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Jazz Digs Disney

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MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”

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

This week, we’re going to Disney World. Beginning in the late 1930s, many of America’s best songwriters began to work for the “House of Mouse.” Songwriters like Sammy Cahn, Ned Washington, Peggy Lee, and more all wrote music for Disney films. And great musicians, like Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, and Peggy Lee, all contributed their voices to those same animated features. Coming up, we’ll explore further the connection between jazz and Disney, including classic and modern jazz interpretations of iconic Disney songs

It’s Jazz Digs Disney, coming up next on Afterglow

MUSIC - LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “THE BARE NECESSITIES”

MUSIC - TONY BENNETT, “THE BARE NECESSITIES”

Two versions of one of my favorite jazzy Disney tunes, “The Bare Necessities” written by Terry Gilkyson for the 1967 Disney animated film The Jungle Book. First up, we heard Louis Armstrong from a Disney produced album from 1968 and just now Tony Bennett in 1998. That comes from Bennett’s album The Playground, an album of all children’s songs.

MUSIC CLIP - BILL EVANS, “SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME”

Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. For the last several months, I’ve spent a little more time indoors, watching television and movies, as probably many of you have. And one of the places that has drawn my attention is the streaming service Disney+, which has given all of us unprecedented access to the famed Disney vault. As a fan of pop culture from the early to mid-20th century, I was thrilled to finally discover some of those Disney titles that have eluded me over the years, forgotten gems like The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad or Fun And Fancy Free, as well as classics like Cinderella and Pinocchio.

As I’ve been enjoying these titles, I’ve noticed how often jazz makes its way into these classic films. It’s no surprise really… jazz was the dominant form of pop music in the Golden Age of Disney in the 1930s and 40s, and continued to be central in the 1950s and 60s. Plus, Disney is really just an extension of Hollywood in this era, which in many ways was just an extension of the musical theatre scene from New York. Jazz was central to all of these modes of popular music and culture. So this hour, I want to explore this connection further. 

Of course, this opens up a can of worms, and I can spend hours discussing musical minutiae in Disney films. But I’ll try to at least scratch the surface, exploring the history and listening to both classic and modern jazz interpretations of Disney songs.

Let’s start at the beginning… Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. A landmark in filmmaking, a mega hit for the fledgling studio, and a formula for success. The soundtrack for the film was the first of its kind—a commercially available collection of songs associated with a motion picture. These songs, most of them by studio songwriter Frank Churchill, have become icons in popular culture.

Let’s hear some jazz interpretations now. First up, this is Louis Armstrong, from an album he did in 1968 called Disney Songs The Satchmo Way, an album personally commissioned by Walt Disney himself.

Here is Satchmo with “Whistle While You Work,” on Afterglow.

MUSIC - LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK”

MUSIC - ETTA JONES, “SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME”

Etta Jones in 1963 with “Someday My Prince Will Come,” and Louis Armstrong in 1968 with “Whistle While You Work.” Both of those songs were written by Frank Churchill for the 1937 Disney film Snow White And The Seven Dwarves.

After Snow White came Pinocchio in the year 1940, and with it came probably the most iconic song from any Disney film, certainly the studio’s signature song, “When You Wish Upon A Star.” It was written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, and won them the Academy Award for Best Song. Harline was a Disney studio songwriter, but Washington was a veteran lyricist from Tin Pan Alley. In the film, it was performed by Jiminy Cricket, voiced by vaudeville veteran Cliff Edwards, aka “Ukulele Ike”—a groundbreaking jazz scat singer in the 1920s who had a late career boost by Walt and Co.  

Let’s hear a more modern version now. This is Gregory Porter in 2014 with “When You Wish Upon A Star,” on Afterglow.

MUSIC - GREGORY PORTER, “WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR”

MUSIC - JUNE CHRISTY, “GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE”

Two songs originally from the 1940 Disney film Pinocchio, written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington. Just now, we heard June Christy in 1960 from her children’s song album The Cool School. Before that, we heard Gregory Porter in 2014, from the compilation album Jazz Loves Disney.

The next Disney film with original music was Dumbo released in 1941. The songs from this film, written by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington, never quite caught on in the same way. The only really memorable song was the lullaby “Baby Mine,” which has been performed by a number of artists over the years, including a few jazz versions at the time… including this version by Glenn Miller and vocalist Ray Eberle from 1941.

