Billy Stewart : Summertime (The Last Hurrah)

Late September.

Autumn is icumen in.

Observe the daily circle of the Sun and the revolving Moon.

Now there is a softer quality to the light and the day is bounded by chilly air and mist.

Image result for images of misty autumn morning in hampshire

Soon the leaves will shiver and fall.

But, last week, miraculously, Summer held on for one last hurrah!

Long days of streaming warm light and air.

Image result for images of late summer morning in hampshire

So, as I walked and drove the lanes one song returned over and over to my mind.

A song written in 1934 by George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward for the landmark show, ‘Porgy and Bess’ which debuted the following year.

Stephen Sondheim, who might be admitted to being something of an authority on musical theatre, believes Summertime to have the best lyrics in the history of the genre.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry
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One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But till that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry

Now that is Folk Poetry speaking deep to the heart.

A lullaby that makes dandling babes and hopeful parents of us all.

Jump Fish!

Stretch high up to the sky Cotton!

Easy living.

Summertime.

Summertime.

Returning year after year after year as our years proceed.

Oh, one of these days.

One of these days we are gonna rise up singing.

One of these days we will take to the sky.

But, until that blessed day we will believe in the healing warmth of the Sun and Summer’s faithful return.

Hush … don’t you cry.

Don’t you cry.

Summertime is among the most recorded songs in history.

It seems I had some 25, 000 versions to choose from.

Yet, I didn’t hesitate for a second.

The version that played in my head as the fish jumped and the cotton grew high was recorded in 1966 by Billy Stewart for Chess Records.

Image result for billy stewart images

Billy’s bravura performance of Summertime has the fish jumping out of sheer joy and the cotton splitting the cloudless sky.

Oh Yes!

We are rising up singing.

Oh Yes!

We are gonna spread our wings and soar right up to the roof of the sky.

Nothing’s gonna hurt us.

Summertime.

Summertime.

And the living is easy.

The living is easy.

Hush.

Hush.

We won’t cry.

We won’t cry.

Summertime.

Image result for images of late summer evening in hampshire

Summertime.

Summertime.

Notes :

Billy Stewart (March 24, 1937 – January 17, 1970) was as you will know from the above an extraordinary singer and performer.

Track down a collection of his recordings and you will be highly rewarded.

I will return to Billy’s career here on The Jukebox later.

Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac : Albatross

Sometimes it’s all too much.

Too much.

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and let the busy, busy, busyness of the world fall away.

Away.

Joni wanted to skate away on a frozen river.

Huck Finn wanted to light out for the Territory.

George Mallory climbed up and up until he vanished.

Captain Scott entered and never left the great white wastes.

T E Lawrence and Charles de Foucault sought out the Desert.

Emilia Earhart flew away into the deep blue beyond.

And me?

Well, I would seek out the heart of the deepest ocean.

So far from land that land could not be remembered anymore and scarcely even imagined.

Darkness on the face of the deep.

Adrift with Whale song and moonlight.

Above in the silence the Albatross.

What music could sound such depths?

 

 

Oceanic sway.

Stratospheric circumpolar soaring.

Peter Green.

Stratocaster.

‘The Touch’

Balm for the weary labourer.

Never matched.

Listen on a loop for an hour and it won’t be too long.

Linda Ronstadt, Mike Nesmith, P P Arnold : Different Drum

It seems like music has always been in the air around you and in your head.

Folk Music, Country Music, Rock ‘n’ Roll.

And, you write poems, lyrics if you will, that maybe could be songs.

Along comes the Guitar and those poems really do sound like songs.

There’s something about the sound of the 12 string especially that frees up the spirit.

Listened to a lot of music in Texas growing up and in the Service the radio was always a lifeline.

Now you’re back in civilian life it’s time to see if any of these songs have a life outside your head.

Head West Young Man!

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Los Angeles has quite a scene.

