Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Dave's Music Database Hall of Fame: Song Inductees (April 2020)

Originally posted 4/22/2020.

In honor of the 10th anniversary of the DMDB blog on January 22, 2019, Dave’s Music Database launched its own Hall of Fame. This is the sixth set of song inductees. These songs appear on the Dave’s Music Database list of standards. The top 100 list has been reordered based on overall DMDB points and the top ten songs not previously inducted have been included here.

American Quartet “Over There” (1917)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

George M. Cohan’s “biggest song not written for Broadway” RCG became World War I’s most famous song. JA He penned the patriotic number after reading in the newspaper that the United States had declared war on Germany. He expanded the opening phrase of “Johnny Get Your Gun,” a popular song from 1886, into “a lyric that is both a call to arms and a vow not to come home till ‘it’s over, over there’.” RCGThe American Quartet, the Peerless Quartet, Nora Bayes, and Enrico Caruso all recorded #1 versions of the song. Read more.

Fred Astaire with Ginger Rogers & Leo Reisman’s Orchestra “Cheek to Cheek” (1935)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

Composer Irving Berlin crafted thirteen songs which landed in Fred Astaire movies. “Cheek to Cheek,” which Berlin wrote in a day, TM was one of three to hit #1. It wasn’t just any #1, though; it “became one of Berlin’s greatest commercial successes,” TY spending more weeks atop the pop charts than any other song from 1935. WHC The song received an Academy Award nomination for best song. Read more.

Bobby Darin “Mack the Knife” (1959)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

“Mack the Knife” originated in 1928 as “Moritat,” which translates to “murder deed.” RCG Bertlot Brecht and Kurt Weill wrote the original German song about “a bloodthirsty Berlin gangster” RS500 on the prowl for the musical The Three Penny Opera. Despite the song’s gruesome subject matter, the irresistible melody made the song hit-worthy. KL Instead of translating the lyrics literally, Marc Blitzstein gave the song a rewrite. SJ It became a standard, charting six times in 1956 alone, with Bobby Darin’s the biggest of all. The song transformed his image into that of “a finger-snapping sophisticate at home in the cocktail lounge.” RS500 Read more.

Al Jolson “Swanee” (1920)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

George Gershwin may be America’s greatest songwriter. By 1919, he had already written two Broadway revues, one of which included the song “Swanee.” LW Co-writer Irving Caesar (who later wrote “Tea for Two”) persuaded his friend Al Jolson to use it in his Broadway show Sinbad. LW It became Gershwin’s first major hit and his best-selling song in terms of both sheet music and record sales. JA The song parodies Stephen Foster’s 1851 song “Old Folks at Home,” WK which came to be a symbol of freedom and emancipated slaves. Jolson performed the song in blackface, which is horrifically racist in hindsight, but was popular entertainment in the minstrel shows of the day. Read more.

Al Jolson “April Showers” (1922)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

“April Showers” ranks as “one of America’s greatest ballads.” PS Louis Silvers composed the music and B.G. “Buddy” DeSylva wrote the lyrics. Al Jolson introduced “April Showers” in the 1921 Broadway musical, Bombo. It was his 13th #1 song and biggest hit to date PM and became “a well-known Jolson trademark.” WK Only “Sonny Boy,” from 1928, would spend more weeks on top of the chart (twelve). PM The song also became the biggest hit of 1922. WHC Read more.

Billy Murray & Haydn Quartet “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (1908)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

“The unofficial anthem of American baseball” RCG has been “affectionately referred to…as the ‘other’ national anthem.” SH It is “one of the most easily recognized songs in America,” SH behind only “Happy Birthday” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” SH having been sung at nearly every U.S. professional baseball game for the last 100 years. PS Surprisingly, neither the song’s composer (Albert Von Tilzer) nor lyricist (Jack Norworth) had ever seen a baseball game prior to writing the song. PS It got its start on vaudeville where Norworth’s wife, singer Nora Bayes, introduced it. JA-188 In 1908 Billy Murray’s recording of the song with the Haydn Quartet became the biggest song of the year. WHC Read more.

Peerless Quartet “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” (1911)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

“Sweetheart” was “a tremendous hit in vaudeville” JA which “became a favourite around player pianos and community sings.” RCG It “is a straightforward declaration of love that came to be more of a sing-a-long than a ballad. Lou Friedman wrote the music in a waltzing tone while Beth Slater Whitson wrote the lyrics, [in] which he proclaims his love and asks the other to ‘whisper that you love me too.’” RCG With over 6 million sales of the sheet music, it is one of the top ten best selling sheet music songs of the first half of the century. PM Read more.

Artie Shaw “Begin the Beguine” (1938)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

“Beguine” refers to a 1930s’ Cuban dance similar to a rumba. Depending on the account one chooses to believe, songwriter Cole Porter experienced it for the first time on a luxury cruise during a stop in Martinique or a Paris dance hall frequented by Martinique imigrants. He adopted the dance’s rhythm for a big production number for Jubilee, a musical comedy which debuted in 1935. SB Xavier Cugat had a #13 hit with it that year. However, it was Artie Shaw’s version three years later which became a #1 PM-476 and “one of the most popular jazz standards.” SB Read more.

Ethel Waters “Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All the Time)” (1933)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

In the early 1930s, the famed Cotton Club in Harlem, New York, featured African-American performers on stage although they weren’t allowed to sit in the audience. TM Harold Arlen, a cantor’s son, and Ted Koehler wrote this “bluesy perennial” TM for Cab Calloway to introduce in a Cotton Club revue, but decided it was more fitting for a female singer and gave it to Ethel Waters. TY When she performed “Stormy Weather” in the show Cotton Club Parade, she sang it “with all her soul…expressing the anguish of people who found nothing but gloom and misery…because of the Depression.” TY Metronome magazine called it “1933’s biggest hit.” SS “It has become a cabaret standard.” JA Read more.

Paul Whiteman “Whispering” (1920)

Inducted April 2020 as “Top Standard”

This was the debut chart single for Paul Whiteman, and what a beginning it was. It was the second biggest hit of the year WHC and the biggest chart success of Whiteman’s career. It was the first of Whiteman’s 30 songs to go all the way to the top and helped him to become the most popular bandleader of the pre-swing era and the dominant force in American popular recording. PM “Whispering” sold over two million copies which, considering the number of record players in use then, would be the equivalent today of sales of 20 million. TY The online All Music Guide says more than 700 different versions of the song have been recorded, including versions to chart in four different decades. Read more.

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