29 FRIDAY 25 JULY 2014
El Padre Antonio y Su Monaguillo Andrés – Rubén Blades – Top 10 Contender
Although I grew up in Latin America, you may have noticed that my music taste gravitates towards Broadway musicals primarily. There are only a handful of songs in Spanish in my iTunes library, so if you see one of them on the list, you’ll know that it must be a song close to my heart. Such is the case of this beautiful gem from Panamanian Rubén Blades.
El Padre Antonio y Su Monaguillo Andrés (Father Antonio And His Altar Boy Andrés) is a ballad/salsa inspired by the assassination of El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980. It tells the story of Father Antonio Tejeira, a Catholic priest from Spain and his altar boy Andrés Eloy Pérez.
Father Antonio is a pacifist; he condemns violence, and in every sermon, he talks about love and justice. Andrés is a ten-year-old who loves swimming in the river, playing soccer and day-dreaming. One Sunday mass, during communion, an assassin enters the Church and opens fire right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. Father Antonio falls to the ground not knowing what is happening; a host is still in his hand. Andrés passes away next to him. On the wall, the wooden Christ on the crucifix dies again.
The song came out in the mid-eights, a time of turmoil in Central America, particularly El Salvador and Nicaragua. The song ends on a high note, though. It exhorts all people from Latin America to support each other and to pray for peace in the region.
I was raised Catholic. I attended Catholic schools from preschool to high school, and I’ve met many priests whose commitment to social justice and equality has been enormous. I’ve met many who, just like Padre Antonio, came from Spain and built churches on the fringes of society. I’ve seen many of them exhorting rich people to spread their good fortune among the poor.
I know that many priests haven’t been so good, and those who have made terrible things to those they were supposed to protect. However, today I want to celebrate the good ones, particularly the ones who keep fighting for social justice and equality throughout the world.
Song Title: El Padre Antonio y Su Monaguillo Andrés – 1984 Genre: Latin Artist: Rubén Blades Composer: Rubén Blades Lyricist: Rubén Blades Album: The Cali Sessions
Favourite Lyrics: Antonio cayo, ostia en mano y sin saber por qué / Andrés se murió a su lado sin conocer a Pelé; / y entre el grito y la sorpresa, agonizando otra vez / estaba el Cristo de palo pegado a la pared.
Antonio fell, with a host in his hand and not knowing why. / Andres died next to him without meeting Pele; / and among screams and shock, / the wooden Christ on the wall died again.
Runners Up: Fruit Shop Dance • Finale Ultimo • Willkommen • Don’t Tell Mama
30 SATURDAY 26 JULY 2014
It’s A Lovely Day Today – Galina Talva, Russell Nype and The Chorus
I couldn’t understand many of the songs that I used to hear when I was growing up. So, I liked them because of their melody. It’s A Lovely Day Today is an example of that. I liked it instantly. I first heard the song on a TV show my brother, and I used to watch when were kids. It was called “Tiempo de Cine,” a weekly show about the history of filmmaking.
When I was able to understand the lyrics, I liked it even more. Such a sweet way to tell somebody you want to go on a date with them.
Song Title: It’s A Lovely Day Today – 1950 Genre: Musical Artist: Galina Talva, Russell Nype and The Chorus Composer: Irving Berlin Lyricist: Irving Berlin Album: Call Me Madam
Favourite Lyrics: And besides I’m certain if you knew me / You’d find I’m very good company / Won’t you kindly let me stay?
Runners Up: Washington Square Dance • You’re Just In Love • The Hostess With The Mostes’ On The Ball • Born In Puerto Rico • Shopliftin’ Clothes
31 SUNDAY 27 JULY 2014
Adios Hermanos – Marc Anthony, Michelle Rios, Natascia Diaz, Nestor Sanchez, Renoly Santiago, Rubén Blades & Sophia Salguero
So, yeah … Paul Simon wrote a Broadway musical in the 1990s. It flopped.
I’m not sure why “The Capeman” failed, it had a good score, and the lead performances were solid. Rubén Blades, Ednita Nazario, a pre-JLO Marc Antony, and a young Sara Ramirez were part of the cast.
