Puneet Varma

Blues in the Night

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Released  1941 (1941)
Composer(s)  Harold Arlen
Initial release  15 November 1941
Music director  Heinz Roemheld
Story by  Edwin Gilbert
6.9/10 IMDb

Genre  Blues, pop
Lyricist(s)  Johnny Mercer
Director  Anatole Litvak
Initial DVD release  22 July 2008
Blues in the Night wwwgstaticcomtvthumbmovieposters6894p6894p
Cast  Priscilla Lane, Elia Kazan, Betty Field, Richard Whorf, Lloyd Nolan
Similar  Jazz movies, Movies about musical ensembles, Musicals

Blues in the night 1941


"Blues in the Night" is a popular blues song which has become a pop standard and is generally considered to be part of the Great American Songbook. The music was written by Harold Arlen, the lyrics by Johnny Mercer, for a 1941 film begun with the working title Hot Nocturne, but finally released as Blues in the Night. The song is sung in the film by William Gillespie.

Contents

Blues in the night trailer


Composition

Arlen and Mercer wrote the entire score for the 1941 film Blues in the Night. One requirement was for a blues song to be sung in a jail cell. As usual with Mercer, the composer wrote the music first, then Mercer wrote the words. Arlen said,

The whole thing just poured out. And I knew in my guts, without even thinking what Johnny would write for a lyric, that this was strong, strong, strong! When Mercer wrote "Blues in the Night", I went over his lyric and I started to hum it over his desk. It sounded marvelous once I got to the second stanza but that first twelve was weak tea. On the third or fourth page of his work sheets I saw some lines—one of them was "My momma done tol' me, when I was in knee pants." I said, "Why don't you try that?" It was one of the very few times I've ever suggested anything like that to John.

When they finished writing the song, Mercer called a friend, singer Margaret Whiting, and asked if they could come over and play it for her. She suggested they come later because she had dinner guests—Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Mel Tormé, and Martha Raye. Instead, Arlen and Mercer went right over. Margaret Whiting remembered what happened then:

They came in the back door, sat down at the piano and played the score of "Blues in the Night". I remember forever the reaction. Mel got up and said, "I can't believe it." Martha couldn't say a word. Mickey Rooney said, "That's the greatest thing I've ever heard." Judy Garland said, "Play it again." We had them play it seven times. Judy and I ran to the piano to see who was going to learn it first. It was a lovely night.

Academy Award Nomination

In 1942 "Blues in the Night" was one of nine songs nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Observers expected that either "Blues in the Night" or "Chattanooga Choo Choo" would win, so that when "The Last Time I Saw Paris" actually won, neither its composer, Jerome Kern, nor lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein II, was present at the ceremony. Kern was so upset at winning with a song that had not been specifically written for a motion picture and that had been published and recorded before the film came out that he petitioned the Motion Picture Academy to change the rules. Since then, a nominated song has to have been written specifically for the motion picture in which it is performed.

Critical comment

Composer Alec Wilder said of this song, "'Blues in the Night' is certainly a landmark in the evolution of American popular music, lyrically as well as musically."

Mercer, being from the South, realized "that Arlen's notes were meant to be sung as a blues slide and that individual syllables would have made the song too formal, too racially white."

Famous phrases from the lyrics

  • "My momma done tol' me"
  • "when I was in knee pants"
  • "worrisome thing"
  • "a woman'll sweet talk"
  • The first two lines have been sung in several ways: "My momma done tol' me / when I was in knee pants"; "My momma done tol' me / when I was in blue jeans"; "My momma done tol' me / when I was in pigtails."

    Charting versions

    Recorded versions that charted in the United States were by Woody Herman, Dinah Shore, Jimmie Lunceford, Cab Calloway, Artie Shaw, and Rosemary Clooney. Recorded versions in the United Kingdom were by Shirley Bassey and Helen Shapiro.

    The Woody Herman recording was released by Decca Records as catalog number 4030. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on January 2, 1942 and lasted 11 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1.

    The Dinah Shore recording was released by RCA Bluebird Records as catalog number 11436. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on February 13, 1942 and lasted 7 weeks on the chart, peaking at #4.

    The Jimmie Lunceford recording was released by Decca Records as catalog number 4125. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on January 30, 1942 and lasted 5 weeks on the chart, peaking at #4.

    The Cab Calloway recording was released by OKeh Records as catalog number 6422. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on March 6, 1942 and lasted 1 week on the chart, at #8.

    The Artie Shaw recording was released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 27609. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on November 21, 1941 and lasted 1 week on the chart, at #10.

