Music Monday: October 24, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Fifty years ago the landscape of cinematic history changed with the premiere of one of the greatest films ever made. “The Godfather”, Francis Ford Coppola’s Academy Award winning masterpiece about Don Vito Corleone, a man at the head of an organized crime operation in New York City, was released in 1972. From its debut, it was hailed as a work of art, a masterful tale of family, respect, business, honor and the Italian culture both in America & in Europe. It also produced two sequels.

As an Italian American woman, there was no way I could let a monumental anniversary like this go without paying homage to its place in history. My dad was a huge fan of the movie and the 1969 book by Mario Puzo (who also wrote the screenplay with Coppola). I remember trying to watch it with my father when I was barely a teenager but gave up after the heartbreaking death of heir apparent first born son Santino (“Sonny”, played by James Caan).

Once I watched it as an adult I, of course, saw it for the phenomenal event that it was. I was especially struck by how fair, balanced and gentle Don Corleone was (played to perfection by Marlon Brando, who won the Best Actor Oscar for the role, which he famously declined), a man of many traits who valued family and could clearly see justice in even the most offensive situations. Case in point: Don Corleone was asked by an undertaker to kill the two the men who brutally beat his daughter. The Godfather told the anguished man that was not justice as his daughter was still alive. But that did not mean the men who hurt her did not deserve to suffer as well. And when Sonny was killed, his heartbroken father called for a truce rather than an act of revenge in order to save the lives of his other two sons.

Yet none of his boys inherited their father’s sense of balance. Each one fell victim to the predominant trait they inherited from Don Corleone. For Sonny, it was his temper. For Fredo, it was his pride. For Michael, it was his need for revenge. It cost two of them their lives and for Michael, it cost him his first wife & his daughter, as seen in the third installment of the trilogy (Don Vito also adopted a fourth son, Tom Hagen, when he was a child. He grew up to be the family lawyer and conciliary, played by Robert Duvall).

If everyone yearns to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, you can believe nearly everyone wanted to be Italian after seeing this film, despite the gangter underscore to the story. And it has been part of our pop culture vernacular for five decades. It has been referenced in so many other movies and TV shows I have lost count (but probably most famously in “The Sopranos” for obvious reasons). I think my favorite ones are in “You’ve Got Mail” (both Tom Hank’s & Greg Kinnear’s characters acknowledge quotes from the film) and in “Modern Family” in S4 E13, “Fulgencio”. Surprisingly in that story arc it was nice guy Phil Dunphy who took his turn as The Godfather to save his family’s honor with the help of his son, Luke. It was an exceptionally funny episode from a series full of them & definately worth the watch if you have not seen it.

But for me, like with everything else, the film was about the music-in particularly-the theme song. I remember being in another room of my house when I heard the hauntingly beautiful instrumental score coming from the living room. My dad was watching the movie again but this time it looked remarkably different than what I remembered. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) was walking along the hills of Sicily as the gorgeous theme played. I loved it so much (and the music from Connie’s wedding scene too, especially The Tarantella) that my dad bought me the album. But surprisingly enough, the theme song was not on The Godfather’s Family Wedding Album.

My grandmother remembered hearing a version of it by Italian vocalist Jerry Vale, so we searched the stores for it and found it on his 1974 greatest hits compilation. Crooner Andy Williams had a hit with his interpretation of the song in 1972 but not many singers have covered it in the past five decades, so Vale’s is still the rendition I come back to time and time again (although Andrea Bocelli’s 2015 Sicilian version, Brucia la terra, is quite beautiful). And as gorgeous as the instrumental score by Nino Rota was, the addition of the lyrics by Larry Kusik turned the song into an event fitting for a film considered the second best ever made after “Citizen Kane”.

Viva IL Padrino.

“Wine-colored days
Warmed by the sun
Deep velvet nights
When we are one”.

The Godfather movie poster

The men of The Godfather

Godfather Wedding Album

Jerry Vale

From top to bottom: The 1972 movie poster for “The Godfather”; The Corleone men (L-R): Michael (Al Pacino), Don Vito (Marlon Brando), Santino (James Caan) and Fredo (John Cazale): The Godfather’s Wedding Album (1972) and “The Greatest Of Jerry Vale” (1974). (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Jerry Vale: “Speak Softly Love” (The Love Theme To “The Godfather“), music by Nino Rota, lyrics by Larry Kusik).

Stay safe and well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 319

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Shakespeare music

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

When Fiorello La Guardia became NYC’s mayor in 1933, one of his first acts was to ban burlesque shows in the city. This caused Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater to close its doors after nearly twenty years in business. While this was obviously a bad thing for that show, it turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in musical history. A year later, on January 26, 1934, that venue was reborn as The Apollo Theatre.

From its first amateur night to the features of major musical performers, The Apollo stage has hosted the best artists in swing, bebop, jazz, gospel, blues, R&B and soul. In the 1930’s Billie Holiday, Lena Horne & the Count Basie Orchestra made their debuts there. The next decade featured Amateur Night winners like Sarah Vaughn and Ruth Brown. In the 1950’s James Brown was discovered the same way and “Showtime At The Apollo” began. That decade also saw the premiers of jazz greats Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk.