MUSIC CLIP - GLENN MILLER AND HIS ORCHESTRA, FEAT. RAY EBERLE, “BABY MINE”

Once World War II broke out, film production at Disney studios was pulled back quite a bit. For most of the war and in the years after, Disney released what they called “Anthology Films” or “Package films, consisting of several shorter animated stories compiled together into one product, sometimes mixed with live action. We may not remember them as well today, titles like Fun And Fancy Free, Make Mine Music, or Melody Time. However, music played a central role in these films, and often resonated in some way with the jazz world.

The first two anthology films were actually Latin American-themed: Saludos Amigos from 1943 and The Three Caballeros from 1945, both featuring Donald Duck. While both films featured original music, they also featured authentic Latin American songs. The popularity of these songs, at least with American audiences, was no doubt bolstered by the success of these films. These traditional Latin American songs were given new English lyrics and found prominent spots on the Billboard charts shortly after each film’s release. Call it the “Mickey Mouse Bounce,” if you will.

Let’s start with the breakout hit from Saludos Amigos, the 1939  Ary Barroso song “Aquarela do Brasil” better known simply as “Brasil.” It was a minor hit in its home country prior to 1943, but once it was included in Saludos Amigos, the song became an international phenomenon. Let’s hear an English language version from years later.

This is Frank Sinatra in 1957 with the song “Brazil,” on Afterglow. 

MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “BRAZIL”

MUSIC - BING CROSBY, “YOU BELONG TO MY HEART”

Bing Crosby in 1945 with “You Belong To My Heart”  the English-language version of the Mexico bolero song “Solamente una vez.” That song became an international hit after being featured in the 1945 Disney film The Three Caballeros. Before that, another song popularized by a Disney film, the song “Brasil,” sung there by Frank Sinatra on the album Come Fly With Me, and featured years earlier in the 1943 Disney film Saludos Amigos.

Alright, let’s move on to one of the most recognizable and celebrated (at least, in its time), yet complicated and problematic songs in the Disney canon, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

MUSIC CLIP - LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “ZIP-A-DEE DOO DAH”

I don’t want to ignore the song. I’m going to acknowledge it, and discuss it briefly, but I don’t want to feature it beyond just that clip, for a few reasons. On the one hand, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” is an iconic, memorable Disney tune, with a tuneful melody by Allie Wrubel, some seemingly goofy nonsense lyrics by Ray Gilbert, and the winner of the Academy Award for Best Song in 1948, to boot.

...on the other hand, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” comes from one of the most problematic Disney films, a film that the Disney Corporation would rather you forget about completely, 1946’s Song Of The South, an offensively racist depiction of black people in the antebellum South. And this is not just a revisionist interpretation. At the time of its release, Walter Francis White, the head of the NAACP, said that Song Of The South, quote “helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery” and that it quote “unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master–slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.” Today and now, over 70 years later, that simply cannot abide.

And even if I wanted to divorce the music from the film itself, I could say the music has taken on a life of its own. And it has. I could say that it’s a catchy depiction of that common “bluebird of happiness” theme. And it is. But, I can’t avoid the fact that its seemingly nonsense turns of phrase like “Zip” and “Doo Dah,” as many authors have pointed out, are clearly evoking minstrel tropes and minstrelsy’s legacy of blackface and lampooning horrible racial stereotypes.

So instead of featuring it, I’m going to leave it where it belongs, in the past… with a giant footnote. Disney would agree. Song of the South is not available commercially anywhere, and the company is now finally starting to grapple with their troublesome past. 

Instead, let’s play a different song entirely. It comes from a Disney film from a few years later, it also features nonsense lyrics, and hey, here’s Louis Armstrong singing it.

From the 1950 film Cinderella, here’s Louis with the Al Hoffman, Mack David, and Jerry Livingston tune “Bibbidi-Boppity-Boo,” on Afterglow.

MUSIC - LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “BIBBIDI-BOPPITY BOO”

Louis Armstrong in 1968, from his album Disney Songs The Satchmo Way, with “Bibbidi Boppity Boo,” a song from the 1950 film Cinderella.

MUSIC CLIP - THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET, “SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME”

Just ahead, we’ll hear more jazzy interpretations of familiar and maybe less familiar Disney songs. Stay with us.