    The Rosemary Clooney recording was released by Columbia Records as catalog number 39813. The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on September 26, 1952 and lasted 2 weeks on the chart, peaking at #29.

    Other notable versions

    In addition, the song was recorded at least three times by Jo Stafford. On October 15, 1943, she recorded it with Johnny Mercer, the Pied Pipers, and Paul Weston's Orchestra, in a version released as a single (catalog number 10001) and on an album (Songs by Johnny Mercer, catalog number CD1) by Capitol Records. On February 20, 1959, she recorded it with The Starlighters in a version released on an album (The Ballad of the Blues, catalog number CL-1332) by Columbia Records. Finally, she recorded it for the July 25, 1995, release of "Songs That Won The War: Hollywood Canteen".

    Another version was in album Once More with Feeling: singer: Billy Eckstine, Orch. Billy May (1960)

    Dick Monda released a version of the song as a single in 1967.

    More recently, the rock group Chicago included the song on their "Night and Day" album in 1995. The arrangement by vocalist Bill Champlin features a guitar solo by Aerosmith's Joe Perry.

    Additional recorded versions (and further details on above versions)

  • Frank Sinatra - Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely (1958)
  • Arlen himself recorded the song for his 1966 album, Harold Sings Arlen.
  • Larry Adler and the John Kirby Orchestra (recorded January 20, 1944, released by Decca Records as catalog number 23524; later version of Decca 23524 released as a Larry Adler harmonica solo, both versions with the flip side “St. Louis Blues”)
  • Luis Arcaraz (released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-4418, with the flip side “Stormy Weather”)
  • Louis Armstrong (1957)
  • Charlie Barnet and his orchestra (recorded October 5, 1941, released by Bluebird Records as catalog number 11327, with the flip side “Isle of Pines”)
  • Shirley Bassey
  • Tex Beneke (as "Blues in the Night March", released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-3513, with the flip side "The One Who Gets You")
  • Tony Bennett on The Beat of My Heart (1957)
  • Sam Butera (1964)
  • Cab Calloway and his orchestra (vocal: Calloway & The Palmer Brothers) (recorded September 10, 1941, released by OKeh Records as catalog number 6422, with the flip side “Says Who? Says You, Says I”)
  • Eva Cassidy
  • Chicago, Night and Day, 1995
  • Rosemary Clooney with Percy Faith's orchestra (recorded April 1952, released by Columbia Records as catalog number 39813, with the flip side “Who Kissed Me Last Night?”, re-released as catalog number 40031, with the flip side “Tenderly”)
  • Bing Crosby and John Scott Trotter's Orchestra (recorded January 27, 1942, released by Decca Records as catalog number 4183A, with the flip side “Miss You”). Crosby also recorded the song in 1956 for his album Songs I Wish I Had Sung the First Time Around.
  • Doris Day (released by Columbia Records as catalog number 41103, with the flip side “Teacher's Pet”)
  • Jula de Palma in her album Jula in jazz (1958)
  • Ella Fitzgerald on Ella Swings Lightly (1958) and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Songbook (1961).
  • Judy Garland and the David Rose Orchestra (released by Decca Records as catalog number 4081A, with the flip side “The End of the Rainbow”)
  • Benny Goodman and his Sextet (vocal: Peggy Lee & Lou McGarity) (recorded December 24, 1941, released by OKeh Records as catalog number 6553, with the flip side “Where or When”, also released by Harmony Records as catalog number Ha1012, with the flip side “Bewitched”)
  • Bob Grant (medley recorded July 1, 1944, released by Decca Records as catalog number 24311, with the flip side “My Devotion medley”)
  • Woody Herman and his Orchestra (vocal: Woody Herman) (recorded September 10, 1941, released by Decca Records as catalog number 4030B, with the flip side “This Time the Dream's on Me” and as catalog number 25194, with the flip side “Laughing Boy Blues”; re-recorded May 7, 1947, released by Columbia Records as catalog number 37858, with the flip side “Blue Prelude”)
  • Harry James and his orchestra (recorded December 30, 1941, released by Columbia Records as catalog number 36500, with the flip side “All For Love”)
  • Quincy Jones His version was featured prominently in the Soundtrack of Ocean's Eleven (2001) - (the George Clooney Brad Pitt remake)
  • Ledisi, We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song (2007, Verve)
  • Little Milton, We're Gonna Make It (1965, Chess)
  • Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians (vocal: Kenny Gardner; recorded January 27, 1942, released by Decca Records as catalog number 4177A, with the flip side “Frankie and Johnny”
  • Julie London
  • Clyde Lucas and his orchestra (vocal: Eadie Lang) (recorded November 1941, released by Elite Records as catalog number 5010B, with the flip side “I Said No”
  • Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra (vocal: Willie Smith; recorded December 22, 1941 in two parts, released by Decca Records as catalog number 4125A & 4125B, also released by Decca Records as catalog number 28441 both sides)
  • Nellie Lutcher (released by Decca Records as catalog number 29284, with the flip side “Breezin' Along with the Breeze”)
  • Katie Melua (Piece by Piece, 2005)
  • Johnny Mercer (released by Capitol Records as catalog number 1608, with the flip side “Candy”)
  • Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford, and The Pied Pipers (recorded 1943, released by Capitol Records as catalog number 10001, with the flip side “On the Nodaway Road”)
  • Van Morrison with Georgie Fame recorded (1995) on How Long Has This Been Going On
  • Art Pepper with strings, on his 1980 album Winter Moon, (recorded 3, 4 September 1980)
  • Betty Reilly (released by Capitol Records as catalog number 2888, with the flip side “The Peanut Vendor”)
  • Helen Shapiro
  • Artie Shaw and his Orchestra (vocal "Hot Lips" Page) (recorded September 2, 1941, released by Victor Records as catalog number 27609, with the flip side “This Time the Dream's on Me”)
  • Dinah Shore (recorded January 12, 1942, released by Bluebird Records as catalog number 11436, with the flip side “Sometimes”, also released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-1543, with the flip side “How Come You Do Me Like You Do”)
  • Kate Smith (recorded February 12, 1942, released by Columbia Records as catalog number 36534, with the flip side “How Do I Know It's Real?”)
  • Jo Stafford (1959)
  • Mel Torme Torme 1958 Verve
  • Alec Templeton (piano instrumental, recorded February 21, 1942, released by Decca Records as catalog number 18271A, with the flip side “Grieg Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16”)
  • Cal Tjader (arr. Clare Fischer) - Cal Tjader Plays Harold Arlen (recorded June 1960, released February 1962; reissued on CD in 2002 as Cal Tjader Plays Harold Arlen and West Side Story), scored for strings, harp, and a jazz quartet led by vibraphonist Tjader.
  • Joe Turner with the Freddie Slack Trio (recorded January 28, 1942, released by Decca Records as catalog number 8606, with the flip side “Cry Baby Blues”)
  • Joe Turner with Howard Biggs' Orchestra (recorded January 22, 1958, released by Atlantic Records as catalog number 1184, with the flip side “(We're Gonna) Jump for Joy”)
  • Fred Waring's Singers (recorded June 23, 1942, released by Decca Records as catalog number 29218, with the flip side “That Old Black Magic”)
  • Ann Hampton Callaway on her album of the same name "Blues in the Night," Telarc August 2006.
  • Lynda Carter on her 2009 album At Last.
  • Sylvia Brooks on her album Restless, 2012
  • James Anthony Vocalist - Shades of Blue CD, 2014
  • Other uses

