Standards and Forgotten Gems: Part II

Following up on my earlier post, I have a few words on three more undeservedly forgotten songwriters: Arthur Johnston, James V. Monaco and Richard A. Whiting. They may not have household names but their classic songs are still recognized the world over.

OnlyForever_smallArthur Johnston received an Oscar nomination for the standard “Pennies from Heaven,” which can be heard on The Billie Holiday Collection 1. James V. Monaco received four nominations for the gems “Only Forever,” found on the CD Your Hit Parade, 1940, sung by Bing Crosby; “I Can’t Begin to Tell You,” on Bing’s Gold Records; “We Mustn’t Say Goodbye,” sung by Jo Stafford on “G.I Jo”; and “I’m Making Believe,” which can be heard on The Ink Spots.

Besides “Pennies from Heaven” (which, by the way, is also featured in the Steve Martin movie of the same name … duh!), Arthur Johnston wrote the standard “My Old Flame,” which appears on Chet Baker’s Songs for Lovers album and Linda Ronstadt’s Lush Life.  He also penned “Cocktails for Two” that can be heard on Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection in a Spike Jones treatment!

Though James V. Monaco never won an Oscar, besides the four songs I mentioned above, he wrote one of the most famous pop songs of all time, the classic “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It)” which you can hear on the Judy Garland Collection, volume 1. It’s also featured by Harry Nilsson on A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night.

guilty_smallWhile Richard A. Whiting only received one Oscar nomination (he died too soon at age 46 in 1938), he wrote several songs which have stood the test of time: “Too Marvelous for Words,” sung to great effect by Ella Fitzgerald on Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Song Book; “Guilty” performed by his daughter, the great Margaret Whiting, on Your Hit Parade, 1947; “My Ideal” and “Louise” both found on The Collection” by Maurice Chevalier; and “On the Good Ship Lollipop” sung by Rosemary Clooney on Clooney Tunes.

Remember, not only do we have these recordings, but the printed music for all of the songs mentioned here (and thousands more!) are available from The Seattle Public Library! Come to the 8th floor of the Central Library and see for yourself! Or, give us a call at 206-386-4636!   ~ Bob T.

Standards and Forgotten Gems: Sheet Music at SPL

So, all you old sheet music of the 1930s and 1940s nerds (I know you’re out there–and I proudly include myself in this group!), did you know that The Seattle Public Library has a massive, uncataloged collection of this material–available for check-out? Well, we do! Do the names Richard A. Whiting, Harry Revel, Arthur Johnston, James V. Monaco and Allie Wrubel bring a warmth to your heart that nothing else quite can? I know the feeling. Well, don’t despair! All of these folks are well-represented in the Library’s KOMO collection and Old Pop Songs collection. Just in case you might be asking yourself, “Who the heck is he talking about?!” let me shed some light on these master songwriters.

leaveheaven1aEach of these songwriters had songs nominated for Oscars (and Wrubel’s song, a little ditty called “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah,” won the award). Richard Whiting’s “When Did You Leave Heaven” was nominated in 1936. Check out recordings of this song from our catalog: Haunted Heart by Renee Fleming; Over the Rainbow by Jimmy Scott.

Allie Wrubel’s Oscar winning “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” can be found on the Disney compilation CD Stay Awake, sung by Harry Nilsson and on Your Hit Parade, 1947, sung by Johnny Mercer. Wrubel also penned the wonderful Oscar-nominated song “I’ll Buy That Dream,” which can be found on Your Hit Parade, 1945, sung by Helen Forrest and Dick Haymes. But wait, there’s more! Wrubel composed the jazz standard “Gone with the Wind,” which you can hear on several Library CDs, such as The Incredible Jazz Guitar by Wes Montgomery, Loverly by Cassandra Wilson and A Foggy Day by Mel Torme. And don’t let’s forget “(I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over,” which you can hear on Linger Awhile by Sarah Vaughan, Mystery Lady by Etta James and Indian Summer by Dave Brubeck.

wakeup1bHarry Revel wrote several classic songs in the 1930s but his two Oscar nominations came in the 1940s for a couple of songs that didn’t quite become standards: “There’s a Breeze on Lake Louise” and “Remember Me to Carolina.” Check out these great recordings of some of his classic 1930s tunes: “Don’t Let It Bother You” by Fats Waller, on the CD Breakin’ the Ice, the early years, part 1; one of my all-time favorites “There’s a Lull in My Life” appears on Chet Baker’s “Songs for Lovers” and Banu Gibson & Bucky Pizzarelli’s Steppin’ Out; and “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” and “Love Thy Neighbor” both appear on the CD 16 Most Requested Songs by Bing Crosby. “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” was also featured in the Steve Martin film Pennies from Heaven which you can find in the SPL catalog, VHS only I’m afraid.

Yes, not only does the Library have these recordings but the sheet music for all of these songs as well! Come on up to the 8th floor of the Central Library and have a look!

