posted 05/22/06 04:09 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
As we all know, the Hoagy Carmichael song "Stardust" is one of the greatest popular melodies. It's just a lovely, timeless song.
I've never liked Bing's 1932 version, however. In fact, I think it's one of his worst-ever vocals. I don't mean that his voice sounds substandard, it's just that his interpretation of this ballad is way off. It's a ballad, of course, but Bing sings it too fast and doesn't put any feel into the lyrics. It's a shame that Bing didn't do a better job here.
Does anyone else agree, or do most people find his version enjoyable? Oddly, I also don't especially like Sinatra's 1962 version which is "Don Costa-ized" to a strong degree. But Frank's vocal nails the poignant feel of the song. Nat King Cole's version is absolutely beautiful as well.
The only other song besides "Stardust" that I feel Bing sang poorly is "Old Man River" in 1928. The arrangement is jazzy and fast and Bing sounds raspy and hoarse. I still like the song though, and listen to it frequently. But the 1932 "Stardust" makes me cringe.
posted 05/22/06 04:40 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I love the song 'Stardust' and I believe Nat 'King' Cole's version is definitive. Having said that, I do find merit in Bing's 1932 track. The song is not the easiest to sing but Bing tackled it with a sturdiness and passion that went down well with the audiences of the day. Even today the power and range of his voice come over well.
In 1932, the kind of 'hamminess' that typified so much of Jolson's work was still popular and had more than a passing influence on the young Bing. We all know that ballad singing moved on as it was refined and developed by vocalists such as Sinatra and Nat'King' Cole - and, of course, Bing himself!
But in 1932 the less strident more poignant approach, allied to improved recording techniques, was still some time away. Bing was as relaxed as they came. His early version of 'Stardust' is of its time and, considered in context, is surely still worth an occasional listen.
posted 05/22/06 04:48 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I "slightly" agree with you about "Stardust", and totally disagree with you on "River"......
STAR DUST: Doesn't make me cringe, or anything so negative as that, but when I hear it, I hear that Bing seems to be "over-singing" or forcing it a bit. He seems to be pushing his instrument a bit too hard, and I can sort of "feel" the tightness in his throat as I listen. I much prefer his gorgeous 1939 version, which, along with it's flip: "Deep Purple" gets my vote as the most all-around vocally "perfect" record Bing ever made.
I wouldn't fault the tempo too much, as it was 1931, after all (not '32), and tempos were different on pop records back then, 'specially since they had to get the whole thing (complete with verse) on to a 10-ince 78rpm disc. All-in-all, not my favorite performance from Bing's milestone series of 1931 Brunswicks (my favorites from that list include NOW THAT YOU'RE GONE, I APOLOGIZE, AT YOUR COMMAND, OUT OF NOWHERE, TOO LATE.... Just about all of them, come to think of it!).
OLD MAN RIVER: Here, I couldn't disagree more! I often use this record as an example of how he had started in on his re-invention of popular vocalism as early as 1928 and the Whiteman days. Vocal tonality aside, his rhythmic conception and drive, his sense of "swing" in other words, is so advanced here that it makes the performance a landmark in his career, in my estimation. For more eloquent discussion on the subject than I can offer, I'd suggest Giddins in "Pocket Full Of Dreams", also quotes over the years from Johnny Mercer on the effect this record had on him as a kid.
Now... having said all that - I will tell you that I've never been totally comfortable with the way Bing BEGINS the vocal.... It's a bit low for him, and at that fast tempo, he sort of "rolls off" the pitch a bit in the very beginning. But he more than makes up for it overall!
Byh the way, I've yet to hear the recently discovered alternate take of this record, and wonder how it compares. I wish JONZO would tack it on to a future volume!
