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Noon Edition

Get Happy: Happiness In Popular Song

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Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.

This week on the show, I’m keeping things light and easy with a show all about happiness in popular song. I’m not simply looking at songs that can be construed as “happy,” but songs where being happy (or trying to become happy) is the actual theme. Most major songwriters from the Great American Songbook wrote songs about this, including Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen, and Jule Styne. We’ll hear those songs and more this hour, sung by Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and Nat King Cole.

It’s Get Happy: Happiness In Popular Song, coming up next on Afterglow


<music - Peggy Lee, "Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe">

Peggy Lee in 1957, from her Capitol album called The Man I Love, performing “Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe.” The arrangement there was by Nelson Riddle, and the orchestra conducted by none other than Frank Sinatra. 

“Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe” was written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg for the 1943 film version of the musical Cabin In The Sky, which originally had songs by Vernon Duke and John LaTouche in the 1940 Broadway show. The all-black lead cast was groundbreaking for the time, and this song was nominated for an Academy Award.

In the film, this song is performed by Ethel Waters who plays Petunia, the loving and faithful wife to ungrateful gambler Little Joe. It takes a near-death experience [and some angelic intervention] for Joe to realize that happiness is a thing called Petunia.


Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, I’m exploring the theme of happiness in the music of the Great American Songbook.

Happiness is enshrined into American History as one of the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence. And this pursuit of happiness has continued to be a theme in all aspects of American culture, from politics, religion, ethics, philosophy, psychology, economics, and yes, even to music.

Any number of songs can be considered “happy”—happiness is basically implied in any cheerful tune about young love, sunshine, or dancing. But what about the feeling itself?

To begin, here’s a song that channels an African-American spiritual approach to happiness. This is Ella Fitzgerald with Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Get Happy,” on Afterglow

<music - Ella Fitzgerald, "Get Happy">
<music - King Cole Trio, "Let’s Get Happy">

The King Cole Trio in 1939 with “Let’s Get Happy,” a tune by Dan Arons, inspired by the other tune we heard in that set. Before that, Ella Fitzgerald in 1961 with Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s 1930 song “Get Happy,” one of Arlen’s very first tunes.

Happy songs show up all the time in the theater. In fact, many of these happy tunes we’ll explore this hour originated in a musical of some kind before becoming a pop standard. 

Here are two such theater tunes now, beginning with Blossom Dearie in 1964 with a tune from the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie. This is “Put On A Happy Face,” on Afterglow.

<music - Blossom Dearie, "Put On A Happy Face">
<music - Nancy Wilson, "Happy Talk">

Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderly from their 1962 duet album performing “Happy Talk,” a song from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. Before that, Blossom Dearie from her 1964 album called May I Come In?, performing the Charles Strouse and Lee Adams song “Put On A Happy Face,” from the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie.

These next two songs about happiness are written by the same songwriting pair: Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar. Both Youmans and Caesar songs are from the 1920s (one from the 1925 musical No, No Nanette and one from the 1927 musical Hit The Deck). And both songs are about conditional happiness, where one’s happiness depends entirely on someone else.

First, here’s Doris Day in 1950 performing the Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar song “I Want To Be Happy,” on Afterglow

<music - Doris Day, "I Want To Be Happy">
<music - Carmen McRae, "Sometimes I’m Happy">

Two songs about conditional happiness by Vincent Youmans and Irving Caesar. Just now, we heard Carmen McRae in 1955 performing “Sometimes I’m Happy.” That comes from the 1927 musical Hit The Deck. And before that, Doris Day with the Page Cavanaugh Trio in 1950 and “I Want To Be Happy.” That comes from the 1925 musical No, No Nanette.

In those last two songs, the person’s happiness was determined by a lover. To quote “Sometimes I’m Happy”: “My disposition depends on you.”

Of course, love is not the only thing that can make someone happy. Sometimes happiness can be derived from vices. Despite what religion tends to argue over and over again, many people have become very happy by being bad, salvation be damned.

Here’s a song from the king of vice, Louis Jordan. This is “I’ll Die Happy,” on Afterglow.

