‘S Wonderful

Hello!

It’s been many months since I have shared a blog post — although I’ve continued reading blog posts by others…

When COVID-19 became serious here in the Boston area, I started leading sing-alongs each night via FaceBook Live.

So the extra time which I had previously devoted to writing blog posts became focused instead on researching and practicing 5-6 new songs each day.

And then sharing them each night at 8:oo pm.

One hundred and twenty one of these sing-alongs are queued up on my FaceBook page in case you are curious to sample any of them.

In July I went to Cape Cod to write original songs, and my focus shifted from sing-alongs to composition.

Now I’m back at home.

And very grateful that folks continued to visit my site even when I was not actively sharing new blog posts.

I am also grateful for my fellow bloggers who reached out — via email and Facebook — during the past months to see if I was OK.

I happily dedicate the Gershwin Brothers’ song in the player at the beginning of this post to YOU.

George and Ira Gershwin…

As Ira once wrote, “(it)’s wonderful, (it)’s marvelous that you should care for me…”

As those of you who have read past blog posts may remember, I am someone who loves the spring and summer.

I do not like when the days get shorter and the nights get colder — and on top of that I hear from Dr. Fauci that we will probably be wearing masks until the end of 2021…

But accept autumn I must, as I must accept the mask-wearing and the lack-of-hugs and the increased-hand-washing and the ongoing sense of anxiety and loss during this COVID era.

Deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Thank goodness for music!

It is can be a comfort, a balm, a tonic, an inspiration…

Ira and George at work together…

“‘S Wonderful” was written by George Gershwin and his older brother Ira for a show called Funny Face starring Adele Astaire and her younger brother Fred in 1927.

The Gershwins and the Astaires had been friends for many years — ever since they first met as teenagers when George was working as a song plugger and Adele and Fred were looking for new material for their vaudeville act.

Fred and Adele performing in vaudeville…

Funny Face was originally called Smarty, and the creative birth of Smarty was not easy.

Reminiscing about the out-of-town tryout period for Smarty, Ira later recalled, “Everyone worked day and night, recasting, rewriting, rehearsing, recriminating…of rejoicing there was none.”

Program cover from London run…

He and George ended up writing 24 songs for the show, the title of Smarty changed to Funny Face, and miraculously it ended up being a hit, opening in New York City on November 22, 1927.

Adele performed “‘S Wonderful” with a Canadian actor named Allen Kearns (who Wikipedia tells us also debuted another classic Gershwin Brothers song, “Embraceable You” in their 1930 musical Girl Crazy).

As they had done with their previous Gershwin Brothers’ hit — Lady, Be Good! — the Astaires agreed to perform Funny Face in London, where it was met with even greater enthusiasm than in NYC.

The Astaires — particularly Adele who was more outgoing and spontaneous than her hard-working younger brother — were the toast of the town and became friends with members of the royal family (even being invited at one point to meet the new princess Elizabeth as a baby).

Fred and Adele Astaire with their London co-star Leslie Henson…

In fact Adele stopped performing three years later when she married the Earl of Cavendish (whom she had met on the night of their final performance in London of Funny Face) and moved to a castle in Ireland.

You can click here for a link to Adele’s Wikipedia page with many more details from her fascinating life.

In addition to leading more sing-alongs and finishing more original songs, I have decided it is time to start releasing my original songs via a company called CD Baby to Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, Napster, and a bunch of other online music platforms.

As some of you may know, this is not a simple process.

I have registered my first collection of songs with the Library of Congress, have joined a performing rights organization (ASCAP), have done a lot of reading, and have watched a lot of helpful videos to learn about how radio play, downloads, and streaming generate different kinds of income — which are collected by a bewildering combination of organizations…

I hope to share more about this process in future blog posts.

George and Ira Gershwin…

I end THIS post with gratitude for Ira and George Gershwin, who have left us an extraordinary legacy of music.

And I am grateful for pianist/producer Doug Hammer, who recorded and mixed this uptempo version of “‘S Wonderful” with me before COVID-19 entered our lives.

I am also grateful to YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts.