Fun question to put before us - thanks.
posted 05/22/06 07:53 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
Candace, I've always had a problem with the melody of "Stardust". I like the lyrics but think a better melody could have been written for it. Maybe Bing had a problem with the melody too.
posted 05/22/06 08:24 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Bing named "Stardust" as his all-time favorite song on "A Musical Autobiography", so I doubt that he had a "problem" with the melody, preference-wise, anyway...he did self-deprecatingly mention that it was a bit rangy for him, so maybe in that sense he did. But if that were the case, it's hard to tell from any of his recordings of the song. He wasn't alone in his fondness for "Stardust", as the composition was one of the most popular of the last century. And, for the record, Hoagy Carmichael's melody came first--he composed it in June of 1927 during a visit to his alma mater in Indiana--Mitchell Parish's lyrics were written for it two years later, according to Fred Reynolds.
posted 05/22/06 10:13 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Arne, you brought up some excellent points about Old Man River. In my post, I said Bing sang it "poorly." I was writing this at work, was distracted and not putting proper thought into my post. I love this record and think the arrangement is great. In fact, it's one of my all-time favorite Bing vocals from the 20's.
However, I feel the jazzy way Bing sang the song didn't do it justice. I didn't realize this until I heard Paul Robeson sing it, then Sinatra. I first started listening to Bing's version of Old Man River when I was 10 years old, and hadn't any clue that it came from Showboat, or what the tune was about. Once I heard Sinatra's soaring version, I felt Bing's version wasn't evocative enough and the tempo was too fast and jazzy. But I still love it!
Bing sang Old Man River in the same casual way he sang a song like "That's My Weakness Now." This off handed approach works well with a trifle like "That's My Weakness," but not as well with Old Man River.
John, I agree with you that the power of Bing's voice is certainly in evidence in Stardust. But he goes up and down in his cadence rather awkwardly, and just doesn't put any feeling into the reading of the lyrics. I hadn't thought about the hamminess of Jolson as an influence. I know Bing revered Al, but I never see much of an indication of it in his singing. He doesn't deliver a song like Jolson at all. (By the way, did Bing ever sing "A Quarter to Nine" on his radio show? My favorite Jolson song).
For instance, I was listening today to "Street of Dreams" which Bing recorded one year before Stardust. This is an absolutely beautiful job, full of pathos and Bing was in great voice. He was restrained and sad, as the song dictates. I just have a feeling he rushed through Stardust and didn't have a handle of the significance of the lyrics. I would like to hear Bing sing Stardust in the late 50's or even in the early 70's. By then he would have approached the song properly, with his world experience behind him.
posted 05/22/06 10:24 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
This thread is a good analysis of Bing's singing at a point in time of his long career. I have found "Street of Dreams" a superior vocal effort that shows off Bing's style nicely. I have often pared this recording along side "Blue Prelude."
I have compared several of Bing's "Stardust" recordings side by side and have found the 1939 version more relaxed and dreamy than the 1931 version. By this time, I suspect, Bing was encouraged to relax his vocals, and I believe it does this song some justice. The 1931 vocal is not a throw away by any means, but Bing was searching for a defined style to run with. The 1931 recordings feature Bing running straight (no chaser) into the vocals with equal intensity.
"Ol' Man River" recorded in January 1928 was part of the Whiteman recording marathon that took place at Victor in order to fulfill his contract before going to Columbia by May or June of that year. I am not sure how much leeway Whiteman let his vocalists have since every session featured deeply orchestrated (dare I say over orchestrated?) scores. The vocalist was stuffed there in the middle somewhere. Bing was trying to keep up with the Whiteman "machine" as it cranked out another recording. Even Henry Busse, Whiteman's long time cornetist, left in a huff after a stressed out argument over Bix arriving late, and, in not great shape. I wonder if Bing was feeling the tension?
