Well, since yesterday I reached all the way back to the Nineteen Twenties for a show tune that went through many hands including Willie Nelson’s, let’s do it again today! Am I Blue was written by those big stars Harry Akst and Grant Clarke (Who? A couple of Tin Pan Alley types) in 1929 for the screen, and Wikipedia says it’s made it onto 42 different screens. It’s a cool tune and up to the Song of the Day standard, but mostly here because I was charmed by video.
The most famous, of course, would be the song’s debut in On With the Show!, which reading about introduced me to the notion of Pre-Code movies; if the notion is new to you too, follow that link. Sadly, while this was one of the first color films with sound, only B&W prints survive.
Anyhow, Am I Blue? is a showpiece for Ethel Waters, and you can still watch her light it up, 89 years later; well worth your time. Ethel Waters was quite a person; at one point in the thirties, the highest-paid Broadway performer of any race or gender.
And then, all those covers. But first, since I’m hoisting the video links up here, check out Rita Coolidge and Les Paul; so much fun.
Right, the covers. Basically, every woman who covers this sounds great, and the men mostly strike out; even Ray Charles is dismal. Except, as noted above, a much younger Willie Nelson, who’s just fine. Among the women, it’s hard to find any to dislike.
Links · Spotify playlist. Here’s a sample: Willie Nelson on Amazon, Billie Holiday on iTunes, and Annette Hanshaw on Spotify (no, I don’t know who she is, either, but it’s a cool version, also from 1929).