There’s a club, The Troubadour, in West Hollywood that has a Monday night Hootenanny where all kinds of songs get played by folks desperate to get their songs sung and heard.

Some of these singers are really building a following and some have even got record deals.

Now if I could just get someone like that to sing and record one of my songs I’d be launched as a songwriter and maybe people would take the time to listen to me singing my other songs.

Might even make a few bucks!

There’s this guy, John Herald, heads up a bluegrass outfit, The Greenbriar Boys, and we get along fine – play each other our songs.

He thinks, ‘Different Drum’ has got that something a song has to have so that it sticks in people’s minds and has them singing along before they even realise they are doing it.

Well, praise be!, John only went and recorded, ‘Different Drum’ and put it out on their album, ‘Better Late than Never!’

Now I have an official song writing credit!

But, I wont be needing a truck to haul away my royalties!

John and the Boys slowed the song down and their version sounds a little worthy to me; a hit for the Hoot crowd but nowhere else.

But, all songwriters will tell you, once a song is out there on record and on the radio, its like a message in a bottle and there’s no knowing whose feet it will wash up at.

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Turns out there’s this group called The Stone Poneys and that the girl in the group, Linda Ronstadt, heard the Greenbriar Boys take on, ‘Different Drum’ and thought here, finally, was a song that would suit her.

I got to say that anyone who has ever seen The Stone Poneys knows that while Kenny Edwards and Bobby Kimmel love their music they are very low watt bulbs in comparison to the brilliance that surrounds Linda.

She’s hotter than Mojave and she has a true voice that pierces the heart.

So, one day, I turn on the radio and Hallelujah!

Different Drum blasting out and no doubt about it a sure fire hit.

Got to say Linda has given the song a sweetness and sensuality that even surprises me.

Amazing how good a song can sound when its sung by a singer like Linda supported by musicians who can really play directed by a Producer who can make a song fly off those vinyl grooves.

I did some research and it seems Linda was the only Stone Poney on the record.

Nick Venet, the Producer, twigged that the song shouldn’t be one more of the thousands of pretty acoustic ballads out there.

Give it a stylish arrangement, add in the chops of first rate musicians to match Linda’s shining vocals and you’ve got a record that will have people turning up their radio’s and saying, ‘Who is that?’ and hot footing it to their nearest record store.

So, Jimmy Bond plays the hell out of the Bass – he’s got all that Jazz training and he knows the studio – how else did he get to be part of the Wrecking Crew!

Al Viola and Bernie Leadon played those sweet guitar parts.

Jim Gordon, the Jim Gordon, made the song swing from the Drum stool.

Add in a little magic from Sid Sharp’s strings and Don Randi’s Harpsichord and I defy anyone not to sing along with gusto!

This time the royalties really did flow in!

Now, some of you might know, that for a few years in the late 60s, I became something of a celebrity, heard someone call the group I was in, ‘The Monkees’ a Pop phenomenon indeed!

Of course, all the while the TV Show and the recording and  tours were in full spate I never lost track of the fact that at heart I was a singer songwriter and that when all this frenzy finished (as it always must sooner or later) I would pick up the 12 String and find a new audience.

You know, ‘Different Drum’ has been pretty good to me so I figured let’s see how it sounds with Red Rhodes on the pedal steel and me taking a mellow meander through the song.

Now songwriters love all their songs and I ain’t no different but Different Drum is close to my heart and it seems to keep finding new singers who want to put their own stamp on it.

Listen here to Susanna Hoffs (wasn’t she in a group that was something of a modest pop phenomenon in the 80s?).

Don’t she and Matthew Sweet charm us all!

That’s my kind of Hootennany right there.

One of the greatest gifts a songwriter can ever get is to hear one of their songs completely reimagined so that it comes up anew shining bright and dazzling a new audience.

That happened to me when I heard P P Arnold take on Different Drum with a bunch of English musicians.

