Duke Ellington and Irving Mills wrote “Prelude To A Kiss” in 1938 but this Billie Holiday version was recorded in 1955. If you compare this recording to the one in my previous post, you can clearly hear what time, illness, and addiction had done to her voice. If you ask me though, the superb command she has over her frail instrument and the depth of feeling she pours into this tune make this the superior kiss song.
Somewhere near the beginning of this blog I talked about the awesome power of early 20th century woo. This song is the perfect example. With repeated exposure to beautiful melodies and heart stopping lyrics like these no wonder “The Greatest Generation” went on to have so many babies! Nowadays the preludes to our kisses often arrive via email exchange. There’s absolutely no poetry or passion it’s true, but at least the communication is clearer. It’s probably best that we’ve dialed down the woo factor anyway. With modern fertility medicine, woo could result in a baby boom that would give China a run for it’s money! By the way, just what the heck are they putting in the love songs over there??
Billie Holiday recorded “This Year’s Kisses” in 1937 with Teddy Wilson and his orchestra. Irving Berlin wrote the song for the 1937 movie “On The Avenue.”
I’m with Billie on “this year’s new romance.” It’s only been remarkable in its absence (mostly self imposed). My crop of kisses, however, has been great! They are frequently Happy Meal or kibble flavored but hey, that’s sweet enough for me! I wish the flavor of the kiss was a bit more indicative of the smoocher’s species but I’ve learned never to look a gift kiss in the mouth… wait… No, that works!
“I Get Along Without You Very Well” and “The Nearness Of You” are my two favorite Hoagy Carmichael songs. I saw an album cover which claimed that Carmichael was “The First Of The Singer Songwriters.” That’s clearly an exaggeration, but he was one of the few composers of his time who also gained notoriety as a performer. Here’s another bit of trivia. He was also a lawyer for a short time before becoming a musician.
This particular song was written in 1939 with lyrics inspired by poet Jane Brown Thompson. There are several excellent versions on You Tube. I chose this Billie Holiday version. It was recorded in 1959 quite near the end of her brief life. Her voice was very frail at this point but still lovely.
So I’ve been doing a bit of writing lately. What, you may ask, has that got to do with today’s song? Not much, except it is a torch song and, as it happens, I write trashy romance. It’s always the same basic story. They meet. They fall in love. Boinking ensues. They’re torn apart by their tragic flaws. The power of love is too strong so once again they are reunited. Then more boinking ensues and they live happily ever after. In romance novels, the only variety is in the window dressing.
Like so many of the best and brightest, Billie Holiday was taken from us far too soon. Happily she left us with an impressive catalog of beautiful music. I found a clip from her only major motion picture roll in 1947 and I thought that was worth posting. By all accounts it’s a pretty terrible movie except for Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. Billie is beautiful and her voice is strong and clear but her sleepy eyes and unsteady gait seem to hint at the coming storm in her personal life. She was arrested later that year for narcotics possession. Here’s Lady Day singing “Farewell to Storyville” from the movie “New Orleans.”
Here’s Billy Eckstine’s very fine version of “Everything I Have Is Yours.” It’s from 1947 as well and it was one of his biggest hits.
I really should learn how to make a power point slide show video so I can post my own versions of songs when there isn’t already one on You Tube. I’d have loved to have done a side by side comparison of these two versions. It’s fascinating how the feeling of a piece can change from one artist to another. When Billie sings the song it’s a sweet wistful torch song like Frank says. When Billy sings it, it’s all about sex appeal. You can just hear the shower of underpants and hotel keys hitting the stage as he croons the last note!