Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Autumn Leaves"...

My favorite season of the year will be officially welcomed to 2012, on Saturday, September 22nd. Just 6 days away. It's the day of the autumnal equinox, and Mabon.

I love everything about autumn. The crispness in the air; the earthy red, orange, and yellow coloring of the falling leaves; shortening days washed with a moodier, calmer energy. Autumn makes me think of cozy sweaters, hot spiced cider, and pumpkins. Autumn also puts me in mind of a song.

I don't recall when it was that I first heard, "Autumn Leaves". It was years ago. There have been so many versions recorded in so many styles. If you have never had the pleasure of hearing it, I will be changing that for you in this post.  First, I'll give you a Reader's Digest version of the tunes background.

(Left Kosma; Right: Prevert)
"Autumn Leaves", was originally titled "Les Feuilles Mortes" ("The Dead Leaves"). French composer, Joseph Kosma, and french poet, Jacques Prevert, wrote the now famous song in 1945. In 1946 the song saw it's introduction in the film "Les Portes de la Nuit" ("Gates of the Night"), as sung by singer/actor, Yves Montand. (Yves was discovered in 1944 by France's beloved, Edith Piaf, who is also featured in this post.)

Note: To listen to the videos in this post, you can pause my page's music player. You can find it by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

(Yves Montand)

In 1947, American music great (and Savannah, Georgia, native), Johnny Mercer, wrote English lyrics for the tune. It would see much notice and fame under the English version.

In 1956, a version by Nat King Cole, was played over the title sequence of the film, "Autumn Leaves", that starred Joan-"no more wire hangers"-Crawford.

(Johnny Mercer)
It has become a jazz and pop standard, that has been recorded by a rather eclectic list of performers. From Sinatra, to Jerry Lee Lewis, to The Coasters. In 1955, an instrumental version played by pianist, Roger Williams, would be the only instrumental to ever make it to #1 on the charts, and it would hold it's position for four weeks.

Some songs are timeless, and "Autumn Leaves" is one of the songs on my personal 'timeless' list. As the seasonal shift has been approaching, I have been put in mind of it. With different interpretations comes noticeable variations, but the haunting bittersweet elements of the song always show through. From the first time I heard it years ago, it has been a permanent track on my autumnal soundtrack. I have posted a selection of interpretations below. Whether you have heard the song before, or are hearing it for the first time, enjoy. (Most of the video links below have links that will take you to YouTube to watch them. Just click where it says "watch on YouTube", and another window will open.)

(Edith Piaf)

(Roger Williams)

(Doris Day)

(Stan Getz)

(Tom Jones)

(Nat King Cole)

(Wynton Marsalis & Sarah Vaughan)

(Eric Clapton)

(This last version by the late Eva Cassidy, is my gives me goose bumps.)

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