Most everybody knows her as a backing singer or for cutting the original of Cat Stevens’ ‘First Cut is the Deepest’ but the more you investigate her career you realise she’s a magnificent soul singer and that any writer ought to be real proud to have her cover one of their songs.

Once heard you won’t forget this.

She can flat out sing!

Compared to Linda and Susanna and P P Arnold I can’t sing at all.

But, Over the years I have learned how to tell a story and make co-conspirators of an audience.

Different Drum is an old friend now and I like to make sure I don’t rush through it pretending I was still in my 20s.

A story needs to be properly framed and told for maximum impact.

So now it goes something like this :

Long as I can make it up on stage I’m going to be singing that song.

Time to close out with a tribute to the person who sent this song soaring into so many hearts.

Linda’s health doesn’t let her sing anymore but a voice like she had will always be lifting spirits and touching souls.

Warren Zevon : Werewolves of London (Ah-hooo!)

Nowadays I live a life of quiet rural seclusion in our cottage in the South Downs.

At night the only sounds are the nocturnal scurrying of woodland animals, the call of the Owls and the music of the swirling wind.

Ah but there was a time when I lived a world away from such bucolic charms.

For almost two decades I lived and worked in the heart of London.

The nocturnal choirs there were composed of police and ambulance sirens, the omnipresent roaring traffics boom and the relentless beat, beat, beat of youthful ambition.

Millions upon millions of dreams and desires, spoken and unspoken, melding and clashing twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

And, dreams and desires are tales we tell to ourselves and the pursuit of those tales leads to public stories.

Heroic stories. Comic stories. Tragic stories.

Oh, I could tell you some stories.

Like the time, well refreshed, when I attempted to jump onto the open platform of the 159 Bus as it accelerated up Regent Street.

The Bus was travelling at about 30mph so I did well to time my approach run and very well to manage to grab the bar of the platform.

However, while it’s one thing to grab on to the bar it’s quite another to then hold on and pull yourself in to the Bus.

So, that’s how I became the first man to perform a triple Salchow Jump from a moving Bus onto tarmac and live! (though I did disrupt traffic and walk with a limp for several weeks after).

I had a number of unexpected encounters with The Metropolitan Police when I was, ‘Living  on the Frontline’.

Like the time I was walking home not on the well lit Main Street but by the route that skirted the Park as a short cut.

Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by dozens of Her Majesty’s Constabulary supported by some very vocal Dogs as a drugs raid was carried out on the Rastafarian Temple just around the corner from my flat.

They didn’t seem interested in my observation that Bob Marley had stayed there on his first visit to England!

Like the time I woke up intrigued by the unusually high volume of sirens in the night and an eerie red glow in the night sky.

This turned out to a serious riot in nearby Brixton.

I thought I might get a closer look by walking to the end of my road but found on opening my front door that the Police Control Line had been set up exactly there.

So, that was how I first met the Metropolitan Police Commissioner who wasted no words in ordering me to immediately return to my flat and on no account leave unless formally instructed to do so.

Stories. So many stories.

But I have to admit, though I like to think I tell a good story, that no story of mine can hope to match a London story that starts with these lines :

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walkin’ through the streets of SoHo in the rain

No, when it comes to London stories my favourite will always be, ‘Werewolves of London’ by the late, very great, Warren Zevon.

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo

Warren Zevon was a complete, ‘One Off’ with a songwriting imagination that knew no bounds.

He had a blacker than black noir imagination so that many of his songs could double as screenplays for classic film noir movies.

I first saw Warren when he supported Jackson Browne and though I was a fan of JB it was Warren who I came out of the show madly enthusing about.

He was a highly charismatic performer who didn’t seem to be performing at all – just allowing the audience to spend some time interacting with his outrageous tales of love and loss and rage and bewilderment at the madness of life.

I saw and met some extraordinary characters during my time in the Big Smoke (one day I’ll tell you the story of how I won £50 from Peter O’Toole or the time Richard Harris threw a pint of Guinness all over me).

