281 FRIDAY 3 APRIL 2015
The Saga of Jenny – Maria Friedman
How often do we need to make up our minds until we finally get it right? Actually, will we ever get it right? We’re a product – or a victim, depending on how you see it – of the decisions we have made in our life. No master plan or supreme being is deciding how our lives will unfold, and if there’s one, you often feel he must be using contractors to run your life; or he’s just a cunt.
No, we and only we are responsible for how our lives take shape.
Like poor Jenny in the song, who keeps making up her mind with disastrous results, I’ve made decisions that either I have come to regret or have set me off on a shaky path.
At 9, I decided I would be a singer and tried my luck in a singing contest. As I told you a few weeks ago (Week 39 – Mar De La Virgen Bonita), I opted not to show up on the day of the competition. There it went, my singing career or at least the possibility of having one.
At 16, I decided that I didn’t have a future in karate; swimming was where my strengths showed. I quit karate and never went into swimming, and there was my physical activity and my figure.
At 18, I decided to keep studying Psychology rather than drop out and attend film school. I’ve never actually worked as a Psychologist, so there it went, all the money my father put towards my studies, wasted.
At 26, I took the job I should have never taken. So, there it went, every illusion, dream, plan and project I had ever thought of.
At 37, I felt that leaving everything behind and moving to New Zealand was the best plan I had ever had. So, there it went, a financially secure future.
It is not as if I consider the previous decisions to be so terrible. It is just that, every now and then, when I examine my life, I find them to be the ones that marked the way I have lived. Having skipped that talent competition made me less confident in my skills, not only when it comes to singing but also in the other traits I think I could be good at. Quitting karate put me on a very unhealthy path for about 15 years. Not quitting psychology delayed my entry into the career path I chose. By taking that job at the IDB, I simply threw overboard all the work I had done in the preceding years to be a filmmaker. I just settled for the simplicity of going to work every day and getting a cheque fortnightly. Moving to New Zealand shook my living standards; I will never be rich again.
However, not all is bad, particularly with my decisions at 18 and 37. Studying Psychology is one of the highlights of my life; it made me who I am now, and I’ll never have more fun than I had in those days. Moving to New Zealand has made me a happy man and allowed me to explore the things I couldn’t do because of the decisions I made when I was 9 and 26.
I’m unsure if I’ll ever make that decision that will finally make everything fall into place. I doubt I’ll just keep sitting on the fence and let life unfold before my eyes.
Song Title: The Saga of Jenny – 1941 Genre: Musical Artist: Maria Friedman Composer: Kurt Weill Lyricist: Ira Gershwin Album: Lady in the Dark
Favourite Lyrics: Anyone with vision / Comes to this decision: / Don’t make up—You shouldn’t make up— / You mustn’t make up—Oh, never make up— / Anyone with vision / Comes to this decision— / Don’t make up your mind!
282 SATURDAY 4 APRIL 2015
Singin’ In The Rain – Gene Kelly
So many things have been written about this film and its signature song that I doubt I’d say anything that hasn’t been saying before. I believe the film to be the perfect musical film, the best ever made. As for the song, although it was around for many years before the movie was made, I believe this rendition from the film is the one that made Singin’ In The Rain a lovely song. Gene Kelly’s ordinary raspy voice makes the song works beautifully.
Not too long ago, I had the chance to see the stage production of this timeless musical; I thought it was lovely. I have to admit I got goosebumps when I heard the first Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, and it started to rain on the stage. It was a glorious feeling indeed.
Song Title: Singin’ In The Rain – 1929 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Gene Kelly Composer: Nacio Herb Brown Lyricist: Arthur Freed Album: Singin’ In The Rain
Favourite Lyrics: I walk down the lane / With a happy refrain / Just singin’, / Singin’ in the rain
283 SUNDAY 5 APRIL 2015
The Song Is You – Frank Sinatra
Aside from his usual standards, such as “New York, New York” and “My Way”, this is one of the first Sinatra songs I associated with him. I first thought it was a stunning ballad; the lyrics were charming and heartfelt. Years later, I realised that was how the great Jerome Kern and the outstanding Oscar Hammerstein ruled. They knew how to do their stuff.
Song Title: The Song Is You – 1932 Genre: Musical Artist: Frank Sinatra Composer: Jerome Kern Lyricist: Oscar Hammerstein II Album: The Capitol Years
Favourite Lyrics: I alone have heard this lovely strain / I alone have heard this glad refrain / Must it be forever inside of me? / Why can’t I let it go? Why can’t I let you know?
284 MONDAY 6 APRIL 2015
Stereophonic Sound – Fred Astaire, Janis Paige
This is a fun one. Stereophonic Sound comes from the film adaptation of “Silk Stockings”, Cole Porter’s last stage musical. In the number in question, Fred Astaire and Janis Paige explain to a group of Russian what actually brings the audiences to the movie houses; technology.
Be it stereophonic sound and Cinemascope in the 1950s or Dolby surround and 3D in the 2010s, there’s no doubt that those are the things that keep bringing audiences back into the cinemas. True, some may care for the plot and the actors, but others may care even more if you throw in “… glorious technicolour, breathtaking Cinemascope or Cinerama, vista vision, superscope or Todd-A-O and stereophonic sound … And stereophonic sound!”