I am not sure if writing blog posts and releasing original songs is the best use of my time with the climate change crisis breathing down own necks…

The fires burning in California and Oregon and Washington are terrifying and extraordinary.

The hurricanes battering the Caribbean and Mexico and the southeastern United States are catastrophic and astounding.

Will my nieces and nephews at some point say to me, “Why weren’t you out in the street every day with signs protesting climate change while life as we know it on planet earth was irreparably being changed/altered/destroyed?”

We shall see…

I am glad to be back blogging and very grateful that folks continued to visit my site even when I have been focused elsewhere.

Let us continue to sing and dance and wear our masks and wash our hands and send money (if we can) to folks who need it and write new blog posts and record new songs and send postcards to potential voters and donate (if we can) to political candidates and remain engaged in the political process here on planet earth.

Adele and Fred Astaire…

50 thoughts on “‘S Wonderful

  1. A wonderful post, as always and so interesting. I hope North America soon has a respite from all these terrible events. Personally, I think that by adding to the store of beautiful music in the world, you are doing something as valuable as protesting.

  2. THANK YOU, Ember Bear, for your thoughts about the value of music during challenging times. When I look at my overall assets/skills/gifts, I am competent at many things (PR, writing, schmoozing, organizing events, helping maintain esprit de corps during collaborative processes, proofreading, managing databases, etc.), but I think my unique set of skills/gifts is rooted in music and songwriting. So I keep doing it… with doubts and fear and misgivings. I truly appreciate that you made time to read and listen to my blog post — AND to offer such affirmative feedback.

    • Thank you, Cindy. Your beautiful photos of birds (and other sights) are an ongoing tonic to my spirits. Let us continue to live one day at a time, with gratitude and perseverance…

  3. Adele is worth learning more about! As I mentioned in my blog post, SHE was often the perceived star of their brother/sister act. Her spontaneity and humor shined on stage (enhancing her dancing and singing and acting) and Fred’s obsessive attention to detail and need to rehearse (and rehearse and rehearse) was a great complement to his sister’s strengths. They remained dear and devoted siblings for their entire lives, corresponding often and sending each other gifts upon gifts upon gifts even when Adele was far away in Ireland. Her first husband died too young from alcohol (if I am remembering correctly), and she married at least one more time. But she never, partly because of her brother’s counsel, returned to performing professionally…

  4. How wonderful to see you back here Will. I love your posts; they are a delightful mix of uplifting music, history, and peeks at your life. I understand and share much of your concern for what’s going on in the world. Let’s hope we find a way to live in harmony with nature and each other. Thank you for sharing your gifts and joy! 🙏

  5. I noticed that you often comment on my son, Martin Gregory’s (@garbagefinds) blog posts, and thought I’d give you a follow to see what you were all about. 🙂 Love your post. I’ve always been a big fan of both Fred Astaire and the Gershwins. I look forward to hearing your original songs.

    • I LOVE your son’s blog posts — and his blessed life as a re-claimer/re-distributor of the myriad things we human beings decide to throw away. Thank you for checking out my blog and for your positive feedback.

  6. Will, please write further about the Gershwins and “Funny Face.” I did not realize it was from the 1920’s? The “Funny Face” movie familiar to me has Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire! united with that wonderful music. SO very glad that you are continuing your blog, always fun to read, good musical history. And good luck with your composition. The American SongBook needs new contributions to keep it vibrant. I wish you the best. Jeanne Cronin

    • What a treat to hear from you Jeanne! Thank you for making time to read and listen to my latest blog post. A new fall term of Music Together begins next week (we will be experimenting with outdoor classes as long as we can stay warm enough – then go back to using Zoom…) Hopefully there will be more music and info about the wonderful Gershwin brothers and the Astaires in future blog posts…

  7. Thank you for an entertaining and informative post. I love Astaire and Rogers films and most musicals of that era. As an aside, my hubby’s nickname for me is ‘funny face.’ I don’t know whether to be pleased or insulted!