But, more’s the pity I never saw :

Lon Chaney walkin’ with the Queen
Doin’ the werewolves of London

 

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo

Stories. So many stories.

Like the time I called in to one of the music pubs I frequented to find I was the only audience member prepared to pay to see an unknown pedal steel player called Sarah Jory.

Over a drink we agreed she would do the show and I would applaud wildly throughout.

Turned out she was excellent and my parting comment of ‘Stick with it – you never know where you’ll end up’ was proved more prescient than I had imagined when I saw her a few years later as part of Van Morrison’s Band at the grand old Albert Hall!

A great story needs a punchline that lodges permanently in the imagination and I know there is no song punchline anywhere to to top :

I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a piña colada at Trader Vic’s
His hair was perfect

 

From the first time I ever heard Werewolves of London it plays in my head as I walk through the Capital’s  storied streets.

Look – there’s where the great fire of London started.

Look – that’s where they publicly hung Perkin Warbeck!

Look – that’s the house that both Handel and Hendrix lived in!

Look – here we are in Mayfair; keep your eyes peeled for a hairy handed gent, you know the one who ran amok in Kent, because  given half a chance he’ll rip your lungs out Jim!

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo

Yup, compare to Warren’s howling at the Moon wild werewolf imagination almost all songwriters are very domestic dogs indeed!

Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo
Ah-hooo, werewolves of London
Ah-hooo

Van Morrison & Mark Knopfler : Last Laugh (Happy Birthday Van!)

You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

Presence.

Some things you just can’t buy.

Presence.

Coaches and Gurus and Snake Oil salesmen will portentously promise to reveal the secret to you.

Better save your money and your time and learn the things that can be taught – vocal exercises, relaxation, the whole assembly of skills that adds up to Technique.

But Presence?

No way.

You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

The gods or muses dispose as they will.

Hard to define but easy to recognise.

Greta Garbo.

Marlon Brando.

Rudolph Nureyev.

Maria Callas.

Miles Davis.

Muhammad Ali.

Van Morrison.

Intensity.

Impact.

Cultural, emotional and spiritual impact.

You’ll recognise it when you confront it.

Mark Knopfler is a gifted songwriter and as a guitar player has undoubted Presence.

He is also canny enough to know that some songs require an extra ingredient that he does not possess.

A voice with Presence.

So, for his Song, ‘The Last Laugh’ he called up Van Morrison.

There must have been a moment in the studio as they listened back when Mark exhaled and smiled deeply as the sound of Van’s voice at the beginning of the second verse lifted the work to a wholly new level.

Presence.

Emotional and Spiritual impact.

Van Morrison.

Sing it Van!

Games you thought you’d learned
You neither lost nor won
Dreams have crashed and burned
But you’re still going on
Out on the highway with the road gang working
Up on the mountain with the cold wind blowing
Out on the highway with the road gang working
But the last laugh, baby is yours
And don’t you love the sound
Of the last laugh going down

Very few singers merit the Bold and the Italics.

Van Morrison always has and always will.

Don’t you love the Sound!

Presence.

Cultural, Emotional and Spiritual Impact.

Demonstrated time after time in studios and on stages from Belfast to Buffalo.

Hey Girl! Baby Blue. Brown Eyed Girl. Sweet Thing. Moondance..

Linden Arden.

Listen to The Lion.

The Healing has begun.

No Guru. No Method. No Teacher.

Just Van and that Voice.

It ain’t why, why, why, it just IS.

A voice capable of transcendence as only the rarest voices are.

A voice that reaches up to the Moon.

Don’t you love the Sound!

Van is 74 this week.

So, Happy Birthday Van!

A heartfelt thanks for all the Songs and all the Singing.

 

May your Song always be Sung.

if this is your visit to The Immortal Jukebox you are very welcome!

