carry Om trouser-dropper
Mark on the "Father of the Blues" and his biggest hit
A blockbuster twentieth-century hit from a nineteenth-century folk song
A classic song for the season
A jazz classic for almost a century
The best known Brazilian song on the planet
When Chicago burned, I offered a song about Chicago. So, with Kenosha burning, I thought I'd offer a song about Kenosha...
Paul Simon and Dana join Mark for a musical wander through Truman Capote's fantasies, the Hong Kong blues, and the glory days of Eurovision
A town that's no longer toddlin'
A novelty song that a surprising number of people claim to have written
Mark celebrates the first American Number One record - and a Canadian song
A special edition of our Song of the Week with a brace of 007 guests: Bond lyricist Don Black (Diamonds Are Forever) and Bond villain Robert Davi (License To Kill) are on hand to celebrate the first British song to win an Oscar:
Nobody dances like Zizi Jeanmaire
A live Song of the Week with the irrepressible Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits and a great pop song by Les Reed and Geoff Stephens:
A big song for a suddenly smaller state
A song about love of country ...from a hardcore leftist
Toppled along with Francis Scott Key and Ulysses S Grant, a great song
Mark remembers Vera Lynn and two iconic songs of the war years
Mark plays "Misty" for Clint
A Lee Hazlewood song that transformed Nancy Sinatra
Mark celebrates the centenary of a great singer who also wrote great songs
A classic hit for Tom Jones' eightieth birthday
The coronavirus has wiped out all musical events, so in lieu we're presenting the first ever all-request audio edition of Steyn's Song of the Week...
Mark on Eurovision's all-time champ
No hip-hooray or ballyhoo of Broadway, but the milkman's on his way (back)
Songs to quarantine to
On its 75th birthday, an old song is the new Number One
Words of wisdom from Paul McCartney's mum
Okay, enough with the end of the world as we know it. Time for something jollier...
Oh, okay, might as well go with the flow...
A song by Mel Tillis that found its perfect interpreter in Kenny Rogers
The ultimate one-hit wonder: a two-decade-old showtune from a so-so forgotten musical revived for an embarrassingly awful flop film sung by a guy who couldn't sing
Simon, Garfunkel, and some troubled water that proved impossible to bridge
A much parodied song, from Allan Sherman to Adolf Hitler
Welcome to the second part of our musical tour through the Oval Office. Here come presidents 23 to 45, Harrison to Trump, via songs from Jimmy Cagney to Jay-Z...
A SteynOnline audio special featuring 45 songs for 45 presidents
Mark celebrates Oscar Night with an Oscar loser
The only song we could pick for Britain's first weekend out of the European Union
A song for a prince, and headline writers everywhere
Happy Australia Day with a great Australian dame's most Australian hit
The first Number One hit of the Seventies
Remembering Jerry Herman with a classic showtune - and a Number One record
Don't put this record on while I pour
An orchestral lollipop and a Christmas classic
Steyn marks the eightieth birthday of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
with special guests Elisabeth von Trapp and Hanno Schilf
Mark celebrates the bicentennial of a beloved Christmas song first performed two centuries ago - Christmas Eve 1818 - in a small church in Oberndorf, Austria...
Mark and Irving Berlin's daughter discuss the genesis of one of the most beloved Christmas standards
An enduring Christmas song that started out as a Thanksgiving song
A live-performance special starring a rock legend going all the way back to his days with The Guess Who and "American Woman" - Randy Bachman...
One of the great characters of Tin Pan Alley tells Mark about two of his biggest hits
What's the connection between the Black Sox Scandal, the punk band Cockney Rejects, the pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, one of the most popular boy's names in Estonia, and this weekend's edition of Mark at the Movies..?
Mark introduces Tal Bachman's live performance of a classic American song
An anthem for rebellious youth written by a guy born in the nineteenth century
Mark celebrates a Bacharach & David classic
As nobody else seems to celebrate Columbus Day, we might as well...
Johnny Mercer loved trains, and he loved writing train songs. And his very first train was just pulling out of his Grand Central Station exactly eighty years ago...
What's the connection between the Muslim call to prayer and Frank Sinatra?
Three quarters of a century ago this week's song was in the midst of a nine-week run at Number One. It's stuck around through all the decades since - which is unusual because it's not a timeless love ballad, but a cautionary tale for slacker schoolkids set among the grubbier habituĂ©s of the barnyard. It was introduced in the film Going My Way, in which Bing Crosby played an...
The composer Jule Styne died a quarter-century ago this month - September 1994. Everybody knows at least one Jule Styne tune ("Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!") and most of us know a few more...
The eightieth birthday of a classic movie song
A George Harrison song that eventually escaped the elevator
George Shearing's lone but lustrous contribution to the American songbook
From Leoncavallo to Frank Sinatra Jr: An operatic aria that inspired a whole sub-genre of pop songs...
A special audio edition celebrating one of the jewels of the American Songbook
The first man-made song to be played on the moon
Today is le 14 juillet, and I chance to find myself on French soil. So, in the waning hours of the national holiday, it seemed appropriate to pick something suitably Gallic for our Chanson de la Semaine. How about..? "Je me lĂ¨ve et je te bouscule/Tu n'te rĂ©veilles pas/Comme d'habitude..." Which you may know better as: "And now the end is near/And so I face/The final curtain..." I confess a preference for Gilles Thibault's French text over Paul Anka's English rewrite, but, if we're going with anglicized franco-pop I think we should try and pick something that at least retains something of the flavor of the old country...
