My Funny Valentine — You will still hear this every Valentine’s Day, even 80 years after it was written. The song is tender but odd — like the person who wrote it.

Actually, the beautiful music was written by “Richard Rodgers” — the guy who wrote Oklahoma and The Sound of Music and a lot of other classic Broadway musicals that were hits on the big screen.

But the lyrics were not written by Hammerstein — the better known of Rodgers’ partners.

For about 25 years, Richard Rodgers wrote with Lorenz — or Larry — Hart. And no story from Broadway or Hollywood could match the real-life story of this tortured but talented soul.

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart composing a song

Larry Hart and Dick Rodgers

“Funny Valentine” was written for (in most opinions) the greatest of Richard Rodgers’ musicals — “Babes in Arms.” The score of that show is like a greatest-hits compilation of Rodgers & Hart. “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “Have You Seen Miss Jones,” “Where or When” all have been adopted as

Read more on My Funny Valentine — Lorenz Hart…

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The two people most responsible for bringing jazz music into the mainstream got together 60 years ago this month and cut a record that is now an historical touchstone. I’m speaking of “Ella and Louis” the first duet album by jazz titans Fitzgerald and Armstrong.

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded their first duet album 60 years ago.

But the unsung hero of this project — and of popularizing jazz music as well as integrating audiences and venues — was Norman Granz.

“Ella and Louis” fueled a revival of that body of work we call The Great American Songbook — a treasure trove of music mostly created by white Jewish men — and spread it to a multi-cultural audience. And there it sits today, with most major artists giving their take on the various songs in the (informal) Songbook. In fact, Michael Feinstein gets a laugh out of telling audiences his name for it — “the Rod Stewart songbook.”

Norman Granz was a music promoter, concert impresario, talent agent and founder of several record labels — the best-known and most successful of which is Verve. His name is synonymous with jazz music to those in the know.

Most of the big-name jazz stars you’ve heard of were on a Granz record label and a Granz-produced concert. He was white and Jewish and was determined to integrate jazz music through music.

His biggest accomplishment was probably JATP –“Jazz at the Philharmonic” — which became a catalog of firsts.

In 1944 the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles had never featured jazz music before, and it didn’t intend to until Granz started working on them. The first concert was so successful that several more followed. JATP became international concert tours and popular live albums.

Using an integrated bill of performers, Granz refused to book the show at segregated theaters and halls. The tour ran for over ten years, until about 1957.

But as well as getting the music out to integrated audiences in integrated music halls, Granz got the musicians higher pay and acceptance at formerly segregated lodging while on tour.

He later tackled the task of integrating the hotels and casinos in Las Vegas.

In other words, the Norman Granz legacy is monumental. And along the path, his career was marked by remarkable accomplishments. And that was perfectly exemplified by the album he produced 60 years ago — “Ella and Louis.”

“It was perhaps more of a cultural leap, in the middle of that tumultuous century, that two black performers could be considered the best interpreters of white show tunes, and that the extemporaneous heart of jazz could elevate the whole to iconic status, desegregating American popular culture in just eleven songs.”

For the full story behind this album, you can check out this link:
The Story of ‘Ella and Louis,’ 60 Years Later

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Lovers!

This is either the happiest day or the saddest day of the year, depending upon the state of your love life.  As a happily married man, I’ve enjoyed a permanent valentine for twenty years and we tend to celebrate any old time we please.  It works out well.

Songwriters Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

As music lovers, my valentine and I are both great fans of the Great American Songbook standard “My Funny Valentine” — a show tune from the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical “Babes in Arms.”

I’m sure you’ve heard it.  This popular jazz standard has appeared on over 1300 albums performed by over 600 artists. It’s even been performed on “American Idol,” so even the Gen-X, Y or Z kids should know it.

Whether your favorite version is traditional (like Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra) or jazzy (like Miles Davis or Chet Baker), you can probably find a version to suit your mood.

Name your favorite performer, and chances are, you’ll find a recording of this song. Michael Bublé?  Too easy.  Jerry Garcia?  Believe it or not — YES.

The perennial song was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.  Of course the music is absolutely beautiful, but the lyrics make this the ultimate valentine song.

Read more on The Most Popular Valentine Song EVER!…

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On a rare outing of this type, Wifey and I took in the “Local Grooves, Local Brews” night at House Of Blues in San Diego’s Gaslamp quarter Oct. 21.

14 bands, 4 songs each alternating between two stages.  It has to be a logistical nightmare, but SD’s ace promoter Cathryn Beeks pulled it off again.

I couldn’t last all night — I probably couldn’t have even 30 years ago.  The crowd grew thicker, the volume got louder, and it was really a stress-fest as the evening wore on.

I did discover one amazing band — opening group Queen Divas of the Universe had the crowd in the palm of their hands from their first power chords.

Queen Divas Of The Universe

Lady Rockers Queen Divas Of The Universe

Low point? Well, I don’t want to name names, and of course it’s all a matter of opinion, but when a group has nothing better to do than make outer-space sound effects, I think they need a little better career guidance.  Just sayin’ …

Volume is not an artistic achievement.  It’s usually a sign of animmature band or an inexperienced sound engineer.  An amped-up audience isn’t a good guide to good sound.

For somebody who doesn’t like crowds — and who usually doesn’t DO crowds — I think I held in there pretty good.  The bar was filled to the brim with people more interested in making the scene than with music lovers, so I admire all the performers for sticking out their, uh, necks and putting on a bang-up show.

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The entire music industry is controlled by four multi-national corporations —

  1. Universal Music Group — Interscope Geffen A&M, The Island Def Jam Music Group, Universal Motown Republic Group, Decca Label Group, The Verve Music Group, A&M/Octone
  2. Sony Entertainment Group — RCA/Jive Records, J Records and Columbia/Epic, Arista, Legacy, Masterworks and various latin and country labels.
  3. Warner Music Group — Warner Bros, Elektra, Rhino, Atlantic and most of the major music publishing companies
  4. EMI Group — Angel, Astralwerks, Blue Note, Capitol, Capitol Latin, Capitol Records Nashville, EMI Classics, EMI CMG, EMI Records, EMI Records Nashville, Manhattan, Parlophone, Virgin Classics and Virgin Record

There’s not much left to gobble up. It’s already a conglomeration of conglomerates — all merged and homogeneous.  So the only thing left is incest.

The big news today is that Doug Morris — Worldwide Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Universal Music Group since 1995 — is moving over to Sony Entertainment Group as CEO.

The specialty of this 73-year-old (caucasian) music veteran?  Hip Hop and Rap.

I’m glad I don’t have to pull up to a stop light next to the chauffeured limo driving him to work, as I’ll bet it has an ass-kicking subwoofer system that gives you a concussion from a block away.  Yo!

Doug Morris and recording artists from Universal Group

D-Mor with homies Jay-Z and his posse

After exploiting piloting the careers of Jay-Z, Nelly, Lil Wayne, Erykah Badu and Kanye West, D-Mor (my new nickname for him) will be rubbing elbows with J. Cole, Three 6 Mafia, Wyclef Jean and OutKast.

Actually they will be rubbing their lips somewhat south of D-Mor’s elbows.

So, if you are gonna sell your soul to The Man — D-More, “You da man!”

Maybe someday, the music business will return to … umm … music.  It won’t be the models and body-builders who are rewarded with contracts to make videos, but maybe people who can actually sing, or play an instrument or do something besides sample somebody else’s hit songs, scratch records and recite a page from a rhyming dictionary will be able to record audio.


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