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.

Ethel Waters in “On With the Show!”

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.

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

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).


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Rob (Mar 04 2018, at 13:34)

You forgot the most significant cover of all, and it was by a man:


I mean it was so good it saved Diana Prince's life!

Darn that was a good show


From: John A Arkansawyer (Mar 06 2018, at 06:54)

“Am I Blue” plays a major part in <a href="https://genius.com/James-baldwin-sonnys-blues-annotated”>”Sonny’s Blues”</a>, maybe the best story at its length I’ve ever read.


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March 04, 2018
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