VIDEO: Dorothy Fields, Ethel Merman, & “Annie Get Your Gun”

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Happy Wild Women Wednesday! This week we’re talking more about Dorothy Fields, and the fascinating story behind the making of one of the greatest musicals of all time – Annie Get Your Gun.

Remember to SUBSCRIBE to Wild Women of Song on YouTube! New videos every WILD Wednesday!

VIDEO: Doris Fisher writes Rita Hayworth’s “Put the Blame on Mame.”

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Rita Hayworth, Doris Fisher, Hollywood and so much more in this week’s episode of Wild Women of Song! We’re talking about that classic song “Put the Blame on Mame.” Enjoy!

Remember to SUBSCRIBE to Wild Women of Song on YouTube! New videos every WILD Wednesday!

VIDEO: Peggy Lee – “It’s A Good Day”

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We’re BACK! “Wild Women of Song” – our weekly video showpiece celebrating the lives, times and music of the women songwriters of jazz and blues is back on YouTube. Check us out every Wednesday!

This week we discuss the sexy, sultry and oh so talented Miss Peggy Lee and her classic song, “It’s A Good Day.” Enjoy!

Remember to SUBSCRIBE to Wild Women of Song on YouTube! New videos every WILD Wednesday!

Wild Women of Song: Dorothy Fields

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When I mention Dorothy Fields’ name on stage, I usually get a blank look from the patrons in the night club, perhaps a little polite applause. Then I start to bring up just a few of her over 400 titles: “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” “On the Sunny Side of the Street” “Pick Yourself Up”, “The Way You Look Tonight” “Hey Big Spender” and I’m greeted by a powerful wave of applause and happy recognition!


Mary Lou Williams, Hazel Scott, Lovie Austin, and the Wild Women of Piano!

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In this episode of Pamela Rose presents Wild Women of Song, we’ve brought on renowned pianist, and musical director for the Wild Women of Song live show – my dear friend Ms. Tammy L Hall!

Tammy has been involved with the Wild Women project from the beginning. We decided to have a casual conversation about some of the forgotten women pianists that laid the foundation for jazz and blues (Lovie Austin, Hazel Scott, Mary Lou Williams, etc…)

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Part Two:

Wild Women of Song: Peggy Lee (Feat. Veronica Klaus)

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In this episode of “Pamela Rose presents Wild Women of Song,” we bring on very special guest Veronica Klaus to discuss the history of legendary music icon, Ms. Peggy Lee. Veronica, a researcher of American Popular Song and wild woman in her own right, continues to captivate audiences nationwide with her critically acclaimed performances of the Peggy Lee songbook.

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Wild Women of Song: Dana Suesse

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In this episode of “Wild Women of Song” we discuss the legacy of classical and popular song composer Dana Suesse – also known as “The Girl Gershwin.” Born Nadine Dana Suesse in 1909 in Kansas City, her talent blazed early, holding her first concert at the age of nine.

Many thanks go out to pianist and music historian Peter Mintun, whose tender stewardship of Dana Suesseʼs works, recordings and memorabilia have kept her memory alive.

Peter Mintun has graciously uploaded many of Dana Suesse’s compositions to SoundCloud. Do yourself a favor and check it out!
1) Composed by Dana Suesse: http://soundcloud.com/peter-mintun/sets/composed-by-dana-suesse/
2) Dana Suesse Popular Songs: http://soundcloud.com/peter-mintun/sets/dana-suesse-popular-songs/

Remember to SUBSCRIBE to Wild Women of Song! New videos every WILD Wednesday!

Our Exciting New “Wild Women of Song” YouTube Series!

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We have some great news folks…Wild Women of Song is now a weekly YouTube series!

“Pamela Rose presents Wild Women of Song” is a captivating video showpiece celebrating the lives, times and music of the women songwriters of the Tin Pan Alley era. Look out for photo archives, fascinating facts, and some guest appearances in our weekly episodes!

Be sure to tell your friends, leave us a comment, and subscribe to our channel! We put out new videos every WILD Wednesday!

XO,
Pamela

Peggy Lee, Reese Witherspoon, and the whole Hollywood Thing

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I don’t like Hollywood biopics about music icons.  I can almost predict the story arc, the struggle of the early years, the montage of increasingly better nightclubs, cars and homes, a painful descent into booze and drugs, the scene where the bottle shatters against the wall, the humbling climb back from the abyss back into the sunlight of an adoring public.