    • You are very welcome, Julie. Thanks for reading and listening and commenting! I am guessing that your husband uses that nickname with love; so I would vote for pleased rather than insulted. The music (and musicals and musical films) of that era are indeed very special…

  8. I hardly know where to begin in responding to this post — not to mention earlier ones which I haven’t had time to fully explore (for want of a better word) as yet. I have long been a lover of Golden Age of Popular Music composers, lyricists, vocalists, dancers, bands, etc., and of course the Gershwins and the Astaires are royalty in that pantheon.I own biographies or autobiographies of most of those legendary men and women, including GERSHWIN, A BIOGRAPHY by Edward Jablonski, and a book you feature in a pevious post, WHO PUT THE RAINBOW IN THE WIZARD OF OZ, the biography of Yip Harburg by his son Ernie and Harold Mayerson.

    Ira Gershwin is one of my fav lyricists, not only for his work with his brother, but with such other composers as Harold Arlen, Burton Lane, Harry Warren, Arthur Schwartz, Kay Swift, etc. As for the Astaires, I’ve seen every one of Fred’s films (most of them multiple times), and it’s amazing how well they ‘hold up’ (I should age so well).

    I could go on and on, but the wife is calling “Supper Time,” so I gotta run. Looking forward to reading more of your posts, both old and upcoming.

  9. THANK YOU for making time to read and listen to my blog post. It truly was a golden age of creativity for popular song! I take out as many books from the library as I can, but then I usually end up buying a copy (used online) of my favorite biography for each songwriter or performer I am curious about so that I can have a one to underline and mark up as the spirit moves me. I DO have more blog posts from past months/years about different songwriters including the wonderful lyricist Dorothy Fields, who often seems to get overlooked when people are making lists of the crème de la crème. I hope you have a delicious supper (I recently learned “Suppertime” and found a heart-breaking video of Ethel Waters performing it with understated fury and grief on YouTube…) and look forward to chatting with you via future comments.

    • Coincidentally, I own TWO Dorothy Fields biographies: ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET by Deborah Grace Winer, and PICK YOURSELF UP by Charlotte Greenspan.(I think one is better than the other, but it’s been so long since I read them, I don’t recall which one). In any case, they’re both interesting. Oddly enough, of all my biographies, none are of Irving Berlin, composer of SUPPER TIME for the 1933 show AS THOUSANDS CHEER (Ethel Waters introduced the song in the show) Berlin, of course, was one of the few composers of that era who wrote both music and lyrics, and although his work wasn’t as witty and sophisticated as Cole Porter and Noel Coward in that regard, there’s no denying his standing in the upper echelon of great song writers.

      By the way, I only do WordPress, so I can’t catch your postings on Facebook, but I’ll definitely check out some of your past songwriter posts here as time permits, and get back to you.

      Take care.

      • Wow! You ARE a true aficionado. I think I have read the Winer but not the Greenspan about Ms. Fields. Her son is a pianist (and maybe a songwriter, too) based in NYC with whom one of my friends has sung. Having recently read a bunch of Irving Berlin biographies, I have renewed appreciation/awe for his artistry and his output. Also fun to learn that he and his wife were good friends with Cole Porter and his wife. Hurrah for the Great American Songbook!

    • I agree. They wrote so many songs which still move us and delight us and comfort us and inspire us…. And they loved each other and the rest of their family — always living together or in adjacent apartments! Thank you for finding time to read and listen to and comment on my blog post!

  10. You say, “I am not sure if writing blog posts and releasing original songs is the best use of my time with the climate change crisis breathing down own necks.” We can all donate and work for better policies and politicians. After that, we should just give to the universe what we have to give, I think. We don’t know how important our contribution will or won’t be.

    • I like your phrase “better policies and politicians.” And I also like your idea that we each can give what we have to give to the universe… and the universe can sort it out how important our contribution may or may not be! Thank you, as always, for your wisdom and enthusiasm. I haven’t heard back from the new fellow at WICN. Maybe it’s time for me to send him another friendly note of inquiry…

  11. Hi Will, welcome back to the blogosphere, I’m so glad to see you here! And thank you for the mention of the Climate Disaster. (I hope you will be writing a song or two about that topic!) One thing for now…..I cannot get the audio working for either the “S’Wonderful” track or any of the sidebar linked tracks. Is anyone else having this issue.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, dear man! I have not heard from anyone else that they cannot play the audio tracks. One of the small mysteries/frustrations of the digital world… Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Perhaps if/when you log on again in the future, they will just as mysteriously start to function? On another topic, it seemed like all of the songs I found myself writing this summer had to do with the Climate Disaster. I’ll share some in future posts – I just have to figure out a way to record them during this COVID-19 era since I am currently unable to work with the wonderful Doug Hammer at his studio north of Boston.

