What better way to spend a Saturday night than to share favorite songs with my Open Salon friends? It has taken a completely frivolous open call like this to get me to actually post. Here, on the eve of April Fool's Day, it's about time I posted in 2012.
I have a short list of songs that make my "favorite song" cut, and the criteria are that I must love the lyrics and be able to sing them in my unremarkable voice without stirring the neighborhood dogs. The songs that come to mind are classics, another way of saying that I'm hopelessly old-fashioned and out of style.
And so they are: my first runner-up "Moon River," for sentimental reasons, including especially that Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics (officially unrelated, but you never know who'll come knocking at the door someday). Easy to sing, gentle lyrics that make a sweet lullaby for a babe in arms.
"You Don't Know Me" written by Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold in 1955 is the most perfectly written song that I can thing of and that's why it's my number one. Countless singers have covered this song in the intervening years - this NYT obit for Walker lists versions by Elvis, Patti Page, Roy Orbison, Emmylous Harris and Kenny Rogers, alongside the straightforward interpretation by Arnold in 1956 and Ray Charles' 1962 recording on "Modern Sounds in Country + Western Music." Canadian wedding singer Michael Buble (and I write that with affection), has a respectable version, as well.
I guess because of my Nashville roots, I keep going back to the country versions by Arnold and Brother Ray. Both are worth a listen, but this jazzy rendition is a gem: Norah Jones and Wynton Marsalis:
My seond runner-up, incidentally, is "Amazing Grace," for provenance (the oft-told tale of the slave trader John Newton who wrote the hymn) and scores of stirring versions. Favorite takes include those by soprano (and Georgia native) Jessye Norman, and jazz great Diane Schuur. To be honest, though, message aside, I include it because my daughter occasionally asks me to sing it at bedtime. I know all the verses by heart and they speak to me of the sorrows of this life and the promise of a better tomorrow, if not in this world, then beyond.