“But what about Arthur Johnston and James V. Monaco?” you ask. “And what can you tell me about Richard A. Whiting?” you cry with great anticipation. Stay tuned for Part 2! ~ Bob T.

Latin Dancing in Seattle, Baile Latino en Seattle!

It’s August but autumn is right around the corner – yes?! – so keep your dancing feet warm by learning some salsa, cha cha, bachata, and merengue dance in Seattle! salsadancinglessonThere is a surprising number of options for Latin dancing in the Northwest, and Latin dance is one of the most accessible partner dances around. The gold standard for Seattle salsa dance is set by the Century Ballroom in Capitol Hill where Seattleites can take classes in salsa, tango, and swing dance. Beginning to advanced salsa dancers strap on their shoes and fill the Century every Thursday and Saturday night. Go to for details and class schedules.

In addition, Seattle salseros – salsa dancers – can enjoy free live music in town each week. On Wednesday nights, head to Babalu’s in Wallingford and try out Sunday nights at the Triple Door Lounge downtown.

The Seattle Public Library has resources for aspiring salsa dancers as well. Check out music by Celia Cruz, Tumbao, Tito Puente, and Gilberto Santa Rosa. musica rhythm of latin america 080509Enjoy dvds like Partner Dancing 101: Salsa and Samba. Gain inspiration through books like Salsa with Me by Roni Denholtz. Learn about the roots of salsa music through the non-fiction titles Musica! : The Rhythm of Latin America by Sue Steward or The Book of Salsa: a Chronicle of Urban Music from the Caribbean to New York City by César Miguel Rondón.

                             ~ Amy L, High Point

Films Found at my Branch

I often browse the shelves of my branch library for impulse DVD’s to watch instead of commercial TV. This can lead to some winners and some losers. Staring at the shelves one asks oneself, “If this film is really any good, how come I haven’t heard of it?”

Every now and then I get lucky and find an unknown gem. Two recent finds that were unexpected pleasures were:
deliriousDelirious, directed by Tom DiCillo, starring Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt, with assists from Alison Lohman, Gina Gershon and Elvis Costello, spins a narrative of glamour vs. obscurity in the context of an awkward friendship between paparazzi Les Galantine (Buscemi) and his street urchin understudy Toby Grace (Pitt). Les makes his living as a cynical bottom feeder in the world of celebrity fame, while Toby is all sincerity, offering to act as his assistant for nothing but the opportunity to get along in the world. Somehow Toby’s sincere approach begins opening doors into the world of the stars, lifting him away from his sleazy “mentor” and into the spotlight. As usual Buscemi is terrific, playing the role of the whining, pushy shooter to a T, with just the right undercurrent of pathos to keep you caring. Pitt’s baby face and unshaven good looks make for a believable “rags to riches” story. The scene scouts, or whoever found or created the photographers’ New York walk-up apartment set also did a terrific job: it’s the perfect combo of fading kitsch and cockroach infested slum, the natural environment of the celebrity stalker.

On the extreme opposite end of thebernardanddoris financial spectrum, Bernard & Doris, directed by Bob Balaban starring Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes depicts a friendship on the other side of the spotlight. Sarandon plays tobacco heiress Doris Duke, and Fiennes her dedicated butler Bernard Lafferty. Duke (Sarandon) lived in the fishbowl of fabulous wealth throughout her life, becoming as selfish, petty and unpredictable as anyone in her position might. Bernard (Fiennes) comes into her service rather later in her life, after the failure of her marriages, hired to care for her and her New Jersey mansion. Despite her terrible treatment of him, and his personal alcoholic demons, the two become close friends. Cushioned from her promiscuity by his homosexual preferences, Bernard has a touching affection and regard for Doris, and she slowly comes to reciprocate, finally coming to trust him enough to leave him in charge of her enormous estate when she dies.

Friendship breeds strange bedfellows certainly, and in the case of these films, amusing yet thought provoking entertainment.

Always a bridesmaid …

Nancy Pearl, bless her, tells us never to apologize for our reading tastes. I hope her advice extends to TV: I am an addict of the reality series The Bachelorette  (and The Bachelor). I get a lot of teasing for this, abad-bridesmaidnd you are welcome to chime in! I don’t know why I find them so fascinating, but I do feel the series have a Jane-Austenesque quality. The ultra-eligible—and available!— paragon arrives on the scene, and the unmarried hordes cluster around, losing both their hearts and their heads. Unlike Austen, though, the happiness of the ending is unpredictable.  (The Bachelorette is airing now, on Monday nights,  in case my description has made it seem more uplifting than it really is, and you’d like to tune in).

Which leads to the topic of bachelorettes and bridesmaids, surely an up-to-the-minute concern during Seattle’s summer wedding season. Whether you think weddings are a great way to spend time, or you would sooner have a tax audit than attend one, these three books are a breath of fresh air and make for delectable summer reading. Continue reading “Always a bridesmaid …”