Big Band Music in the Fields of Gold: A Love Story Soundtrack of Our Lives

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?

Fields of Gold: A Love Story – The Songs That Keep Daddy and Mama Close in the Soundtrack of Our Lives

There are those songs, in the course of building the soundtrack of our lives, that instantly take me back to a moment or moments in time where they figured prominently or, perhaps, just made their first – and lasting – impression on me. Not just from my own personal soundtrack of my life, but also from our Fields of Gold: A Love Story soundtrack of our lives.

These are the songs of many of our Sunday mornings growing up, and they were often revived and discussed even after we kids had grown up and left home. They were just always a part of our time together.

Somehow, though, when Daddy and Mama were still alive, the tenor of some of these songs never seemed to be that of dirges (which they were), but instead songs that wrapped themselves familiarly around us like warm blankets on a cold winter’s night.

Two of the more dirge-like songs in the soundtrack of our lives were Mama’s favorites. She loved Jim Reeves’ voice and we heard that voice a lot growing up. Mama’s favorite song, “The Blizzard,” was, in my opinion, Jim Reeves’ saddest song. I was a teenager before I fully understood what really happened. However, despite that, it’s also my favorite by Jim Reeves as well:

The second song was a dirge song. Often played at traditional New Orleans funerals, “When The Saints Go Marching In” by Louis Armstrong was one that Mama would sometimes say, before she started singing it, as we were growing up that she wanted played at her funeral.

After I was an adult, Mama and I would laughingly tease each other about me giving her a proper New Orleans funeral, complete with a Dixieland Jazz band.

When she had her aortic valve replacement surgery in September 1994, I went into surgery preparation with her while Daddy stayed in the waiting area with a couple of Mama’s cousins. Almost as soon as she’d gotten the first dose of anesthesia, Mama started smiling and singing “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

She started urging the nurse and me to join in with her. The nurse didn’t, but I held Mama’s hand and sang softly with her until the anesthesia had taken full effect and Mama was under. I smile as I write this.

There are many other songs from Sunday mornings in the soundtrack of our lives that keep Daddy and Mama close, and I’ll include them in later posts. But for now, I’d like to share just a couple more.

One is Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz,” which Mama and Daddy would sing together:

Daddy and Mama both loved Nat King Cole’s music. Daddy could sing bass if he had to, but he was a natural baritone, so he could sing Nat King Cole almost as well as Nat King Cole. One of my favorite memories is of Daddy singing along and smiling at Mama all the while to Nat King Cole’s “When I Fall In Love:”

Have a wonderful Sunday morning! I hope you have some time to remember and share your family soundtrack of your lives to build the memories that will last a lifetime.