So you might understand my concern upon learning of a movie in the works about Peggy Lee, one of my music heroines.   Even with a gifted writer like Nora Ephron on the project, and the talented Reese Witherspoon (apparently hand-picked by Ms. Lee’s family to play the part), will Hollywood see beyond the sultry icon?  The memory of her warm, purring stage persona makes it easy  to underestimate what a hardworking , canny businesswoman and musician she actually was.   And of course, the chilling truth about Peggy’s childhood (raised by a physically abusive stepmother) and her unlucky marriages, will make such a strong onscreen story, one might never be allowed to celebrate Peggy’s delicious creativity and enduring passion for arranging and writing.

Last week I was immensely relieved and happy to hear Reese Witherspoon characterize Peggy Lee first as a songwriter, as she expressed her excitement about the project in a TV interview.

Many people aren’t aware of how prolific and dedicated a writer Peggy was. It was fairly unusual for a pop singer in the 40’s and 50’s to record and publish so many originals. Writing at first with her guitarist husband Dave Barbour, she later worked with collaborators as diverse as Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, Marian McPartland  and Michel Legrand.  Peggy produced hit after hit for vinyl, television, Broadway, Hollywood, and even animated features.

And let’s not forget that when she added her two hip verses to Little Willie John’s “Fever” (“Romeo loved Juliet”…”Captain Smith and Pocahantas”), she helped transform the song into a classic.

Peggy liked to write with the rhythm of a lyric in mind, a cadence suggested by a phrase.  As a vocalist, she knew just how to create a lyric married to melody that felt natural and easy, relaxed and true.  Listen to her song “I Don’t Know Enough About You” for a terrific example of that silky, simple melodic line.  And her dark, torchy “Don’t Smoke in Bed” doesn’t waste a single syllable or note in delivering its dramatic message. (I love K.D. Lang’s version of this song, if you’re curious to hear it).

I think my favorite Peggy Lee story (and I’ll be interested to see if this comes out in the movie) was when she took on ‘the Mouse’ and sued Walt Disney Studios.

Peggy was paid $1000 by Walt Disney to compose 6 songs (with collaborator Sonny Burke) for the animated feature Lady and the Tramp. At the bargain rate of $3500, she was the voice of four of the characters and sang in the film as well (Peggy played the role of ʻDarlingʼ, “Peg”, who sang “He’s a Tramp” and also the singing Siamese cats.) Disney had brokered hundreds of these unfair deals with artists, and successfully fought off many later royalty claims. Their unofficial tagline in the industry was “Don’t Mess with the Mouse.”

But when the film was released in video in the 1970ʼs, the estimated additional $90 million in sales to Disney was too much for the determined Ms. Lee to leave alone, and after a fifteen year court battle, she successfully sued them for a landmark $3.8 million in back royalties. That famous settlement liberated musicians and artists from Disney’s draconian policies.

She was seventy years old when the case finally settled, and certainly didn’t need the money.  What made her persist with the suit all those years?  Even after becoming a big star, Peggy always related to the ‘band’ – the musicians, composers, arrangers that she considered her fellows.

Incidentally, you won’t see Peggy’s name on the song credits for “Don’t Smoke in Bed”.  She took her name off to benefit her co-writer, Willard Robison, who was struggling with ill-health and financial hardship.

I’m hoping the movie version of Peggy Lee captures the real, generous, driven, perfectionist, vibrant and creative woman that she truly was.  Recognizing her as a songwriter seems like the right place to start.

Pamela Rose’s new book “Wild Women of Song: Great Gal Composers of the Jazz Era”,  celebrating women songwriters,  is available through Amazon and CDBaby.com.   More about the Wild Women project can be found at www.wildwomenofsong.com


The Mysterious Maria Grever

The Mysterious Maria Grever

Soon after my website went up in early 2010 (wildwomenofsong.com), I started to get emails asking about Maria Grever.  Did I have any idea where to get out of print LP’s of Maria singing? Could I find any more photos?

If you don’t know who Maria Grever was (and I certainly didn’t, before I began this project), her most remembered composition is the beautiful music to “What a Diff’rence a Day Made”, which Dinah Washington turned into a classic.