The centenary of two important aviation milestones in aviation prompts a celebration of the heyday of the aeroplane song
Mark celebrates an ĂĽber-standard from Bing and Tamara to the Queen Mum and Monica Lewinsky
A bum lyric, an old tune, a wrong key and a yelled vocal
"Moon River" and them: Mark on a great songwriting partnership
Freddie Mercury meets Stephen Sondheim at Wembley Stadium
Ovine husbandry tips from Rodgers & Hammerstein
Mark invites Paul Sorvino to reveal the connection between a great American actor and one of the most beloved songs on the planet:
The convoluted tale of the biggest hit to come out of Africa
From Babe Ruth to Shostakovich, the story of a classic song
Mark celebrates the shortest song titles of the last hundred years
For this week's live-music edition of Steyn's Song of the Week, Maria Muldaur temporarily abandons "Midnight at the Oasis" for a wild jungle ride:
The city that let no stranger wait outside its door - until Nancy Pelosi started to object
The definitive mid-century Broadway showtune, from Ezio Pinza and Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan and Harrison Ford
A brand new live-performance edition, with a very brooding ballad from 12-time Grammy winner Cheryl Bentyne:
Why are there so few songs for the fools of April?
Tomorrow is EU Talent Day, whatever that is. Nevertheless, we've been marking it all weekend long. With another week of my life about to be lost to legal torments, I said yesterday that EU Talent-wise I was in the mood for some low, vulgar comedy. Twenty-four hours later, I find myself instead partial to pure, translucent beauty - of which there is an increasing dearth in our world. EU Talent Day was created at some Eurosummit in Budapest, so I thought I'd pick something Hungarian...
A song for St Patrick's Day
From a tearoom in Wimbledon to a frigate on the Yangtse
In honor of the Miller/Steyn sellout appearance at the Kodak Center, Mark's favorite song by a composer from Rochester, New York
The first ever song to win an Academy Award
A tennis match, a glider, and a psychedelic lyric
The ageing of the dawn of Aquarius
Mark celebrates Banjo Paterson and a lyric that's all but incomprehensible yet nevertheless captures the spirit of a great nation - with bonus romantic francophone version
Bobby Troup was born one hundred years ago and, by way of celebration, here's his biggest hit - sung and played by Tal Bachman live on the inaugural Mark Steyn Club Cruise:
Seven decades ago the Billboard pop chart began the New Year with a Number One hit that was also on its way to winning an Oscar
Exactly sixty years ago - in January 1959 - the Platters had the Number One record in America. And exactly 85 years ago - Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra had the Number One record in America. And oddly enough they both did it with the same song: They asked me how I knew My true love was true... Or as the Platters sang it: The-e-e-ey asked me how I knew... But never mind how many syllables encrust to a one-syllable word over the decades. In more than one hundred years of American pop charts, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" is the only song ever to be Number One in the same week in different quarter-centuries. Who knows? If only Lionel Richie or Deniece Williams had thought to cover it in 1984, we might have had a hat trick. As to which of those ...
Here's the second biggest New Year number after "Auld Lang Syne". I explain the song's background - and then take a crack at it live:
An umbrella, a convertible, and a rock'n'roll Christmas song
A Sinatra classic, authenticated by Steyn and Sotheby's
Flash! Bam! Alakazam! And Delugg?
Song of the Week #79 by Harry Warren and Al Dubin All weekend at SteynOnline we've been marking the tenth anniversary of Broadway Babies Say Goodnight, with a medley of the book's greatest hits, the original excerpt from The Independent, a special birthday book offer, and a round-up of reviews from the British press. But I couldn't let the anniversary pass without addressing a song that is nowhere mentioned by name in the text, except for two oblique references, one on page 152 and the other bang on the front cover: The title alludes to a lyric - When a Broadway baby says goodnight It's early in the morning... In all the reviews, I believe only one critic so much as mentioned the provenance of the title, and that had to wait till the US ...
To mark his eightieth birthday, some of Gordon Lightfoot's best songs
"The war to end all wars" was also a bonanza for Tin Pan Alley. More songs were written for the First World War than for any other war before or since, and many of them resonate to this day...
The absolutely biggest musical success by any American governor
For the days before Halloween, something a little spooky and bewitching...
Two contrasting songs from lyricist Jack Segal
A song with everything but a title
How a one-night audience volunteer helped enable a Peggy Lee classic
Mark on Carolina's biggest song, and dance
The first song in the Sinatra songbook - and a personal credo
The second most successful Italian song of all time
The centenary of Alan Jay Lerner, who wrote some of the biggest Hollywood and Broadway hits of all time
Mark remembers Aretha Franklin, songwriter
Steyn previews the very first Mark Steyn Club Cruise with a suitably nautical pop song
A strange enchanted boy who wrote a strange enchanted song
With the recent release of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in movie theaters and the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace on Friday, we thought we'd join in on the Abba fever by revisiting this piece by Mark on Abba, Eurovision and Waterloo: It was all more harmonious in the old days. One recalls the 1990 Eurovision finals in Zagreb, when the charming hostess, Helga VlahoviÄ‡, presented her own fair country as the perfect Eurometaphor: "Yugoslavia is very much like an orchestra," she cooed. "The string section and the wood section all sit together." Alas, barely were the words out of her mouth before the wood section was torching the string section's dressing rooms, and the hills were alive only with the ancient siren songs of ethnic ...
