Saturday, May 2, 2009

#80: Skylark

Skylark, have you anything to say to me?
Won't you tell me where my love can be?
Is there a meadow in the mist
Where someone's waiting to be kissed?

Written by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, this soaring song of unrequited love poses questions upon questions to a feathered friend. "Skylark" turns out to be one of several songs in Carmichael's "jazz aviary," along with "Baltimore Oriole" and "Mister Blackbird." Meanwhile, one biographer said Johnny Mercer wrote the words for this song as he yearned for Judy Garland. I love the marriage of composition and lyrics -- see the "crazy as a loon / sad as a gypsy serenading the moon" line in the bridge -- and musicians say that improvisation is just built right into the melody.

As for excellent renditions, the great Anita O'Day, who one critic said "is the only white woman that belongs in the same breath as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan,” tempered her typically boisterous style to coo this number with the Gene Krupa Orchestra in 1941. Here's Anita singing it, accompanying some family reunion slideshow (hey, we'll take what we can get). Aretha Franklin also does a beautiful job, and here's Bette Midler taking a lot of liberties for Carmichael's melody on Johnny Carson in 1985.

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite versions of this tune is a modern version with Howard Alden and his wife Terri Richards on "Live in '95". I made a video of this song to commemorate this version: