Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reaching Back

What would a popular singer perform today if he or she were hewing to how Peggy Lee and other performers chose their material in the late 1950s and early 1960s?

This question came to mind as I enjoyed two 1958 sets by Lee: Things Are Swingin' and Jump for Joy. As I listened, I considered how songs on the albums were at least a quarter of a century old at the time she was recording them: "Alone Together" (1932); "Back in Your Own Backyard" (1927); "The Glory of Love" (1936); "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street" (1924): "Four or Five Times" (1927); "Cheek to Cheek" (1935); "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" (1932); and "Ain't We Got Fun" (1921).

What singer today executes a program with hit songs from the mid-1980s? Hey, what would you choose anyway? What are the "standards" from that time?

This CD is just a marvel. I've been singing along in my car for days now. Mixed in with the previously mentioned gems are songs that were merely a decade or so old, like "Old Devil Moon" (1946); "It's Been a Long, Long Time" (1945); and "I Hear Music" (1940).

I think as contemporary as Peggy gets on these sets in when she sings "Alright, Okay, You Win", a hit for Joe Williams and Count Basie in 1955 and "Music! Music! Music!", a big seller for Teresa Brewer in 1949.

So again, I'm wondering: what singer today reaches that far back? Seems to me that it just isn't done that often, at least by anyone considered a popular singer. It's a shame because great songs remain frozen the past now, no longer informed by a contemporary sensibility.

Anyway, take a trip back to popular song of yore with the sublime Peggy Lee!

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