(click song title above to listen)
Carmen McRae is widely regarded as an artistic equal to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Billie Holiday and she had a career that spanned five decades. Many consider her 1964 album, Bittersweet recorded for Mort Fega’s small independent label, Focus, her finest. We agree 100%, it’s one of our favorite late night/early morning records to put on the turntable.
Carmen McRae won an amateur talent contest at the Apollo Theater in her native Harlem neighborhood where she was discovered by jazz pianist Teddy Wilson. Trough Wilson, McRae would eventually meet Billie Holiday who became her biggest influence and who later recorded Carmen’s original composition “Dream of Life”. McRae later recalled, “If Billie Holiday had never existed, I probably wouldn’t have either”.
During a long and distinguished career McRae was recognized as a supremely insightful interpreter of lyrics. “Every word is very important to me,” she said. “Lyrics come first, then the melody. “The lyric of a song I might decide to sing must have something that I can convince you with. It’s like an actress who selects a role that contains something she wants to portray”.
On this week’s Top Tune, with her signature and soulful behind-the-beat vocal style, McRae accompanies herself on piano on the defiant “I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life”. A song that lyricist Joe McCarthy initially envisioned as an uptempo, smart fast tune in the vein of “Just One of Those Things” until composer Cy Coleman talked him out of it. Coleman insisted “No. No. No. Joe. No you understand, it’s a ballad!” (excerpt from Andry Propst’s upcoming book, You Fascinate Me So, The Life & Times of Cy Coleman). Nat King Cole would prove Coleman correct and give the song its’ debut recording in 1957. In Carmen’s hands a few years later, it’s just as (bitter)sweet. Hope you dig it!
Contact & Licensing Info:
Written by Cy Coleman & Joseph A. McCarthy. Published by Notable Music Co. Inc (ASCAP) contact: Damon Booth firstname.lastname@example.org, Administered by Downtown Music Publishing contact: email@example.com and Sony/ATV Tunes LLC (ASCAP).
Master Controlled by Warner Music Group http://www.wmgmusiclicensing.com