This was the first time I remember looking forward to a show’s opening on Broadway. In the fall of 1997, posters were already plastered around the city announcing the imminent opening of the show. In November, Paul Simon had released the “Songs From The Capeman” CD. I wasn’t into Paul Simon, I’m still not, but since my partner was a big fan, and I wanted to see Latino stars Rubén Blades and Ednita Nazario on stage; we decided to get tickets.
The show opened in December 1997, but the write ups coming out of the Great White Way were not good. Critics, and public, in general, hated it.
We went in not expecting much, but the end of Act One, Adios Hermanos, turned out to be very powerful and dramatic, Marc Antony’s singing, in particular, gave me goosebumps. We came out during intermission saying, “Now, this isn’t so bad. Why do people hate it?” The girl who sold us the show’s window card agreed with us. But then we went in to see Act II, and it wasn’t good. Actually, it was very bad.
Listening to the entire recording (which was not released until 2006) is a treat, though. The problem was never the music or talent. It was the show’s subject matter. I don’t think a musical was the best way to tell the story of a Puerto Rican gang member who murdered two teenagers in 1959.
Almost 20 years later, I can appreciate what Paul Simon was trying to achieve but failed to do theatrically. It is a good listen if you’re a Paul Simon fan.
Song Title: Adios Hermanos – 1997 Genre: Musical Artist: Marc Anthony, Michelle Rios, Natascia Diaz, Nestor Sanchez, Renoly Santiago, Rubén Blades & Sophia Salguero Composer: Paul Simon Lyricists: Paul Simon & Derek Walcott
Album: The Capeman (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Favourite Lyrics: Angel of Mercy, people are suffering / All over the world / A Spanish boy could be killed every night of the week.
32 MONDAY 28 JULY 2014
Almost Like Being In Love – Frank Sinatra – Top 10 Contender
Here you have him: the Frank Sinatra I grew up with and learned to love. That jazzy-swingy-happy beat that makes your foot tap under the table. Almost Like Being In Love has been a favourite of mine for over 25 years.
It was the Judy Garland version from Carnegie Hall that introduced me to the song. There was something so magical and effortless about it that I immediately learned the lyrics and started to hum it and sing it whenever I had a chance.
In a perfect manner, the song captures the state of elation and happiness that, now and then, we may experience, in particular when we feel that love may just be around the corner.
Almost Like Being In Love is the first song I started to collect; that is, I began to buy CDs with different versions of this song. As a result, I have many versions of this tune, so I expect a few of them will be making to this list at some point.
Song Title: Almost Like Being In Love – 1947 Genre: Musical Artist: Frank Sinatra Composer: Frederick Lowe Lyricist: Alan Jay Lerner Album: The Capitol Years
Favourite Lyrics: There’s a smile on my face / For the whole human race / Why it’s almost like being in love.
Runners Up: Taking A Chance On Love • You Make Me Feel So Young • I Wish I Were In Love Again • Come Fly With Me • Song Is YouJust In Time • Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night • French Foreign Legion • I’ll Never Smile Again • I’ve Heard That Song Before
33 TUESDAY 29 JULY 2014
Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart – Judy Garland
I always thought “Zing” was one of those made-up words that were only used in Batman, you know like POW! As it turns out according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is a real word. It can be a noun meaning: “a quality that makes something exciting, interesting, etc.” I always thought it was a sort of play on the word “sing,” which is what I heard the first time I heard Judy Garland sing this song… Oh my God! Listen to me yapping about the word “Zing,” not realising that this song marks the debut of La Garland on my list. You knew she was going to be here sooner or later, how could she not be? One of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century, I foresee many of her songs to be on the list.
Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart was one of the first Judy’s signature songs I ever heard. It is such a pretty tune, and I consider the elaborate and sophisticated big band arrangements are the icing on the cake. I remember liking this song even better when I learned that she sang it live on the radio for her father who listened to the broadcast that night in the hospital, where he died the following morning. That night Frances (her father never called her Judy) sang as if her father was the only person in the world listening.
Song Title: Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart – 1934 Genre: Musical Artist: Judy Garland Composer: James F. Hanley Lyricist: James F. Hanley Album: The Capitol Years 1955-1965
Favourite Lyrics: ‘Twas like a breath of spring, I heard a robin sing / About a nest set apart / All nature seemed to be in perfect harmony / Zing! Went the strings of my heart.
