When did romance die in popular music? I know, I know, there’s never been a time when adults haven’t complained about the succeeding generation’s choice in music. The length of a generation is considered to be 20 years. That means I have a right to gripe about the next three or more generations’ disregard for — what I shall classify as — just plain simple romance. With the exception of Vera Lynn‘s singing of “We’ll Meet Again,” the hit parades have — in this old codger’s mind — shown little affinity for love since the end of WWII.
Before that time, music came from basically two sources — movies and Broadway productions. Songwriters could get away with being a slight bit more realistic writing for the latter because they were limited only by public opinion instead of strict sensors. They were writing for a more sophisticated audience: those who could afford higher priced Broadway tickets.
I could fill out this column by just recalling the romantic lyrics turned out by Ira Gershwin to the music of his brother, George. The complete list would contain songs of love such as “It’s very clear our love is here to stay, not for a year, but ever and a day.” It might also include, “I could cry salty tears, where have I been all these years? Little wow, tell me now, how long has this been going on?” I learned during my search for the wording of the examples for this column that one was considered a song about adultery when it was first sung. Yep, it came from Broadway, not the movies.
Having said that, here’s an example of just the opposite in a song written by Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin for a 1944 movie: “Cover Girl.” Rita Hayworth sang it to Gene Kelly. I think I would want it the other way around but she was a bigger star back then.
The song went, “Long ago and far away, I dreamed a dream one day and here you are beside me. Once the skies were overcast but now the clouds have passed, you’re here at last.”
The top lyricists often wrote with several composers. Jerome Kern was later joined by Oscar Hammerstein who provided these words to the song, “All the Things You Are” with these lyrics: “You are the promised kiss of springtime that makes the lonely winter seem long. You are the breathless hush of evening that trembles on the brink of a lovely song.”
Kern wrote “Dearly Beloved” with Johnny Mercer, “Look For the Silver Lining” with B. G. DeSylva, “A Fine Romance” with Dorothy Fields. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” with Otto Harbach.
As near as I can remember there were only two really first-rate songwriters who wrote both the music and the words: Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. Berlin gave us “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “God Bless America” while Cole Porter is credited with at least 64 songs, including the lyrics of one which has a habit of invading my conscientiousness from time to time. The first few lines of it are “ ‘I love you’ hums the April Breeze, ‘I love you’ echo the hills. ‘I love you’ the golden dawn agrees, as once more she sees daffodils. It’s Spring again and birds on the wing again start to sing again” ... etc. That was written in 1944 for a Broadway show called “Mexican Hayride.”
You know, I don’t think it would be a waste of time if you went online and typed in the name of some of the songs you may hum from time to time, but have forgotten much of the lyrics. The way things have gone lately, we may just need some indoor activities to keep us busy.
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at email@example.com.