From waaaay back in 1926, this one. What happened was, I wanted the series to drop by Willie Nelson, and my fave Willie album is Stardust, and song on it is Blue Skies. That whole album is salve for the wounded soul I think, and Blue Skies maybe the sweetest and strongest. But, boy, does this one ever have a history.

Typing “Blue Skies live” into YouTube gets you into some surprising territory. Just so you don’t have to, I listened to versions by Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, Al Jolson, Earl Hines, and Ella Fitzgerald. I think the clear winners on musical merit are Ella and Willie.

Stardust

Then there’s this sub-sub-sub-genre of people who do weird shit with Blue Skies, notably Al Jolson in the Jazz Singer, a little on the creepy side, and then this completely deranged jazz mashup starring Nat King Cole, Patti Page, Ben Webster, and Gene Krupa. I guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like it.

As for the song, it’s only got about thirty seconds worth of lyrics and a melody that goes around three times, but oh my goodness that melody, it’s a keeper.

This is part of the Song of the Day series (background).

Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. Now, as for live video, it seems there’s one posted to YouTube for each of Willie’s many years of life, and he’s gotten into this really mannered phrasing, where the beats are cruising by pleasantly, then Willie goes “BlueSkiesShiningAtMe…” all packed into the first quarter of the line; I think he’s trying to introduce a little sadness? But it doesn’t work, because while every singer fools with the phrasing on Blue Skies, you have to feel the attachment to the underlying beat, which by the way Willie does effortlessly on Stardust. In this Budokan show, Willie is better anchored; plus, he plays a pretty cosmic guitar break.


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March 03, 2018
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