Songs You Should Know About Archive

Songs You Should Know About

"Dans Mon Île"

A ballad with a Latin feel, "Dans Mon Île" by Henri Salvador was credited by Antonio Carlos Jobim as being one of his inspirations. Jobim said that after hearing "Dans Mon Île," he had the idea to slow down samba rhythms and create the bossa nova sound.

Henri Salvador began his career in 1935, and first performed Latin music in the early 1940s when he toured South America with the Ray Ventura Orchestra. Salvador died on 13 February 2008 at age 90, ending a career of over 70 years. He recorded and performed right up until his death, and had planned a new album for later this year.

Songs You Should Know About

"Let's Put Out the Lights (And Go to Sleep)"

Possibly the sweetest song ever written, "Let's Put Out the Lights" tells the story of a couple relaxing after a successful party. Legend has it that the song was originally intended to be titled "Let's Put Out the Lights (And Go To Bed)," but the reference to a bed, especially with the racy joke in the last lyric, was too much for the time.

Ben Bernie, "The Old Maestro," was a bandleader in the 1920s and 1930s. Bernie was co-author of "Sweet Georgia Brown" and hosted a popular radio show.

Songs You Should Know About

"I Told Santa Claus to Bring Me You"

There are the classic holiday songs which every vocalist has recorded, and then there are the obscure little songs that were recorded only once or twice, without ever catching on. I love both kinds, but I confess there's something special about discovering a new Christmas song I've never heard before.

This charming ditty was performed by the Bernie Cummins Orchestra, featuring Cummins' brother Walter Cummins on vocals. The rhymes may not be sophisticated, but its cheerful optimism and its early-30s dance orchestra sound make it one of my all time favorite holiday songs.

Songs You Should Know About

"Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney"

We kick off the holiday season with a novelty Christmas song by William Hardy and Billy Moore. It was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald in 1960, then languished in obscurity until it was rereleased on Verve's Yule Be Miserable compilation about ten years ago. "Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney" is a fun, funny song that deserves to be remembered at Christmastime.

Songs You Should Know About

"I'd Rather Be Burned As A Witch"

Just in time for Halloween we have a devilish song by Eartha Kitt: "I'd Rather Be Burned As a Witch (Than Never Be Burned At All)."

In an era that idolized safe, girl-next-door women like Doris Day and Donna Reed, Eartha Kitt was the queen of overt, even aggressive sexuality. Her sensuous onstage persona was about as far from the "girl next door" as it's possible to get.

With lyrics like this, "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch" is a perfect song for Eartha:
Do you want a gal who would be a pal, who would never look at another?
Who'd be good and true and take care of you? Sorry, you want another!

At 82 years old Eartha Kitt is still going strong, performing at the Cafe Carlyle in New York until October 27, and knocking audiences out with her powerful voice and sexy ontage banter.

Songs You Should Know About

"Chicas Patas Boogie"

LaloGuerrero72dpi.gifA catchy blend of American jumping jive and Spanish lyrics, "Chicas Patas Boogie" is a classic example of pachuco music. Pachucos were a Mexican-American youth culture, mainly in California, in the 1930s and 1940s. The pachucos were seen as gang members and were involved in the infamous "zoot suit riots," racially motivated violence by US sailors against the Mexican-American zoot suiters. But the music of the pachucos is nonpolitical, all about the fun of a swing lifestyle.

Composer and performer Lalo Guerrero began as a pachuco, and went on to become a major figure in the Chicano movement. Late in life he was declared a national folk treasure by the Smithsonian, and received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton. Guerrero continued to work throughout his life, recording his final album in 1999. "Chicas Patas Boogie" is a great introduction to the early work of this influential and talented musician.

Songs You Should Know About


With its unusual vocal rhythm and edgy lyrics, "Twisted" is an unforgettable song. It's probably the most famous example of vocalese, the singing style where lyrics are either improvised or (as in this case) written for a jazz instrumental.

The best version of "Twisted" is the first. Singer Annie Ross also wrote the lyrics, for music by Wardell Gray. Annie Ross was a prolific singer, lyricist and actor who recorded several great albums with the trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. At age 77 Ross is still performing a weekly show at the Metropolitan Room at Gotham in New York City.

Songs You Should Know About

"I'm Hip"

mel_torme.jpgThis composition by Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough is a hilarious sendup of self-conscious hipsters. Anyone who has ever slavishly followed trends or pretended to be cooler than they really felt will recognize themselves in this song. I'm not talking about me, mind. No sir! I mean some, um, hypothetical other person who might have posed as cool at some time in the past.

"I'm Hip" has been done by Blossom Dearie, Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, but by far the best performance is by Mel Tormé. The song appears on his live albums Instant Party: Just Add Mel Tormé and An Evening at Charlie's. If all you've heard from Mel Tormé is the Velvet Fog, if you don't know how much he could swing or how funny he was, "I'm Hip" will be a revelation. Check it out!