Special guest blog by Lana Mason
The Stories Behind the Songs
Those of you who know me, know that I love music from the past. It’s my favorite to listen to and sing. I love the words and feeling put into this music. They aren’t always just songs, they are sometimes like stories. But there are also stories not just within the songs themselves but also behind them! How they came to be and why they are loved so much to this day. I am going to share with you some interesting facts and stories about some of my favorite songs I perform on StreetJelly. Let’s start off with one of my very favorite songs in the whole world! And it’s also one that my StreetJelly friends love to hear- “Moon River”.
“Moon River” was composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer. Its first performance was by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 beloved movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. But how did this classic song really come to be? Well, at first Mercer had some difficulty finding a song to fit Audrey’s voice. But later, Mercer found a concept of a song for her and it was “Moon River”. But did you know that he first started a song titled “Blue River”? He had grown up in Savannah, Georgia and had memories of its waterways, so he came up with “Blue River”. But he soon found out that the title was already in use. Mancini took a month to compose the perfect melody for Hepburn. In the movie, Audrey sang the song simple and sweet while strumming her guitar, and it turned out quite charming. Now listen to this! Mancini later reported that after the first preview screening of the film, the president of Paramount Pictures puffed his cigar and said that the song had to be removed! The normally gentle Hepburn told him that it would be over her dead body. Ha, ha, you go girl! Although the movie was a great success, Paramount was still unsure about Audrey’s singing. On the soundtrack album her simple sweet vocals and guitar was replaced by a Mancini orchestral version of the song instead. With or without Audrey, the song became beyond popular. I myself love Audrey Hepburn’s version of this song. I could listen to it every day and never get tired of it. I think it is one of the best songs to be written and hope it stays such a classic.
The next song I am going to talk about is “Over the Rainbow” (often referred to as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”). This song is definitely a classic! It was written for the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz and sung by the amazing Judy Garland who played Dorothy Gale. The lyrics were written by E.Y. Harburg and the music was by Harold Arlen. At first the song was cut from the movie because the MGM chief executive and the producer of the film thought that the song “slowed down the picture” and “sounded like something for Jeanette MacDonald, not for a little girl singing in a barn yard.” Thankfully, the associate producer and Garland’s vocal coach/mentor fought to keep the song in the picture and won! Can you imagine The Wizard of Oz without “Somewhere Over the Rainbow?” I sure can’t, ha, ha. Another interesting fact is that a reprise of the song actually was deleted from the film. An additional chorus was to be sung by Dorothy while she was locked in a room in the witch’s castle. Although it was not put into the movie, its soundtrack was put into the 2-CD Deluxe Edition of the film’s soundtrack. In that intense frightful version, Dorothy is unable to finish singing from weeping. It ends with an “I’m frightened, Auntie Em – I’m frightened!” I was able to find this reprise on Youtube, and personally think it would have been wonderful if they had kept it in the film. I would be crying along with Dorothy, ha, ha, but I think it would have added something special. With or without this chorus, the song and movie are both amazing and will never be forgotten.
The final song I am going to talk about is“Singin’ in the Rain”. It’s from the 1952 musical comedy Singin’ in the Rain. Its lyrics were by Arthur Freed and the music by Nacio Herb Brown. It was sung by Gene Kelly, while he danced around twirling his umbrella and splashing through puddles as the rain poured down. Although Kelly performed this number very well, he was actually sick with a 103° fever. Who would have known, right? Also, a funny little fact is that during filming, the rain in the scene made Kelly’s wool suit shrink! Ha, ha! Now although this next story isn’t about the song “Singin’ in the Rain”, it is about the production of the movie and it’s far too intriguing not to share with you! Debbie Reynolds (who plays Kathy Selden in the movie), was not a dancer when she starred in Singin’ in the Rain. Her co-star Gene Kelly actually insulted her lack of dancing experience, much so upsetting her. In a following encounter when Fred Astaire was in the studio, he found Debbie sobbing under a piano. She told him what had happened and Astaire volunteered to help Reynolds with her dancing. Isn’t that sweet? I knew I liked Fred Astaire, ha, ha. Kelly later did admit though that he had not been kind to Reynolds and was surprised that she was still willing to talk to him afterwards. Reynolds danced her heart out so much that after the shooting of the “Good Morning” routine, her feet were bleeding! Years later, she was quoted saying that “Singin’ in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life.” It goes to show that these legendary performers were great examples of “the show must go on.”
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I had a lot of fun learning so much about these wonderful classic songs. Do you know any interesting stories or facts about any songs? If you do let everyone know in the comment section below! ☺ I hope you enjoyed reading this and I hope to see you on the jelly! ☺ Yours Truly –LanaEve