Sign up for email alerts or follow me on Twitter @thomhickey55 and you’ll never miss a post!

There are more Posts about Van than any other artist here on The Jukebox so, in case you missed one or would like to be reminded of an old favourite here’s the Van Compendium for your delectation and delight!

Brown Eyed Girl’.

An introduction telling the tale of my headlong plunge into obsession following my first hearing of Van’s best known song.

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Don’t Look Back’.

A meditation on Time featuring 2 astounding versions of John Lee Hooker’s tender Blues Ballad. One a reaching for the stars take of a teenager the second the work of a fully realised master musician.

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Carrickfergus‘.

A meditation on family, friendship and loss. How the shadows lengthen! Sung with infinite tenderness and bardic authority.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-7J

In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

A miraculous meditation on the persistence of memory, the power of the radio and the post war world as seen by a young Irish mystic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-bi

Tupelo Honey’.

A rhapsodic meditation on the nurturing, redemptive power of Love. A Hallelujah!

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All in the Game‘.

A meditation on the carousel we all ride. It’s been sung by many singers but never like this!

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Domino’ .

A Founding Father joyously celebrated by a Master from the next generation.

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Sometimes We Cry‘.

Bringing it all back home to singing on the street corner Days. The sweetness of Doo-Wop seasoned with wry maturity.

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I Cover the Waterfront’.

Van and John Lee Hooker, Blues Brothers and Soul Friends, conjure up ancient tides.

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Buona Sera Signorina‘.

Van puts his party hat on and romps through the Louis Prima classic.

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Hey Girl’.

Van takes a stroll along the strand and suspends Time.

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Gloria! Gloria!’

Once, Now and Ever.

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Coney Island 

A Pilgrim’s glimpses of Eternity in the everyday.

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Brand New Day

Born again each Day with The Dawn.

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And It Stoned Me

A mystic dweller on the threshold shows us the wonder ever present everywhere.

Happy Birthday Van!

Ry Cooder : Maria Elena, Secret Love (lazy, hazy, days of Summer)

We drove West.

We drove past the sacred mysteries of Avebury, Stonehenge and Glastonbury.

We circled the Standing Stones.

We crossed the forbidding Moors.

We drove as far as we could go only stopping at the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

It was late when we arrived.

The Moon was silvering the waters.

Dazzled and drowsy we settled into familiar surroundings and breathed the salt tanged air as deeply as we could before sleep beckoned.

I woke, as always, at 6am and joined the joggers and dog walkers patrolling the golden sands.

The surfers in their camper vans were already readying themselves for the fabulous waves the tides would surely provide today.

Later on the whole family including our grand daughter, now almost 1 and an enthusiastic paddler, established camp on our own stretch of the beach.

That lucky old sun rolled around heaven all day as we intermittently swam and sprawled under its reviving rays.

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The picnic basket was looted of every treasure and urgent patrols were sent out for relief supplies of fruit and ice creams.

As the Sun set we meandered back to our cottage with the adults fortified by just the right number of Gin & Tonics.

Perhaps it was the power of the Sun amplified by the G&Ts that led me to start humming a tune that seemed to have the, ‘Spanish Tinge’

What was that song?

I set my music library numbskulls to work as I watched the waves crash on the rocks outside our windows.

Then, praise be, I began to sing in my (very) halting Spanish :

Era la medianoche, when oimos the scream
“Se requieren cien taxis en el almeria de Chavez Ravine.

As soon as the words Chavez Ravine formed in my mind I knew the source of the sun dappled melody that held me enthralled – ‘Onda Callejera’ from Ry Cooder’s wonderful album from 2005, ‘Chavez Ravine’.

Image result for ry cooder images

Now I was able to hit the button and luxuriate in the masterly musicianship of Ry and Joachim Cooder, Mike Elizondo, Joe Rotondi, Gil Bernal, Mike Bolger, and Ledward Kaapana.