The 1960’s featured numerous shows by Stax & Motown artists. In 1972 John Lennon & Yoko Ono took part in a benefit concert there to help families of the inmates who were shot during the Attica Prison riots in 1971 (Admit it-now you hear Al Pacino in your head screaming “Attica!” “Attica!” from the movie, “Dog Day Afternoon”, right?)

The Apollo closed briefly in the late 1970’s but reopened in 1981. That decade brought about the debut of the television show, “Showtime at the Apollo”. For 87 years the theater located on W 125th Street in Harlem has been a beacon for legendary music & comedians. My parents are part of that history as they were there at a show in the 1960’s to see one of my mother’s favorite singers, Jackie Wilson. Today’s song is one of the biggest hits of his career and always reminds me of how lucky my parents were to see this man live during the height of his fame.

And in a great example of symmetry, I saw my own musical hero Bruce Springsteen play this song in concert several times (one of his best versions was with an all star band at The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame’s 25th anniversary concert in 2009). Dolly Parton did a gospel inspired country version of it as well in 1977. But today’s track features an electrifying horn arrangement & music by The Funk Brothers so that makes it the premiere version of this incredible song.

Now once I was downhearted
Disappointment was my closest friend
But then you came and he soon departed
And you know he never showed his face again

Jackie Wilson

“Mr. Excitement” Jackie Wilson circa 1960. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Aretha at Apollo

The marquee’s announcement of The Queen Of Soul’s return to The Apollo Theater in New York City on June 3, 1971. (Tyrone Dukes/The New York Times).  (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Jackie Wilson: “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher” (1967, written by Gary Jackson, Raynard Miner, and Carl Smith).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 285

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Shakespeare music

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day.  And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Oscar Levant said, “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity”. In music history one person who crossed that line was Phil Spector, who turns 80 years old today. Born December 26, 1940 in the Bronx, NY, he was highly regarded as the industry’s first auteur and the inventor of one of the defining sounds of the 1960’s. But there is no denying his story has a sad tragic ending. In 2009 he was convicted of the 2003 murder of actress Lana Clarkson, which carried a 19 year sentence that will most likely end his life in jail (he will not be eligible for parole until 2024). In 2014 he lost his voice due to an illness that paralyzed his vocal chords and he is also reportedly suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

During Spector’s two trials (the first one ended in a mistrial because of a hung jury) his lawyers argued that his mental decline began in 1974 after he was badly injured in a car crash where he was thrown through the windshield. The serious head injuries he suffered required several hours of surgery with over 700 stitches to his face and the back of his head. He lost his father to suicide when Spector was only nine plus there were reports he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point in his life. However, there was no mention of any type of drug regimen for that illness. None of this justifies the actions he allegedly took which led to Clarkson’s death, but I think anyone who draws a firearm to get someone’s attention as he was reported to have done on more than one occasion is not someone who is of sound mind. For more insight into Spector’s world throughout the trials, I recommend the 2013 HBO movie about him starring Al Pacino. He is riveting in the title role as Spector.

But there is also no denying how powerful his reach was in music. In 1960 he became the youngest person (to that date) to own a record label when he co-founded Philles Records with Lester Sill. Spector was primarily known as a record producer but he was also a musician and songwriter of hits like “To Know Him Is To Love Him”, “Walking In The Rain”, “Chapel Of Love”, “Spanish Harlem” and “Then He Kissed Me”, amongst others. He created the “Wall Of Sound” behind such groups as The Teddy Bears, The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers. And it was Spector who took the songs from the Let It Be sessions and gave us the album of the same name. Whether you appreciated his work on that record or not, without him who knows how long it would have taken for that music to be released. And that was the album that made me fall head over heels in love with The Fab Four, so I cannot help but be grateful to Spector in that respect.

He also worked a lot with John Lennon (as co-producer of several of his solo albums including 1971’s Imagine) & George Harrison (as co-producer of All Things Must Pass and The Concert For Bangladesh, which won Spector his only Grammy Award for Album Of The Year in 1972). He also worked with The Ramones and had fans throughout the industry including Bruce Springsteen, who has often said he worked on his Born To Run album as if he were trying to recreate Spector’s signature sound. He is amongst only a handful of producers to have a number one record in three consecutive decades (1950s, 1960s and 1970s). That is an incredible feat.

Spector’s touch & influence on my musical choices is so clear that without putting any conscience effort into it, I have already shared six songs connected to him. One was produced by him (“Let It Be” Day 26), another was co-produced by him (George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, Day 252) & four were written/co-written by Spector: Darlene Love’s “River Deep, Mountain High” (Day 77) & “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (Day 278), The Ronettes “Be My Baby (Day 147) and The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” (Day 187).

I chose today’s track not only because Spector co-produced it but because it is from my favorite Beatle, George Harrison. And I also love the message of this song that whatever is happening, whatever we are going through, it is only temporary. This, too, shall pass.