The discussion is a good one.
posted 05/23/06 12:19 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I have mentioned before on this board that I have never liked Crosby's 1932 version of "Stardust." For one thing, the song is performed in too high a key, with the result that Crosby's voice sounds strained and even rather strident. In addition, the musical arrangement leaves much to be desired. It is extremely dated and, quite frankly, pretty bad. Bing's 1939 version is much better sung and has a far better instrumental backup, but it omits the verse. This is a major flaw, since the verse to this song is not only quite beautiful melodically, but it is necessary for a full understanding of the import of the lyrics. The 1932 recording of "Stardust" is one of the only Crosby recordings from this period which I really don't much care for.
As someone else mentioned above, the definitive recording of this song is Nat King Cole's rendition. Roger Whittaker also made a quite beautiful recording of it, which rivals Nat's.
posted 05/23/06 12:27 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
i think it has one of the greatest titles for a song but not one of the greatest songs
posted 05/23/06 01:06 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
Good heavens, Louis Armstrong's version of Stardust is one of the greatest things to ever grace the human ear!
posted 05/23/06 07:21 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Stardust should have had a better melody? The melody is largely responsible for Stardust being among the most popular songs in history!! The Mona Lisa was OK too, but should have had a different face!
posted 05/23/06 08:28 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I like the "Stardust" Bing sings on his "Musical Autobiography and I like his "Old Man River" with Cammarata.
Bing's earlier renditions made HISTORY and made possible what came later....by Bing himself, Frank, or Nat King Cole.
Will Friedwald in his notes to "Stardust: The Complete Capitol Recordings of Nat King Cole" speaks of Cole's debt to Bing and how Cole emulated Bing's policy of singing as many different types and genres of music.
|Brian R. Johnson||
posted 05/23/06 08:57 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I think Bing's orignal Stardust is too fast. Nat Cole's is almost 30 seconds longer and with a song like that the tempo is everything. That may have been forced by the early limitations to the amount of time you could put on a 78rpm.
The song was originally published as an intrumental piece and Mitchell Parrish (a house employee at Mills Publishing) was asked to write words for it to try to increase sales. At that time, sheet music sales were more important than record sales. Parrish would become quite good at this over his career. He wrote the words to seven Leroy Anderson hits after they were already published instrumentals including the Christmas favorite "Sleigh Ride."
posted 05/23/06 09:10 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Wasn't Bing's 1941 ballad-treament of "Old Man River" a precursor to Sinatra's famous ballad-treatment of the same song?
posted 05/23/06 10:20 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I would say yes in the sense that Bing's treatment of most songs were precursors to what Sinatra, Cole, Haymes and so many others did.
Another great recording of "Old Man River" was by Gordon MacRae.
posted 05/23/06 10:40 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Candace: No "About A Quarter To Nine" by Bing that I know of.
There is a live version by Bobby Darin from a TV special he did on the BBC in 1967 as well as another from Darin's TV show in 1972.
Much has been written of Bobby's admiration of Sinatra but Darin also paid homage to the great performers before Sinatra like Jolson, Durante, Sophie Tucker and Bing.
posted 05/23/06 11:00 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
Whereas Bing's original version of Stardust may seem too fast, I've always thought that his version of Blue Skies was too slow and melancholy. This hit home when Willie Nelson recorded it as a joyous, upbeat song in the 1970s.
posted 05/23/06 11:04 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
I always thought that the 1939 Decca of Bing singing "Stardust" and "Deep Purple" was one of the best records Bing ever recorded, taking into account both sides of the disc. I agree the excellent intro should have been included on Bing's 1939 effort. To show you how broad-minded I am, I even like the 1960s Temple and Stevens hit version of "Stardust". Coincidently, they also charted with "Deep Purple".
I remember reading an article in Common Wheel (I think) magazine many years ago (the 60s) about the profitability of song writing/copyright ownership. They use Carmichael's "Stardust" as a benchmark, and stated that "Stardust" was averaging $50,000.00 anually in royalties. If I could only write a song half as good.
posted 05/23/06 12:11 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Don, you put into words my feelings to a "T" about the 1932 Stardust:
"Crosby's voice sounds strained and even rather strident. In addition, the musical arrangement leaves much to be desired. It is extremely dated and, quite frankly, pretty bad."
