Tag Archives: The Nat King Cole Trio

1001 Songs – 1947 – 1951

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

White Christmas – Bing Crosby (1947)

We’re listening to this in the beginning of November, so this doesn’t feel as out of place as when this is going on the web. It’s one of those classic songs; I know a lot of these are, but this is the biggest selling song of all time so a major classic. Still weird to think that this isn’t the original Bing Crosby version; that this had to be re-done in 1947 because the 1942 version was just played too often and became damaged. I’ve never been the biggest fan of this song, but I can appreciate the vocals. The whistling bit always makes me think of an intrusive postman whistling through the window, to this day I have no idea why.

Good Rockin’ Tonight – Roy Brown (1947)

It’s weird hearing the original version rather than the Elvis cover. I’m not entirely sure what genre this would fall under. It’s probably the most danceable song on this list so far. There are definitely elements of rock n’ roll here as well as some blues. So I can see why Elvis would later cover this in the late fifties.

Nature Boy – The Nat King Cole Trio (1948)

Another song I know, this time it is odd to hear it not being sung by David Bowie or not being played in Moulin Rouge. Nat King Cole is my voice of Christmas, much more than Bing Crosby and his ‘White Christmas’. With his rich voice and the strings this story within the song becomes rather magical. Apparently a rare example of a black musician of that era trying out some white pop.

Saturday Night Fish Fry – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five (1949)

Where ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ felt like it had rock n roll elements, ‘Saturday Night Fish Fry’ really feels like a further evolution. There is still that boogie woogie sound running through it though, so this isn’t quite there yet. Interesting insight into black culture and the ‘fish fries’ which would lead to police raids.

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry – Hank Williams (1949)

The first country song that we have looked at since The Carter Family, which amounts to a 15 year gap. Where they had folk influences, this feels like a far purer form of country. I mean, it even has a fiddle break. I don’t think mournful quite covers the emotions expressed in the song, maybe despairing is closer?

Autumn Leaves – Jo Stafford (1950)

Here we are entering the 1950s. Her voice reminds me of Zola Jesus in the way that is was so clear. Where a lot of singers would have a trace of vibrato on some of the notes she hits on ‘Autumn Leaves’ she avoids them almost completely. The song itself is one of those mournful standards that many artists have tried their hand at. Like ‘Beyond The Sea’ this was originally in French.

Summertime – Sarah Vaughan (1950)

From the musical Porgy & Bess, ‘Summerime’ is one of those songs that can really show off Sarah Vaughan’s impressive vocal range. Originally this is an opera song and Vaughan really has no trouble in making this aria incredibly grand and emotive. It is weird listening to this when all I know her from is the From Mister Kellys live album where you get a glimpse into her more puckish personality (see: ‘How High The Moon’).

Goodnight, Irene – The Weavers (1950)

In 1950, this was the biggest selling song in America. It sounds like a suicidal folk song done to the tune of a waltz. This has been called a ‘prettied up’ version of a song by Leadbelly. Makes me interested to hear how depressing the original was…

Mambo No. 5 – Perez Prado (1950)

It’s instrumental! I never expected that. Now, we all know the Lou Bega version of this song where he sings about sleeping with every girl under the sun like a manwhore. This mambo is so much better without the lyrics. Maybe it would have been even better without the Hammond organ, but those were the times.

Rocket 88 – Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats (1951)

Another song that people have opined could be the first rock and roll song. What’s more of interest to me here is the appearance of Ike Turner as an uncredited writer.

Cry – Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads (1951)

I am either made of stone, or I just hate crooners. Since I always cry at the Christmas John Lewis adverts I will go for the latter. It just felt overblown; there was no subtlety, only drama.

How High the Moon – Les Paul and Mary Ford (1951)

Okay, that was different from the Sarah Vaughan version I mentioned earlier. I mean, in this version they actually know the lyrics and don’t try to scat sing. It makes for a very different song, then again these drastically different cover versions of the same were seemingly so common back in the 40s and 50s. In this version, the central focus really is the guitar playing by Les Paul himself.

London Is the Place for Me – Lord Kitchener (1951)

An interesting calypso song sung by a West Indian man who migrated to London. It’s so London that it copies the chimes of Big Ben using a piano. It’s a very hopeful song, especially when you consider how scary leaving home for another country is.

