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Bebop Spoken There

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Summertime (Black and) Blues

(By Lance)

Perhaps I should expand on my views regarding Gershwin's Summertime. Don't get me wrong, it's a great song that I loved hearing the first thousand or so times around but it has been covered that many times by that many great musicians and singers that you wonder why it is still being flogged to death.

Billie, Ella and other singers did it justice - they had an inkling of what they were singing about whereas young singers today, fresh out of college, haven't a clue about jumpin' fish or high cotton. Porgy and Bess produced some great songs - including the aforementioned - but, at the end of the day, these were two Jewish guys writing about black slaves. 
An even, socially, worse song is Black and Blue.* The tune, composed by Fats Waller with lyrics by Andy Razaf, is a staple part of most (white) trad bands' repertoire. I cringe with embarrassment when I hear some white guy singing "What did I do to be so black and blue?" Maybe he should look in the mirror!

Perhaps if he'd substituted black and blue with white and red/blue it would have made more sense but no, Black and Blue ain't a song for Caucasian crooners.
Lance
* The first time I heard Black and Blue was hearing Louis singing it with the All-Stars on record at the memorable concert at Boston's Symphony Hall. I was only about 15 at the time but it opened up my eyes to, not only the racial situation in America, but how it existed even closer to home. 

A few years earlier, Peggy, a black girl, lived a couple of doors down from us in Jarrow and she was beautiful and used to sing and dance with us kids when we were playing out in the street. Not every one was happy about her living in the street but, if I'd been ten years older I'd have asked her to marry me!
Peggy where are you?
Lance

8 comments :

Steve T said...

Miles Davis and Gil Evans version cannot be bettered for me. Everybody should watch the Live at Montreux with Quincy Jones; I wept like a baby the first five or six times I saw it.

Anonymous said...

Benson - uptown
Is a cool version... Part of the problem is that people at jams call theses tunes (I. E summertime, Stella, ATTYa etc) just because someone told them to learn these tunes and half they time they don't really know the tunes or have a good reason for playing them.

Anonymous said...

Also Steve, Kenny Garrett is baaaad on that version! As per...

Brian Bennett said...

Sorry to disagree, Lance, but I think every singer/band (regardless of their colour or creed) should sing/perform 'Black and Blue'. The poignant lyrics are a stark reminder to everyone just how difficult life was for black people in the 20’s and 30’s. Whenever we (the VCJ) play it I always prompt the audience to listen carefully to the lyrics and when Fred Thompson or Jim McBriarty sing it you can hear a pin drop.
Yes, it’s a number performed and sang by all the New Orleans/Dixieland bands and the reason for that is, it’s a fab tune with brilliant lyrics - a classic jazz standard in fact.

BLACK and BLUE Fats Waller, Andy Razaf 1929. R - Louis Armstrong ’29
Cold, empty bed, springs hard as lead
Pains in my head, feel like old Ned
What did I do to be so black and blue?

No joys for me, no company
Even the mouse ran from my house
All my life through I've been so black and blue

I'm white inside, it don't help my case
'Cause I can't hide, what is on my face, oh!

I'm so forlorn, life's just a thorn
My heart is torn, why was I born?
What did I do to be so black and blue?

'Cause you're black, folks think you lack
They laugh at you, and scorn you too
What did I do to be so black and blue?

Steve T said...

Disagree's good; we like disagreement.

Lance said...

I agree it's a great tune - what Fats Waller tune isn't? And yes, it's a great lyric - when sung by a black person. Sung by a white person it reminds me of the Black and White Minstrels or Al Jolson blacking up to sing Mammy...

Brian Bennett said...

Over the years I’ve heard BLACK and BLUE performed by many vocalists including local band singers Annie Jenkins, Dave Hedley, Fred Rowe, Jim Ruddick, Colin Aitchison, Maureen Hall, Olive Rudd, etc. and never once did the Black & White Minstrels or Al Jolson pop into my head - how strange!

Anonymous said...

From Ann Alex, I'd never paid too much attention to the lyrics of 'Black and Blue' until this blog discussion. I object mainly to the line 'I'm white inside' which suggests that whiteness is somehow the standard to reach for. Why should that be the case? Black and White are equal.
I suppose the song is trying to say 'we are all the same inside' but it makes a bad job of expressing this. Personally I'd rather not sing this song.

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