My musical time travels

I have never made a secret of my love for old ballads, and torch songs. Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, with my Dad working in the music industry from 1959 to 1974, I was always aware of the songs that had come before, as well as the explosion in pop music that had arrived. Watching old musical films, listening to recordings of Broadway shows, I was immersed in the history of the love song, from a very young age.

When I was old enough to be able to afford to buy my own records, my first instinct was to go back in time, and to collect the records of the stars of the 1920s, up to the war years. I never tired of watching the films of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, or Astaire and Rogers, revelling in the memories of those classic soundtracks, and wonderful old songs. Research showed me that many of the songs were much older than I had imagined, and had been covered countless times. I soon discovered Helen Morgan, Ruth Etting, Al Bowlly, Helen Kane, and Ruby Keeler. Alongside my contemporary passion for Soul music, and Tamla Motown, I was regularly travelling back in time, enjoying the sounds of yesteryear too.

Here’s Helen Morgan, from the 1929 musical production, ‘Great Day’.

In 1968, Barbra Streisand had a huge hit with the film ‘Funny Girl’. She was playing the real-life Broadway star, Fanny Brice. Everyone loved the songs in the film, and relished Barbra’s performance too. The big torch song from the film was ‘My Man’. That had audiences shedding a tear at the end of the film. But I already had a 1921 recording of that song, by Fanny Brice herself.

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney were child stars, and made many films together. The films featured some classic songs, often beautifully rendered by the young Judy. ‘Babes In Arms’ was one of those films, released in 1939. It featured the emotional love song ‘Where Or When’, written for the 1937 stage version by Rogers and Hart. By the time I was 17 years old, I owned the cast recording on vinyl, sourced by my Dad from who knows where. This is the version from the film.

In 1955, Doris Day starred alongside James Cagney, in the film ‘Love Me or Leave Me’. This was a biopic about the life of Ruth Etting, who had been a huge star decades earlier. When I was a teenager, almost everyone had heard of Doris Day, but few could remember Ruth Etting. I did though, and owned two of her albums, including one with this song on it, from 1927.

Most of us of a certain age will recall the cartoon character, Betty Boop. With her dog Pudgy, this saucy jazz-age flapper got up to all sorts of adventures in the short films that featured her. She was inspired by the hugely popular singer, Helen Kane, and this song, from 1928. Before I was aware of the cartoon, I owned Helen’s records.

And here’s Betty, with her version.

Whenever I am in a certain mood, I love to travel back in time with great songs like these. I hope that you enjoyed coming back with me.

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30 thoughts on “My musical time travels

      1. me too-I try to remember the many beautiful details of how things were. I am quite thankful for break thrus and all that has been accomplished but why did we have to lose our heart ? our manners, self discipline, our values? let me stop now-I like to spend a while in the past too.

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  1. The little piece of your history is always so charming to hear about. The songs though unfamilar to moi, raise a pitter patter of smiles that resonate in my heart.

    I’ve always admired Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz which I used to repeatedly watch as a child. The song ‘Where and When’ is my most favourable amongst the song choices here.

    I vividly recall seeing Betty Boop in a bizzare animated movie made in 1989 and then her appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. There was certainly some hot competition with Mrs Jessica Rabbit.

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    1. Thanks, Sonea. The ‘regenerated’ Betty Boop lacked some of the charm and sauciness of the grainy originals, I found. Those other old songs have stayed in my mind for so long, and have always enchanted me. I would love to have been from that generation. (1920s) Such elegance, mixed with a devil-may-care attitude.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. I really like Ruth Etting’s voice, and “Love Me or Leave Me” is a beautiful song. The only song I knew was “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” but as sung by Marilyn Monroe in “Some Like It Hot.” Here in Las Vegas, Betty Boop merchandise sells quite well, by the way.

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  3. Thanks Pete for the musical time travel! I too love this type of music though I admit I havn’t heard of many of the names you brought up from earlier generations. Funny Girl was one of my favorites growing up, and I loved Barbra’s rendition of My Man. Nice to see the real Fanny Brice sing it, though quite a different style. And fun to see Judy and Mickey together again too! Judy’s voice was amazing and so tender at that age.

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    1. I love those old stars of the 20s and 30s. They had such heartbreaking voices. One of the things that is great about You Tube, is that after selling most of those albums years ago (during financial constraints) I am able to enjoy all my favourites anytime.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful time travels, thank you, as ever. I love the same sort of music, too, some of it nearly a century old, not because of nostalgia, but because it sings true to the jaded heart.

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