Who Does an Aging Rocker Listen To? Jerome Kern


My fascination with Jerome Kern all started a few years ago when I somehow wound up with a CD by Light Opera of New York of the musical comedy or light opera ‘Sally’ with music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Clifford Grey, and book by Guy Bolton. ‘Sally’ was first produced by Florenz Ziegfeld on Broadway in 1920 and ran for 570 performances, one of the longest runs on Broadway up to that time. It was based on a 19th century show called ‘Sally in Our Alley’.

This lively ‘Sally’ recording is a delight for me to which I listen over and over as I drive around in my car. There is something buoyant and cheerful about this recording that puts a smile on my face every time I hear it. The young gal ‘Sally’ rises from lowly dishwasher to the star of the hotel lounge show. Besides a lighthearted and easy-to-follow story, the show has many wonderful songs with perhaps the most famous being ‘Look for the Silver Lining’. However the songs ‘Joan of Arc’, ‘The Schnitze-Komisske’, and several others are fun also. ‘Sally’ quickly established itself as my favorite musical.

I spent my youth like most of those my age listening to rock and pop. I still keep an ever-changing and ever-expanding playlist of favorites on Spotify to which I have now added some of the songs from ‘Sally’. But what about this Jerome Kern? Here was a songwriter I knew very little about.

Then I bought a compilation album ‘Capitol Sings Jerome Kern – The Song is You’. It features songs performed by various artists including Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, etc. It turns out that Jerome Kern wrote some of the most well-loved songs of all time: ‘Ol’ Man River’, ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’, ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’, ‘A Fine Romance’. Perhaps his most famous work is the musical ‘Showboat’ to which I still have not sufficiently listened. That will be my next Jerome Kern.

Some of the performances on this compilation album are from the 1950s and have somewhat insipid arrangements, but still the joy shines through. It would be a good opportunity for some musicians today to come up with new arrangements for these classic songs.

Jerome Kern died in 1945 at the age of sixty, before I was born. Now almost eighty years later, his songs still enrapture at least one person, me.





3 responses to this post.

  1. Another ageing rocker here too. I love showtunes – and have a piano music book of Kern songs (and others of Gershwin and Cole Porter too). Love Smoke gets in your eyes – do you remember the Bryan Ferry version? In the UK, we have the fabulous John Wilson Orchestra – who do concerts of music from Hollywood heydays. Wilson recreates all the lost scores from MGM and other studios and his orchestra of handpicked players from all over the place gets together to do a couple of Proms each year and a short tour. They are just the best, and the music is actually technically very demanding to play in a concert – rather than line by line in the studio. They really recreate that lush sound that is such a big part of classic Hollywood scores.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Annabel,
      I have listened to the Platters version of ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ plenty, but I am not familiar with the Bryan Ferry version. I will give it a try.

      You really must must get this Light Opera of New York version of ‘Sally’. I believe the entire recording is available on Spotify and elsewhere. It is a forgotten gem that has been recovered recently, one of Jerome Kern’s early successes.
      Yes, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rogers&Hammerstein, a whole world of music to check out.

      I sometimes watch the current “music” performances on SNL and wonder is this music?

      Liked by 1 person


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