Wednesday, August 26, 2009

That Summer

NPR's All Things Considered has a feature this summer in which they ask different musicians what their favorite song of summer is. This week they asked Tony Bennett. He chose a French song that he'd recorded in 1963, "It Was Me". I have always been struck by this song. It begins with a question.

Who's the one you would find on the beach every day?

Quickly the tension is established. Turns out the narrator is in love with someone at the beach.

Lying there on the shore while his friends swim away
Lying there on the sand only inches from you
Watching you everyday till the summer was through
It was me

A relationship gradually develops. The second stanza begins like the first, except with three questions instead of one.

Who would help gather shells for the bracelet you made?
Who would find you the cups for the pink lemonade?
Who was always beside you whenever you'd swim?
When you sat by the sea as the daylight would end
It was me, it was me

But was the love consumated? The song keeps you engaged as we enter the bridge of the song. Now suddenly summer is ended.

Now that summer is gone and the warm skies are cold
And the soft winds are crisp with their wintry chill
Do you ever think back on the night when we kissed?
Can you ever forget? I know I never will

All right, there was a kiss. It meant a lot to the narrator, of course. He's seeking confirmation that the feeling was mutual. The last stanza, describing perhaps an end-of-summer picture at the beach, provides the answer.

Who's the one next to you in the group photograph?
Who's the one with the face too unhappy to laugh?
Standing there looking down so uncertain and shy
Like a boy who's in love, so in love he could cry
It was me, it was me

And then, the zinger of a last line.

Me finding out it was you.

"Me finding out"--did all these questions begin upon the narrator's discovery of the photograph? "It was you"--yes, now I see you in this picture and I remember how young and smitten I was with you, I'd forgotten after all this time. As I gaze at the picture, memories return of being so in love and so young.

A fabulous song that I hope you'll give a listen. I'm glad that Tony Bennett chose a number that he discovered and recorded. This is a tremendous source of pride to him, as well it should be. He has always had the best taste in material.

The summer song that occurs to me that is equally as beautiful was recorded by Nat King Cole: "That Sunday, That Summer". Nat sometimes chose material of dubious quality as he sought a hit (cue "Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer"), but with this song he gives some imagery for a listener to luxuriate in.

If I had to choose just one day
To last my whole life through
It would surely be that Sunday
The day that I met you

Newborn whippoorwhills were calling from the hills
Summer was a-comin' in but fast
Lots of daffodils were showing off their skills
Nodding all together I can almost her them whisper
"Go on and kiss her, go on and kiss her"

If I had to choose one moment
To live within my heart
It would surely be that tender moment
Recalling how we started
Darling, it would be when you smiled at me
That way
That Sunday
That Summer

This song charted in 1963, reaching a peak position of #12 on the Billboard charts. ("Hazy Lazy Crazy Days" peaked at #6 the very same year--geez, what a year for summer songs!)

Anyway, two lush songs of summer that are favorites on my turntable!

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