Jazz and Pop, Youth and Middle Age like Young

By Francis Davis | Go to book overview

The Great Hoagy

Hoagy Carmichael, the composer of "Star Dust," "Skylark," "Georgia on My Mind," "Heart and Soul," and "Two Sleepy People," among dozens of imperishable songs, was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on November 22, 1899—a hundred years ago tomorrow. If his centennial passes by relatively unnoticed, as I fear it might, the only good explanation will be that there have already been so many centennial celebrations this year, beginning with Duke Ellington's and Ernest Hemingway's, that a predictable element of fatigue has set in. Carmichael wasn't the greatest of the songwriters born around the turn of the century, nor was he the most prolific—not with such contemporaries as George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, and Harold Arlen. But Carmichael was arguably the one whose melodies best captured the moods of this country from the 1920s to the 1940s, a time of enormous change in America.

"Star Dust," Carmichael's most famous song, which he first recorded as an instrumental in 1927 and to which Mitchell Parish added lyrics four years later, has endured for so many generations (I first heard it done by Billy Ward and the Dominoes, on the near-operatic doo wop version they recorded in 1957) that its specificity to its own time is often overlooked. It is to popular song what The Great Gatsby is to the novel, a distillation of romantic wanderlust that seems at once quintessentially American and specifically Midwestern. Quite apart from Parish's lyrics, Carmichael's melody is as evocative of sophistication paid for with the loss of innocence as the Fitzgerald character Nick Carraway's memories of the chatter of frozen breath on Chicago train station platforms and

-19-

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Jazz and Pop, Youth and Middle Age like Young
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Also by Francis Davis *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Advertisements for Myself xi
  • Part One - Voices *
  • Swin G and Sensibility 3
  • The Great Hoagy 19
  • Not Singing Too Much 27
  • Billie Holiday, Cover Artist 39
  • Betty Carter, for Example 49
  • Part Two - Change of the Century *
  • Bud's Bubble 57
  • The Sound of One Finger Snapping 66
  • Aftershocks 77
  • Taken: the True Story of an Alien Abduction - (A Conversation with Sun Ra) 83
  • Rashaan, Rashaan 94
  • Inward 99
  • A to Z 106
  • Charlie Haden, Bass 116
  • ornette 134
  • The 1970s, Religious and Circus 141
  • Like Young 156
  • In His Father's House 169
  • Leaving behind a Trail 176
  • Some Recordings 186
  • On Stage and Screen 200
  • Part Three - Here and There *
  • Tourist Point of View 219
  • Time Difference 223
  • Part Four - Undercover *
  • Man Lost. Songs Found 235
  • Country vs. Western 242
  • Elvis Presley's Double Consciousness 246
  • Beached 256
  • Everybody's Composer 263
  • The Best Years of Our Lives 281
  • Infamous 297
  • Victim Kitsch 304
  • The Moral of the Story from the Guy Who Knows 316
  • Index 339
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