Posted by: Jim E | January 17, 2012

The Great American Songbook…Glenn Miller…”At Last”…And Much More…

I listen to radio probably more than most do…in this case XM/Sirius radio…it came with our car in 2007 and we have just “kept it up”…I enjoy a few of the huge number of stations that it offers…so it is all about choices…one of the stations that I listen to is XM4…it is mostly 1940’s music…and sometimes I go to others when I want other kinds of music…now, I won’t lead you to believe I listen to “lots” of music…I don’t, but when I’m in the car I do…most of the time it is background…but other times I really listen…I think you know what I mean…”really hear it”, not just hear it…so much for that…but I think you “get” the drift here…

I guess it is really hearing the words and trying to understand the meaning of the song…that’s where lots of songs lose me…they are either meaningless or full of negative meaning…I guess that is why I love the “standards”…you know, from the “Great American Songbook”…you can look that up online and it will give you a little more than I am here…many of the standards are from that era of the “Big Bands”…1930’s, 40’s and 50’s…great songwriters and musicians…many today will take a song they hear and think it’s from today…but really it is an arrangement from the “Songbook”…well, we “heard” an original a couple of weeks ago…I’ll share it with you today…

As Judie and I were in the car and listening…the song “At Last” came up…we happened to be “listening” this time…I noticed as I looked at the radio that it was the Glenn Miller band performing…I love his music, always have…but the history behind his band and him in particular, adds to his music…in fact his band is still performing today…they have the Glenn Miller Festival every summer in Clarinda, Iowa, his birth place…Miller volunteered for the army in 1942…he was at the height of his popularity and formed a band in the service…transferred to the army air force, he played all over the country and in England before the D-Day landing…he was lost at sea when his plane went down flying from England to France…if you ever get a chance to see “The Glenn Miller Story” (1953) with James Stewart, it is a movie, of course, but close to how things happened in his life…

The song “At Last” was written in 1941 for Miller’s movie “Sun Valley Serenade”…but it was not used until his second and last movie before he went in the army, “Orchestra Wives”…starring George Montgomery and Ann Rutherford…the song was played by the Glenn Miller band with singing by Ray Eberle and Lynn Bari (Pat Friday did the singing and it was dubbed for Bari)…the words and music are by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren…it has become a standard and part of the Great American Songbook…you will see why in a moment…one of Glenn Miller’s great songs…some say the best…but there have been many who have recorded this song…some most noted: Etta James, Christine Aguilera, Celin Dion and Beyonce…it was on American Idol in 2009 and in 2004 was played for the Boston Red Sox, when they “finally” won the World Series…”At Last”…a lasting standard…enjoy it whenever you hear it…but remember where it first was played and sung…Glenn Miller…

First the lyrics to “At Last”…”At last my love has come along/My lonely days are over/And life is like a song//At last the skies above are blue/My heart was wrapped up in clover/The night I looked at you//I found a dream that I can speak to/A dream that I can call my own/I found a thrill to press my cheek to/A thrill I have never known//You smiled and then the spell was cast/And here we are in heaven/For you are mine at last//”…and now a piece from the movie “Orchestra Wives”…and you will see why I slipped my hand over Judie’s as we drove along…

The video is of fairly good quality…so you can make it full screen to see those faces better…the trumpet player is George Montgomery…but the trumpet is dubbed by Johnny Best a sideman of the Miller band…Jackie Gleason is the bass player…and Harry Morgan, who just died in December of 2011 at 96…(he was probably known best for playing “Col. Potter” in “MASH”…but was in many other films)…but he is seen in front giving the evil eye to the trumpet player…

Okay, you can go back and listen again to some of America’s greatest music…”At Last” is only one of hundreds of songs…full of meaning as people listen…it brings you to a time and place no one else can go…because of what it means to you…your memories…this is, a great song…its no wonder I held Judie’s hand…I guess, we still have “it”…how ’bout you???…

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Responses

  1. Hi Jim,
    I usually listen to a wide variety of music in the car (country, easy listening, music from the 70s and 80s, etc), however I really like Big Band and Swing music (my kids think I’m crazy). There’s a group based here in Cincinnati that plays concerts, events, etc and they’re good. My dad and I usually see them a few times each summer at outdoor concerts. The band leader’s name is Pam Noah and her website is http://www.pamnoah.com. Dad and I also saw Harry Connick Jr in concert here in Cincinnati a few years ago when he was touring with his band and all of the music was Big Band and swing. He has a great voice and the concert was fantastic. He’s also a very funny man and told a lot of stories during the concert about his past with music. I’m hoping he’ll start touring again soon. I hope you’re having a good week and give my best to Judie.
    Take care,
    Julie

    • Julie…yup…there is just something about it…and there is history behind it, I think that is why it is so remembered…I think swing is tied forever with WWII…and it makes it more real to those who lived during and after that time…fewer and fewer all the time…but still in the millions…those of my generation still have a place for it…and even some today who still like it, under different arrangements and names…they like it but would never say it was from the 40’s…but it is…its one of the reasons I wrote about “At Last”, still popular but people don’t know the history of it…written during the war years…it’s one of the songs that “got us through the war”…as someone said…and hundreds more like it…one more thing, when people go to a movie, many of them are filled with “old music”…and people like it, they just don’t know where it was from…thanks…Jim E

  2. […] Sad news today as Etta James passed away at age 73.  She merged the rough vocal stylings of Big Mama Thorton and the sophistication of Billie Holiday into a new version of soul in the 50s-60s.  Just rifling off of the names her hits reads like a treasure chest of American soul standards: ”Tell Mama“,  ”Somethings Got A Hold On Me“, “I’d Rather Go Blind“, and of course “At Last“. […]

  3. What a great tribute to some classic music. Music is such a part of our memories, our past, maybe it has something to do with our sense of hearing that it stays with us. It blends with our emotions and our thoughts from those times. We can hear it in our minds when we think of it. What an important part of our lives!

  4. I love that song my youngest love this type of music. We listen to it all the time especially when we are in the truck. I ended up putting my new blog on blog spot, deleted the one on wordpress. Hope all is well

    Saun

    • Saun…Great music from a wonderful time…still visit your blog…great pictures…and like your comments to go with them…thanks…Jim E

  5. Thanks for the video, it’s way awesome. Glenn Miller’s music is used all the time for my college jazz band. His stuff is really inspiring. I actually didn’t know that he wrote at last. I just love him even more now .

    • I agree Glenn Miller is great…but he didn’t write “At Last”…it was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren…in 1941…but Glenn Miller arranged and played it first…it was written for one movie but used in a second…both Glenn Miller movies…wonderful song…Jim E


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