  • The song was frequently sampled by composer Carl Stalling in his musical scores for the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons for Warner Bros. studios in the 1940s and 1950s. The then-recent hit song is sung incessantly by Daffy Duck in the ironically-titled 1942 cartoon My Favorite Duck, in which Porky Pig is tormented by the duck while on a camping trip. Porky's preferred number in that cartoon is "On Moonlight Bay". At one point, Porky unconsciously starts to sing "My Mama Done Tol' Me," then stops, looks into the camera with a "Harumph!" and returns to "Moonlight Bay."
  • Additionally, the musical riff "my mama done tol' me" is used to identify a black duck from 'South' Germany in the 1942 Looney Tunes cartoon The Ducktators, and the song is featured prominently (with revised lyrics) in the 1943 Merrie Melody cartoon Fifth Column Mouse as well as in Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs. In the 1942 cartoon, Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid, Bugs Bunny half-mutters the song, changing the lyrics to, "My mamma done told me, a buzzard is two face..." The melody is also heard in Porky Pig's Feat, Early to Bet, The Hypo-Chondri-Cat, and others.
  • Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, would occasionally sing the beginning of the song on the Jack Benny radio program.
  • In the Duck Dodgers season 2 episode, "Talent Show a Go-Go," the song is sung by the Tyr'ahnee, the Martian Queen.
  • In The Simpsons Season 26 episode, "The Musk Who Fell to Earth," lines from the song are sung by Carl during a flashback montage.
  • References

    Blues in the Night Wikipedia


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