Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crime Factory Music Spotlight/Patti Abbott

Patti Abbott first came to my attention as a contributor to possibly the most influential crime publication of the new millennium. Do I overstate it? Maybe. But Murdaland was a watershed moment for me. Then I got confused. Turned out there were more Abbotts out there writing dark fiction and as a happy side effect, I was introduced to more great literature.

But Patti holds her own among the Abbotts, she is possessed of an enviable range, creating voices immediately memorable and by turns, tragic, malevolent, humorous and doomed. She lives in Detroit where she writes stories that have appeared in The Portland Review, Bayou Review, Inkwell, Fourteen Hills, Spinetingler, Demolition, Plots With Guns and many others. She was, (can you believe it?) the sole female contributor, (other than an introduction from Sarah Weinman) to last year’s Sex, Thugs and Rock & Roll. Obviously she was included in Crime Factory issue one, but she’s also in Crime Factory issue two. Look for more stories from Patti soon in Beat to a Pulp, Damn Near Dead 2 and Needle. She also hosts the Friday's Fogotten Book series at her blog Pattinase where she and a bunch of other writers hold forth on gems that have passed on into our collective amnesia undeservedly.

She is today’s contributor to the Narrative Music series.



WHAT’LL I DO, Irving Berlin

On those days when I need to chase a happy mood out of my head, I put on THE SONG. I have several versions of it. My favorite will always be the Linda Ronstadt one, which I first heard many years ago. She recorded it for her 1983 album WHATS NEW, orchestrated by Nelson Riddle. WHAT’S NEW began Ronstadt’s farewell to rock and a lush romantic album.

The original song was written by Irving Berlin in 1923 for one of his four MUSIC BOX REVIEWs and sung by Grace Moore, a singer with operatic training. Irving Berlin bought a house for his mother from the money he made from his 1911 hit "Alexander's Ragtime Band and was still affected by her death eleven years later when he wrote “What’ll I Do” in Paris. According to his biographer Laurence Bergreen in As Thousands Cheer...,"What'll I Do?" was published in early 1924 and sold more than a million copies of the sheet music. I wonder how many copies of sheet music sell today—or if they even print them.

It has been recorded by many, many singers since then and was used above the titles in THE GREAT GATSBY. Other covers I particularly like include ones by Judy Garland, Harry Nilsson, Chet Baker and the one by the McGarrigle/Wainwright family on THE MCGARRIGLE HOUR.

Here are the lyrics:

Gone is the romance that was so divine.
tis broken and cannot be mended.
You must go your way,
And I must go mine.
But now that our love dreams have ended...

What’ll I do
When you are far away
And I am blue
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do?
When I am wondering who
Is kissing you
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to?

When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true
What’ll I do?

What’ll I do with just a photograph
To tell my troubles to?

When I’m alone
With only dreams of you
That won’t come true
What’ll I do?

Of course it’s nothing without the haunting melody. You can find most of these versions on You Tube. There’s even a good one of Bea Arthur singing it on THE GOLDEN GIRLS. Dorothy’s version wasn’t half-bad.

These words describe the plot of most novels and movies that center on a couple: loss, regret, helplessness. You can picture them with a country beat behind them, with hip-hop music, with an opera score, in war time. But the wistfulness also comes from the melody-slow and sad.

5 comments:

Steve Weddle said...

I had a cassette of Michael Feinstein doing Irving Berlin. Great work.

Thanks for bringing this one back up, Patti. Really enjoyed it.

Frank Bill said...

Thanks for the intro Patti, I've never heard of this.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Top song. Top post.

pattinase (abbott) said...

On the whole, I like Cole Porter and Gershwin more, but this one is a classic-especially in the right hands.

Keith Rawson said...

This has probably been the most interesting choice for the series. It's been years since I've listened to it, I'll have to dig it out of the MP3's and give it another turn. Good post, Patti.