Sunday, January 11, 2009

One for my baby (and one more for the road)

Toots Thielemans - harmonica
Jamie Cullum - vocals

One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) was written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer for the film musical The Sky's the Limit (1943) and was performed in the film by Fred Astaire. The song was popularized by Frank Sinatra and became one of his signature tunes.

Harold Arlen described the song as “another typical Arlen tapeworm” – a “tapeworm” being the trade slang for any song that exceeded the conventional 32 bar length. He called it “...a wandering song. Lyricist Johnny Mercer took it and wrote it exactly the way it fell. Not only is it long – forty-eight bars – but it also changes key. Somehow Johnny made it work.”

A famous and acclaimed performance of the song was by Bette Midler, sung to Johnny Carson on the penultimate night of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Both Midler and Carson got caught up in the emotion of the song (Mr. Carson was visibly blinking back tears), and an unusual camera angle on the set framed the two in a poignant fashion. It earned Midler an Emmy Award (1992) for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. The lyrics were adapted to suit the occasion – for example, “...and John I know you're getting anxious to close.”

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