We begin and end this selection of waltzes with one of my newest favorite songs (that is, "new" to me; it was penned long ago): "Pela luz dos olhos teus." In between we hear from, among others, Tom Jones, The Beatles (a pair of mid- to uptempo waltzes), Juan Garcia Esquivel, The Young Rascals (waltz rhythm kicks in at 0:22), The Who, Dean Martin, demented Harvard mathematician Tom Lehrer, the Supremes, Todd Snider, Dionne Warwick, Jackie DeShannon, John Lennon, John Bolton, Jerry Orbach, Astrud Gilberto, Leo Reisman, The Pogues, John Prine, Yves Montand, Maria Muldaur, Nilsson, Rebecca Zapen, Richard Thompson, Kirsty MacColl, The Backyardigans, Peter Sarstedt and a couple of Aussie accordion players named Bob and Hector.
Donovan, Oscar Brown Jr., Chet Atkins, VoxJazz, the Quintet of the Hot Club of San Francisco, Andy Williams, and Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks are on hand to contribute jazzy waltzes, while Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dazzle on the dance floor to Jerome Kern's "Waltz in Swing Time," from the movie "Swing Time." Fred also joins Vera-Ellen in a portion of the Currier & Ives segment that features the title tune of 1952's "The Belle of New York."
"Pela luz dos olhos teus" was written in Paris in the 1950s by the legendary Brazilian poet, diplomat and prodigious drinker Vinicius de Moraes. Towards the end of this playlist you can see and hear a drunken Vinicius briefly singing a chorus of the song with his great pal and writing partner, Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim, who accompanies Vinicius on guitar and also has had a few too many whiskeys. (Vinicius wrote the words to many of Tom's melodies, most notably "The Girl from Ipanema.") But the recording that begins this set is from the 1977 album "Miucha and Antonio Carlos Jobim." Miucha, in addition to being a wonderful singer, was married to bossa nova legend João Gilberto and is the sister of the great singer-songwriter-novelist Chico Buarque, who we also hear in this list, singing with Nara Leao "João e Maria," which he composed with the Brazilian accordion maestro Sivuca.
Here is a batch of wonderful songs that I first heard on WMNF radio, 88.5 FM in Tampa, Florida. Were it not for that station I might not ever have heard of some of these artists and many of their songs, particularly the treasure trove of traditional music from the British Isles. Granted, I was well aware of John Prine, Oscar Brown Jr., Antonio Carlos Jobim, Loudon Wainright III, Bruce Cockburn and Chris Smither before discovering WMNF in 1982, but the station introduced me to many of their recordings — both new and old — that I otherwise would not have encountered.
The station also boasts a terrific news department, headed all these years by Rob Lorei, and in-depth public affairs shows. I've been a guest on four occasions, first in 1988 discussing U.S. intervention in Central America, and lastly in 2003 dissecting the techniques of deceit employed by George W. Bush and Colin Powell to justify the invasion of Iraq, a matter I wrote quite a lot about BEFORE the war.
Among the musical artists and groups I first heard on WMNF are Lucinda Williams, The Sundays, Planxty, Ellis Paul, Shawn Colvin, Greg Brown, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Tracy Chapman, Silly Wizard, Patrick Street, Mary Black, Joe Ely, Dar Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Iris DeMent, David Wilcox, John Pizzarelli, The Pogues, Clannad, Fred Eaglesmith, and Red Knuckles and the Trail Blazers. So a special thanks to some of my favorite WMNF programmers of the past 30 years, including Janine Farver, Ed Lehman, Marcie Finkelstein and Randy Wynne — and especially Cam Dilley, Bill Dudley and the late, great Pat Chamburs. For more on Pat's remarkable life, read this: http://www.tampabay.com/news/obituaries/article993387.ece
I've added comments to most of these videos, noting on which show I first heard a particular song or sharing some other fascinating tidbit. No, I'm not part elephant, but I did tape many of these songs, particularly the bunches by a single artist that Cam Dilley played on his weekly "Friday Morning Feature." So even if I didn't have a decent memory, those old tapes in shoe boxes help me to recall when I heard these gems for the first time.
I wrote the following for the St. Petersburg Times in 1998 about my first encounter, in 1972 or 1973, with the star of this playlist: "He stared up from the record bin, looking peeved and desperate. 'Where's the Money?' demanded the lanky fellow on the album cover. . . . I flipped the LP over to find a funky cartoon drawing illustrating each of the 12 songs: Shorty Falls in Love, The Buzzard Was Their Friend, By Hook or By Crook, I Feel Like Singing, the title track and more. My face lit up. I plunked down my ducats, hurried home and made a beeline for the turntable. What a musical stew! A dash of Andrews Sisters, a dollop of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, a hint of bluegrass and a heavy dose of Western swing. But most of all, Dan — his jazzy lead vocals, his clever lyrics and quirky character sketches, his daffy, deadpan patter. Over the years, Dan's music has carted me from cares and woes to the place he calls Hicksville, the home of happy feet. I could always count on Dan to put a shuffle in my step and a smile on my face." As you can see from this list, Dan is still at it. Yes, we have vintage clips of his fantastic 1972 band on the Flip Wilson Show, and Dan with his 1990 group the Acoustic Warriors performing brilliant renditions of "Shootin' Straight" and "I Scare Myself" on David Sanborn's show "Night Music." But we also have video of Dan and a new generation of Hot Licks and Lickettes from the last few years. Sprinkled among these live clips are studio recordings spanning his entire career, including the official videos from his last two CDs: the title track of 2009's "Tangled Tales" (my apologies for Dan's unneeded middle-finger salute) and a jazzy holiday waltz, "Carol of the Bells," featuring Dan scatting and yodeling and some Chipmunk-style critters harmonizing, from 2010's "Crazy for Christmas." We even have Dan in Melbourne, Australia, live at Guruland Studios in 2009, playing "Waitin'" with the support of the Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks tribute band, Gerry Hale and the Innocent Bystanders. (See the video titled "Gerry Hale Gig" for a sampling of their tasty work.) In 2010 Dan toured Japan with Maria Muldaur, and they team up on "Walkin' One and Only," a Hot Licks classic that Maria recorded on her magnificent, selt-titled 1973 album. Getting back to the vintage recordings, for all you lovers of gypsy-flavored jazz violin I particularly recommend the studio version of "I Scare Myself" (the video posted by youtuber "DickToolCo") with Symphony Sid Page's mesmerizing solo that starts at the 2:30 mark and runs for nearly three thrilling minutes. A tip of the hat to Hot Licks guitarist John Girton, who composed the sweet, swinging instrumentals "Flight of the Fly," "Philly Rag," "Fujiyama" and "Sure Beats Me." For more on Dan, and to find out when he's coming to your town, visit danhicks.net
Blossom Dearie (1924-2009) was a wonderful jazz and pop pianist, singer and composer with a wry sense of humor who continued to perform into her 80s. Despite being a wise, sophisticated woman from early in her career, she had a distinctive, little-girl voice that got younger as she grew older. All part of the Blossom magic.
This playlist is comprised of (a) standards; (b) great tunes by obscure contemporary songwriters who Blossom championed throughout her career; (c) many songs Blossom composed (usually with someone else penning the lyrics), such as "Inside a Silent Tear," "Dusty Springfield," "Winchester in Apple Blossom Time," a Schoolhouse Rock number called "Figure 8"; and (d) two of her signature tunes composed by Dave Frishberg — "Peel Me a Grape" (we see Blossom performing it live in 1999 at age 74), and "I'm Hip," with Bob Dorough contributing the melody on the latter. In 2009, at 84, Blossom Dearie ascended to that great supper club in the sky.