The adjective "strident" is one you'd never associate with Bing's wonderfully relaxed singing, but it fits with Stardust. Bing was perfectly capable of putting tremendous feeling into his songs at this early stage of his career, but not with Stardust. Street of Dreams, Brother, Can you Spare a Dime and others are eloquent testimony of this.
Steven, your point about Blue Skies is interesting and it took me 20 years to come to this conclusion. Bing's 1946 version of Blue Skies was the only version I was familiar with for 20 years. I always liked the song and Bing's manner of singing it. Then I heard Benny Goodman's swing version of the song. At first it was jarring and I didn't like it. But after listening to it for many years, I think the swing approach to Blue Skies is superior to the slow ballad version Bing delivered.
I often wish that Bing would have re-recorded Blue Skies in an uptempo version. He did this by singing a swingier version of Pennies From Heaven with Satchmo.
posted 05/23/06 12:14 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
That's Nino Tempo and April Stevens, who in reality were brother and sister.
|Brian R. Johnson||
posted 05/23/06 12:27 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Bing's version of Blue Skies fit the mood of the movie of the same name. The upbeat duo he did with Danny Kaye fit the mood of the moment it's heard in "White Christmas" as well.
Does anyone know what the tempo was on the original sheet music issued by Berlin?
posted 05/23/06 01:07 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I believe it was Nino Tempo, Brian.
posted 05/23/06 01:13 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Was the original sheet music issued by Irving Berlin or Berlin, Germany?
posted 05/23/06 06:00 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Crosby's slow-paced version of "Blue Skies" has in fact always been one of my favorite Crosby performances. I have always considered it a prime example of Bing's talent for brilliant phrasing. The version he did with Les Paul on the Philco Show around the same time is even slower than the commercial recording, but the phrasing is, unbelievably, even better.
posted 05/23/06 06:55 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I, too, find that 'Blue Skies' is just a bit slow. Also, Bing's version of 'Just One Of Those Things' is slow but maybe I compare that with Frank's version on 'Songs for swingin' lovers' which is a bit faster.
posted 05/23/06 08:20 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Sinatra's "Just One Of Those Things" is on "Songs For Young Lovers".
"Just One Of Those Things" is a song Sinatra tried at various tempos.
Frank Sinatra Jr. once said that "Just One Of Those Things" was the saddest song Sinatra ever sang because it was a about a man trying to convince himself of something that isn't true.
Bing's "Blue Skies" in the film is melancholy because his relationship with Joan Caulfield will be a difficult and troubled one.
posted 05/23/06 08:37 PM Central Time (US) no email address given
I already know all the things some of you are telling me about "Stardust". I never liked the melody. I don't have to like a song because it was very successful. I rather hear Bing sing a song worthy of his beautiful voice like "I'll Be Seeing You". Bing's version of that song to me is the Best by far!
posted 05/23/06 09:35 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
What everybody forgets is that originally "Stardust" was much more of an up-tempo tune. For example, one of the big recordings was by Wayne King and his Orchestra, and that version is quite fast, with a real 1920's sound. It was only later that the song assumed the dreamier, slower tempo.
So, Bing's earlier recording needs to be considered in the proper context. In 1931 they were playing the song a little differently.
posted 05/23/06 09:59 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
The same is true for Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue." A recording of George Gershwin's original piano roll is available on CD, and it rolls along (no pun intended) at a surprisingly sprightly pace. Similarly, Ella Fitzgerald's slow, reflective 1956 "Rodgers and Hart Songbook" recording of "Isn't It Romantic" is a far cry, tempo-wise, from Maurice Chevalier's and Jeanette MacDonald's bouncy screen version in 1932's "Love Me Tonight." In fact, all of the RandH songs performed in a 1929 two reeler, "Makers Of Melody", starring the composer and lyricist--"Manhattan", "The Girl Friend", and "Blue Room"--are performed in a campy, herky-jerky, even androgynous style that was popular at the time, but now appears and sounds alien and bizarre.
posted 05/23/06 10:16 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I didn't know that, Don. Thanks for pointing out that Stardust was initially a more jazzy number. Who was the original artist? I believe the lyrics were tacked on several years after Hoagy wrote the melody, so I assume it was an orchestral piece at first?