This essay is adapted from Mark's book A Song For The Season: Summer is icumen in and one's thoughts turn naturally to a song for the season. A good summer song has to be more than just a tune with a seasonal lyric. There are zillions of those: Here Comes Summer School is out, oh happy day... Which original lyric has been blotted out in my mind and replaced with some long ago jingle: Here Comes Summer Now let's get fresh with FabergĂ©... But there's no real scent of summer in the tune. I like a song that gives you a palpable whiff of time and place: Memphis In June A shady veranda Under a Sunday-blue sky Memphis In June And cousin Miranda Making a rhubarb pie... Hoagy Carmichael was one of the few big-time Tin Pan Alley A-list composers ...
Paul Sorvino will be receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame later this year. Beyond his myriad film credits, Sorvino is also the nephew of the subject of Eduardo di Capua's classic operatic song, O Sole Mio.
Nancy Sinatra Sr., first wife of Frank Sinatra and mother of his three children, died Friday at 101. Here's a look back at what Mark had to say about Frank, Nancy and "Our Love": Someday someone should release an album called Classical Frank. I mentioned a couple of days ago that "Take My Love" was adapted from Brahms' Third Symphony. Aside from Brahms (whose Lullaby he also recorded), Sinatra sang over the years Anton Rubinstein, Grieg, Rachmaninov, Ravel and Borodin. That's to say, "If You Are But A Dream" (Rubinstein's Romance No 1), "I Love You" and "Strange Music" (Grieg's "Ich Liebe Dich" and "Wedding Day At Troldhaugen", respectively), "Full Moon And Empty Arms" and "I Think Of You" (both from Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto), ...
Happy Dominion Day to Mark's fellow Canadians. We were thrilled to see that among the inductees into the Order of Canada today is a great friend of our musical endeavors here, Patsy Gallant.
The all-time greatest World Cup anthem
The sun'll come out tomorrow (although in this case it took a little longer than that)
A great American composer, and a beloved song everyone loves to sing
Musick for a Royal romance - that's "musick" as in Master of the Queen's Musick and Handel's Musick for the Royal Fireworks, although it may also accurately convey the effect the last week's torrent of Royal Wedding gush has had on you...
The twentieth anniversary of the death of Frank Sinatra
Today marks one year of The Mark Steyn Club, and so there's really only one song we could pick...
As we approach the first anniversary of The Mark Steyn Club, we'll be presenting some musical celebrations as part of the festivities - in this case, the 75th anniversary of our Song of the Week theme tune...
A classic American song celebrates its one hundredth birthday
Steyn on a Louis Armstrong classic his record company did its best to sabotage
Baseball season is here, and so, after 108 years, is this classic American anthem
Mark picks out some music and song for the one hundredth birthday of the Royal Air Force
One hundred years ago today - March 25th 1918 - a five-man band went into the Victor Studios in New York, and emerged with three minutes of manic abandon...
Paul McCartney's favorite of his "non-Beatles songs", written for the former hatcheck girl at the Cavern Club
Mark celebrates a cowboy classic
From Porter to Saddam via Whitney
One hundred years of a Dixie melody that's actually a Hungarian melody
P G Wodehouse, novelist ...and songwriter
Mark celebrates one of the biggest-selling discs ever, from the dawn of the record biz
The hit parade gets religion
Mark salutes Mel Tillis and an unforgettable song about a "crazy Asian war"
Mark remembers Keely Smith, and a signature song courtesy of Charles Trenet
Mark celebrates the classic song for the chimes of midnight
Steyn tips his hat to Hugh Martin and takes "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" on a merry ride:
Song of the Week #152 by Johnny Marks This Christmas at SteynOnline we've been marking the centenary of Johnny Marks, born November 10th 1909. We celebrate his most famous Yuletide hit here, and you can hear a unique bilingual version from my friends Monique Fauteux, one of the great treasures of Quebec music, and DorothĂ©e Berryman, star of the Oscar-winning film Barbarian Invasions/Les Invasions Barbares, with a little help from yours truly, as the finale to this year's Mark Steyn Christmas Show. If Johnny Marks had written nothing but "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer", he would have gone down in his-to-ree. And 60 years ago it was such a blockbuster hit that anyone would have found it a hard act to follow. Nevertheless, he did follow it. ...
We're honored to present another live-performance edition of Mark's Song of the Week. Patsy Gallant has sung rock, jazz, disco, musical theatre, but she has a special connection with Piaf, whom she met when she was a child performer in Quebec:
If you saw singer/pianist Carol Welsman do "As Time Goes By" as our Sunday song a few weeks back, you'll know that she can freshen up the most familiar standard. So we're thrilled to have Carol back live, accompanied by the Steyn house band:
Mark celebrates the seventieth birthday of a classic novelty song
Mark remembers Jon Hendricks, and a Number One hit from the Sixties
The last song Oscar Hammerstein ever wrote
Mark celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of the Beatles' only showtune
What's the connection between Puccini, Neville Chamberlain and David Bowie?
For almost half a century, this was as well known as any song in America. The man who sang it was the biggest-selling recording artist of all time, and this was the biggest-selling recording artist's theme tune, the one the band struck up at the start of every radio, TV or stage show:
Forty years ago - October 14th 1977 - a golden half-century met the blue of the night on a golf course in Madrid: After finishing 18 holes at La Moraleja with three Spanish golf champions, Bing Crosby had a massive heart attack, collapsed, and died. He'd headed to his Iberian retreat for a few days of rest and relaxation after some sell-out concerts at the London Palladium, a recording session for BBC radio, a pre-taping of his annual Christmas show, and some tracks for a new album: a typical few days for an "Old Groaner" who was old but assumed he still had plenty of groaning ahead...