One man wrote to me from the Dominican Republic to claim that his father had been the inspiration of Maria Grever’s most ardent love songs (much to the chagrin of this gentleman’s mother!)  A woman wrote that she had been terribly jealous of how much her own father and brothers loved Maria Grever…then grew to love Maria’s music later in life. And I was fascinated to read an email which informed me that in pre-revolutionary Cuba it was common practice to play a Maria Grever song before social/political club meetings.

They played Maria Grever music at the meetings because Maria was proud of her Mexican heritage and celebrated it through her songs.  She clearly represented so much to so many people; cultural pride, a romantic time in their lives, and of course, much beautiful and beloved music.

So I was eagerly looking forward to deepening my research about Ms. Grever, as one of the featured chapters in my book, Wild Women of Song (which will be coming out November 1, 2011).   There was a lot of conflicting information out there – books, articles, and almost nothing in the way of photographs of this beloved woman.  I reached out to Latin Music journalists, bloggers, and even the Mexican Consulate.  Although everyone seemed delighted to hear I was writing about Maria Grever, there was very little information to be found that didn’t have a contradiction in the next article I read.

For example:  She was born in 1894, but some articles claim this date as 1884, and two books have it as 1885.  Many bios have her studying composition in Paris under Claude Debussy and Franz Lenhard when she was a teen, but a few articles, including the fine liner notes off a 1951 RCA tribute LP to Maria Grever (written by Bill Zeitug) swear she was mostly self taught on the piano, wrote almost every song in the same key, (just like Irving Berlin) and only took a few classes with Debussy later in her life.

She was married at 16 – or was it 22?

Her husband, an American oil man, helped her launch a career in New York, hosting concerts at Carnegie Hall, featuring her lovely, slightly thin voice, and encouraging her to record albums.   (Although her singing was just above average, her concerts and albums always sold out.  People LOVED her).  Or – her own success at songwriting, starting with “A Una Ola” when she was 18 years old (selling 3 million units of sheet music) continued when she moved to New York, and she composed for Big Bands, American movies (Esther Williams’ Bathing Beauty, for example) scoring Hispanic-American movies for Paramount in Hollywood, while writing music for light opera, ballets and television theme shows.

And how do we pronounce her name – for some say “Grebveh”, “Greh-vare” ….and others say it as “Gree-ver”.

Recently I invited some friends to help watch and translate a ‘bio-pic’ of Maria Grever, Cuando Me Vaya, produced by and starring Libertad Lamarque, the Argentinian-Mexican actress and singer.  Plying my guests with dinner and an assortment of sorbets, we spent an enjoyable evening, but certainly didn’t clear up any details about Maria Grever.  In this film, Maria is abandoned by her husband when his business goes sour.  On the brink of starvation, her songs, celebrating what she loves and misses about Mexico, are discovered.   Long montage of concert halls and ball gowns and arias showing off Lamarque’s soprano voice.   This film only served to deepen the confusion about Maria Grever, (they did, however, pronounce Maria’s name as “Gree-ver” throughout) but later, over our sorbets we had a lively discussion about her music.

Listen to “Jurame” sometime (there’s a wonderful version by Andrea Bocelli on youtube) or “Volvere”, “Asi” or the gorgeous “Cuando Vuelva a tu Lado” (which later became “What a Diff’rence a Day Made” when Stanley Adams gave it an English lyric) These songs all have a sort of aching tenderness within the melody that makes the singer soar, and the listener smile wistfully.  The delightful “Ti-pi-tin” is still a classic sung worldwide.  Caruso, Placido Domingo and Aretha Franklin all carried Maria Grever songs in their standard repertoire.

She generously mentored and promoted many fine singers and poets (Agustin Lara, Nestor Chayres among them).  She was devoted to the concept of introducing the boleros and particular sounds of her homeland Mexico to the world.   She was unabashedly romantic in her musical tastes.  She raised money for the education of the Blind in Latin America, and her altruistic devotion to music education in particular caused schools to be named after her in Spain and in Mexico.

Still, as admirable as are all these qualities, she seems to have inspired a devotion from her fans that is usually reserved for superstars.  It’s clear that many people felt she was writing and singing personally for them.    And that, for all the mysteries and legends surrounding Maria Grever, seems to be empirically true.