In my last post, I mentioned one aspect of Michael Feinstein’s performance that so inspired me: not just singing a song but also talking about it, giving the background about songwriters, songs, and singers. Depending on the venue, I now do the same when I perform.
For example, did you know…
”As Time Goes By”, one of the most popular songs ever, was written by someone you probably have never heard of, Herman Hupfeld of Montclair, New Jersey. When I play and sing for Montclair-area senior citizens, some of them have heard of Hupfeld and even know on which street he lived.
“Our Love Is Here to Stay” was the last melody George Gershwin wrote. Ira wrote the lyrics after his brother’s death. If you listen to them, you might agree with me that it’s a love song from Ira Gershwin to his deceased brother.
Lew Fields was a well-known vaudeville comedian. His daughter Dorothy became the first female lyricist, writing the lyrics to over 400 songs and 15 Broadway shows. Early in her career, she wrote “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern were scheduled to write the songs for “Annie Get Your Gun”, but Kern died suddenly. The project was given to Irving Berlin, who wrote all of the music and lyrics in just 10 days!
When Billy Joel was a boy, his mother often said to him, “Billy, I love you just the way you are.”
Where do I find all this information? Well, I must thank my husband Roger in large part. Every year for my birthday I receive a biography or autobiography of a famous composer, lyricist, or singer, such as George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Dorothy Fields, or Michael Feinstein. I have also learned a great deal reading Jonathan Schwartz’s autobiography, “All In Good Time”, and listening to his weekend radio shows. As the son of composer Arthur Schwartz (“Dancing in the Dark”, “Haunted Heart” etc.), Jonathan grew up knowing many of these musicians personally.
Whether I’m playing the piano and singing at a restaurant or a private event, I know how much my audience enjoys this “musical trivia”, because they tell me how much it enhances the songs.