Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

MC Weekly

July 17, 2013

RAY MOSCOWITZ: Music of '20s, '30s and '40s etched in our soul

Peru's Porter contributed much of 'Great American Songbook.'


That’s saying something; Berlin’s output rivals anyone’s. He may be best known for “White Christmas,” but he reportedly considered “God Bless America” his most important song. Check out its inspiring history on the Internet. Then go to YouTube to hear Kate Smith, the catalyst for the song, sing it. Other Berlin classics include “Always,” “Blue Skies," “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” and his first hit, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”

Carmichael merely gave us “Stardust,” “The Nearness of You,” “Up a Lazy River,” “In the Cool, Cool of the Evening,” “Old Buttermilk Sky,” and “Georgia on My Mind.” Carmichael wouldn’t say whether “Georgia” was written for his sister or the state.

The Gershwins — George the composer, Ira the lyricist — contributed “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “S’Wonderful,” “But Not For Me,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “Lady, Be Good” — before George died at the age of 38.

Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein produced “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “My Favorite Things,” “There’s Nothing Like a Dame,” and “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top.”

Mercer provided the words for “Laura,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Too Marvelous for Words,” “Moon River,” and “Accentuate the Positive.” Reportedly, Mercer, a white Southerner, was in a black church when the preacher exclaimed, “You got to accentuate the positive!” The rest is history.

Ellington, the great jazz composer, penned “Satin Doll” and “Take the A Train” with Billy Strayhorn, plus “Mood Indigo,” “In My Solitude,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and the grammatically incorrect “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”

Zegree says Arlen is “my favorite American composer that most people never heard of.” But most people have surely heard of Arlen’s best known song, “Over the Rainbow.” He also wrote “That Old Black Magic,” “Stormy Weather,” “Blues in the Night,” “Get Happy,” and “I’ve Got the World on a String.”

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