  12. What a lovely post! I too, have not written on my blog in quite some time, since this ordeal began. Consequently, I have been out of the loop. I’m glad to hear of your journey with music during this trying season, and that you continued to bring joy into the world through music. May God continue to bless your work!

    • Thank you, Malinda! This COVID-19/social justice/tornado/hurricane/wildfire period in my/our lives led me in a different direction than blogging for a few months. It is a pleasure to be back in touch with so many blogger friends and acquaintances.

  13. Hi Will! It is so good to hear from you. This post is simply marvelous. I had to read it twice. Of course the Gershwin brothers left the world with some of the best music. I had no idea they were friends with the Astaires, or that Fred performed with his sister, and that London and royalty was a big venue for them. I learn so much from your wonderful posts.

    I’m left feeling the way you do, thank goodness for music. So, today I will take my youngsters into the wooded area alongside school, bring my autoharp, and sing and dance among the trees. Best to you, Will.

    • The thought of you singing and dancing among the trees with your school children makes me laugh out loud with happiness. Adele Astaire deserves much more recognition than history has so far dealt her. As I mentioned in my reply to another comment, SHE was often singled out in reviews as the star of their duo vaudeville act. And apparently they were embraced even more passionately by their British fans than by their American fans — transferring several of the their NY hits to London, and truly becoming the toast of the town. Fred, too, made many wealthy life-long friends and cemented other friendships with American heirs such as Jock Whitney, if I am remembering correctly, while they were performing in the UK. In fact, once Fred was an established — and very well paid — star in Hollywood, he had his own horse racing stable and ranch for many years in California (remaining an active member of the uber-wealthy horsey set…) Thank you for making time to read (twice!) my blog post before beginning your busy day. I will be imagining you with your autoharp among the trees with the children all day long…

      • I am so glad I could bring happy thoughts of music and dancing to your day. But…that’s not exactly what ended up happening today, yet it was even better. Emergent curriculum is the best curriculum; children’s interests direct the flow of learning. The sun was beaming today. When children arrived, somehow I knew they needed to hear Frank Sinatra to start their day. After a gazillion years of teaching, I just know. Especially music. And this morning was marvelous, thanks to Frank. The picture book I read (well, sang) was “All You Need is Love”. Thank goodness I can sing on key. We’re painting a multi-step project, and today we used yellow paint to add the sun. So, at lunch we listened to “Here Comes the Sun.” Thanks to Frank and the Beatles for a great day. Tomorrow is dancing and singing under the trees. I promised the children, and a teacher’s promise is golden. Honestly, music just makes everything wonderful.

        Thank you for telling me more about Adele. As the older sister, I can see why she was singled out in reviews. It’s interesting that the British fans embraced them more than Americans. I can see Fred establishing his friendships and becoming involved in horse racing. I hope he and Adele remained in touch, between California and Ireland.

        Thanks so much, Will. My very best to you. I will take pictures tomorrow of singing and dancing among the trees. 🙂

      • Hurrah for emergent curriculum! Yes, Fred and Adele remained devoted to each other for their entire lives, corresponding regularly, sending lots of packages with the latest music and treats back and forth across the Atlantic. Eventually Adele’s first husband died and when. she re-married I think she ended up with a new home base in the southwest US; so it was easier for them to visit each other in person…

  14. So glad you’re back, Will. Your posts are always uplifting. Fascinating info about the Astaire.

    And I’m delighted to hear you’re arranging to bring your music to a larger audience. Best of luck with that effort.

    Your final note was totally in sync with where I am now (except for the songwriting)—the post cards, the blogging, the donations—and now I’m tweeting too, which can be dangerously addictive. Trying to get to people who will ensure there’s an independent onsite real-time fact-checker at the debates.

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