Sunday, May 31, 2009

#72: I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo

I got a gal in Kalamazoo,
Don't wanna boast,
But I know she's the toast
Of Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo.

Written in 1942 as the big production number for the film Orchestra Wives, this tune by New Yorkers Harry Warren and Mack Gordon (born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna and Morris Gittler, respectively) sings the praises of a Midwestern sweetheart, underscored by homesickness in the heart of wartime. It was perhaps the first time that many listeners ever heard of Kalamazoo, Michigan, but the four-syllable setting was distinctive enough to be memorable while folksy enough to capture the idea of an American Heartland hometown perfectly. Musically, the song just swings. Don't you love the use of the alphabet in the opening verse? It's like a wind-up to the rest of the line, which shoots up the major triad to the top of the octave.

Nominated for an Academy Award (they lost to "White Christmas," so they shouldn't feel too bad), the classic recording is The Glenn Miller Orchestra, featuring Tex Beneke and The Modernaires. The Big Band members really put on a show with their choreography of sorts; the female vocalist Marion Hutton is adorable; and you have to watch at 4:30 through the end when the Nicholas Brothers reprise the song and then do the most incredible splits in their subsequent dance. A real piperoo!

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