Sunday, December 30, 2007

Speak Low as Jazz Classic

Bob Merkin of Massachusetts says that " The American comic poet Ogden Nash doesn't usually rise to the heights of Weill's other lyricists -- Brecht, Georg Kaiser, Ira Gershwin, Langston Hughes -- but "Speak Low" became an instant classic; every chanteusse and jazz great, piano or saxophone, has covered it for half a century, and as long as educated people keep falling in love and need a haunting love song in the background, "Speak Low" will keep being performed and recorded. Billie Holiday grabbed it immediately, as did her pal Sinatra."

Read the entire post plus the lyrics of Speak Low here. There is also reference to the clip from the Nash revival of "One Touch of Venus" on YouTube


Vleeptron Dude said...

I just got out of YouTube Rehab when you left your comment on Vleeptron, and that sent me back to those archival performances of "Speak Low," and those sent me clicking to other YouTube tunes, and those sent me clicking to ... you are responsible for a major YouTube Relapse.

So glad you enjoyed the post and hope all the Nashites do, too. Love songs come and go, love songs are a dime a dozen, but immortal love songs -- this Nash/Weill collaboration will be a smash to the end of time because it mesmerizes every great singer and musician. I hope you discovered that the Billie Holiday cover began with one song -- her classic "Strange Fruit" -- but then segued to her gorgeous "Speak Low."

I don't think it's possible to screw up "Speak Low," every version of it just pierces the heart, every arranger and every singer calls on every skill and romantic magic to put it across.

Nash has another stellar song from "One Touch of Venus," and I would sell my soul to the devil to have written his lyric:

You see here before you
A woman with a mission
I must discover
The key to his ignition
And if he should make
A diplomatic proposition
How could I possibly refuse
When I'm a stranger here myself?

The magnificent soprano Teresa Stratas does a fireworks bangup job of it on "The Unknown Kurt Weill," and PBS broadcast her singing it at the White House. "How could I possibly refuse?" practically knocked George Bush Sr and Barbara out of their chairs.

Clearly Weill enjoyed this collaboration, he liked Nash's sense of humor and lyrics agility.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hmmm can't find an e-mail addie for you ... so send me your e-mail addie if you want the image that goes with this.

"Die Venus" was playing across the street from my hotel on my first visit to Berlin in December 2001, I wanted badly to see it, but it was dark the nights I was there.

Nash gets billing, but I don't know who translated his lyrics into German. I've heard Marianne Rosenberg singing a very sexy German version of "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," and Nash's "Geist" translates very nicely.

The postage stamp photo is of a 1948 rehearsal of "One Touch." That's Lotte Lenya next to Weill, but the surprise are the legs -- apparently Mary Martin's. The role was originally Marlene Deitrich's, but she thought the whole thing was too vulgar and backed out -- giving a huge boost to Martin's career.

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