Composer, pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington at the Hurricane Club in New York in 1943..
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
It is hard to be old! There are all manner of things that, at nearly 87, I can no longer do. Some of them are physical. Many relate to dear friends I once had, who have passed on. They were the ones who knew you when you were young; who could reminisce about things from the past that made you smile; who could reference things that are long past and today’s friends don’t really understand.
But what I truly miss is the music.
Once I could mention names that brought instant recognition, but today only blank stares... Who remembers Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin, Nelson Eddy and Jeannette MacDonald? And my grandchildren talk about bands with strange names like Radiohead and Pearl Jam. But they know nothing of the Big Band Era, back in the ’40s and ’50s – oh, that was music.
Just to hear their names again – Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman and Harry James – is to imagine yourself at a ballroom, dancing to music so sublime you feel you are in paradise! And the songs, with lyrics that had you both smiling and heartbroken all at the same time. Mel Torme I’m Getting Sentimental Over You
; Sarah Vaughan singing Tenderly
; the incomparable Ink Spots reminding us When You Were Sixteen
; Kate Smith breaking our heart over lost love with I’ll Be Seeing You
and Patti Page asking Let Me Call You Sweetheart
No television then, but we felt we knew all these artists intimately, just hearing them on the radio or playing His Master’s Voice records on an old gramophone. The magic of Ella Fitzgerald, the finest female jazz singer of all time, telling us with Louis Armstrong that Love Is Here To Stay.
Then there was Billie Holiday. Amazing Engelbert Humperdinck. Wonderful crooner Bing Crosby. And later, Frank Sinatra – Ol’ Blue Eyes. Yes, some of the young ones have heard of him, and every now and again my grandson, musician and singer David Lavi, learns one of his songs and sings them to me, admitting that his music had something
– My Way
; The Way You Look Tonight
and The Girl from Ipanema.
But no one can love the music the way my generation did. It shaped our world. It sent us soaring to the moon. It made us smile; it made us cry. What is there now to compare to Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady
or the heartbreak in the lyrics of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes?
Life moves on. Everything changes. But as I take my walk down memory lane, what I am missing most of al is the music.