Sunday, November 18, 2012

Something's Gotta Give...

Jeeezus. It's that time of the year already. Thanksgiving is just a few days away. The annual holiday madness is about to descend upon us. And this year, to add extra spice to the surge in travel, heavier use of electronics and communication devices, and SEED (Seasonal Emotional Excess Disorder - I just made that up but it fits, and there will be lots of fits - trust me), we have Mercury retrograde. Basically, when observed from our planet, mercury appears to go backward in the night sky. It is an illusion. But, like many an illusion, the effects it engenders are all too real. I am very glad I no longer travel long distances this week. Because this year, it's probably gonna be a mess out there. It's already been bad enough with computer problems, machinery breaking down, the computer acting up - what should have been a few hours work putting in a new hot water heater (my studio apartment has hot water baseboard heat) has now taken most of a week and still isn't finished, etc. And I have the added joy of being a Virgo. My ruling planet is Mercury. It would probably be best if I were to stay in bed, pull the covers over my head, and touch nothing mechanical or electronic. Oh, just for extra added kicks, it's shadow Mercury-Scorpio. If you don't know, it's best not to ask. Trust me. Mercury will go direct again on November the 26th. Two days before a Lunar eclipse (swelling dramatic something is about to happen shark music). It'll all be over around December 14th - provided we survive the darker reaches of the soul introspection thing. Don't ask.

Today is a beautiful but cold sunny Sunday morning. And it's already weird. At our Community Radio station, the guy who plays older gospel was in for his 6am show, but both the 8am show and the 10am show are missing in action. The 6am guy hadn't been doing his show for months - and re-emerged three weeks ago when Mercury Retrograde started. The two shows following him are both dependable and always there - except today.

Two favorites of mine have birthdays today. It was on this day in 1928 that Mickey Mouse made his debut in the first synchronized sound cartoon, "Steamboat Willie". It was actually the third Mickey Mouse made, but the first released. The first two were silent, although by the time they saw release they had added soundtracks. Disney considered this date Mickey's birthday, and that's good enough for me. And, it's a very Mercury retrograde kind of thing...

And Joy! be upon us. Ralph arrived late for his radio show (problems with traffic - you now know what at work), and he is doing a birthday tribute to the other birthday celebrant I wanted to mention, a b-i-g Stevil music fave, Johnny Mercer. The first hour plus of my own radio show last night was a Johnny Mercer celebration. How important is Johnny Mercer to the Great American Songbook? Well, look at it this way - in the late 1950's and early 1960's, at the height of her powers, Ella Fitzgerald recorded a series of nine 'songbooks'. Of them, only one was dedicated to a lyricist - and that lyricist was Johnny Mercer. In 1942, along with a Hollywood executive (who was also an occasional songwriter) and a record store owner, Mercer co-founded Capitol Records. Although he started on Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, he had gone  west in the early 1930's. The numerous songs he wrote for the movies earned him 19 Oscar nominations. He won four times.

Just to name a few Mercer penned hits: Jeepers Creepers, Blues in the Night, Hooray for Hollywood, And the Angels Sing, You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread), This Time the Dream's On Me, That Old Black Magic, Travelin' Light, Skylark, One for My Baby and One More For the Road, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, My SHining Hour, Dream, Come Rain Or Come Shine, Early Autumn, Autumn Leaves (English lyric), Something's Gotta Give, The Days of Wine and Roses... and that just scratches the surface.

Here's one of the ones which won an Oscar for Best Song (although the print quality and color are a disservice to this production number):

Here's another of his Oscar winners:

After Johnny Mercer passed at the age of 66, his wife gave his last lyric to Mercer's friend Barry Manilow, who set it to music. Here it is performed by Rosemary Clooney backed by the Glenn Miller ghost band on a New Year's Eve in 1988. Oh, yeah, the song became a bit of a hit. And I have to tell you, at my age (I'm now 62), this one has really begun to hit home.

So Happy Birthday, Johnny Mercer, and Thank You for all the music.


Geo. said...

Had not heard "When October Goes" before. Beautiful imagery. Quite moving. Yes, I'm also 62. Compliments and good wishes.

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

Geo. - glad you liked "When October Goes". Sadly, Ms. Clooney flubbed the first line which should have been, "And when October goes, the snow begins to fly..." ("above the smokey roofs, I watch the planes go by"). She still had, and was in good control of, her voice here, and it really does take someone a little older with a few miles on them to sing this one. And speaking of control, Mercer's restraint with a line like, "and when October goes, the same old dream appears..." just knocks me out - it has such resonance and implies so much. The man knew his craft.

Anonymous said...

I remember that cartoon so well....the little steam whistles and Mickies little bum bouncing around to the music. If I close my eyes I'm back in my childhood. (Of course, my husband has been saying I'm back in my childhood for quite some time now.)

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

mbj/Delores - I really love the earlier Mickeys before he got watered down to gain wider popularity. It was due to the audiences missing his mischievous qualities that Donald Duck was introduced.