Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Number 1 Song In Great American Songbook

The Number one song in the Great American Songbook on my list is, "The Nearness Of You". This song was written by Hoagy Carmichael & Ned Washington in 1937. Before I comment on why this song is ranked above all others, let's talk about the common denominators that we can find in most Great American Standard songs. First and foremost, most of these songs are about romance and love, either finding it or losing it or somewhere in between. In the Top 20, 7 songs are about love lost and its pain and 13 songs are about love in bloom. I thought that talking about love and romance was pretty out of fashion with today's younger generation. However, every now and then I am surprised to find some younger people who actually like to listen to these great songs and lyrics. I suspect that there are a lot more people out there who, once exposed to these great songs, would sign on as fans.

I believe that in order to truly appreciate these love songs, you need to bring some life experience with you. I have always loved Sinatra, but as my life experiences increased, my appreciation for how the "Chairman of  the Board" approached a lyric also increased. Any singer can sing these songs, but when Sinatra sang, you could tell he was just not singing words, he was living the words. It's the same with us and our love of these great songs. We feel the love, we feel the pain and suffering, we feel the joy of loving someone both "Body and Soul".

The key that makes " The Nearness of You" so great is it's just a basic love song. It just tells the listener a love story pure and simple. Its lyrics can stand on their own and so can the melody. That's way this song is so popular with both singers and instrumentalists. It's just a great, simple love song. I am sure some of you reading this could add why the musical construction makes this all possible but for me the purity of the lyrics and melody is the only story I need.

Almost every major singer and instrumentalist has covered this song, but I have listed those that I think handle the song the best.

1. Norah Jones could well have the best recording of this song for my taste. This is surprising for me because there are very few of her recordings that I like, and, yet, I have her at the top of my list for this song. This is why you need to have an open mind when listening to music.

2. David Campbell is a singer from Australia who is not too well known in the US I got to see him In New York and he is a great singer. I don't think he ever got the right exposure here, but he is still recording in Australia and still comes to the US. He covered "The Nearness Of You" and blended it with the Sondheim terrific show tune, "Not A Day Goes By" on his "Taking The Wheel" CD. It's just outstanding and hope you can find it. Best place to find it is on iTunes.

3. Chris Botti recorded this song on his recent CD, "When I Fall In Love".

4. Check out older outstanding covers by Johnny Hartman, Jo Stafford and Oscar Peterson.

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