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

MUSIC CLIP - THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET, “GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE”

MUSIC CLIP - BENNY GOODMAN, “ALL THE CATS JOIN IN”

Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring the link between Disney and jazz this hour. There was a period of time in the 1940s and 50s when Disney studios teamed up with some of the biggest stars in jazz and popular song to help them create their stories. Benny Goodman and his Orchestra provided the music to one of the vignettes from the 1946 film Make Mine Music, their version of the song “All The Cats Join In” (that’s what you’re hearing in the background now). Dinah Shore provided the narration and sang some of the songs in the 1947 anthology film Fun And Fancy Free, the portion of the film about the circus bear named “Bongo.” And Bing Crosby did the same for the Ichabod Crane sections of the 1949 film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Songs from these films, with their jazz pedigree, were performed by others as well. And let’s hear a few interpretations now.

We’ll start with that Benny Goodman song from the 1946 film Make Mine Music, as performed by Goodman’s former singer, Peggy Lee. This is Peggy Lee in 1946 with “All The Cats Join In,” on Afterglow

MUSIC - PEGGY LEE, “ALL THE CATS JOIN IN”

MUSIC - MARGARET WHITING, “LAZY COUNTRYSIDE”

MUSIC - KAY STARR, “HEADLESS HORSEMAN”

Three songs from some lesser known Disney films. Just now, we heard Kay Starr with “Headless Horseman,” a Gene DePaul and Don Raye song originally performed by Bing Crosby in the 1949 Disney film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Before that, Margaret Whiting with “Lazy Countryside,” a Bobby Worth song originally performed by Dinah Shore in the 1947 Disney film Fun And Fancy Free. And starting that set, Peggy Lee with “All The Cats Join In,” a song by Ray Gilbert, Eddie Sauter, and Alec Wilder, originally performed by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra in the 1946 Disney film Make Mine Music.

Speaking of Peggy Lee, Lee herself was called upon to make contributions to the 1955 Disney film Lady And The Tramp. She and fellow songwriter Sonny Burke wrote all of the memorable songs for the film, including "La La Lu", "The Siamese Cat Song", and "He's a Tramp".

MUSIC CLIP - PEGGY LEE, “HE’S A TRAMP”

Lee’s contributions went beyond just the songs. She also contributed her vocal talents, voicing the characters of Darling (the mother), Si and Am (the two cats), and Peg, the stray dog. In fact, 30 years later, Lee successfully sued Disney for lost compensation, after the studio made a killing selling Lady And The Tramp on the new VHS market, without her consent.

Here’s an updated version of one of those Peggy Lee songs now. This comes from singer Melody Gardot, off of the 2016 album Jazz Loves Disney. This is Melody Gardot with “He’s A Tramp,” on Afterglow.

MUSIC - MELODY GARDOT, “HE’S A TRAMP”

MUSIC - SETH MACFARLANE, “ONCE UPON A DREAM”

Seth MacFarlane, from his 2020 album Great Songs From Stage And Screen, with “Once Upon A Dream,” a song from the 1959 Disney film Sleeping Beauty, and a song adapted from the 1890 ballet Sleeping Beauty, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Before that, Melody Gardot in 2014 with “He’s A Tramp,” a song written by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke for the 1955 film Lady And The Tramp.

There were several more Disney I didn’t have time for this hour, but I want to end the hour with one of the last great jazz-inspired Disney scores, 1967’s The Jungle Book. Most of the songs from the film were written by Walt’s favorite songwriting pair Robert and Richard Sherman, the Sherman Brothers. They worked with Disney on most of their big projects from the 1960s and 1970s. The Jungle Book, inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s stories, even featured one of jazz’s great stars, Louis Prima, in the role of King Louie the orangutan. 

MUSIC CLIP - LOUIS PRIMA, “I WAN'NA BE LIKE YOU (THE MONKEY SONG)”

To close off this hour, let’s hear a French version of that song now, performed by the American group The Hot Sardines. Here they are with “I Wanna Be Like You,” on Afterglow.

MUSIC - THE HOT SARDINES, “I WANNA BE LIKE YOU”

The Hot Sardines, an American jazz band, performing a French version of the Sherman Brothers’ song “I Wanna Be Like You,” from the 1967 Disney film The Jungle Book. That comes again from the 2016 album Jazz Loves Disney.

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

MUSIC CLIP - DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET, “WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR”

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.