One hundred years ago today - October 15th 1917 - a man called Alan Livingston was born in McDonald, Pennsylvania. You probably don't know his name, and, if you think you know your songwriters, you may be confusing him with his older brother Jay Livingston, who with Ray Evans wrote "Que Sera Sera", "Mona Lisa", "Buttons and Bows" and the urban Christmas song "Silver Bells". Jay's kid brother doesn't have a song catalogue like that, but one way or another we owe a lot of the late 20th century's best known music to him...
On this Columbus Day weekend, Christopher Columbus is close to being entirely obliterated from American life, and the barbarians have galloped on to newer targets for their rage. I mentioned yesterday how sad I was to see that in his home town a memorial to America's first great songwriter is to be dismantled and removed. Stephen Foster's songs were uniquely popular on both sides of the Civil War, but he seems less likely to survive the cold Civil War of 21st century America. And so the cultural vandals, who cannot create but can only destroy, scent another victory. In my book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, there's an entire section called "Mystic Chords" - that's an allusion to Lincoln, for all you know-nothing safe-spacers out there. It ...
Mark salutes two classic ballads from one entirely forgettable film
An entirely forgettable film produces three unforgettable songs
To see you through the hurricane: a musical celebration of the Sunshine State featuring a century and a half of Floridian songs, including a live performance of the "Miami Beach Rhumba", and veteran songwriter Irving Caesar on the Hindustani origins of "Swanee"
On the twentieth anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, a musical footnote from Elton John and Bernie Taupin
Mark celebrates the 40th anniversary of a blockbuster - and talks to the pianist and conductor who helped make it a worldwide hit
To round out our Elvis Week, I thought we'd celebrate the biggest hit song supposedly written by Elvis: These days more or less every pop star is expected to come up with his own songs. It wasn't always that way...
The composer who wrote more Elvis songs than anybody else
Mark celebrates Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, and the all-time greatest love song about a guy who works for the utilities company
Mark on a one-hit songwriter whose one hit went around the world
Mark on the 50th anniversary of an iconic psychedelic rock track turned faintly camp easy-listening classic
Another live-performance edition, with Robert Davi singing Cole Porter:
President Trump was a guest of President Macron this past week to mark not only Bastille Day but also the one hundredth anniversary of America's entry into the Great War. So, with that in mind, altogether now...
Irish hearts, lilting laughter, and a Number One hat-trick
Mark celebrates a long-lived American vocalist, Lena Horne, and her signature song by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler
One hundred and fifty years ago today - on July 1st 1867 at 12 noon - the Dominion of Canada was born. So there's really only one song we could have as our Song of the Week this weekend...
A 50th anniversary reunion for a great high school song
Song of the Week by Irving Berlin In this anniversary week of 9/11, we'll be publishing various columns old and new from today and from September 2001. But we thought we'd begin with a musical remembrance: Mark presents a special audio edition of our Song of the Week telling the story behind the song spontaneously sung by Congressional leaders on the steps of the Capitol in the wake of that murderous event. We'll hear Irving Berlin's great anthem sung by Kate Smith, CĂ©line Dion and the composer himself - and we'll explore its origins in the First World War, and in a long forgotten ethnic novelty called "When Mose With His Nose Leads The Band". This podcast is adapted from Mark's essay in his book A Song For The Season. To listen to it, ...
Steyn on songs for caped crusaders - and swingin' sexists
Song of the Week #165 by Gene de Paul and Sammy Cahn Starting with the A-B-C of it Right down to the X-Y-Z of it Help me solve the mys-te-ree of it Teach Me Tonight... Sometimes a news item brings some fragment of song bubbling up from the bottom drawer of your mental filing cabinet, and that's the quatrain that swam into mine when I read that Cherie DeCastro, the last surviving DeCastro Sister, had died. Cherie, Babette and Peggy (plus cousin Olgita, who subbed for Babette and Peggy when, for one reason or another, they'd had enough of the act) were a Cuban Andrews Sisters who showed up in Miami in the 1940s. A talent agent brought them to New York and booked them into the Copacabana, with the Will Mastin Trio, which included Sammy Davis ...
Tal Bachman is a hitmaker in his own right, and the son of Seventies rocker Randy Bachman. But Mark had him in mind for an even earlier contribution to the Maple Songbook. Live on stage, a great Canadian performer sings a great Canadian song - for the very first time:
Yesterday at SteynOnline we marked Dean Martin's hundredth anniversary this coming Wednesday with a celebration of Dean on screen. So, for our Sunday Song of the Week, I thought we'd pick a selection from the Dino songbook. As noted yesterday, the Martin centenary observances are nowhere near as extensive as the Sinatra centenary observances were. Frank and Dean were fast friends - until, at a difficult time for both men, a Rat Pack reunion led to a serious falling-out in 1989. But they had an entirely different approach to their craft. In their Vegas heyday, whatever Sinatra did, Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford tried to do too, sometimes pitifully and desperately; whatever Sinatra did, Dean just did the opposite. "I hate guys who sing ...
From The Mark Steyn Show, a valentine to one of the great iconic love songs performed live by Mark's special guest, Carol Welsman:
Mark celebrates one of the great iconic movie songs
Mark salutes an Abba classic from the glory days of Eurovision
Mark celebrates a favorite novelty number
A Bacharach & David classic celebrates its 50th anniversary
March saw, in rapid succession, Dame Vera Lynn's 100th birthday, a terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, and Theresa May formally beginning the process of British withdrawal from the European Union. The combination of events put me in mind of this song...
