Who Writes This Stuff?

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

I must be careful here; I don’t want to offend any 70 and 80-year-old movie goers. There are too many of them and when aroused they can be vicious.

I might as well say it up front and get it over with, I have a problem with Kathryn Grayson. You must remember Kate; she was one of films’ finest coloratura sopranos and a major star of Hollywood musicals in the 40s and 50s. We aficionados of fine music who sang along with her in Kiss Me Kate, The Desert song and The Toast of New Orleans were devoted to her, and I was. Well, I was – until she started to sing. As Eliza Doolittle said in My Fair Lady, ‘she done me in’.

As perfect as her performances were and she was magnificent in whatever role she was playing or whatever song or aria she was singing, but the moment she hit high C or whatever they call it when champagne glasses shatter and forest animals run for cover, my eyes crossed and my ears bled. I suspect that once a voice comes close to the range that only dogs can hear, it can do serious damage to those of us with sensitive hearing.

I managed to convince my audiologist that my hearing loss was work related, but I have long thought Kate’s rendition of You are Love in Showboat destroyed most of my brain cells and both drums. I now wear two hearing aids and carry an ear trumpet.

Perhaps you have noticed that I have been quick to criticize today’s music. I have been known to suggest most of it is trash when compared to the music we grew up with (dare I say it?) a half century or more ago. But if the truth be known I am woefully ignorant of modern music (and a whole bunch of other things) and shouldn’t be commenting on anything let alone music. I must confess I don’t know hippy-hop from rap, new age from acid rock, or grunge from indie rock and there is a good chance I never will. I thought grunge was what you find when you stick your finger down the bathroom sink. It never occurred to me we could listen to it.

Whenever I listen to Spotify or Sirius I always turn to the old guys, Frank Sinatra, Freddy Gardner and Louie Armstrong.

Some of the best music ever written comes from the big Broadway musicals, especially the big ones like Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and many, many others, and they are not that old. The rock opera J.C. hit Broadway in 1970, Les Miserables and Phantom in ’86. After listening to the rebels singing at the ramparts in Les Miz I built a barricade across Woodside Drive and everybody in the neighbourhood was late for supper.

As you no doubt have figured out by now, I am one of those weird people who always seem to have a song running through my head. Whether that is a sign of insanity, or possibly a frustrated opera star is still being debated by the hierarchy of the psychiatric profession. In the latest report the judges are leaning slightly towards the insanity conclusion (27-1 with one abstention – he was in the bathroom).

Early this morning With a Song in my Heart was rattling through the empty corridors of my mind and that was one of Kathryn’s biggies. I wasn’t past the first line when I realized that the lyrics were either written by a professor of English from Oxford University or someone who had just enrolled in an ESL class after getting off the boat from Lapland. No one talks that way.

I hate to be critical but ‘I behold your Adorable Face’. Really? Your adorable face? How about ‘Heaven opens its portals to me’ or the ever popular ‘And it soon is a hymn to your grace’? Now ladies, look across the room at that loveable lump lying on the couch and try to recall the number of times he has whispered, ‘Can I help but rejoice that a song such as ours came to be’ in your ear? All right twice, but not any more than that, and if he actually said it he was after something and the kids were in bed and asleep. Those lyrics were written by Lorenz Hart one of the top lyricists of the day and maybe of all time. But I suspect he was on something when he wrote that one and it wasn’t baby aspirin unless he chased it down with two fingers of Jack Daniels.

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