Thursday, May 7, 2009

#79: Ac-Cent-Tchu-ate the Positive

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene

While trying to wrap up the music for the 1944 film Here Comes the Waves, Mercer and Arlen found themselves uninspired and depressed by their inability to finish the last song for the score. On a long drive meant to distract them from the hard work of writing, Mercer asked Arlen to hum a spiritual on which he'd been working. At that moment Mercer recalled something he had heard from a pulpit- you gotta accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative- and before the drive was over, one line was transformed into a complete song.

I love how the two most colossally unlucky guys in biblical history- Jonah in the whale and Noah in the ark- are trotted out to explain how they latched on to the affirmative, eliminated the negative, and no no no! didn't mess with Mister In-Between. They've got the cred. We need to listen. Check out Ella's version on Verve's Ella Fitzgerald sings the Harold Arlen Songbook.

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