Standards to Love: Springtime In My Heart
Spring is here. While there have been a few little mutinies by winter trying to exert her hold, they have been subdued. The sun is shining, there is warmth in the wind, and all the little green things are beginning to stretch toward the light. Blooms are blooming, including those famous calla lilies. Dogwoods, cherry trees, and eastern red buds have all unfurled their flowers. The earth is dressing herself in floral finery and awaiting the ball. And, if there were a soundtrack for this spring dance, where the wind tangles in tune with the branches and sways them about, it would be full of songs about new, young things.
The Great American Songbook is home to a great many songs that fit this bill. Celebrations of the youth and new love that is synonymous with spring remind us of all the new things coming alive and exhort us to embrace this time with open hearts.
In 1946, Joseph Myrow and Mack Gordon composed You Make Me Feel So Young for the musical Three Little Girls in Blue. While the movie musical may not have the resonance, the song has had a life of its own. The most popular recording was done, not surprisingly, by Frank Sinatra. I think it’s a good place to start today because it’s opening lines are:
And isn’t that what we’re talking about, spring having sprung? As mentioned, the most popular rendition of You Make Me Feel So Young was recorded by Frank Sinatra. It was a quick recording, almost an after thought. Nelson Riddle arranged it. While many others have recorded it before and since, Sinatra’s cut is my favorite. It brims with energy and joy. There’s a zeal for life that flows with the music and it’s obvious that Sinatra was having a grand time recording it.
Springtime is the season in which new things are born. Words like rebirth and awakened are used in relation to her. Therefore, the ultimate compliment to pay one’s sweetheart is that which Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers penned for the musical South Pacific. Younger than Springtime is a love ballad sung by the American Lieutenant Cable to the young islander Liat who has captured his heart. Prior to their meeting, Cable demonstrates all the world weariness one would imagine a soldier in the South Pacific during World War II would feel; the war has raged and while he might be young in years, he’s seen too much to have kept his youthful innocence intact. Yet, one an outing to a nearby native island, Cable meets Liat, daughter of Bloody Mary, a sharp native whose made good on her wheeling and dealing of trinkets and souvenirs. Liat is untouched, like a newly bloomed flower with perfect petals, and Cable is so captivated by her innocence and sincerity that he wishes to marry her. Younger than Springtime is the song that he sings to make love to her. Love becomes his Springtime, and the cynical Lieutenant Cable is reborn in it. I selected Gordon MacRae’s 1949 version as I have a soft spot for his interpretation of it.
And, if you happen to be in a clime where the temperatures have not cooperated with the Spring movement in full swing down in the southern States, there’s even a song to comfort you as you wait for the first blooms of the season.
From the movie musical State Fair, It Might As Well Be Spring conveys the restless spirit perfectly. It’s sung by Margy Frake as she packs for the state fair. She’s bored with the day in and day out of her life on the farm, and though she’s not particularly enthused to be going to the state fair, she welcomes it as a shake up from the mundane. So, if you’re weary of the day in and day out of the winter that seems to be never-ending, know that you’re not alone in your restlessness. (And also know that Spring is coming- which- in typing- made me laugh as it’s the opposite of what we’ve been hearing, what with Game of Thrones and all those portending warnings about winter…) My favorite version is by Dick Haymes.
I had not intended to include this song among these today, but in the wake of the absolute tragedy that has struck Notre Dame de Paris, I wanted, in a small way, to remember Paris in her time of mourning. While this 1933 hit by Yip Harburg and Vernon Duke is a love song, no doubt, written from one lover to another, their romance blossoming among the chestnut trees, the lyrics lend themselves as a love song to the city itself. I’ve chosen Julie London’s recording of this one because, while it celebrates the joy of new life and rebirth, it also has a touch of melancholy to it- a softness that is fitting in the wake of Notre Dame’s conflagration.
Johnny Richard and Carolyn Leigh’s popular standard, Young at Heart captures the importance of keeping springtime perpetually in our hearts. Written in 1953, this standard was a smash hit for Frank Sinatra. This song was so embraced by the public that Hollywood capitalized upon it. They renamed the musical movie that Sinatra was filming at the time Young at Heart and included the song in the film. A remake of the 1938 film Four Daughters, Young at Heart is the story of three daughters. All of them are in love with Alex, a songwriter friend of the family, who is on his way to massive success. Though Alex cares for all the sisters, he’s keenly interested in Laurie (Doris Day) whose temperament matches his own. All seems well on the way to a happy marriage between the two until his friend Barney (Frank Sinatra) comes to visit. Also a talented songwriter, Barney has a perpetual cloud that hangs over him. Ever positive and encouraging, Laurie tries to build him up in his work. Eventually they elope, as she doesn’t wish to dash her family’s expectations that she marry Alex. However, Barney’s career doesn’t pan out and he sees his wife put on a brave face through all the trials. When they go home at Christmas to visit her family in their large home, it’s too much for Barney. In a weak moment, he tries to kill himself. After all, Laurie would be better off without him. He’s slowly robbing the bloom from off her rose and he can’t bear it. Thankfully, his attempt is unsuccessful. And, when he wakes to see what losing him would have done to Laurie, he has an epiphany: what he loves about Laurie is her young heart. She endures all the hardships of life because she refuses to let her heart grow old. Oddly enough, though I love Sinatra’s recording, my favorite version of Young at Heart is by Jimmy Durante.
To be young at heart is a heart issue. Sling and arrows can pummel the life out of us sometimes, and that’s why it is so important to be intentional with our hearts. We are exhorted by Wisdom to guard our hearts above all things. Why? Because out of it flow springs of life. Let those springs teem with youth and vigor regardless of what gets thrown your way. It’s your choice; choose to be Young at Heart.
Are there any songs that evoke spring in your heart? Please share them.