337 FRIDAY 29 MAY 2015
Just Once – James Ingram
This entry seems to come out of the left field. I never thought I would include a track in this style. However, I was cyber shopping in iTunes one evening, trying to see if I could recognise any song from the past, when Just Once jumped at me. It just brought such good memories of a time when I was leaving my childhood and I was entering my young adult years.
Additionally, at 16, and I’m about to toot my own horn, I was able to hit the same notes that James Ingram did on the song. At this age, I was already showing signs of disregard for any form of pop music and Just Once was one of the few I knew. Whenever people talked about new music, I was clueless for the most part. So, I created a little routine for those instances.
“Have you heard that one from what’s his name … You know the one who did a record with Quincy Jones … What’s his name …” I’d keep dropping clues nonchalantly.
“How does it go?” Someone would finally ask.
I’d clear my throat. “Oh, it goes: I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough ‘cause here we are where we were before ….”
“Oh my god, Luis! You have such a lovely voice.”
“Oh, do I? Kind of you to say.”
Song Title: Just Once – 1981 Artist: James Ingram Genre: Jazz Composers: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil Lyricists: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil Album: From Q, With Love
Favourite Lyrics: Just once / I want to understand / Why it always comes back to goodbye
338 SATURDAY 30 MAY 2015
Where Or When – David Campbell, Erin Dilly
I’ve always considered this song to be a gem. It is perhaps the most poetic song that Rodgers and Hart ever created. Where Or When captures the feeling of clicking with someone the first time you meet them in such a sublime way. You know it is impossible that you’ve met before, yet everything seems so easy and familiar between you.
This song has so many possibilities to create stories around it. Whether they are stories of reincarnation, fate, or déjà vu, this song can fit all those scenarios.
Song Title: Where Or When – 1937 Artist: David Campbell, Erin Dilly Genre: Musical Composers: Richard Rodgers Lyricists: Lorenz Hart Album: Encores From Encores!
Favourite Lyrics: And so it seems that we have met before / And laughed before, and loved before / But who knows where or when?
339 SUNDAY 31 MAY 2015
Don’t Tell Mama – Natasha Richardson, the Kit Kat Girls
I wanted to make a point of including Natasha Richardson on my list. Probably she wasn’t a good singer, but she was a great actress. I’ve seen many great actors on stage, but Richardson’s role as Sally Bowls in Cabaret is perhaps the most beautiful live performance I’ve ever seen.
Although I may describe some actors’ performances as good, even great or excellent, I’ve only described a handful of performances as beautiful. Do you know what I mean? There are a few actors who are not only good, but they go that extra mile to give such a wholesome performance that the audience can’t help but fall in love with their craft.
Those performances, like Richardson’s Sally Bowls, follow you outside the theatre and remain with you for the ensuing days, unlike the sentiment you feel when you think of someone you’re smitten with. The recent performances of Judith Light as Silda Grauman in “Other Desert Cities” and Brian J. Smith as Gentleman Caller in “The Glass Menagerie” come to mind.
When I went to the Kit Kat Club in New York to see the 1998 revival of Cabaret, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The ground-breaking revival had taken a different spin in the Berlin of the 1930s and placed the audience in a real seedy Cabaret that I knew. However, story-wise, I only had the Bob Fosse reference, whose film adaptation had taken a different direction than the play. Nonetheless, the themes, anti-Semitism, homosexuality and the dawn of the Nazi movement, remained the same. Although equally fabulous and decadent, Natasha’s Sally was not as flamboyant as Liza’s. In Natasha’s hands, Sally became a very human character. She created a Sally Bowls, who never stopped being human despite all of her flaws.
This, I’ll never forget. During the curtain call, Natasha Richardson came out shaking and crying. Such was her commitment to the character that I’m convinced she didn’t play Sally; she became Sally for three hours a night and went through the same emotional rollercoaster Sally rode.
Song Title: Don’t Tell Mama – 1966 Artist: Natasha Richardson, the Kit Kat Girls Genre: Musical Composer: John Kander Lyricist: Fred Ebb Album: Cabaret: The New Broadway Cast Recording (1998 Broadway Revival)
Favourite Lyrics: Mama / Doesn’t even have an inkling / That I’m working in a Nightclub / In a pair of Lacy pants.
340 MONDAY 1 JUNE 2015
A Shine On Your Shoes – Fred Astaire
“The Band Wagon”, one of the best movie musicals from the 1950s, featured this beautiful and uplifting number by Fred Astaire right at the top of the film. As in most of Astaire’s numbers, it is shot in wide angles with minimal editing, and Astaire’s always shown in full body.
Besides Astaire’s evident talents, the number also showcases Vincente Minnelli’s craft when it came to musicals. Having started his career as an artistic director on the stage, you can see the level of detail and colour he injects into the set and even the extras’ clothes.
In 1999, his daughter, Liza, featured this number on her Broadway show “Minnelli On Minnelli”, a homage to her father’s films. It was as good and uplifting as the one in the movie.
Song Title: A Shine On Your Shoes – 1932 Artist: Fred Astaire Genre: Musical Composer: Arthur Schwartz Lyrics: Howard Dietz Album: The Band Wagon
Favourite Lyrics: When you walk down the street / With a happy-go-lucky beat / You’ll find a lot in what I’m repeating / When there’s a shine on your shoes / There’s a melody in your heart / What a wonderful way to start the day!
341 TUESDAY 2 JUNE 2015 (-25)
Ligia Elena – Rubén Blades
In Latin America is hard to be racist; most of our racial makeup has been the result of the mixing of European, African and Indigenous races for centuries. We’ve all become just one colour. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t have other forms of prejudice. Since discrimination based on race is an oxymoron, we do it based on social class. You can have any skin colour or hair type, but as long as you have the means to mingle in the social stratum you’re claiming to belong to, you have nothing to fear.
Rubén Blades, a genius at writing socially relevant songs, is at his best in Ligia Elena.
Part romance, part social commentary, this song tells the story of a high society girl who has eloped with a poor trumpet man. They now live happily in a small flat. Although Ligia Elena is happy, her family is shocked and wonders where they went wrong. How could she have done this to them? But the reality is that all the travelling she’s done, the fancy boarding schools she’s attended, and the love declarations from rich young men were no match for the humble trumpet man who conquered her heart. Ligia Elena becomes a sort of heroine to the many rich girls who also long for true love.
This is Rubén Blades’s last appearance on the list. His music has been a paramount part of my life and has kept me rooted in my origins.
Song Title: Ligia Elena – 1981 Artist: Rubén Blades Genre: Latin Composer: Rubén Blades Lyrics: Rubén Blades Album: The Best
Favourite Lyrics: Dulcemente se escurren los dias en aquel cuartito / Mientras que en las mansiones lujosas de la sociedad / Otras niñas que saben del cuento al dormir se preguntan / Ay señor y mi trompetista cuando llegara
The days sweetly drift in that small room / While in high society’s luxurious mansions / Other young girls who know the story wonder / Oh my lord when will my trumpet man arrive?
342 WEDNESDAY 3 JUNE 2015 (-24)
That’s All – Wendi Williams
I don’t have much to offer when it comes to relationships. I don’t have a big fortune or significant investments. As a matter of fact, I will probably have to work until the day before I die. Often that has prevented me from pursuing relationships with guys my age. Usually, the men of my generation already have their shit together, so I’m always a bit self-conscious about what I’d be bringing into the relationship. I guess I’m trying to say that all I can give my counterpart is fun times, love and companionship. That’s All.
Song Title: That’s All – 1952 Artist: Wendi Williams Genre: Jazz Composer: Aland Brandt, Bob Haymes Lyrics: Aland Brandt, Bob Haymes Album: Introducing Dorothy Dandridge
Favourite Lyrics: If you’re wondering what I’m asking in return, dear, / You’ll be glad to know that my demands are small. / Say it’s me that you’ll adore, / For now and evermore / That’s all, That’s all.
343 THURSDAY 4 JUNE 2015 (-23)
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
“In a café, a waitress smiled when a kid’s face lit up with excitement after she served him a towering ice cream. A young islander covered her mouth while laughing so nobody could notice her braces. A woman stared at a puddle of water, saw her reflection and smiled. A young man put his arm in front of his mate and looked both ways before they crossed the street. A middle-aged man proudly held hands with his transsexual partner. A toddler waited for his mother’s okay to cry after she fell on the playground. A woman hurriedly took a French fry from a girlfriend’s plate, only to burn her tongue. A group of teenagers teased one of his mates when an attractive girl blew him off. Three friends hugged each other as they said their goodbyes in front of a café.”
The previous paragraph is an excerpt from my novel “The Return Of The Army Of Light”; it is perhaps the most personal I got as the narrator’s voice in the story. You see, that’s something that I often do. In particular, when I’m pissed off at humanity. I take on the streets and try to find beauty around me. I like to examine people in detail and find out what makes them beautiful to me at that moment. It could be a smile, a hair flip, or an unhurried pace. I can spend my entire walk back home from work examining people and finding beauty in every single one of them.
By the time I get home, I’m happy to be able to see the world, again, the way God – any God – intended it to be.
Song Title: What a Wonderful World – 1967 Artist: Louis Armstrong Genre: Jazz Composer: Bob Thiele, George David Weiss Lyrics: Bob Thiele, George David Weiss Album: Louis Armstrong’s All-Time Greatest Hits
Favourite Lyrics: I see skies of blue and clouds of white / The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night / And I think to myself what a wonderful world.