Last week we were looking at three very different individuals and their music in the early months of the war – Noël Coward; Michael Carr (real name Maurice Alfred Cohen) and Hughie Charles an English songwriter and producer of musical theatre. So, during the same time, what music was coming out from the USA music?
Well, Bing Crosby was the leading figure of the crooner sound as well as its most iconic, defining artist. By the 1940s he was an entertainment superstar who mastered all of the major media formats of the day, movies, radio, and recorded music. Not too far behind Bing we can find Cabell Calloway – an American jazz singer and bandleader who was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem in New York City, where he was a regular performer.
Another man and performer of the times was Eddie Cantor (born Edward Israel Itzkowitz in January 1892). He was an American illustrated song performer, comedian, dancer, singer, actor, and songwriter. Familiar to Broadway, radio, movie, and early television audiences, this “Apostle of Pep” was regarded almost as a family member by millions because his top-rated radio shows revealed intimate stories and amusing anecdotes about his wife Ida and five daughters. His eye-rolling song-and-dance routines eventually led to his nickname, “Banjo Eyes”. His eyes became his trademark, often exaggerated in illustrations, and leading to his appearance on Broadway in the musical ‘Banjo Eyes’ in 1941.
I could carry on with regard to the USA and a possible war but the US ‘powers that be’ were watching what was happening there and across in Europe but not taking the next step. That may well come next week but for this week we can look at the top 5 songs recorded via the limited chart positions by the USA watchers:
At number 5 in the ratings was Billie Holiday with ‘God Bless the Child’
At number 4 was Jimmy Dorsey with ‘Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)’. Jimmy was also in place at 3 with ‘Green Eyes’
At number 2 we can find ‘A String of Pearls’ from Glenn Miller who was also in place at number 1 with ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.
Numbers two and one would be noted by, and listened to, by people all over the world and Glenn Miller would receive the praise – but who actually composed ‘String of Pearls’ and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’? They were Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.
Harry Warren was an American composer and lyricist and was the first major American songwriter to write for his composing primarily for film. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song eleven times and won three Oscars for composing “Lullaby of Broadway”, “You’ll Never Know” and “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe”. Over a career spanning four decades, Harry was one of America’s most prolific film composers with his songs have been featured in over 300 films.
Mack Gordon was a Jewish-American composer and lyricist of songs for stage and film and was nominated for the best original song Oscar nine times in eleven years, including five consecutive years between 1940 and 1944, and won the award once, for “You’ll Never Know”.
So – let’s finish this week’s story with the number one of 1941 – the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.
Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
Track twenty nine, boy you can gimme a shine
I can afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo
I’ve got my fare and just a trifle to spare
You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four
Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore
Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer
Than to have your ham ‘n’ eggs in Carolina
When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far
Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’
Woo, woo, Chattanooga, there you are
There’s gonna be a certain party at the station
Satin and lace, I used to call funny face
She’s gonna cry until I tell her that I’ll never roam