Oscar and Song: Here's to the "Losers"
I'll concede that I've always been a fan of the 1944 winner, Johnny Burke-Jimmy van Heusen's whimsical "Swingin' On A Star from the Bing Crosby tear-jerker Going My Way, but once again the competition was formidable, including as it did "I Couldn't Sleep A Wink Last Night, "I'll Walk Alone, "I'm Making Believe, "Long Ago And Far Away and "The Trolley Song (which may not even have been the best song from Meet Me In St. Louis, a film that also introduced "The Boy Next Door and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"). Rodgers and Hammerstein won their first and only Academy Award in 1945 for "It Might As Well Be Spring, but once again the going wasn't easy, as "Spring had to outflank such heavyweights as "Accentuate The Positive, "Aren't You Glad You're You, "I Fall In Love Too Easily, "I'll Buy That Dream, "Linda, "Love Letters, "Sleighride In July, "So In Love and "Some Sunday Morning. Yes, they couldn't hold the nominations to two or three songs in those days.
That brings us to 1946, the end of World War II, and another winner for Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, "On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe, whose closest competitors were Kern's "All Through The Day, James Monaco-Mack Gordon's "I Can't Begin To Tell You, Hoagy Carmichael's "Ole Buttermilk Sky and Berlin's "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song. While not quite a standard, the 1947 winner is a personal favorite, Allie Wrubel-Ray Gilbert's "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah from a magnificent partly-animated film, Disney's Song Of The South. Among the contenders: "A Gal In Calico, "I Wish I Didn't Love You So and "Pass That Peace Pipe.
1948 was a relatively lean year, as Jay Livingston-Ray Evans won their first Oscar for "Buttons And Bows, sung by Bob Hope in The Paleface, which earned the nod over four other songs including Styne-Cahn's "It's Magic from Doris Day's first film, Romance On The High Seas, and, believe it or not, "The Woody Woodpecker Song. Another light-hearted entry, "Baby, It's Cold Outside, grabbed the brass ring in 1949, outdistancing Victor Young-Ned Washington's "My Foolish Heart, Styne-Cahn's "It's A Great Feeling and two other nominees.
In the 1950s, as the heyday of the Hollywood musical slowly decelerated, the over-all quality of the songs also waned, but even so, a fair number of notable tunes were among the nominees that failed to win an Oscar. The roster includes "Be My Love (1950), "Too Late Now, "Wonder Why (1951), "The Man That Got Away, "Count Your Blessings (1954), "Something's Gotta Give, "The Tender Trap (1955), "True Love (1956), "An Affair To Remember (1957), "A Certain Smile (1958). Mercer's "Something's Gotta Give" lost to "Three Coins In A Fountain," which, to me, was one of Oscar's more blatant travesties.
The pickings were even slimmer in the 1960s as film songs became more a side dish than a main course. Still, there were a handful of admirable tunes that were passed over on Oscar night including "The Second Time Around (1960), "Tender Is The Night (1962), "Charade (1963), "My Kind Of Town (1964), "Alfie (1966) and "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life? (1969). By the 1970s the larder was so depleted that most lovers of popular song were no doubt listening to their old recordings and longing for a return to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. As we now know, that Golden Age won't ever reappear, and the compass has been pointing downward ever since. But what a treasure trove of great music Hollywood has given us, and at least we have those recordings, and our memories . . .
Au Revoir, MBB
After twenty-five years, John Killoch is closing his UK-based retail CD outlet, Mainly Big Bands, which is sad news for those who have relied on his honesty and expertise, especially in the area of big-band albums. He says he'll soon be posting a "sale list on the web site, www.mainlybigbands.com, and that the web address will eventually be offered for sale. Best wishes for a long and happy retirement, John; you've earned it.
Jazz Improv Plans NYC Conference
I was delighted to learn that Jazz Improv, the "Rolls Royce of Jazz magazines, for whom I once penned the occasional review, is continuing to grow and spread its wings, planning its first Convention and Festival next October 25-28 in New York City, more specifically at the New Yorker Hotel, 481 Eighth Avenue. There'll be exhibits, panels and workshops on a variety of topics along with performances by a number of well-known Jazz artists including (as this was being written) McCoy Tyner, Pat Martino, Joey DeFrancesco, Jimmy Heath, Wallace Roney, Geri Allen, Sonny Fortune, Vic Juris, Valery Ponomarev, Ron Blake, Jimmy Bruno, Mark Elf, Cecil Brooks III, Loren Schoenberg, Hal Galper, Mike Longo, Harvie S, Tim Horner, Michael Weiss, Dom Minasi, Marvin Stamm and Frank Catalano, with many other names to be added between now and then.