Daddy and Mama were teenagers in the years after World War II and the Big Band sounds were very much a part of those years and in the soundtrack of our lives in Fields of Gold: A Love Story.
On Sunday mornings, these sounds filled our kitchen after breakfast as we sat at our large kitchen table and played board or card games. These sounds brought smiles and memories to Mama in her last few years as I filled our home with her musical favorites and they still have a warm and permanent place in our lives all hours of the day and night as we recall those Sunday mornings and Daddy and Mama.
One of our favorites was Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade:”
Artie Shaw’s “Stardust” was also usually in the repertoire:
Daddy and Mama liked a lot of the jazz and swing music that the Big Band era’s heyday featured. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald were some of their favorites and I loved the bluesy sound of Billie Holiday the first time I heard her sing (I still do). Ella Fitzgerald grew on me over time, since I prefer the instruments that make the distinctive sounds of jazz over voices imitating instruments, but Daddy and Mama liked her.
We all liked the sound of Count Basie and Duke Ellington playing together. The song I remember hearing most is their version of “Battle Royal:”
Ella Fitzgerald’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon” was one of her many songs that we grew up with:
And then there was Billie Holiday. As a child, I knew nothing about her personal life and her continual struggles with drugs – heroin in particular – and alcohol, which finally beat her in the end, cutting her life short in 1959 at the age of 44 when she died from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver.
But, as with every real blues artist I’ve ever heard, from Robert Johnson until today, Billie Holiday’s voice spoke volumes to my intuition about pain, about suffering, about a desire for a better and different life, but the lack of a clear and easy way to get there.
Even Holiday’s most famous song, “Summertime” from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, has this poignant, longing, unattainable feel to it:
I hope you enjoy this Big Band sampling from the soundtrack of our lives. Don’t forget each of us has a soundtrack of our own that we build, share, and pass on to our families for them to add to and keep passing on.
What songs are in the soundtracks of your lives?