I just lament Bing didn't tackle Stardust again in the 1970's with Ken Barnes. I feel he would have had a mournful take on the song, something that was absent back in 1932.
I was listening to Nat King Cole's version of Stardust today and I have to agree, this is definitive. For anyone who doesn't have a CD of Nat singing this, try and purchase one. It's amazingly beautiful.
posted 05/24/06 07:26 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
The first big hit version of "Stardust" was the one by the Isham Jones orchestra in 1930 or 31. I think it is still the definitive instrumental version.
posted 05/24/06 09:54 AM Central Time (US) no email address given
"Stardust" was composed and first recorded for Gennett Records by Hoagy Carmichael's band in 1927 as a peppy jazz number. Carmichael said he was inspired by the types of improvisations made by Bix Beiderbecke. The tune at first only attracted moderate attention, mostly from fellow musicians, a few of whom (including Don Redman) recorded their own versions of Carmichael's tune.
Carmichael reworked the tune as a slow ballad in 1929, and the same year it had lyrics added to it by Mitchell Parish. Carmichael wanted to make a new recording of the tune for Gennett, but the Gennett executives vetoed the idea since they already had Carmichael's earlier recording of the tune in their catalogue. Bandleader Isham Jones, however, recorded Carmichael's new arrangement of "Stardust" which became the first of many hit records of the tune. By 1932 over two dozen other bands had recorded "Stardust".
posted 05/24/06 12:48 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
If you imagine the melody of "Stardust" played at a medium-tempo, relaxed swing, it stylistically resembles some of Beiderbecke's improvisations (such as to be found in "Singin' The Blues" or "I'm Comin' Virginia"). It's good to remember that, at the time Hoagy composed this originally, he was obsessed with Bix and his talent.
posted 05/24/06 05:11 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
King Cole´s Stardust is absolute magical! "Blue Skies" is a someone melancholical song with such lyrics as "...Never saw the sun shining so bright/Never saw things goin´so right/Noticing the days hurrying by/When you´re in love,my how they fly/Blue days,all of them gone...".The scene Bing singing Blue Skies in the film was dramatical used for the story:Bing sitting on the meadow and the clouds rolling along.The recording is a more perfect arrangement of the screen version.On film "White Christmas" the song is only a showact-sung perfectly with Danny ,but not matching the sense of the words.Similiar funny is the live duet with Jimmy Durante.Bing sung BS very effective in a medium tempo on his Palladium medley.
posted 05/24/06 06:19 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Interesting observation, Arne, which had never occurred to me. I've always thought 'Stardust' had such an original melody line, though I must confess I haven't listened to Bix for a while.
posted 05/24/06 10:19 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Thanks to everyone for pointing out that Stardust was originally a jazzy number. I never had the slightest clue. This explains Bing's approach to the song, which would have been the norm in 1932. Most people today have never heard Stardust sung as anything but a slow ballad, in the manner Nat King Cole sang it, or Sinatra.
All these years I was under the illusion that Bing and the arrangement were hopelessly screwed up. By 1939, the song must have been adapted into a ballad, since Bing sang it this way.
The things I learn on this board. Thanks to everyone.
posted 05/24/06 11:49 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Carmichael may very well have written the original music to "Stardust" in an upbeat tempo. As "eduardo" points out, however, the song was reworked in 1929 as a slow ballad, with lyrics provided by Mitchell Parish. The sentimental, nostalgic and poetic nature of the lyrics suggest that the songwriters then intended the song to be performed in slow tempo, since a fast tempo is really inconsistent with the theme and mood of the lyrics.