<music - Louis Jordan, "I’ll Die Happy">

Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five in 1954 with “I’ll Die Happy,” a song written by Fleecie Moore and Jon Hendricks.

Coming up after a short break, we’ll hear more songs all about happiness. Stay with us.


Production support for Afterglow comes from Soma Coffee House and Juice bar, specializing in juices, espressos and Fair Trade Organic Coffee. Serving from downtown at Kirkwood and Grant and on the corner of third and Jordan. Online at I Heart Soma dot com

And from Stephen R Miller C P A, in downtown Bloomington at Graham Plaza, offering personal and small business income tax preparation and financial reporting. Helping clients reach financial goals for over thirty years. 8-1-2 - 3-3-2 - 0-5-5-7

I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow

<music>


Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been whistling a happy tune this hour, exploring songs all about “happiness.”

<music - Frank Sinatra, "I Whistle A Happy Tune">

That, of course, was “I Whistle A Happy Tune” from the 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King And I, sung that year by Frank Sinatra. Not my favorite song about happiness, but I felt like it at least needed a mention.

Let me turn my attention to a happy tune that I do enjoy quite a bit. This one is actually referred to by the subtitle “The Happy Tune.” This is a live recording featuring Mr. Frank Sinatra on the radio program of the young Gary Crosby in 1954. The duo, Frank and Gary, are performing a happy tune that Gary and his father Bing Crosby made famous in 1950.

This is Frank Sinatra and Gary Crosby with “Sam’s Song,” aka “The Happy Tune,” on Afterglow.

<music - Frank Sinatra and Gary Crosby, "The Happy Tune">
<music - Peggy Lee, "Then I’ll Be Happy">
<music - Al Bowlly, "Shout For Happiness">

A handful of happy tunes. Just now we heard British singer Al Bowlly and American bandleader Ray Noble with the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra in 1931 performing “Shout For Happiness.” That’s a British import, and the Brits cared about happiness just as much as the Americans. Friedrich Nietzche cheekily said in his book Twilight Of The Idols, quote, “Mankind does not strive for happiness, only the Englishman does.” And he’s right. Al Bowlly sang songs titled “Happy and Contented,” “I’ll Do My Best To Make You Happy,” and “Make Yourself A Happiness Pie.”

Before that, we heard Peggy Lee in 1947 performing the Lew Brown, Sidney Clare, and Cliff Friend song “Then I’ll Be Happy.” That song was written in 1925. And starting that set, we heard Frank Sinatra and Gary Crosby live in 1954, performing a song made famous by Gary and his father Bing Crosby, that was “Sam’s Song” aka “The Happy Tune.”

I have some more happy tunes for you in this next set. These next two tunes were both come from the 1960s, one written by the familiar Great American Songbook team of Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, the other written by the less familiar songwriting team of Alan Gordon and Garry Bonner.

First, here’s Tony Bennett with the Van Heusen and Burke tune “Walkin’ Happy,” on Afterglow.

<music - Tony Bennett, "Walkin’ Happy">
<music - Mel Torme, "Happy Together">

Two happy tunes from the 1960s. Just now, we heard Mel Torme from his 1969 album A Time For Us performing the 1967 Turtles’ song “Happy Together,” written by the songwriting team of Alan Gordon and Garry Bonner. Before that, we heard Tony Bennett in 1998, performing the Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn tune “Walking Happy,” a tune from the early 1960s that wasn’t released until the 1966 musical called Walking Happy.

Let’s turn our attention now to two classic happy songs that are a little slower in tempo. The first comes from the 1960 musical Do, Re, Mi by Jule Styne, Adolph Green and Betty Comden. The other one dates back to the 1920s, was used in FDR’s presidential campaign, but was turned into a ballad by a young cabaret singer in the early 1960s who took the pop music world by storm.

First, here’s June Christy in 1961 performing the Style, Comden, and Green song “Make Someone Happy,” on Afterglow.

