It's Still "De-Lovely"
Revisiting a Delightful Song
Last fall, when our Word of the Week was “mirth,” I devoted a Sometimes a Song post to one of the great wits of the mid-century American music scene, that genius, Cole Porter. If you hadn’t yet joined us at Word & Song when the post came out, you can click here, and listen to what I shared then: a really mirthful spin on Porter’s song, “It’s De-Lovely,” in the form of a “duet” between the great (and then young) Frank Sinatra and the perpetually middle-aged comedian, Milton Berle. I guarantee you’ll love it.
But of all the great songs I haven’t yet done, including most of Cole Porter’s 300 or more gems, why would I revisit “It’s De-lovely?” Well, why else? Because our word this week is “delight,” and the song isn’t just funny; it’s genuinely delightful. But more than that, the song is delightful in that way we’ve been discussing this week, showing that men and women are at their best when they delight in rather than scorn each other. As the French used to say (and I hope they still do), “Vive la différence!”
This leads me to a second reason I’ve chosen to give “De-Lovely” another spin this week, and that’s to hear the song not done primarily as a comedy routine, amusing as that was, but as a lively and nigh on to perfect musical performance by the astounding Ella Fitzgerald. This is not to suggest that the song is not still charmingly funny when sung “straight” (or as straight as is possible, given the lyric). It is all fun. But what I want you to notice in in Ella’s version is Cole Porter’s playful and tongue-in-cheeky, self-deprecating lead in (what was then known as “the verse”), whose metrics the composer deliberately “crucifies” and whose tune he calls the “Tin-Pantithesis of melody.” The jokes Porter embedded in his intro verse are superb, apart from those in the song proper. But “the verse” serves another purpose. It sets the listener up for a startling shift in tempo and tone, and the return to metrical order, when the jazz arrangement charges on the scene, just as the purposely “botched” intro verse peters out. The song itself is all refrain with a bridge and a repeat. It IS delightful.
So, without further ado, let’s listen to Miss Ella’s bright and artful and good-hearted rendition of a mischievously clever Cole Porter gem.
Intro Verse: I feel a sudden urge to sing The kind of ditty that invokes the spring, So, control your desire to curse While I crucify the verse. This verse I've started seems to me The "Tin Pan-tithesis" of melody, So to spare you all the pain, I'll skip the darn thing and sing the refrain. The night is young, the skies are clear And if you want to go walkin', dear It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely. I understand the reason why You're sentimental, 'cause so am I It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely. You can tell at a glance What a swell night this is for romance. You can hear, dear Mother Nature murmuring low, "Let yourself go!" So please be sweet, my chickadee, And when I kiss ya, just say to me, "It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable, it's delirious, It's dilemma, it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's de-lovely." You can tell at a glance What a swell night this is for romance. You can hear dear Mother Nature murmuring low, "Let yourself go!" So please be sweet, my chickadee, And when I kiss ya, just say to me, "It's delightful, it's delicious, it's delectable, it's delirious, It's dilemma, it's de limit, it's deluxe, it's de-lovely."
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