Song Title: Stereophonic Sound – 1955 Genre: Musical Artist: Fred Astaire, Janis Paige Composer: Cole Porter Lyricist: Cole Porter Album: Silk Stockings
Favourite Lyrics: You’ve gotta have glorious Technicolor, / Breathtaking Cinemascope and / Stereophonic sound.
285 TUESDAY 7 APRIL 2015
Take Me Home – Cher
This is the only time I’ve brought Cher home. I have never felt the love for her. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve loved her as an actress, but she doesn’t do it for me as a singer. Then, what the heck is she doing on the list? You may wonder. Well, I like this song; it brings good memories of the late 1970s.
I first heard it in 1979; someone had lent a cousin the “Cher’s Viking Record” as it was known then – don’t ask me why. Of all the songs, I found Take Me Home to be my favourite. It had a soft disco beat, and I thought it sounded classy. I asked my cousin to make a tape for me, the record was an import, and it wasn’t available in Venezuela yet. I could only listen to the tape a few times before it got damaged when the tape player ate it up. I asked my cousin to make another tape, but he had already returned the record and hadn’t made a copy; he definitely didn’t feel the love for Cher.
A few months later, on a trip to Cucuta, a Colombian city on the Venezuelan border, I found the record in a music store. I bought it right away and listened to it non-stop for months.
My book, Take Me Home represents an era. Without seeing too much into it, I believe it to be a transitional song. Most of the things I recall from the association are the little things that remind me of my leaving my childhood years. My voice changed, hair grew on my legs and other parts of my body, and I began experiencing the occasional wet dream. I was on my way to being a teenager.
I don’t believe any other song captures a moment in my life better than Take Me Home.
Song Title: Take Me Home – 1979 Genre: Pop Artist: Cher Composer: Bob Esty, Michele Aller Lyricist: Bob Esty, Michele Aller Album: The Casablanca Records Story
Favourite Lyrics: One night with you / Lying here next to me / It’s the right thing to do / It would be ecstasy.
286 WEDNESDAY 8 APRIL 2015 (-80)
Take Off With Us – Sandahl Bergman, Chorus
In 1981, my brother went to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a few months after he had finished high school. When he returned, he brought the “All That Jazz” soundtrack. I didn’t know much about the 1979 film other than it had been nominated for many Oscars. Also, I couldn’t watch it when it played in my hometown because the movie had been rated R-18. However, I liked the record a lot, and it wasn’t long before I started listening to it non-stop.
Take Off With Us became the front-runner right away. My English wasn’t so good at the time, so many of the lyrics and messages of the song escaped me. Nevertheless, something was captivating about the track, particularly the syncopated beat of the drums and snap of the fingers at the start. I loved how the song started small and kept building up. The song’s second part felt enigmatic and dangerous; it went to a place I couldn’t understand. When I finally saw the movie, I realised it was all about.
“All That Jazz” is a film by Bob Fosse about a theatre director, Joe Gideon, wanting to fully control his life, even when death presents herself backstage. Many of the events in the movie were inspired by Fosse’s own experience, hence the semi-autobiographical nature of the film. The heart attack that Joe suffers, and eventually kills him, mirrors Fosse’s heart attack in 1974 while rehearsing his masterpiece, “Chicago”. The reception the sexually charged Take Off With Us received by the fictional producers and backers in the film is said to mimic the same reaction Fosse got when he first showed backers one of “Chicago’s” musical numbers. “Razzle Dazzle”, one of the most celebrated numbers from Chicago, was originally staged on the court steps. It apparently featured dancers simulating sex on the stage. An idea the producers and backers of the show nixed right away.
As I type this entry, I’ve realised that it was with Take Off With Us that I started my long admiration for Bob Fosse. His work has been an inspiration throughout my entire career. There are still two other songs on the list linked to Fosse, so I’ll tell you more about him and his influence on me later.
Song Title: Take Off With Us – 1979 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Sandahl Bergman, Chorus Composer: Stanley Lebowsky Lyricist: Stanley Lebowsky Album: All That Jazz
Favourite Lyrics: Up there where the clouds are pillowy, / You’ll be as close to heaven as you’ll ever be.
287 THURSDAY 9 APRIL 2015
Thataway! – Karen Ziemba
This one goes out to everyone who can’t accept that he (or she) has moved on and is not coming back. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I’m talking about the woman who keeps track of every movement her ex-husband and his new wife take. Or the guy who still shows up at his ex’s doorstep with empty promises of being a better man if she gives him another chance.
Although Thataway! comes across as a funny camp song, its ulterior message can be a bit dark. It would seem it exhorts its listeners to give ‘stalking their exes’ a chance. I may be reading too much into it, I’m sure. But there was a time when I found it very hard to let go. It has been tough for me to accept any relationship was over during those times. Hence, I would naturally embark on a journey to re-conquest the one who had walked away with no success. Thankfully, I don’t react like that anymore, but this song is a reminder of those times.
Song Title: Thataway! – 2006 Genre: Music Artist: Karen Ziemba Composer: John Kander Lyricist: Fred Ebb Album: Curtains
Favourite Lyrics: No matter whichaway / He takes that bitchaway / I won’t consent till he’ll relent to make a switchaway