Runners Up: Witchcraft • Over The Rainbow • Come Rain Or Come Shine • By Myself
34 WEDNESDAY 30 JULY 2014
Don’t Rain On My Parade – Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli
This version of Don’t Rain On My Parade is probably the only Judy/Liza duet that I like. There are only a few recordings of Judy and Liza together, and I believe most come from The Judy Garland Show and from a Live show at the Palladium in London, which is where this version of the song comes from. Although, I read online that this is an overdubbed version of the concert track, whatever that means.
Some 14 years ago I read a biography of Garland by Gerald Clarke, and it was quite enlightening. There were many things I didn’t know, like rumours of Judy’s father being sexually attracted to young boys. There was another about a lover who would make Judy sing “Over The Rainbow” while semen dripped out of her mouth after performing oral sex on the man. Lies just lies according to users in a yahoo chat room I used to visit in the late 1990s.
However, what surprised me the most about the book was Liza’s relationship with her “momma.” As it turns out Lorna, (yes, the same Lorna Luft from Grease 2) was the good daughter. As I recall from my reading, it seems Judy thought Liza could make her some money, but Liza wasn’t keen on Judy using her for a meal ticket. There’s a passage in the book in which Judy goes with a friend to a school recital in which Lorna sang very well. Judy reportedly turned to her companion and said: “Fuck Liza, we’ll make money with this one,” or something along those lines.
However, I don’t want to appear unkind to Liza, after all, she is Liza! I’ve read she realised that in order to establish a name for herself, she had to stray away from under her mother’s shadow. She had to stop being Judy’s daughter and become her own artist, which, as we know, she did successfully.
As for the actual song, Don’t Rain On My Parade is a favourite of mine, and I’m sure Babs’ original version will eventually be on the list too.
Song Title: Don’t Rain On My Parade – 1964 Genre: Musical Artist: Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli Composer: Jule Styne Lyricist: Bob Merrill Album: The Capitol Years 1955-1965
Favourite Lyrics: But whether I’m the rose of sheer perfection / A freckle on the nose of life’s complexion / The Cinderella or the shine apple of its eye / I gotta fly once, I gotta try once.
Runners Up: Just In Time • What Now, My Love?
35 THURSDAY 31 JULY 2014
Agnus Dei – Dale Warland Singers – Top 10 Contender
It is quite a coincidence that this week started with a religious theme, and it ends with another. I certainly didn’t plan to include both in my Top 10 contenders list either.
I’m sure many recognise it from the movie Platoon or the tacky club mix from the mid-2000s. However, Agnus Dei is not to be confused with Adagio For Strings; although both by Samuel Barber, the former is a choral arrangement for latter. Both compositions are separated by 30 years.
Debuting in 1938, under the direction of Arturo Toscanini, Adagio For Strings was well received and quickly became associated with periods of mourning. Almost 30 years later, Barber created the choral arrangement that is known today as Agnus Dei. I don’t know what prompted him to take the invocation of the Lamb Of God used during holy communion in many religions, and create such arrangement.
I love it for its calming and almost acquiescent effect; it invites us to resign our fate to something we can’t explain, something we can’t control. We just sit back and contemplate as life unfolds in front of our eyes. It is almost as if we had fallen from earth; almost as if we were playing cards with God, looking at him and waiting for his move. It is one of those moments when we wished God wouldn’t govern by word, but by action. Could that be the reason both Adagio For Strings and Agnus Dei are widely used during turbulent times like 9/11, and when an entire nation mourns the death of their Princess?
Agnus Dei became ingrained in me when I saw the film Lorenzo’s Oil in 1992, while at mass the mother, played by Susan Sarandon, prays for her son’s health.
During the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, I was asked to put together a montage of the events of that day to be used in one of our shows. Within a second of getting the assignment, I knew I had to use Samuel Barber’s composition, no other piece would have felt right. I had lived the tribulations of that day, the uncertainty of what was happening and the fear of what was to come. To this day I don’t know how much the events of that day contributed to me leaving the USA and moving to New Zealand.
Song Title: Agnus Dei – 1938/1967 Artist: Dale Warland Singers Genre: Classical Composer: Samuel Barber Lyricist: John 1:29 Album: Cathedral Classics
Favourite Lyrics: Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. / Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis. / Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. / Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. / Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace
Runners Up: Why Does Our House Have A Basement? • Take Me Home • Look Who’s In Love