You have to remember, however, that most of the instrumental ensembles during the early 30s were essentially dance bands. It was not unusual for songs written as slow ballads to be arranged and performed with a somewhat juiced-up tempo in order to make them "dancier."
|John J. Murphy, Jr.||
posted 05/25/06 08:21 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Candace, per Eduardo's posting, you may also hear Carmichael's 1927 "Stardust" on the Red Hot Jazz Archive in addition to many top jazz musicians including Bing (under Paul Whiteman's page and a Rhythm Boys page) at
Isham Jones waxed this recording in medium tempo in 1930 with Victor Young contributing a very fine violin solo in the middle of the tune.
posted 05/27/06 11:41 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Thank you, John, this is a great site.
It's amazing that all these years I (erroneously) thought Bing was butchering "Stardust" by singing it too fast and too jazzy. It never occured to me that the song was intended as an uptempo piece. I still think it's a much better song when sung as a ballad.
posted 05/28/06 12:22 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
WOW! Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I have long thought that Bing's 1932 version of "Stardust" is the best ever....so much so that I cringe when I listen to other versions, including his 1939 version.
Yes, it's in a high key....but he could handle it then, he surely doesn't go flat or off key, I think it is fabulous. And the slow, ponderous ballad versions that came later seem dull and lifeless by comparison. So I guess I'll just keep listening to this butchered 1932 version.
posted 05/28/06 03:41 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I'm with you on "Stardust", Howard. In fact,I have always been partial to all of Bing's songs from 1931, right from "I surrender dear", thru "Just a Gigolo," "Out of nowhere," and on and on: "I apologize," "Dancing in the dark" all the way to "I found you." Almost every one charted, if that matters, but seldom have so many lasting hits been recorded in one year. And Bing recognized it as he says in his Musical Autobiography that "1931 was a halcyon year for me." Indeed it was, and all the rest of us should be thankful for it.
|John J. Murphy, Jr.||
posted 05/28/06 08:45 PM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
As I mentioned earlier, Bing's 1931 Stardust is not a throw away vocal by any means. The common thread with many of the 1931 Brunswick vocals is Bing's attack, which is straightforward and aggressive. Based on my large record collection that highlights this era, nobody was singing like Bing at all, or came close to his style for that matter. In this discussion, I believe Candace is focusing on Bing's richer vocals, and I believe she has a point after mentioning "Street of Dreams." There is a lot of vocal "story telling" (interpolation?) in these songs. I can say that Bing really mastered this at the end of 1931 going into 1932. While 1931 was a halcyon year for him, some very stylish vocals in 1932 and 1933 would endear "Mr. Croz" with the American public almost forever.
posted 05/29/06 07:48 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
Glad to hear I'm not alone, Barry. 1931 was indeed a "halcyon" year for Bing, and don't forget "Just One More Chance" and "I'm Through With Love" and "I Found A Million Dollar Baby" from that glorious year. Then he kept right on going in 1932 with "Sweet Georgia Brown", "Please" and "Some of These Days", all among his best.
posted 05/29/06 11:48 AM Central Time (US) contact the author directly
I'm with Howard on this one. The subject came up in August 2005n and I then wrote:
"Brian R. Johnson thinks, no - asserts, that Nat King Cole's version of 'Stardust' is the best. He suggests that the time limit of 78rpm recordings crowded Bing and that his version of 'Stardust' sounds rushed. I don't agree. Certainly the 78's can't be blamed although Bing took only 2:44 compared with Nat's 3:15; in the same session Bing took 3:19 to sing 'I apologise'. I think it's a question of style and that the brilliant, but slightly over-the-top lyrics, required the sound that the 28 year old Bing produced - and with time for a few seconds of scat, as well.
Napster(UK) have 304 tracks listed under 'Stardust' (although some are Ziggy Stardust). Those that I have sampled shirk the introductory lyrics that both Bing and Nat include."