One of the most successful lyricists of our time, the multi-Oscar and -Tony winner Tim Rice, joins Mark to talk about one of Tim's comparatively few hits not to come from a film or show score - after which Emma Kershaw sings it live, complete with previously unheard third verse:
For this week's live-music edition of Steyn's Song of the Week, multi-Grammy-winning Cheryl Bentyne of the Manhattan Transfer sings Leon Russell's slinkiest love song:
Mark welcomes the Klezmer Conservatory Band to perform their haunting klezmerized version of his favorite Leonard Cohen song - and be sure to stay tuned for a bonus number - the irresistible "Miami Beach Rhumba":
On this year's Mark Steyn Christmas Show Mark was in sentimental mood, recalling some of his earliest festive memories from his grandparents' home in Ireland. So he asked Anthony Kearns to sing his favorite Irish Christmas carol:
The return of a festive favorite
This week's Song of the Week is one hundred years old today: that's to say, it was published by Messrs Chappell & Co of New Bond Street, London on December 4th 1916, at a price of one shilling and sixpence. And in one form or another it's been with us ever since...
Three enduring songs from one flop musical
Mark on his favorite Leonard Cohen song
The only hit song written by a candidate on a winning presidential ticket
A SteynOnline audio special on the 80th anniversary of a great Cole Porter standard
The grueling schedule of my sellout Aussie tour kept my nose mostly to the grindstone, but I did get a couple of hours off on the Victoria leg and so treated myself to a matinĂ©e of Georgy Girl: The Seekers Musical at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne...
A hit song by the great nephew of Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar
Happy Australia Day to all our readers Down Under. It's actually Tuesday, which is tomorrow, but tomorrow here is probably already yesterday there, so I may be too late. I'm looking forward to seeing many of those antipodean readers next month on my Aussie tour, which kicks off on Valentine's Day in Perth. Half the dates are already sold out, so, if you haven't booked your seats yet, don't leave it too late. Details of towns, times and tickets can be found via the IPA here. We always like to have an Oz song for Australia Day, and, what with one thing and another, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" doesn't seem to get played as often as it used to. So in lieu of that: Do you come from a land Down Under Where women glow and men plunder? Good ...
I've received a remarkable number of emails in the last week more or less taunting me to eschew my usual Jerome Kern and Cole Porter and pick a David Bowie number for our Song of the Week. Well, I like a challenge, and, given that the British press has been full of people with not a thing to say about Bowie saying it at great length, I figured that I might as well get a piece of the action. That said, it would be hard to beat this last word in Bowie-eulogizing from The Croydon Advertiser:
A backbreaker of a blockbuster, courtesy of the company sto'
Mark remembers Natalie Cole, an unforgettable song, and an unshuttupable songwriter
In case you missed it, here's our rundown of Mark's Sinatra Century - 100 years in 100 songs: 1) IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR 2) THE SONG IS YOU 3) HOME ON THE RANGE 4) AFTER YOU'VE GONE 5) IT HAD TO BE YOU 6) THE ONE I LOVE (BELONGS TO SOMEBODY ELSE) 7) LOVE'S BEEN GOOD TO ME 8) STARDUST 9) MY FUNNY VALENTINE 10) WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE? 11) CHICAGO 12) THE CONTINENTAL 13) ALL OF ME 14) WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE 15) NIGHT AND DAY 16) I WON'T DANCE 17) I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN 18) SOUTH OF THE BORDER 19) EAST OF THE SUN (AND WEST OF THE MOON) 20) ON THE ROAD TO MANDALAY 21) A FOGGY DAY (IN LONDON TOWN) 22) I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU 23) I'M A FOOL TO WANT YOU 24) OUR LOVE 25) ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL 26) I'LL NEVER SMILE AGAIN 27) FOOLS RUSH ...
A Christmas song rewritten for Sinatra
Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban launch the clash of civilizations
Mark hits a new high as he takes a crack at Mariah Carey's Christmas classic
Frank Sinatra called himself a "saloon singer," because that's where he used to sing, way back when, in Jersey juke joints and roadhouses....
Our 99th Sinatra Century song is, after "My Way", the second most performed Sinatra song written by a Canadian...
A big hit, but a tense moment in the studio
Two takes separated by four decades
The last crowd-pleaser of a six-decade career
...but not so easy to sing
The sexy polka that made a presidential inaugural speech
A timeless ballad from a Sinatra stalwart
April 14th 1937: a major expansion of the American songbook
Frank sings a classic Johnny Mercer revenge song
Via Frank and a couple of Londoners, a black American soul classic
Frank and Nancy sing Sonny and Cher
On September 19th 1979 in Los Angeles, it fell to Vinnie Falcone to conduct what would become one of the biggest Sinatra recordings of all time:
On the first of our Sinatra Century audio specials, Frank's longtime pianist and conductor Vincent Falcone talks, among other things, about the singer's relationship with the George Harrison ballad "Something". So I thought we'd spend a little time with the song as we head into the final stretch before the big 100th birthday.
In November 1968 George Harrison and his then missus Pattie Boyd attended the recording sessions in Hollywood for Sinatra's album Cycles...
Until the mid-1960s Broadway was the biggest supplier of the most enduring standards ...and then gradually it all sputtered to a halt, and even hit shows didn't produce really popular songs. With one notable exception...
By sheer coincidence, our scheduled Sinatra song is, in fact, a French song. Indeed, by further coincidence, it belongs to a lost age of Franco-Arab cultural co-mingling...
Sinatra's highly variable results with the acme of the mid-20th century showtune
Ronald Miller's hit-makers share a hot tub...
The meaning of existence, and all that jazz...