Progress: 44/1021

1001 Songs – 1941 – 1946

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Gloomy Sunday – Billie Holiday (1941)

Watchers of QI will know this song as being associated with radio listeners committing suicide. I know it’s dumb, but I did gird my loins in case of severe depression. It is always great when a song has such a dark urban myth attached to it. The song itself, whilst it is undoubtedly melancholy, did not make me want to slit my wrists. Her delivery is, as always, emotionally evocative. Much more so due to the lyrics shading suicide.

Guantanamera – Joseito Fernandez (1941)

A nice respite in the Billie Holiday sandwich of depression. ‘Guantanamera’ feels a lot more cheerful for two reasons. Cuban melodies are fairly upbeat even when dealing with tragedy. Also, I have no idea what he is singing. I just know that he keeps using a feminine verison of Guantanamo which feels weird considering what Gitmo is.

God Bless The Child – Billie Holiday (1941)

Oh god, this has been ruined for me by the Simpsons Sing The Blues album. Nowhere near as mournful as ‘Strange Fruit’ or ‘Gloomy Sunday’ – maybe because this is a song that Billie Holiday wrote herself. One thing I am very aware of is how clear her voice is. As someone who listens to Lady In Satin every now and then (‘Violet for Your Furs’ being a favourite’) it is great to be able to hear how her voice was before the drugs and the drink got to it. Like a mournful siren.

Stormy Weather – Lena Horne (1943)

Where Billie Holiday is mournful in her songs that address dissapointment, Lena Horne is petulant. ‘Stormy Weather’ is about how life (and men) have dissapointed the singer. Lena is angry at her disspointment and at the world that has caused her to feel this way. The sweeping strings in the background perfectly lift her soaring vocal delivery. It’s a very simply arranged song, but Lena Horne is able to easily carry it off with a whole lot of confidence.

Rum and Coca-Cola – Lord Invader (1943)

Just noticed that we have skipped over 1942. This is a very dark song, not that you would know it until you look at the lyrics. It’s a song about how the US soldiers went over to Triniad and the writer feels that they were invading the society (the title referring to the drinks that US soldiers were drinking). It also makes a lot of references to the US soldiers sleeping with local women. On the shallow level, the song is all over the place and can be difficult to follow. On a deeper level, it’s a historical document.

This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie (1944)

A very patriotic and a very American song here. I have never really liked this song for the way some people have been able to re-appropriate it against immigration along the US-Mexico border. In a more innocent world it would be nice enough, it’s just some people have been able to ruin it.

Lili Marleen – Marlene Dietrich (1945)

I love Marlene Dietrich in films – her deep and smoky delivery makes for interesting listening. It’s a very German cabaret type of voice (like Ute Lemper in the modern day). I don’t know German – but I know it is a rather beautiful sounding German love song. The fact that this version was used by the Allies in World War Two as a way to demoralise German soldiers (Marlene Dietrich apparently being very on board with this) makes this song a weird stroke of genius.

(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 – The Nat King Cole Trio (1946)

I am so used to Nat King Cole being a voice of Christmas songs, so it is weird to hear him sounding so youthful. It’s a crossover song between pop and rhythym and blues – and if it was released after Bill Haley came onto the scene this would have sounded VERY different.

Al gurugu – La Nina de los peines (1946)

A good example of why I went for this list instead of Acclaimed Music. This is a flamenco song that would not have appeared on a critics top list, but is interesting to listen to because it is a very different type of song. Yes, this is a latin off shoot, but the foot stomping in the background keeping the beat in the place of drums makes a lot more sense. She was very important in the flamenco scene – just not many people are aware of that scene.

La vie en rose – Edith Piaf (1946)

One of the most famous songs ever to come out of France. It’s a beautiful song where you can just phase out of whatever you are doing and take you along a journey with it. I just love it. Hard to know what else to say.

La mer – Charles Trenet (1946)

I had no idea that ‘Beyond The Sea’ was based on a French song! Well, you learn something new everyday. I quite like the English version and, because it is what I am used to, I do prefer it. There is something about listening to the melody with the original (and unrelated) French lyrics. My one issue? When the backing singers join at the end of ‘La Mer’, it detracts from the simplicity of it.

Progress: 31/1021