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, we’re going to Disney World. Beginning in the late 1930s, many of America’s best songwriters began to work for the “House of Mouse.” Songwriters like Sammy Cahn, Ned Washington, Peggy Lee, and more all wrote music for Disney films. And great musicians, like Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, and Peggy Lee, all contributed their voices to those same animated features. Coming up, we’ll explore further the connection between jazz and Disney, including classic and modern jazz interpretations of iconic Disney songs.


Snow White And The Seven Dwarves

It’s no surprise that jazz made its way into Disney animated films. Jazz after all was the dominant form of pop music in the Golden Age of Disney in the 1930s and 40s, and continued to be central in the 1950s and 60s. Plus, Disney is really just an extension of Hollywood in this era, which in many ways was just an extension of the musical theatre scene from New York. Jazz was central to all of these modes of popular music and culture. So the connections are plenty.

Let’s start at the beginning… Snow White and The Seven Dwarves. Snow White was a landmark in filmmaking, a mega hit for the fledgling studio, and a formula for success. The soundtrack for the film was the first of its kind—a commercially available collection of songs associated with a motion picture. These songs, most of them by studio songwriter Frank Churchill, have become icons in popular culture. 

The song “Someday My Prince Will Come” is one of the most frequently-performed Disney songs by jazz artists, with interpretations by Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck (who released an entire Disney songs in 1957 called Dave Digs Disney), Oscar Peterson, and a jazz vocal version by Etta Jones. The song “Whistle While You Work” was featured on Louis Armstrong's 1968 abum called Disney Songs The Satchmo Way, an album personally commissioned by Walt Disney himself.

Pinocchio and Dumbo

After Snow White came Pinocchio in the year 1940, and with it came probably the most iconic song from any Disney film, certainly the studio’s signature song, “When You Wish Upon A Star.” It was written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, and won them the Academy Award for Best Song. Harline was a Disney studio songwriter, but Washington was a veteran lyricist from Tin Pan Alley. In the film, it was performed by Jiminy Cricket, voiced by vaudeville veteran Cliff Edwards, aka “Ukulele Ike”—a groundbreaking jazz scat singer in the 1920s who had a late career boost by Walt and Co. Jazz versions exist by Louis Armstrong, June Christy, Tony Bennett, Gregory Porter and more. June Christy also has a jazz version of the Pinocchio song “Give A Little Whistle” on her 1960 children's song album The Cool School.

The next Disney film with original music was Dumbo released in 1941. The songs from this film, written by Frank Churchill and Ned Washington, never quite caught on in the same way. The only really memorable song was the lullaby “Baby Mine,” which has been performed by a number of artists over the years, including a few jazz versions at the time, including one by Glenn Miller and vocalist Ray Eberle from 1941.

Disney and Latin America

Once World War II broke out, film production at Disney studios was pulled back quite a bit. For most of the war and in the years after, Disney released what they called “Anthology Films” or “Package films, consisting of several shorter animated stories compiled together into one product, sometimes mixed with live action. We may not remember them as well today, titles like Fun And Fancy Free, Make Mine Music, or Melody Time. However, music played a central role in these films, and often resonated in some way with the jazz world.

The first two anthology films were actually Latin American-themed: Saludos Amigos from 1943 and The Three Caballeros from 1945, both featuring Donald Duck. While both films featured original music, they also featured authentic Latin American songs. The popularity of these songs, at least with American audiences, was no doubt bolstered by the success of these films. These traditional Latin American songs were given new English lyrics and found prominent spots on the Billboard charts shortly after each film’s release. Call it the “Mickey Mouse Bounce,” if you will.

The breakout hit from Saludos Amigos was the 1939 Ary Barroso song “Aquarela do Brasil” better known simply as “Brasil.” It was a minor hit in its home country prior to 1943, but once it was included in Saludos Amigos, the song became an international phenomenon, performed by Xavier Cugat, Django Reinhardt, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and more.

Bing Crosby also had a hit in 1945 with “You Belong To My Heart,” the English-language version of the Mexico bolero song “Solamente una vez.” That song became an international hit after being featured in the 1945 Disney film The Three Caballeros.

"Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"

One of the most recognizable and celebrated (at least, in its time), yet complicated and problematic songs in the Disney canon is the 1946 song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

On the one hand, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” is an iconic, memorable Disney tune, with a tuneful melody by Allie Wrubel, some seemingly goofy nonsense lyrics by Ray Gilbert, and the winner of the Academy Award for Best Song in 1948, to boot.