<music - June Christy, "Make Someone Happy">
<music - Barbra Streisand, "Happy Days Are Here Again">

Barbra Streisand from her debut album from Columbia from 1963. That was her breathing new life into the old 1929 standard “Happy Days Are Here Again,” a song once associated with Franklin Delano Roosevelt when it was used in his presidential campaign in 1932, but I’d argue that post-1963, that song was the sole property of Streisand. Before that, we heard June Christy and Bob Cooper in 1961 with “Make Someone Happy,” a song from the Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne musical Do Re Mi.

We’ve reached the conclusion of our happiness show, and I have one more song that puts a different kind of face on the theme, pun intended. It’s a song that’s actually all about sadness, but it offers a remedy. If things are going bad, just do what someone who is happy would do, and that’s smile.

Here’s Nat King Cole in 1954, with the Charlie Chaplin song “Smile,” on Afterglow.

<music - Nat King Cole, "Smile">

Nat King Cole in 1954, singing the Charlie Chaplin melody “Smile” from the 1936 film Modern Times. The words and title to that song were later added by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons, and Cole was the first to perform those lyrics.

And thanks for tuning in to this happiness edition of Afterglow.


Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.

Production support for Afterglow comes from Soma Coffee House and Juice bar, specializing in juices, espressos and Fair Trade Organic Coffee. Serving from downtown at Kirkwood and Grant and on the corner of third and Jordan. Online at I Heart Soma dot com

And from Stephen R Miller C P A, in downtown Bloomington at Graham Plaza, offering personal and small business income tax preparation and financial reporting. Helping clients reach financial goals for over thirty years. 8-1-2 - 3-3-2 - 0-5-5-7

Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.

I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow

 

This week on the show, I’m keeping things light and easy with a show all about happiness in popular song. I’m not simply looking at songs that can be construed as “happy,” but songs where being happy (or trying to become happy) is the actual theme. 

Most major songwriters from the Great American Songbook wrote songs about this, including Richard Rodgers, Harold Arlen, and Jule Styne. We’ll hear those songs and more this hour, sung by Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and Nat King Cole.

Songs featured on this episode:

  • "Get Happy" (Arlen/Koehler)
    • 1930, one of Harold Arlen's first songs
  • "Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe" (Arlen/Harburg)
    • From the 1943 film Cabin In The Sky
  • "Let's Get Happy" (Arons)
    • Performed by the King Cole Trio in 1939
  • "Put On A Happy Face" (Strouse/Adams)
    • From the 1960 musical Bye Bye Birdie
  • "Happy Talk" (Rodgers/Hammerstein)
    • From the 1949 musical South Pacific
  • "I Want To Be Happy" (Youmans/Caesar)
    • From the 1925 musical No, No Nanette
  • "Sometimes I'm Happy" (Youmans/Caesar)
    • From the 1927 musical Hit The Deck
  • "I'll Die Happy" (Moore/Hendricks)
    • Performed by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five in 1954
  • "I Whistle A Happy Tune" (Rodgers/Hammerstein)
    • From the 1951 musical The King and I
  • "Sam's Song (The Happy Tune)" (Elliot/Quadling)
    • Made famous by Bing and Gary Crosby in 1950
  • "Then I'll Be Happy" (Brown/Clare/Friend)
    • Written in 1925, and often under the title "I Wanna Go Where You Go"
  • "Shout For Happiness" (Hart/Blight)
    • Performed by Al Bowlly and Ray Noble in 1931
  • "Walking Happy" (Van Heusen/Cahn)
    • From the 1966 musical Walking Happy
  • "Happy Together" (Gordon/Bonner)
    • Originally performed by The Turtles in 1967
  • "Make Someone Happy" (Styne/Comden/Green)
    • From the 1960 musical Do, Re, Mi
  • "Happy Days Are Here Again" (Ager/Yellen)
    • Used in the 1932 Presidential campaign of Franklin Roosevelt
  • "Smile" (Parsons/Turner/Chaplin)
    • Originally from the 1936 Charlie Chaplin film Modern Times

Music Heard On This Episode

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