Saturday, September 26, 2009

#51: Tea for Two

I'm discontented with homes that are rented
So I have invented my own;

Darling this place is a lover's oasis,

Where life's weary chase is unknown.

Far from the cry of the city

Where flowers pretty caress the streams

Cozy to hide in, to live side by side in,

Don't let it abide in my dreams.

Picture you upon my knee
Just tea for two and two for tea,

Just me for you and you for me alone.

Nobody near us to see us or hear us,

No friends or relations on weekend vacations,

We won't have it known, dear,
That we own a telephone, dear,

Day will break and you'll awake

And start to bake a sugar cake

For me to take for all the boys to see.
We will raise a family,

A boy for you, a girl for me,

Oh, can't you see how happy we would be?

A plea for a simpler life needs a simple melody, and composer Vincent Youmans sticks to a few adjacent notes to get the point across. A popular musician of the Twenties, Youmans partnered with Irving Caesar on the show, No, No, Nanette, in which "Tea For Two" was the breakout song. Caesar later claimed that he wrote these lyrics in five minutes. His speed shows in the nearly inane chorus, but I think the verses are quite inventive.

When No, No, Nanette was transformed into a 1950 film with the then-rising star Doris Day, it was renamed Tea For Two, and you'll notice the melody all over the trailer. The tune has been reinvented a number of times, including this dancetastic version from the Julie Andrews Hour in the early 1970s, a slow and thoughtful ballad from master standards interpreter Blossom Dearie, and even a wacky backwards version from the Muppet Show. Most recently, "Tea For Two" appeared on the big screen when Drew Barrymore captured the essence of Edie Beale, scooping notes and mangling lyrics in the cinematic version of the famous Maysles documentary Grey Gardens.

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