Friday, October 22, 2021

Dave's Music Database Hall of Fame: Song Inductees (October 2021)

Originally posted 10/22/2021.

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 twelfth set of song inductees. These are the 10 highest-ranked songs that ranked within the top 50 of the DMDB’s list of the “Top Big Band Songs of All Time”. It does not include previously inducted songs such as Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” and Artie Shaw’s “Stardust” and “Begin the Beguine.”

Fats Waller “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (1929)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

Waller was “a New York City-born pianist and organ accompanist during the ‘20s…[who] broke through as one of the country’s most popular entertainers. PM “Ain’t Misbehavin’” was written for the 1929 all-black revue Hot Chocolates and debuted by Louis Armstrong, who credited the revue with launching his career. TY It was so popular it moved to Broadway RCG where it ran “for a very respectable 219 performances.” SS Read more.

Ted Lewis “On the Sunny Side of the Street” (1930)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

This “cabaret and jazz standard” JA is a “metaphor for optimism.” TY In his book American Popular Song, author Alec Wilder calls it “one of the jazz musicians’ favorites…Singers, as well, love it as much for its extremely fine lyric.” SB In The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards, Max Morath expresses a similar sentiment, saying the song “works both sides of the street, vocal and instrumental, with equal charm.” MM Read more.

Duke Ellington “Mood Indigo” (1931)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

The clarinet solo was based on a melody called “Dreamy Blues.” Duke Ellington turned the structure upside down, “composing a song of his own on top of it.” DH Typically jazz songs were arranged with the clarinet, trumpet, and trombone from highest to lowest pitch, but Ellington flipped it around the other way. DH He recorded it for an October 1930 broadcast. He said “wads of mail came in raving about the new tune.” WK Read more.

Benny Goodman “Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing)” (1938)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

By the start of the Swing era in 1936, Benny Goodman was its king. “Sing, Sing, Sing” was his most renowned performance with solos by Benny as well as drummer Gene Krupa (on his last hit before leaving the band) and trumpeter Harry James. “Sing, Sing, Sing,” which Goodman called a “killer diller,” NPR’99 was the closer at the bandleader’s legendary Carnegie Hall concert on January 16, 1938. It was the first time jazz comprised a full concert instead of being part of a larger show SS and marked the birthplace of the legitimacy of the genre. NPR’99 Read more.

Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb’s Orchestra “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” (1938)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

“A-Tisket, A-Tasket” began life as an American children’s rhyming game in 1879. In 1938, Ella Fitzgerald and Al Feldman adapted it into a song with very little change to the lyrics. In a 1973 lecture series at Harvard, Leonard Bernstein said that research showed the song’s melodic motif “is the same all over the world, wherever children tease each other. On every continent, in ever culture, it is one of the few musical universals.” TY Read more.

Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra & the Pied Pipers “I’ll Never Smile Again” (1940)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

Ruth Lowe was a pianist with Ina Ray Hutton’s all-girl orchestra when she composed this song about the death of her husband, just a few months after their marriage. TY She staked out Tommy Dorsey in September 1939 and got Carmen Mastren, the band’s guitarist, to give her demo a listen. SS Dorsey wasn’t initially passed but took a stab at it when Frank Sinatra came on board. SS It became his first #1 song. Read more.

Duke Ellington “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

Billy Strayhorn was a hopeful pianist and composer in 1938. NPR His rearrangement of the Duke’s song “Sophisticated Lady” sufficiently impressed Ellington to invite Strayhorn to New York. TC Ellington gave directions to his house in New York, starting with “take the ‘A’ train.” WK Along the way, Strayhorn turned the directions into a song. TC It became Ellington’s signature song and one of the all-time best-loved jazz standards. Read more.

Glenn Miller “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (1941)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

The team of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote the song while travelling on the Southern Railway. It didn’t refer to a particular train, but Chattanooga, Tennessee, had been on the route for most trains passing through the American South since 1880. WK The song was used in the film Sun Valley Serenade, sung by members of Glenn Miller’s band. Miller’s recording became his biggest hit after “In the Mood” and the first recording formally certified as a million seller. PM Read more.

Woody Herman “Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me)” (1941)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

Composer Harold Arlen and lyricist Johnny Mercer were approached to write a song for a movie about a jazz quintet riding the rails in search of its big break. Arlen wrote a melody after analyzing blues songs and Mercer penned four pages of lyrics. When they finished, Mercer called Margaret Whiting, who’d sung the pair’s songs “That Old Black Magic” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.” She told Mercer she had guests for dinner, but he and Arlen could come over later. When Mercer found out the guests included Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, and Mel Tormé, he announced, “My God, we’re coming right over.” After they played the song, Rooney said, “That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.” SB Read more.

Les Brown with Doris Day “Sentimental Journey” (1945)

Inducted October 2021 as “Top Big Band Songs”

When she first saw the sheet music, Doris Day commented, “What a lovely title,” to which Les Brown responded “Wait till you hear it.” SS “The song’s aching nostalgia struck a chord in a nation welcoming its boys back from the front lines,” TM becoming “one of a handful of songs that summed up romantic longing during World War II.” SS Will Friedwald called it “the definitive end-of-war song,” SS “a song that helped define an era.” SS Read more.

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