Happy Valentine’s Day dearest readers.
Have you ever wondered how many love songs have been written? The best estimate I could find is over 100 million! At least half will be about losing love which, of course, is not the same as being in love. But still astonishing. It would take over 500 years to hear them all.
I’ve written one romantic love song, which is called, ambivalently, Is This a Love Song. It is.
But I’ve recorded a cover of, what I consider to be, the perfect love song. It is my most popular song on Soundcloud; somewhere in the world, it has been played every day for the last 9 years.
I share a personal love story with the song which is part of its perfection (for me). I don’t mean it was a song important to a personal love story. I mean that how I came to cherish and record the song is a love story.
Let me explain……..
I was primed to love the song because it is an ‘underdog song’ – a song overlooked but later loved. It was written by Rogers and Hart in 1937 for the musical Babes in Arms but was dropped for the 1939 film of the same name. Little-by-little, era-by-era, musicians like Sinatra, Baker, Davies, Streisand, Buble and so many others, were moved to make their own interpretations. Chet Baker recorded it over 100 times. It is the lasting legacy of the musical, and a standard of standards.
The lyrics are poignant and unusual, they celebrate the imperfect. The happy-sad yin-yang words mirror the major-minor of the melody, nurturing infinite variation. With a subtle change of musicality or phrasing, it becomes new, but always retains its integrity.
My Funny Valentine is a class act.
I had admired and enjoyed many versions over the years, but my emotional connection, my eternal love affair with My Funny Valentine started 31 years ago when I heard the arrangement by Dave Grusin for the film The Fabulous Baker Boys. I don’t have the musical skills to explain the magic and mastery of his score – find time to listen to it. You will thank me.
Like all good love stories, love did not run smoothly for My Funny Valentine and me. After seeing the film I wanted to sing it and I thought I’d just sing it. But I found I didn’t want to sing to any arrangement, I wanted to sing very specifically, and only, to the Grusin arrangement. No other would do. If you love a guy called Matthew any guy called Matthew is not an acceptable substitute.
I tried to find someone who could play the Grusin arrangement (I don’t play piano by ear, so it wasn’t an option for me to learn it). It was then I came to understand the undefinable magic and mastery of the score. Successive pianists failed to recreate it for me – either it was too hard or they just couldn’t bring the je ne sais quoi.
I lost hope.
I stopped looking.
For a decade I stopped singing (for unrelated reasons).
I started singing again and started looking again. My search led me to Adam Biggs who had painstakingly transcribed, note-for-note, the whole ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys’ Score, including My Funny Valentine. As I write I can feel the thrill of that discovery and the ecstasy of knowing someone loved this beautiful arrangement as much as I.
I took the score to Joe Davison, a pianist and producer at Auburn Jam Music round the corner from me.
In 2010, 21 years after I fell in love, My Funny Valentine are I were finally together in this recording. I share it with you, with love.
It is everything I want to say about love, and about love songs, and about my love for this love song.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
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