Roy Fox / Mary Lee: It's Got To Be Love
Frank Sinatra: Embraceable You
Fred Astaire: Cheek To Cheek
Hildegarde: Life Begins When You're In Love
Ray Noble / Al Bowlly: Love Is The Sweetest Thing
Dick Powell: I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
Connie Boswell: With All My Heart
Ambrose: There Isn't Any Limit To My Love
Noel Coward: Dearest Love
Dorothy Lamour: That Sentimental Sandwich
Perry Como: Until Today << sound clip
Jack Hylton: Goodnight My Love
Jessie Matthews: Trusting My Luck
Tony Martin: When Did You Leave Heaven?
Bing Crosby: You Made Me Love You
Carroll Gibbons / Julie Dawn: It Had To Be You
Hutch: You Are My Love Song << sound clip
Roy Fox / Denny Dennis: Sweet Someone
Dinah Shore: The Nearness Of You
Geraldo: P.S. I Love You
Frances Langford: The Man I Love
Dick Haymes & Helen Forrest: Long Ago And Far Away << sound clip
There are probably more songs written about love and romance than about any other subject. That’s no surprise, after all. Establishing relationships, making friends, enjoying the company of one special person, and if you’re lucky, setting up a home with him or her, is vital to the continuance of the human race.
Here are twenty-two different ways of looking at the whole situation. Each one is a classic in its own way. Let’s begin with one from Rodgers and Hart’s Thirties musical ‘On Your Toes’, It’s Got To Be Love. It is sung here by diminutive Scots lass Mary Lee (still a firm favourite in Scotland, partnering her equally celebrated husband, comic Jack Milroy). On this recording however, she’s singing with the elegant band of Roy Fox.
You can’t go wrong with the Gershwin brothers when it comes to a good love ballad. Embraceable You came from the Broadway success ‘Girl Crazy’ (1930), the show that saw the debuts of both Ginger Rogers and Ethel Merman. The song, sung here by Hoboken’s greatest export, Frank Sinatra, has appeared in no less than eight films to date, and at the time of writing is delighting London and Broadway audiences in the new hit ‘Crazy For You’.
It’s a bit unfair. Not only is Fred Astaire the greatest dancer to grace the cinema screen, he also had more songs written for him than any other singer. His voice is, like his talent, ageless. Irving Berlin’s Cheek To Cheek was written for ‘Top Hat’ (1935). A deservedly obscure 1936 effort ‘The Music Goes Round’ starring Harry Richman, Did however include some nice songs; Life Begins When You’re In Love is just one of them, sung here by American-born international chanteuse Hildegarde.
Britain’s Ray Noble not only led the greatest studio dance band, he was a wonderful composer too. Love Is The Sweetest Thing is sung here by Al Bowlly, one of the most distinctive and beloved crooners of his day. Dick Powell was a perennial singing star of Thirties musicals. Irving Berlin’s I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm came from the 1937 dazzler ‘On The Avenue’. With All My Heart came from no film, but serves to introduce the dazzling talent of Connie Boswell - arranger and principal singer with the Boswell Sisters; Connie didn’t let the fact that she was usually confined to a wheelchair impede her brilliant career. Good for her!
The silky authority of Ambrose and his Orchestra, with vocalist Jack Cooper adds distinction to There Isn’t Any Limit To My Love, a cheery ditty from the Jack Buchanan film ‘This’ll Make You Whistle’. Noel Coward wrote and often starred in his own musical plays. For ‘Operette’ (1938) which starred Peggy Wood, he wrote Dearest Love - and sings it here with matchless charm and superb diction.
When Betty Grable, laid low by appendicitis, bowed out of the Thirties picture ‘Man About Town’ opposite Jack Benny, her place was taken by Dorothy Lamour, who sang That Sentimental Sandwich. Where do they find those titles! Until Today is one of the few songs written by Oscar Levant, George Gershwin’s irascible, hugely talented pianist friend. There’s nothing remotely ill-tempered about our good humoured, relaxed singer here - Perry Como. Goodnight My Love, a charming lullaby, comes from the 1937 film ‘Stowaway’ where it was sung by Alice Faye to Shirley Temple. Jack Hylton’s Orchestra features a vocal by Bert Yarlett. Jessie Matthews was one of our few major international song and dance stars of the Thirties. Her adorable gamine personality, charm and ability brings out the best in Trusting My Luck written by Arthur Johnson and Maurice Sigler.
‘Sing, Baby, Sing’ was a frothy 20th Century Fox musical for Alice Faye. It was Tony Martin, Faye’s discovery and subsequently her husband for a while, who introduced Richard Whiting and Walter Bullock’s When Did You Leave Heaven? in the film, and reprises it here. You Made Me Love You was written by James V Monaco and Joseph McCarthy in 1913. It’s been featured in eight films, and popped up in the stage revival of ‘Irene’ as well. We’ve Bing Crosby to sing it here.
Gus Cahn and Isham Jones’ It Had To Be You was written in 1924, and has made four film appearances to date. Carroll Gibbons’ immaculate treatment of this perennial favourite features the limpid tones of Julie Dawn. You Are My Love Song introduces the superb sophisticated song styling of Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, the Grenada-born singer/pianist who made a successful career as a cabaret star in London.
Have you ever heard of a 1938 film frolic entitled ‘Love And Hisses’? It provided our next romantic selection - Sweet Someone sung here by Denny Dennis, a splendidly smooth crooner, accompanied by Roy Fox and his Orchestra. Dinah Shore was one of the best and most popular singers of American radio, records and television, and The Nearness Of You gave Ned Washington and Hoagy Carmichael one of their greatest successes as writers. Miss Shore’s version reveals the song in all its beauty.
There’s nothing like a letter to express our love in permanent form - or even to add a tender greeting at the very end, below the signature. P.S. I Love You is a 1934 charmer from the pens of Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer, performed here by Geraldo, with vocal by Cyril Grantham.
You can’t keep a good song down. The Man I Love by George and Ira Gershwin was dropped from a stage musical starring Fred Astaire and his sister Adele. It immediately became a standard and has so far been featured in at least seven films and is at the current time to be heard in ‘Crazy For You’ in London and on Broadway. It is sung here by Frances Langford.
Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest bring our celebration of love to a close with an Oscar nominated song from 1944. Ira Gershwin wrote the words, and Jerome Kern the music; the film was ‘Cover Girl’ and the ballad in question is the transcendentally beautiful Long Ago And Far Away, which brings our romantic musical programme to a tender close.
MICHAEL P. KENNEDY