Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Hey Porter, thanks for that song
You wrote so many incredible songs it probably would have been difficult for you to pick a personal favorite. Not a problem for us. We're going to call it one of the best tunes of the Swing Era, right up there with "Take the A Train" and "In the Mood." Yes sir, "Begin the Beguine" was and still is a sweetheart of a song.
Scores of artists have covered it, even rockers like Pete Townshend and Sheryl Crow, but by far our favorite is the 1938 recording that catapulted Artie Shaw and his Orchestra to stardom. We never paid much attention to the lyrics, even when Ella Fitzgerald was singing the song. We just wanted to hear Artie's clarinet. And we still do. Here's hoping you do too.
It's hard to believe you've been gone for 64 years now. That's right, you would have been 119 years old today. We read somewhere that you weren't all that enamored by "Begin the Beguine," and when you finally ran into Artie Shaw, who had become a big star because of your song, you gave him the ultimate compliment by calling him your "collaborator." And Artie asked if that meant he should get half the royalties.
And we think he probably should have. It was Shaw who insisted that Bluebird allow him to record the song, even if it was as a B side to "Indian Love Call." The thing about B sides is they're only a flip away. Listeners will decide if they're worth it, and listeners in this case decided it was the most popular song of 1938. We're ready to take up ballroom dancing every time we hear it.