Give me an Old Song Anyday
By William H. White, Jr.
My mom has always told me that I was born forty years too late. You see, I love old music. The older the better. Classical, big bands, swing, blues whatever it is I love the old stuff better. They contain such beauty and power that they cannot be replaced. The passion of these old songs ignites my soul. There is a simple purity to them that transcends time and place. There is nothing quite like hearing an old torch song and knowing the feeling behind the lyrics.
Today’s singers have no soul for the most part. They only sing for the money with very few exceptions. While I have nothing against money I feel that we have lost a connection to our feeling in today’s music. No new song has the emotion of Etta James singing At Last in her soulful voice, or Louis Armstrong belting out What a Wonderful World in his gravely tones. No pop or rock group of today can come near the meaning of those songs.
We recently lost one of the great singers of all time when Ray Charles died. He wrote and sang songs with depth and beauty. When he sang Georgia tears came to my eyes and time stopped. Born to Loose has lyrics to melt a heart of stone. The combination of his voice and playing will never be seen or heard again.
When I was a kid there was a radio station, WAMB, that only played music from the 30's and 40’s. My radio was locked on that signal. I learned songs like Am I Blue, The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and Someone to Watch Over Me. My mother would just laugh and tell me I was too old too young. When I began to drive, my first car only had an AM radio, but that was fine because I only listened to one station. My friends would get into my car and make fun of my music, but I didn’t care. I was enthralled with the songs played over the one speaker in the dash.
My tape collection consisted of the Mills Brothers, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, and other great old singers. I took a lot of kidding about that too. I learned that too many people had no appreciation for good music. Songs with words that made sense and could be understood. