I’ve had this secret wish, as long as I can remember – to host a radio show where I can play all sorts of music. I would introduce songs, compositions, and pieces that touch my heart to my listening audience. I’d talk about each selection and give some background on the artist or the piece itself. I love sharing my discoveries.
If someone asked me to do this tomorrow, I’d sign on immediately.
Anyway, my life has always been greatly influenced by all kinds of music. I studied piano. I sang in the choir. I sang in quartets. I sang professionally. I sang onstage in countless musicals. Along the way, I bought albums (hundreds of them) and listened to music all of the time. A researcher by nature, I now know a heck of a lot about popular song, music for the theater and film, pop music (of a certain era,) classical music, more and more about jazz and folk and a wee bit about country. Add to that the fact that I have a lot of friends who are musicians, as well as a husband who is one, and you can see that I’ve been able to learn a great deal from them. They’ve enriched my musical life.
None of this is being said to toot my own horn, but rather to let you in on a big part of my life – past and present. Music, as we all know, is powerful. It can change your day in an instant. It can immediately take you back to another time and place. It can overwhelm you with emotion. It can make you laugh and dance and sing.
I have a playlist that I’ve put together over the past few years. It takes me to what I call my Happy Place. Yesterday, as I sat here with ear buds in listening to music, I thought I might share some of the pieces on my playlist with you over the course of the next few days. I’ll add some information about each selection – just as I would if I was hosting a show on air. Maybe they’ll spark some memories for you…maybe you’ll share some memories with me. I’m going to do this all week long.
I’m going to put the playlist on Shuffle. Let’s see what comes up.
• How Can I Be Sure – The Young Rascals
Recorded when the group was still the ‘Young’ Rascals, this romantic, plaintive melody sung by Eddie Brigati, brings back memories of my youth. Brigati’s voice is full of the emotion of young love. I remember it well.
How do I know?
Maybe you’re trying to use me,
Flying too high can confuse me,
Touch me but don’t take me down.
• Witchcraft – Sung by Frank Sinatra
Written by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh. I’m a big fan of Cy Coleman’s work and Frank Sinatra recorded several of his songs. There’s nothing better than Frank singing this song with an arrangement by the great Nelson Riddle. I can’t help but start snapping my fingers.
Those fingers in my hair,
That sly come-hither stare,
That strips my conscience bare
• Let’s Hang On – Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
The big, twanging guitar riff right at the beginning, right before they launch into “Let’s hang on to what we got” gets me every time. I have to start dancing. The sound of the Four Seasons is so distinctive – not another sound like it. This song makes me happy.
• Spellbound – Joe Sample
The late, great Joe Sample (he died last year) was an amazing musician. Pianist, composer, arranger, jazz musician. He was one of the founding members of the Jazz Crusaders which eventually morphed into the Crusaders. Spellbound is beautiful, haunting, and it gets me every time. I first heard it on the radio, became obsessed by it, and had to buy it. I have two versions of this piece on my playlist: the original version and another version. The later version is a slower, even more hauntingly beautiful rendition and the only instrument heard is the piano as played by Sample. He will be missed.
• Wheels of Life – Gino Vannelli
Love, love Gino Vannelli’s over-the-top, gorgeous voice. I have a few of his albums and this piece is one of my favorites. He has the kind of voice that gets to you, full of emotion, capable of vocal pyrotechnics. Love this song. Love this arrangement. It takes me right back to the late seventies, early eighties. My friend Joe and I used to listen to Vannelli all the time.
And if I should have only one tomorrow,
It’s a lifetime if I knew,
I could spend it all with you
Sigh. Can you tell I’m a romantic?
• This Nearly Was Mine – Barbara Cook
Quite simply, to my mind, one of the most beautiful songs ever written. From South Pacific, words and music by the great Rodgers and Hammerstein. This song of love almost found, then lost, is heartbreakingly beautiful. Written for the opera star Ezio Pinza, its soaring, operatic melody is gorgeous. Barbara Cook, one of my favorite singers ever, sings it simply, from the heart. And toward the end, she holds a note so long, so beautifully, you think she’ll run out of breath. But she doesn’t. It just fades away.
Close to my heart she came
Only to fly away
Only to fly as day flies to moonlight.
Now, now I’m alone
Still dreaming of paradise
Still saying that paradise
Once nearly was mine.
I have another version of this song on my playlist – just guitar, by the great Pat Metheny.
• Pretty World – Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66
I love bossa nova, love the words and music of Antonio Carlos Jobim, love the sound of that music. Love Brazil ’66. This is from their quintessential album, Classics, Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. They had such a great sound – very sexy music.
• Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
This is the more recent arrangement (although I have the original, too.) This one has Joni singing the words of her much-loved song from an older, wiser point-of view. The arrangement is gorgeous, her smoky, older voice deeply powerful. I cry every time I hear it. Every time. Give it a listen.
• On the 4th of July – James Taylor
From his album, October Road. I was introduced to this song last year by a friend who posted it on Facebook in honor of the anniversary of the day Don and I met. I’d never heard it before. It’s so beautiful, and the words so echo our own story that I couldn’t stop playing it. It makes me cry, too.
And the smell of the smoke and the lay of the land
And the feeling of finding one’s heart in one’s hand
And the tiny tin voice of the radio band singing ‘love must stand’
Love forever and ever must stand.
• Lyin’ Eyes – The Eagles
I’m a big fan of The Eagles. I love their music – especially their songs that tell a story, as this one does. Great singing, great arrangements, incredible guitar work and a haunting story. What’s not to love?
• You’ll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart) – Dionne Warwick
Written by the great Burt Bacharach and Hal David, this song is sung beautifully by the very young Dionne Warwick. What a voice. As with all Bacharach/David tunes, you can’t help but sing along. Might I add that there’s a haunting quality to it? (Can you tell I like that sort of thing?)
I’ve been hearing rumors about how you play around
Though I don’t believe what I hear, still it gets me down
If you ever should say goodbye
I’d feel so awful, the angels would cry
• What Kind of Fool am I? – Sammy Davis, Jr.
I’m a huge fan of the voice of Sammy Davis, Jr., the sheer quality of which is often lost in the Rat Pack image of Davis. He could sing like nobody’s business. Crystal clear, deeply resonant, his voice could make your heart break in two, it was so beautiful. This song, written by the great Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, is from the musical, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.”
What kind of lips are these
That lied with every kiss
That whispered empty words of love
That left me alone like this
Gut wrenching. I also have a version sung by Anthony Newley on my playlist.
• Husbands And Wives – Brooks & Dunn
Written and originally recorded by the late Roger Miller, this is one of my favorites. Though I’m not a big fan of country music, Don and I heard this arrangement on the radio when we were living in San Diego and we bought the CD immediately. Gorgeous. Beautifully executed by Brooks & Dunn.
The angry words spoken in haste
Such a waste of two lives
It’s my belief pride is the chief cause in the decline
Of the number of husbands and wives.
• Along Comes Mary – The Association
I loved The Association. I saw them live in concert. This, one of their first big hits, still gets me. Perfect arrangement with the lead vocal sung by Jim Yester.
Every time I think that I’m the only one who’s lonely
Someone calls on me
And every now and then I spend some time at rhyme and verse
And curse those faults in me.
Yes, I know it’s about marijuana. I don’t care. I love it.
• Our Day Will Come – Ruby and the Romantics
Such a great oldie, sung by Ruby, I imagine, who has a great, deep, resonant voice.
Our day will come
And we’ll have everything
We’ll share the joy
Falling in love can bring
• Calling You – Jane Mortifee
This song is from the movie Bagdad Café. It’s so beautiful. I’ve loved it since I first heard it. This particular rendition, sung by Canadian artist Jane Mortifee, came to my attention via the late, lamented CBC radio show, Disc Drive. Oh, how I miss that show. The host, Jurgen Gothe, had my dream job, sharing all kinds of music every day with his loyal listening audience. He played this piece one day and I went a little crazy trying to find the recording. I did and it’s now on my playlist. Mortifee sings it beautifully.
That’s the first edition of My Playlist. Tomorrow, I’ll share more with you. Any questions about any of the selections? Let me know in the comments.
The winner of a copy of The Long and Faraway Gone is Annie Graham. Congratulations, Annie. I’ve sent you an email.