The song of the day for Friday, November 21, 2014 is “One For My Baby.”
About This Song
“One For The Road” was written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer for the 1943 film The Sky’s The Limit, where it was introduced by Fred Astaire. Harold Arlen called this song one of his “tapeworms” as at 48 bars, it was longer than the standard 32 bar popular song. Alec Wilder, in American Popular Song, says that “the honors must go the lyric. … Just imagine having the acuity and courage to start a song, as Mercer does, with ‘It’s a quarter to three!'”
About This Version
While Tony Bennett has recorded this song several times, I’m a big fan of this 1992 version from his album Perfectly Frank. Just Tony Bennett and his quartet … terrific.
We pick up the story of Johnny Mercer in 1935 as he relocated to Hollywood. He socialized frequently with his now-friend Bing Crosby and a new circle of Crosby’s friends. His first big hit in Hollywood was “I’m an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande,” written in 1936. At that point, his career really took off and he was much in demand as a lyricist, penning songs including “Too Marvelous For Words,” “Hooray for Hollywood” and “Jeepers Creepers,” which earned him his first Oscar nomination.
Quite prolific, he was also writing songs for the big orchestras, such as “And The Angels Sing” for Benny Goodman followed soon by “Day In, Day Out” and “Fools Rush In.” At one point in 1939, he had 5 of the top 10 songs on Your Hit Parade. He had just turned 30 years old.
And then he met Harold Arlen; the two were an incredible pair. Their first hit was “Blues in the Night” followed by “One For My Baby” and “That Old Black Magic.” Frank Sinatra was recording his songs and he and Arlen wrote a Broadway musical St. Louis Woman with Pearl Bailey. He paired up with Harry Warren to write the score for the 1946 film The Harvey Girls, which starred Judy Garland. The song “On The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe” won Mercer the first of four Academy Awards for best song.
By the mid-1940s, Mercer was easily the top lyricist in Hollywood. He had also developed a tendency to drink heavily.
… To Be Continued …
“One For My Baby,” as well as the album Perfectly Frank, is available from iTunes.