The girl who launched a song, and the song that launched an industry
The black cat who crossed Sinatra's path
In 1960, Frank Sinatra left Capitol and founded Reprise Records because he wanted to have total artistic control. But oddly, once he'd got total artistic control, he seemed disinclined to exercise it...
By 1966 it had been over a decade since Frank Sinatra had had a Number One single. It's fine to be acclaimed as a great artist, to have big-selling albums, sell out in Vegas and on world tours, and star in Hollywood movies. But, if popular singing is what you do, there's something special about a Number One hit single...
An encore presentation of Mark's audio salute to James Bond's music man, John Barry
Sinatra Sings The Sacroiliac Songbook
The song Sinatra took with him to the grave
We've been spending a little time this Columbus Day weekend with a man who was born in Columbus, Ohio exactly a century ago - October 10th 1915 - and was at Sinatra's side for some of his most thrilling records of the Fifties and Sixties: Harry "Sweets" Edison, whose trumpet mute was a big part of Frank's Capitol sound.
When you're as good a jazz player as Edison, studio sessions aren't really what you want to do. You'd much rather be in some night spot with a handful of other guys taking a full chorus for every solo...
The master of the muted trumpet, Harry "Sweets" Edison
Sinatra in London with a classic British ballad...
A bluesy ballad Sinatra sang for 30 years
Sinatra, a meadowlark, and a rhymeless romance
A classic Sinatra moment - on record, on film, on TV.
A truly great song for the season isn't about the calendar, or the weather. It's about the seasons of life and love...
According to Johnny Mercer, "Writing music takes more talent, but writing lyrics takes more courage." What he meant was that a tune can be beguiling and melancholy and intoxicating and a lot of other vagaries, but there comes a moment when you have to sit down and get specific, and put the other half of the equation on top of those notes. A songwriter spends his life chasing the umpteenth variation of "I love you"...
In honor of Alan Bergman's 90th birthday, we've been spending a little time this weekend with some of his early hits for Sinatra. Although I myself have recorded an Alan & Marilyn Bergman number, I reluctantly concede that, vocalist-wise, they're better known for their association with Barbra Streisand ("The Way We Were", "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", etc). But long before Barbra they wrote a few songs for Frank that have a different character...
Mark celebrates Alan Bergman's birthday, and one of his biggest hits...
A Sinatra song for Labor Day
A record the songwriter didn't like, of a song the singer didn't like
Steyn on a saloon song classic
Up there where the air is rarefied: Sinatra and the soundtrack of the Jet Age...
First the tide rushes in. Then you rush out and write the song...
I've always loved songs that use magic as an image of romantic seduction...
When Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle found their groove in the mid-Fifties, the music just poured out. In 1956 there was so much of it: The year began with the sessions for the defining album of the early LP era - Songs For Swingin' Lovers. It ended with the sessions for Swingin' Lovers' swingin' successor, A Swingin' Affair!...
A Sinatra signature - and the birth of a new songwriting team
The strange story of a one-hit wonder
For over half a century songwriters tried to get their best work to the best singer of the best songs. The sitcom "Frasier" devoted an entire episode to the proposition, after Dad revealed that he'd written a song for Frank, "You're Such A Groovy Lady".
But in the entire history of Getting Songs to Frank there are no luckier guys than Dave Mann and Bob Hilliard...
2015 is the centenary year not only of Frank Sinatra but also of Chet Forrest, born one hundred years ago this weekend on July 31st 1915 in Brooklyn, New York.
Chet who? Well, Robert Wright and his partner George "Chet" Forrest were never exactly household names in the music biz, but they certainly worked with a lot of household names, including Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov...
A Sinatra song that wore out a jukebox in Toms River, New Jersey...
An ode to youthful optimism
The opening of Frank Sinatra's spectacular Second Act
Frank Sinatra poses a musical question to Mitch Miller....
The early Fifties were a rough time for Sinatra - and for his voice...
We're a day away from Bastille Day, France's fĂŞte nationale, and so it seems appropriate to spend a little time with franco-Sinatra. He sang a lot of French songs over the years, most famously this:
Oh, no, wait. Frank sang the English lyric:
Frankie sings Frankie
Frank Loesser was a busy Hollywood lyricist who decided he was going to turn himself into a Hollywood lyricist-and-composer. Having pulled that off, he then decided to become one of Broadway's great musical dramatists to boot. His first stage musical, an adaptation of Charley's Aunt, opened in 1948, with a great score and a legendary showstopper of a song in "Once In Love With Amy". On our double-CD Frank Loesser centenary celebration (exclusively available from SteynOnline), you can hear me...
We had a Sinatra song from Canada for Dominion Day, and so we surely have to have an American Sinatra song for Independence Day...
Dominion Day looms - on Wednesday - and we always like to have a Canadian song for the national holiday. Sinatra recorded many maple-infused numbers over six decades, from "I'll Never Smile Again" and "Put Your Dreams Away", both by my fellow Torontonian Ruth Lowe, all the way to Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and, of course, Paul Anka's "My Way" (he wrote the English lyric). But, for a great national occasion, I figured what could be more Canadian than...
I like New York in June
A Sinatra classic - as ballad, bossa or swinger
He was the saloon singer - quarter to three, set 'em up, Joe, drinkin' again and thinkin' o' when... spinning round in my brain, like the bubbles in a glass of champagne... But Sinatra liked a non-alcoholic tipple, too. He took "Tea For Two" with Dinah Shore in 1947, and in 1960 recorded "When I Take My Sugar To Tea". But he wasn't averse to something a little more caffeinated:
Happy Father's Day to you and yours. I miss my dad more and more as the years go by. Our Sinatra Century would be incomplete without this particular entry:..
