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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

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As usual, most of the comments on losing our treasured Mary Tyler Moore were delivered by tweet. Quite a few celebrities said nothing more than quoting her theme song from the legendary 70’s TV Series.
 
“Love is All Around” was written and sung by Sonny Curtis, who started out as a good ole boy from Texas who happened into an historic gig as the lead guitarist for Buddy Holly.
Sonny Curtis and the Crickets 1950s
 
In case you think he was a one-shot-wonder, he also wrote “Walk Right Back”, for the Everly Brothers (and played in their band) and “More Than I Can Say”for the Crickets’ and later covered by Bobby Vee in the 60s and Leo Sayer in the 70s.
His biggest hit “I Fought the Law (and the law won” was covered by numerous artists. My favorite among his tunes is “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” which became a country hit for Keith Whitley.
Yeah, Sonny has done pretty good for himself, including induction into both the Musicians Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
 
It’s great to see him get recognition again (and probably a big boost in his royalty checks) from the beloved Mary Tyler Moore theme.
 
It’s a pity about the circumstances, though.

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I learned to play the guitar when I was about 13 –8th grade. My family had a 3rd or 4th hand acoustic guitar originally bought for my older brother, but since he was left-handed, it just laid around unused for a couple of years.

I had a Beatles song book and I had all the Beatles records (and loved them) so that was my stimulus to learn to play. The guitar wasn’t easy to play, but I was determined. I even persevered when I broke the high E string and didn’t have any means to get a replacement (I was just a kid in a small town and had no idea how to go about getting a replacement). I just adjusted my chords so they didn’t use the high string.

After learning the basics, and being determined to stick with it, I really longed for an electric guitar. Eric Clapton had one. Carlos Santana had one. Jimi Hendrix had one. I really needed one!

Then I saw it — the perfect guitar.

On the inside back page of most comic books were lots of novelty items for sale. X-ray Specs

I play a little guitar

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“Let’s Get Lost” is an intriguing title for a movie, taken from a popular song by trumpet legend Chet Baker. Baker crossed that big divide between pop music stardom and jazz obscurity with his song selection, trumpet-playing and his distinctive vocals. It didn’t hurt that he was matinee-idol handsome either.

Film director Bruce Weber made the documentary a year before Baker died and released it right about the time of his death in 1988. I’m not sure if it came out before or after the event. I’m 

Chet Baker on drugs

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Joe Hardaway had a long career in the movies — specifically cartoons. He did everything over time — voices, script and gag writer, and director. By the time he died in 1957, he had contributed great things to the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood Animation.

Joe was known to his friend as Bugs — like gangster Bugsy Siegel, who was hitting all the headlines at that time. The name meant “Crazy as a bedbug” in the slang of that era.

Hardaway was working with all the biggies of that time, including Walter Lantz (Woody Woodpecker creator) and Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones at Warner Brothers. The story

Bugs Bunny Origin

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Some people learn from mistakes, some don’t and repeat the errors over and over.

And some don’t survive mistakes long enough to learn.

Take the old story about “Boiling A Frog.”

We are told that if a frog is in a pan of cool water and the temperature is raised very slowly, the frog adjusts and bears the warmer water. Supposedly (the story goes), he will just keep tolerating hotter and hotter water until he boils to death.

Of course, if you know your frogs (and you DO know frogs, don’t you?), they will eventually jump out. After all, even a frog can only put up with so much.

The lesson is figuring out the point when the frog decides to jump out.

The philosophers will ask “What killed the frog?” Was it the boiling water or the frog’s decision

happy frog in hot water

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Why do we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday?

Because it took a century after the Civil War was over to finally officially address the lack of equality that was promised to the descendents of Africa slaves. Dr. King was a leader of the people and even while living became a symbol of all that was wrong with racial relations in America. His death became a rallying point for social and political change.

The turbulent decade of the 60s saw racial tensions boiling over. NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers was shot by a Ku Klux Klan member. Another white supremacist killed four young black girls by bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

And a classically trained pianist named Nina Simone wrote and performed and recorded a song with a dirty word in the title and inflamatory lyrics.

Mississippi Goddam.

“Alabama’s gotten me so upset / Tennessee made me lose my rest / And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam…”

Was she cursing the state of Mississippi? Or was she just so exasperated with the events that she

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Norman Lear offered a terrific take on fake news in The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Among the points he made:

  • False stories were more likely than real news articles to go viral on social media
  • We’re more likely to pay attention to the final source of an article — the person who calls it to our attention — than to the original source.

The answer, Lear claims: “There is an urgent need for more and better civics education in our schools, and that must be joined by efforts to foster media literacy and critical thinking.”

There in lies the rub — to quote a source whose authenticity is still in doubt.

People are not all rational human beings like Mr. Lear is. Humans are selfish, greedy and needy. We believe what we want to believe, what makes us comfortable and what is believed by the

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I’ve been having fun on Facebook listing Christmas songs that are not overly-familiar and haven’t worn out their welcome.

For my final submission of alternative Christmas songs, I’d like to bend (my own) rules just a little.

Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin from The Wall Street Journal article.

Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin from The Wall Street Journal article.

You probably think it is unfair to introduce the best-known and most performed Christmas song in this list. However, many people have never heard the whole thing. In fact, not many know that there is more to the song than you hear in Walmart or on the radio.

“The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
I’ve never seen such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it’s December the twenty-fourth
And I am longing to be up north”

The origins of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” are shrouded in legends. And if we can’t be sure of the facts from something this public less than a hundred years later, it makes one wonder how we can be so sure about legendary events of past millennia.

Back to topic — many versions were sung by Bing Crosby on radio, TV and in the movies and the recording in all versions is honored as the best-selling single of all time (spanning every recording format ever invented).

Estimated sales of Der Bingle’s versions exceed 100 million copies worldwide and add the many other versions recorded and you reach over 150 million copies.

The lack of certainty stems from the fact that the original recording was released before the first pop charts. However, counting includes royalty reports to ASCAP (the major songwriting rights accounting organization) of which Berlin was a founding member.

Where and how he wrote it is also lost in a swarm of legends. He may have worked on it as early as 1938. One story is that he wrote it in 1940 while warming his tootsies in La Quinta, a resort near Palm Springs, CA. However the Arizona Biltmore claims that he composed it while staying there.

Whatever the time and place, legend has it that Irving was excited by his new masterpiece. “Grab your pen and take down this song,” he reportedly told his secretary. “I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”

Berlin couldn’t write music. He hummed a tune or pecked it out on a piano and a musical copyist wrote the score.

Of course, the song was introduced by Bing Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941. The recording was copied onto a 78 RPM disc (they called it a transcription) and is reportedly held by Crosby’s estate to this day. He did not sing the verse then.

Nor did Crosby sing the verse when he debuted “White Christmas” in the movie Holiday Inn in 1942. And he also didn’t sing it in the 1954 film with the same name as the song.

Even without the verse, Crosby knew it was a keeper. He reportedly told the composer, “I don’t think we have any problems with that one, Irving.”

It didn’t sell all that well in 1941 (the world was rather occupied with Pearl Harbor that December and mobilization for war immediately afterward.) But by the next Christmas, “White Christmas” really took off. It stayed on the charts a long time (about 3 months) and became an annual best-seller (Billboard charts for record sales started in 1951).

“Holiday Inn” was a hit, and the song “White Christmas” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942. Crosby sang it as a duet with an actress whose voice was dubbed by a studio singer.

Another movie, the 1954 musical actually named “White Christmas,” became the highest-grossing film of 1954.

Yet Bing still never recorded the introductory verse, and he never sang it for the public until a TV show in the late 1960s.

Meanwhile, legends kept popping up that the song reflected “a satire on Hollywood types lolling around a pool, pretending to a nostalgia they didn’t really feel,” according to Wikipedia. That pool might have been at either the Beverly Hills Hotel or the Biltmore in Phoenix.

“The version most often heard today on radio during the Christmas season is the 1947 re-recording. The 1942 master was damaged due to frequent use,” Wikipedia reports, and it quotes a modest Crosby as saying, “a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully.”

This is the one where he whistles the second time through.

The version I want to share with you to wind up our alternative Christmas song series is a beautiful rendition by The Divine Miss Bette Midler from her tribute album to Rosemary Clooney (and included on her album “Cool Yule”.)

Merry Christmas music lovers. Enjoy the season with music and hope that William Congreve was correct when he wrote, “Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast,” because it is pretty savage out there. And peace on Earth for all.

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