On the other hand, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” comes from one of the most problematic Disney films, a film that the Disney Corporation would rather you forget about completely, 1946’s Song Of The South, an offensively racist depiction of black people in the antebellum South. And this is not just a revisionist interpretation. At the time of its release, Walter Francis White, the head of the NAACP, said that Song Of The South, “helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery” and that it quote “unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master–slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.” Then and now, over 70 years later, that simply cannot abide.

And even if I wanted to divorce the music from the film itself, I could say the music has taken on a life of its own. And it has. I could say that it’s a catchy depiction of that common “bluebird of happiness” theme. And it is. But, I can’t avoid the fact that its seemingly nonsense turns of phrase like “Zip” and “Doo Dah,” as many authors have pointed out, are clearly evoking minstrel tropes and minstrelsy’s legacy of blackface and lampooning horrible racial stereotypes.

So perhaps it's best to leave “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” where it belongs: in the past (with a giant footnote). Disney would agree. Song of the South is not available commercially anywhere, and the company is now finally starting to grapple with their troublesome past. 

If you're looking for a classic, silly Disney song with nonsense syllables to sing, might I suggest Al Hoffman, Mack David, and Jerry Livingston's “Bibbidi-Boppity-Boo,” from 1950 film Cinderella instead? There are great jazz versions by Louis Armstrong and Stacey Kent (who performs it in French, no less!)

Jazz in the Anthology Films

There was a period of time in the 1940s and 50s when Disney studios teamed up with some of the biggest stars in jazz and popular song to help them create their stories. Benny Goodman and his Orchestra provided the music to one of the vignettes from the 1946 film Make Mine Music, their version of the song “All The Cats Join In.” Dinah Shore provided the narration and sang some of the songs in the 1947 anthology film Fun And Fancy Free, the portion of the film about the circus bear named “Bongo.” And Bing Crosby did the same for the Ichabod Crane sections of the 1949 film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

Songs from these films, with their jazz pedigree, were performed by others as well. Peggy Lee, Goodman's former singer, recorded a version of “All The Cats Join In” in 1946. Margaret Whiting recorded “Lazy Countryside,” a Bobby Worth song originally performed by Dinah Shore in the 1947 Disney film Fun And Fancy Free. And Kay Starr recorded “Headless Horseman,” a Gene DePaul and Don Raye song originally performed by Bing Crosby in the 1949 Disney film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

Lady And The Tramp

Speaking of Peggy Lee, Lee herself was called upon to make contributions to the 1955 Disney film Lady And The Tramp. She and fellow songwriter Sonny Burke wrote all of the memorable songs for the film, including “La La Lu”, “The Siamese Cat Song”, and “He's a Tramp.” “He’s A Tramp” has become particularly popular among modern jazz artists, performed by both Dianne Reeves and Melody Gardot.

Lee’s contributions went beyond just the songs. She also contributed her vocal talents, voicing the characters of Darling (the mother), Si and Am (the two cats), and Peg, the stray dog. In fact, 30 years later, Lee successfully sued Disney for lost compensation, after the studio made a killing selling Lady And The Tramp on the new VHS market, without her consent. 

The Jungle Book

More Disney songs from the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond continued to work their way into the jazz canon, including the classically-inspired “Once Upon A Dream” from Sleeping Beauty (1959), the jazzy “Cruella De Vil” from 101 Dalmations (1961), or the even jazzier “Everybody Wants To Be A Cat” from The Aristocats (1970). But the Disney score that had the biggest impact on the jazz world was likely 1967’s The Jungle Book.

Most of the songs from the film were written by Walt’s favorite songwriting pair Robert and Richard Sherman, the Sherman Brothers. They worked with Disney on most of their big projects from the 1960s and 1970s, including Mary PoppinsChitty Chitty Bang Bang, and songs for the Disney Theme Parks. The Jungle Book, inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s stories, even featured one of jazz’s great stars, Louis Prima, in the role of King Louie the orangutan performing the aspirational song “I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song).”

However, one of the most popular jazz numbers from The Jungle Book was not written by the Sherman Brothers. The song “The Bare Necessities was written by songwriter Terry Gilkyson, before he was removed from the project. “The Bare Necessities,” with its simple life lesson and catchy melody, has been performed by countless jazz artists, including Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr., Melody Gardot and many more.

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