A one-hit wonder who never got to hear her one hit sung by anyone - from Sinatra to Molly Ringwald
On January 9th 1956, Frank Sinatra went into the not yet famous Studio A of Capitol Records at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles for the first of a handful of sessions for a new album...
As a companion piece to Friday's "Nancy (with the Laughing Face)", here's a Frank-and-Nancy moment from a couple of decades later...
Seventy-one years ago this Monday, June 8th, a cute little four-year-old girl was having a birthday party, and a couple of pals of her dad decided to present her with a very special gift...
Frank Sinatra rescued a lot of songs over the years, but rarely on the scale he did with this one. It was from an awe-inspiringly hideous train-wreck of a musical. But Sinatra recorded it, and made it a standard - and the only torchy ballad of lost love whose central image is of laundry...
On June 24th 1958 Nelson Riddle raised his baton, and Frank Sinatra made one of the greatest recordings of a great song...
This one stayed in Sinatra's book almost to the end, mainly because he just had so much fun singing it...
What's the connection between Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rooney?
Oh, that's easy. They were both married to Ava Gardner.
What's the connection between Frank Sinatra and William Shakespeare?
Hmm, well, lemme see...
In the pithy summation of Terry Teachout, Alec Wilder "spent his life looking for cracks to fall through". Back in the days when we still had record stores, he didn't quite fit the pop bins or the classical bins or the jazz bins. Which is why, if you're hung up on categorization, it's easier to leave him out of the store altogether...
Many years ago - when a lot of the guys who wrote the American Songbook were still around - I started asking composers and lyricists to name their all-time favorite song. This one came right at the top...
As much as "It Had To Be You" or "The Way You Look Tonight", "I'll Be Seeing You" belongs to a select group of über-standards, the ones we'll still be singing when 90 per cent of the rest have fallen away. It's one of those "our song" songs - especially if you happened to find yourself on a railway platform in the early 1940s waving a loved one off to war...
When I first got interested in the great standard songs as a teenager, I sort of assumed that they were all written by the big names - Cole Porter, Gershwin. It took a while to dawn that not everything from, say, the Thirties was concocted by a major writer for a famous Broadway score or a Fred Astaire movie. So after a while, when I heard a song I liked, I'd say, "Hey, I wonder who wrote that." Quite often, the answer would be "Matt Dennis & Tom Adair". Let's just stick to the Sinatra end of their catalogue: Who wrote "The Night We Called It A Day"? Matt Dennis & Tom Adair. Who wrote "Let's Get Away From It All"? Matt Dennis & Tom Adair. Who wrote "Violets For Your Furs"? Matt Dennis & Tom Adair. Who wrote "Angel Eyes"? Matt Dennis. Who wrote "There's No You"? Tom Adair. And who wrote..?
Before St George's Day fades for another year, I thought we'd have a Sinatra English song
"Fools Rush In" isn't thought of as a Sinatra song. If you were anywhere near a jukebox or a transistor radio in the early Sixties, you'll think of it in Ricky Nelson's bouncy-bouncy teenypop arrangement. But once upon a time the song was new, and Frank Sinatra was the guy singing it...
We began the week with Sinatra's one big hit with the Harry James band. We end it with his first big hit with the Tommy Dorsey band. This essay contains material from Mark's book A Song For The Season:
It was June 1939 and the singer Louise Tobin was in her room in the Lincoln Hotel in Manhattan, packing for a gig in Boston with Bobby Hackett's band. Her hubby was napping on the bed. He was a trumpeter, name of Harry James, who'd just left Benny Goodman to put together his own orchestra. The radio was carrying a remote from some joint in New Jersey, and a male vocalist came on...
Someday someone should release an album called Classical Frank. I mentioned a couple of days ago that "Take My Love" was adapted from Brahms' Third Symphony. Aside from Brahms (whose Lullaby he also recorded), Sinatra sang over the years Anton Rubinstein, Grieg, Rachmaninov, Ravel and Borodin. That's to say, "If You Are But A Dream" (Rubinstein's Romance No 1), "I Love You" and "Strange Music" (Grieg's "Ich Liebe Dich" and "Wedding Day At Troldhaugen", respectively), "Full Moon And Empty Arms" and "I Think Of You" (both from Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto), "The Lamp Is Low" (Ravel's Pavane pour une infante dĂ©funte)...
2015 is not only the centenary year of Frank Sinatra but also of Billie Holiday, born April 7th 1915 in Philadelphia. We will mark the occasion formally a little later this week, and acknowledge Sinatra's admiration for Holiday. But the respect was mutual, and on Billie Holiday's last major recording the stand-out track was a Sinatra song...
When Frank Sinatra was 18, it was a very good year. Anything Goes opened at the Alvin Theatre in November 1934 and provided young Frank with a slew of Cole Porter material he would sing in his maturity:.The title song turned up in 1956 on his landmark album Songs For Swingin' Lovers; "Easy To Love" was dropped at the insistence of leading man William Gaxton, but became a highlight of Sinatra's first album at Reprise...
Sinatra sang a lot of Gershwin over the years, but if you had to name the most important "Gershwin song" in his book it would probably be "The Gal That Got Away" - words by Ira Gershwin, but music by Harold Arlen. He made a terrific record of it when the song was new, and then returned to it a quarter-century later to make it - in a medley with "It Never Entered My Mind" - the last great saloon-song sequence to be added to the Sinatra act.
But a lot of George Gershwin tunes stayed with him to the end, too...