Now, I could provide the harmonies for the true vocals of Little Willie G and sisters Juliette and Carla Commagere.

I doubt the Cornish Coast has ever heard such a midnight choir before!

Estupendo!

The interplay between the musicians here is very special.

Listening it’s as if you’ve slipped into a dream state where all your senses flow together and your imagination is released to free float into the welcoming ether.

This is not a sound you can achieve by mere practice or calculation rather it is the result of inspiration grounded on vocation and spiritual immersion leading to musical bliss in the moment.

Catching such bliss on record is very rare so I lift my Sombrero high into the sky to salute Ry and his compadres!

This is the kind of performance which permanently changes the weather inside your head.

And, that’s a feat Ry Cooder has serially achieved throughout his career as he has searched the world seeking out new rhythms and textures to delight his own musical appetite and in consequence ours too.

Ry has since his boyhood has responded to the music, in all genres, that has attracted him by determining to meet the musicians who were masters of that sound and through playing with them inhabit the mystery too.

His whole career is essentially a musical pilgrimage with each record or collaboration a way station where he draws strength, nurture and inspiration for the road ahead.

From his third solo record, ‘Boomer’s Story’ here’s a song from 1932, ‘Maria Elena’ that in the care of Ry’s all star band continues to cast a tender spell.

Now was that 6 minutes or 6 Hours?

Musicianship of this quality makes a mockery of old Father Time’s supposed regularity.

When the above performance was recorded Ry’s Band was dubbed, ‘The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces’.

And, Aces they were everyone.

Attend to the gorgeous sway of Flaco Jimenez on the Accordion.

Attend to George Bohanon’s warm breeze in the night air Trombone.

Attend to the joyful elegance of Van Dyke Park’s Piano.

Marvel at the supernaturally supple rhythm section of Drum maestro Jim Keltner, Miguel Cruz on Percussion and Jorge Calderon on Bass.

Surrender and swoon as Ry orchestrates the whole magnificent ensemble as they lead us to musical nirvana.

Now, a simple miracle.

A collaboration between Ry and the great Cuban Guitarist Manuel Galbán.

There are no words of mine that can capture the glory of this take on, ‘Secret Love’.

Close your eyes, sit still and let the magic begin.

This is collaboration becoming communion.

Ry has a wonderful generosity in his musical life.

Foregrounding the talents of his collaborators through the acuity of his arrangements he creates the space for the magic to enter and bloom.

I wish Ry well on his continuing Pilgrimage for following in his footsteps has been an education and a blessing.

Notes :

As always if a particular clip won’t play for you in this Post you will certainly be able to find a playable clip via YouTube in your own region.

The Albums, ‘Chavez Ravine’ and ‘Mambo Sinuendo’ (where Secret Love features) are unreservedly recommended.

Manuel Galbán is a legendary figure in Cuba.

His work with Los Zafiros is imbued with deep joy in music making.

Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Lyle Lovett & Toots Thielmans : Smile

Exploring the genius of Charlie Chaplin featuring :

Chaplin himself, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Jimmy Durante, Lyle Lovett & Toots Thielmans.

Genius is an extremely overworked term when applied to popular artists of the twentieth century.

Nevertheless, without any hesitation I can assert that Charlie Chaplin was a genius.

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He was a master of every aspect of film making – writing, acting, producing and directing.

And, he did something only the very rarest artists do – he created an iconic character (the Tramp) who has become part of the very fabric of popular consciousness.

He was a Poet of  the Cinema with a deep tragi-comic vision.

A vision whose beauty and truth was recognised and welcomed whatever the age, language and culture of those who encountered his films.

The best definition of genius I know comes from Arthur Schopenhauer :

‘The genius … lights on his age like a comet into the paths of the planets, to whose well-regulated and comprehensible arrangement its wholly eccentric course is foreign.

Accordingly, he cannot go hand in hand with the regular course of the culture of the times as found; on the contrary, he casts his works far out on to the path in front …

Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target … which others cannot even see.’

