The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘songs’


November 19, 2015 | by

In the past week, I’ve downloaded a guided meditation app, bought a new album I’d been looking forward to, and let several worthy podcasts pile up in my queue. And yet, the only thing I find myself listening to is “Skylark,” the 1942 standard brought to prominence by Glenn Miller. Do you ever get in these obsessive ruts—these experiences where suddenly, a song you’ve heard a hundred times speaks to you in a new, urgent way? And nothing else feels like the sound track of that moment? Read More »

Seeking Soul Cakes

October 29, 2015 | by

Before there was trick-or-treating, there was souling. The UK version of the practice—in which beggars and children went door-to-door seeking alms and soul cakes in exchange for prayers—likely evolved from the pagan mumming rites of Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of harvest season. The Celts believed that on this night—Hallowe’en—the souls of the dead walked the earth, and many of their rituals, such as those involving fire and ghost costumes, persisted in Christian form into the twentieth century. Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough (1890) chronicles the regional variations in some detail, although even then the practice was archaic. When a folklorist transcribed the following traditional rhyme in 1891, it was in the knowledge that souling was headed for obsolescence. Read More »

Close Harmony

October 2, 2015 | by


By 1967, the Everly Brothers’ career was on the wane, their many hits a distant memory. Both Don and Phil Everly were addicted to amphetamines, and their relationship was (perhaps not incidentally) fraying. Although some of their later work is great—Roots is really beautiful—their glory days were decisively behind them, and it showed. Take “Bowling Green”—written by their bassist, it was their last song to chart for seventeen years. There are hints of desperation about the generic, sixties-style studio production, with its nods to the ethereal trends of the moment. The lyrics are kind of silly. Read More »

And So Say All of Us

September 30, 2015 | by

A birthday from Mr. Belvedere, one of TV’s many disquieting alternate universes.

Television Land (not to be confused with the ever-sadder TV Land) is a foreign country: they do things differently there. The residents get very excited about fast food. Dads are childish buffoons and moms are smug scolds. All kids are bratty smart alecks. Police witnesses are strangely insolent and really busy. And everyone who uses online dating services is beautiful, chic, and well adjusted. But perhaps the strangest thing about this parallel universe is that in lieu of “Happy Birthday,” they sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Read More »

Bad Moon on the Rise

September 29, 2015 | by

Photo: Patrick Murtha

In the hours before the lunar eclipse, my husband and I were in one of those nightmarish, mammoth craft stores—shopping for some vellum, as one does—and I began to sing along with Dion’s cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” I sing a lot, and with great gusto. And if you’re doing Dion, well, you have no choice but to go full falsetto on the wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder part. I mean, anything worth doing, et cetera.

My husband looked slightly self-conscious. After a moment, he said, “It makes me feel funny sometimes when you sing along like that in public.” Read More »

The Waiting Game

September 3, 2015 | by

The first release of “September Song.”

One of my “parlor tricks,” if such you can call it, used to be performing the Kurt Weill standard “September Song” in the voice of Lotte Lenya. I can’t pretend anyone ever requested this, per se, but from the ages of fifteen to about twenty-one, I broke into it on the slightest pretext. Among other things, the rendition was very loud. No record exists of my performances: small mercies, et cetera.

“September Song” was famously written for Walter Huston’s limited vocal range, and his initial rendition—as an elderly Peter Stuyvesant in 1938’s Knickerbocker Holiday—remains, for many, the most poignant. (To anyone who would laugh at the thought of a seventeenth-century Dutch colonist singing one of musical theater’s great laments on aging, I would merely point out that “Memory” is performed by an anguished cat.) My grandfather always talked about first hearing the song when Walter Huston visited the radio program for which he was a writer in 1938. He cried, he said. When he died, it was sung at his funeral. Read More »