Seventy years ago, the 14th Army under the command of General Bill Slim finally liberated Mandalay and returned it to British rule. Given the popularity of this song among British military concert parties of the time, more than a few of Slim's men must have found themselves singing:
Where do you head after you've gone "South Of The Border"? Oh, that's easy...
St Patrick's Day looms, and so a Sinatra Irish confection would seem to be appropriate. Unlike Peggy Lee, he never recorded "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"; unlike Rosie Clooney, he never recorded "Danny Boy". In the 1949 film Take Me Out To The Ball Game, he sang a song called "O'Brien To Ryan To Goldberg" - Gene Kelly, who was of Irish ancestry, played O'Brien; Jules Munshin, who was of Russian Jewish ancestry, played Goldberg; and Frank Sinatra, who was of Italian ancestry, played, er, Ryan.
But what of the great Irish songwriters..?
The night it took 22 takes...
The 1930s were the golden decade of American popular song. The great Broadway blue chips - Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart - were hitting their stride, and, as we've explored in recent weeks, a whole generation of far lesser known names were providing great individual numbers that, thanks to Sinatra, have lasted across the decades...
What's the connection between the Muslim call to prayer and Frank Sinatra?
E A Swan?
Well, if you saw Frank Sinatra on stage...
A Sinatra classic, born from a happy accident at a summer resort, and a widow's grief
It's the wee small hours after Oscar Night, and so our Sinatra Centenary song is obliged to take a nod at least in the direction of the Academy Awards. Frank made a whole album of Oscar winners, with the unwieldy title of Sinatra Sings Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River, and Other Academy Award Winners...
An anthem to "the town that Billy Sunday couldn't shut down"
On March 27th 1929 the Charles B Cochran revue Wake Up And Dream opened at the London Pavilion, with a host of West End talent, including Jessie Matthews, Sonnie Hale, Tilly Losch and Douglas Byng. And at one point in the evening Britain's "Radio Sweetheart Number One", Elsie Carlisle, stepped forward and sang...
Valentine's Day looms, and, given his contribution to its popularity, we would be remiss not to include in our Sinatra Century the one great Valentine standard...
It's July 8th 1939 and the Harry James orchestra is on stage at the Roseland Ballroom in New York. They have a new singer - a 23-year old boy vocalist who signed with the band a few days earlier - and he steps to the microphone to sing...
The other day I was reading, strictly for pleasure, The Complete Lyrics Of Johnny Mercer, and in particular the work of his somewhat frustrating final years. And a handful of pages before the end you turn the page, and from one of those projects that never came to fruition are a couple of songs bearing the credit "Words and music by Johnny Mercer and Rod McKuen".
My God, what was he thinking?
We're spending this weekend with the Isham Jones/Gus Kahn end of the Sinatra songbook. Following "It Had To Be You" on Friday, here's a song Frank sang for almost half-a-century from June of 1940, as the new boy vocalist with a hit orchestra, to deep into the 1980s, as a lion in winter jumpin' all over a hard-swingin' band...
An ĂĽber-standard everyone sang before Frank
A song as old as Sinatra that he only got to in the Eighties
I received a letter, as I do from time to time and particularly since we launched this series, making the familiar complaint that I "only write about the kind of songs Frank Sinatra sings" and thereby ignore the older, vernacular American musical tradition. Well, I happen to think Frank chose pretty good songs, so why kick the habit? For example, here's a ring-a-ding-ding Sinatra classic he recorded in 1946:
It's often said that the pop songs you like when you're 17 years old are the pop songs that stay with you your entire life. And in that respect Frank Sinatra was very fortunate: When he was 17, to pick up where we left off last week, it was a very good year. The songs in the air as a Hoboken schoolboy prepared to start his adult life were the songs he would record a quarter-century later and still be singing on stage, at Caesars' Palace and the Royal Albert Hall, another quarter-century beyond that...
Our Sinatra Song of the Century Number One
I love the Great American Train Song. It's a genre that has the sweep and size of the nation...
After "Cat Scratch Fever", Mister Squaresville goes in search of other rockers to cover
A musical moment from The [Un]documented Mark Steyn
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 TormĂ© 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", TormĂ©'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...
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"...
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 at all. In the Seventies, Neil Diamond had a monster album called Hot August Night, with him doing what I recall as a denimed and vaguely pelvic thrust on the cover. But, unless I'm mistaken, Hot August Night doesn't actually include a song called ...
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...
Mark explores the art of the cigarette song
The great Doris Day celebrates her 90th birthday this week. We will be marking the occasion on the big day, but, as a curtain-raiser, I thought we should have a DD classic for our Song of the Week...
Shirley Temple - singer, dancer, actress, and rock'n'roller
A song for Groundhog Day?
Happy New Year with one of Mark's favorite songs for the season
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...
On the centenary of the birth of John F Kennedy, Mark tells the story of how a Broadway musical became a key part of the President's posthumous mythology
2015 is Frank Sinatra's centenary year, which necessitates a few modifications to SteynOnline's music, film and entertainment coverage. Our official observances commence tomorrow when our Song of the Week department becomes a Song of the Semi-Week in order to squeeze in 100 Sinatra songs of the century between now and December. Several other folk seem to have opted for this approach, too - our old friend the Pundette has launched a dedicated Sinatra Centenary site for that very purpose - so we hope you'll have lots of finicky fun nitpicking through competing hit parades and demanding to know why this or that song hasn't made the list. Don't worry, we'll still make space for other musical content this year, not least because I need to come ...
How a psychedelic anthem from the summer of love became an easy-listening blockbuster
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.
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.
Mark tells the story of the only Easter pop standard
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