Posts Tagged ‘Julie Andrews’

This, That & The Other

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

In the category of things I learn from readers: A frequent commenter who calls himself “porky” dropped by Tuesday after I wrote about “This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & the Playboys and the nearly simultaneous answer record by Wendy Hill.

He said that there was another version of the song out there at about the same time – Musicor put out a single by R&B singer Sammy Ambrose – and that both singles were highlighted in Billboard magazine the same week. He also said that Lewis got to perform his version of the song on Ed Sullivan’s influential television variety show. That exposure, along with Lewis’ Hollywood connections – his father was comedian Jerry Lewis – might have provided the younger Lewis’ version of the tune with a significant boost, porky said.

After reading porky’s note, I was a little annoyed with myself for not checking to see if any other versions of “This Diamond Ring” had made the charts. Muttering at myself, I wandered off to YouTube and found Ambrose’s version. It turns out that the record spent one week in January 1965 at No. 117 in the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100. It’s a decent take on the song.

Early this month, I saw the news that on March 5, Robert Sherman had passed on, and there was a twinge. Along with his brother Richard, Robert Sherman wrote many of the songs and soundtracks for Disney’s movies. A list at Wikipedia of major film scores to his (and his brother’s, I assume) credit run from The Parent Trap in 1961 through The Tigger Movie in 2000 to an announced 2013 release titled Inkas the Ramferinkas. The Shermans also wrote what is perhaps the most annoying song in show-biz history, “It’s a Small World,” used first for the Pepsi pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and then at rides at Disneyland in California and at other Disney parks around the world.

But that annoyance aside, the Shermans’ work resonates most loudly for me in their work for the 1964 film Mary Poppins. The duo won Academy Awards for “Best Substantially Original Score” and for Best Song, with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” winning the latter honor. For a few hours after I read of Robert Sherman’s passing, that tune and the others from Mary Poppins were roaming through my brain. Along with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” came “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Let’s Go Fly A Kite,” the mammoth nonsense tune “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and a few others.

But the song in my head that augmented the twinge of sadness I felt at Sherman’s passing was “Feed the Birds.” From the first time I heard the song in a movie theater in La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1965, it’s been a favorite of mine. Here’s the scene from the movie in which Julie Andrews’ Mary Poppins sings “Feed the Birds” as a lullaby to Jane and Michael Banks (played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber).

I think I’ve probably seen the word “dystopian” in the news more this month than I have in the 702 months of my life that came before this one. The word’s use has come, of course, in descriptions and reviews of the film The Hunger Games, which comes out tomorrow. That’s not to say that “dystopian” isn’t a perfectly accurate description of the world that Suzanne Collins has created in her trilogy of young adult novels. (The Hunger Games, 2008; Catching Fire, 2009; Mockingjay, 2010.)

The first of the three – and forgive me if you’ve read or heard this elsewhere – introduces readers to the land of Panem, a nation on the North American continent where things have gone horribly wrong. Each of twelve generally poor districts is required to send two children each year to the Capitol, where residents live lives of excess. Those twenty-four children compete in the Hunger Games, a nationally televised lethal competition that ends when only one child – the winner – survives. The series’ heroine, Katniss Everdeen, comes from District 12, the poorest of all districts, which is somewhere in what used to be called Appalachia.

I’ve read The Hunger Games and I enjoyed it. It didn’t pull me in so hard that I’ve had to go find the next two books without having breakfast, but I will likely read them soon. And I think I’ll get to the movie, though probably not for a few weeks; I’m going to give the crowds of young’uns time to thin. One thing I likely will do soon, however, is get hold of a copy of the film’s soundtrack, which I’ve been listening to bit by bit on Spotify.

Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack – titled The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond – in fact sounds like the book felt, with strains of Appalachian music and other Americana combining with tougher and disquieting rock songs. The roster of artists on the soundtrack is pretty impressive: Neko Case, Arcade Fire, Secret Sisters, the Decembrists, Miranda Lambert, the Pistol Annies, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, the Civil Wars, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and more.

Heather Phares of All-Music Guide likes the soundtrack, too: “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond would be an impressive collection even if it weren’t associated with one of 2012’s most anticipated films, but the care put into the soundtrack makes it an experience that much richer for fans of the books, the movie, and any of the artists here.”

There are a few tracks that don’t seem to work. One of those is Taylor Swift’s “Eyes Open,” though I suppose it might grow on me. Her collaboration with the Civil Wars on “Safe & Sound” is, however, one of the album’s highlights. Other tracks that caught my attention positively during the first couple of listens were “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire, “Dark Days” by the Punch Brothers, “Just A Game” by Birdy and “Come Away to the Water” by Maroon 5 featuring Rozzi Crane. Here’s that last: