The chosen song for this week's Take This Tune is James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James", written as a lullaby for a nephew who was named for him. It got me thinking about lullabies from other musical forms, and these two in particular, one a traditional folk piece, the other, rather unexpectedly, from opera.
The late lamented beautiful Odetta recorded "All the Pretty Little Horses" live way back in the sixties. I first heard her recording in the 1980s, when I went on a musical odyssey and fell in love with her cavernous contralto. My mom, who in her younger days, had a glorious rich contralto as well, sang it to me as she'd rock me to sleep or hush me when I was fretful and feverish from teething.
"Summertime" is, of course, the opening soprano aria from George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's 1935 opera PORGY AND BESS; it's a lullaby sung by the character Clara to her baby. For me, it doesn't work as a soprano piece, largely because of the high notes. I prefer it sung in lower keys, the way my mom sang it to me and as the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald sings it here.
I don't have children of my own, but I carried on the tradition; I sang these lullabies to my nephew and nieces when they were babies. I don't know if they will remember that, down in those memories we feel in our viscera rather than consciousness, but I hope they'll learn them and someday sing them for their children.
Take This Tune is a weekly meme hosted by my friend and fellow music lover Jamie. A tune is chosen and participants are asked to write about the associations or memories the tune suggests to them. If you'd like to participate, please click on the link above; full instructions on how to link your response and blog are given there.
6 years ago