Now the darkness only stays the nighttime
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good
At arriving at the right time
It’s not always gonna be this gray

George Phil 1964

George and Phil 1971

Top: George Harrison (L) and Phil Spector (R) circa 1964. Bottom: Harrison (L) and Spector (R) in the studio in 1971. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

George Harrison: “All Things Must Pass” (1970, written by George Harrison).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Weekend Wanderings

Hello, Vixens!!!  Happy February!!!

It’s awards season!!!  Did I ever tell you how much I love awards shows???  I do.  I love watching the stars arrive on the red carpet, seeing the gorgeous dresses and shoes, the different hairstyles and accessories-all of it (although I must admit it is very different without Joan Rivers…sigh).  I like to see who presents with who, and if their jokes will be funny or fall flat.  I even like listening to the speeches, especially when they are off the cuff and heartfelt, and sometimes I get teary eyed during the “In Memoriam” segment.

So, after forgetting all about the Golden Globe Awards a few weeks back (I know, right???  I am sooo off my game!!!   But don’t worry, I caught the highlights on their site & YouTube LOL), I made sure I was front and center on Saturday night for the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards.  My favorite part hands down was when the perfect pair of Tina Fey & Amy Poehler presented Carol Burnett with the Lifetime Achievement Award, followed very closely by when the adorable Steve Carrell escorted her to the stage.  Look how classically beautiful the ladies looked:

Tina Fey Harpers  Amy  carol

Sources (l to r):  Tina Fey & Amy Poehler:  Getty.  Carol Burnett:  The Huffington Post.  

Prints were very big on the red carpet this year, worn by Naomi Watts, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Rachel McAdams and Nicole Kidman, to name a few.  But I am usually old school when it comes to gowns and prefer more of a monochromatic look.  The women from “Mad Men“*** were three of my absolute favorites:

Christina  J Jones  Jessica

Sources (l to r):  Christina Hendricks & January Jones:  Getty.   Jessica Pare:  AP.

I really wanted “Mad Men” to win for Outstanding Performance By An Ensemble In A Drama Series for its unbelievably phenomenal final season but that honor went to Downton Abbey.  But seeing Jon Hamm again with that post “Mad Men” beard had me sa-wooning!!!

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 30: Actor Jon Hamm attends The 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. 25650_013 (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Turner)

Source:  Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty Images

The awards are also how I keep up with the movies and shows most worth watching since I have been out of the loop on both lately.  It does not have anything to do with who wins but rather what I find interesting.  As for films. I really want to see “Spotlight” with another “Mad Men alumni, John Slattery, “Room” and “The Danish Girl“.  For series, I am dying to see “Transparent” with Best Actor In A Comedy winner Jeffrey Tambor whom I have LOVED since I saw him decades ago with Al Pacino in “And Justice For All“*** and in “Hill Street Blues“*** as a dress wearing judge.  Wow, I guess his career has come full circle!!!  But I want to binge watch it, along with “Orange Is The New Black“, “Downton Abbey” and “How to Get Away With Murder“.

Here are some other dresses I loved from the awards show.  I adored the color of Viola Davis’ dress!!!

Helen  Sofia  Viola

Source (l to r):  Helen Mirren, Sofia Vergara & Viola Davis:  Getty.  

Amanda  Emerald  Sophie

Source (l to r):  Amanda Peet, Uzo Aduba and Sophie Turner:  Getty.  

I also think it is time for me to put this out there:  I am a pioneer in binge watching.  That’s right, before it was a thing, I was doing it.  And I am pretty proud of it!!!  It started a long time ago when I was a kid and was bored one Saturday morning watching cartoons (I loved the Peanuts and Fred Rogers.  No cartoons could stand up to those two powerhouses for me).  I turned the channel to PBS and three episodes of “Sesame Street” were on, followed by three episodes of  “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”.  I was amazed!!!  I thought I was controlling it too, because when the first episode was coming to an end, I wished another one would come on even though that had never happened before. But poof, my wish came true!!!  It was fantastic!!!

Mister Rogers'

Original source:  PBS

Many years later, I started recording my soap opera (I still miss my friends from Bay City) to watch after school and/or work and when I could not watch a Monday episode one week, I decided to wait until Sunday to watch the whole week of them in a row.  All that serial goodness in one sitting AND I was able to fast forward through the commercials!!!  It was life altering!!!  After that, unless it was a sweeps month and I could not bear to wait an entire week for an update, I binged them all the time.  Same thing with my nightly shows if time and tape allowed.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  So all the newbies jumping on the binge-watching band wagon are just a tad late to the party as far as I am concerned!!!  LOL


Original source:  NBC

But the joke’s on me because I should have been the one to invent Hulu and the likes which helped introduce “binge watching” into the vernacular.  Ugh, I’m a blockhead!!!

So, that was the highlight of my weekend.  How was yours?  Did any of you watch the SAG Awards?  Are there any movies or series you want to see or would recommend?

Until next time, fellow Vixens, happy digging!!!

Note:  The starred links*** are my affiliate links. I only share what I love and am grateful for the support.  Thanks!!!