Charlie Chaplin fully meets that definition.

Oh, and in addition to the honour board of talents listed above he was also a talented composer who wrote the music for one of the most affecting songs of his and any other era – ‘Smile’.

Chaplin, of course, thought in cinematic terms so let’s kick off this tribute to his genius with ‘Smile’ in its first incarnation as part of his score to his masterpiece from 1936, ‘Modern Times’.

Every element of this scene reflects the enormous pains Chaplin took to achieve the exact effects he was seeking.

Chaplin knew all about the Fear and Sorrow that beset so many lives.

He knew that a smile was often your best disguise and perhaps your only defence against the sadness that might otherwise overwhelm you.

The Tramp always keeps alive a spark of Hope, of determination to survive – to be present for what, who knows, may, just may, turn out to be a better tomorrow.

Chaplin’s whole cinematic persona – in the delicacy of his facial gestures and the gamut of his physical pantomime amounts in a sense to an alertness to the promise of Life – no matter how dire the circumstances.

With his mastery of mime and the balletic grace of his movement he was able to convey more nuances of emotion than a hundred lines of dialogue could convey.

His genius was both to acknowledge the Fear and Sorrow but not to surrender to it – to grandly and magnificently literally laugh in the face of it.

And, if Charlie can survive so might we.

As cinema goers, a spring anew in their step, left a Chaplin film they were reassured that light and laughter could outshine the darkness.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you ….

The lyric and a title for Chaplin’s melody came from John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons in 1954.

The Premier recording was by a peerless balladeer of Golden Age American Song – Nat King Cole.

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just Smile.

There is no grandiloquence in Nat’s performance.

Knowing that he had a rare treasure here he simply presents the song allowing the beauty of the melody and the poignancy of the words to travel into the hearts and minds of the audience.

‘Simple’ for Nat King Cole because of the burnished gold of his voice which makes us all gladly share any emotion he is evoking.

If I imagine an exhausted couple slow dancing to Nat’s version in the sanctuary of their home I can only imagine the next take as a solo dance underneath a waning Moon.

Judy Garland.

If ever an artist was born to sing a song it was Judy to sing, ‘Smile’.

Fear and Sorrow and Heartbreak surrounded her all her days.

And, those circumstances were fully incarnated in her voice when she sang – especially when she sang, ‘Smile’.

Her Version is filled with tears and sadness – the gladness and the smile is in the going on, the going on.

I am going to repeat something I wrote about Garland before because I don’t think I can say what I mean to say any better.

Her singing on this song seems to me to be almost miraculous.

It’s as if her singing really came from secret chambers of the heart all the rest of us keep under guard.

No wonder she has such a deep impact on us – we know she is expressing a profound truth about the human condition – our need to love and know we are loved.

Judy Garland paid a high price in terms of personal happiness for living her life and art with such an exposed heart and soul but she fulfilled a vocation given to very few and left an indelible mark on her age and will surely do for aeons to come.

There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of Smile but not a single one sounds anything like the depths that Judy Garland does.

And now for something completely different!

Jimmy Durante brought his own very real magic to Smile.

A straight from the shoulder, Hey Bud, have one on me, growl that’s surprisingly affecting.

Lyle Lovett knows songs having written many fine ones himself.

There is always consideration and deliberation involved in the way he approaches a song.

So, his Smile is ruminative, baffled and melancholic.

 

To conclude here’s something really special.

The great Jazz Harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielmans, at 90, bringing a lifetime of craft and experience to bear on Chaplin’s insights into the changeable weather of the human heart.

In a previous feature on, ‘The Third Man’ I noted that it had one of the great endings in the Film Canon.

Well, Charlie Chaplin was a supreme master of ending a Film in a highly memorable and emotionally satisfying way.

The melody plays, the camera rolls and our hearts are uplifted.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just Smile

If you just Smile.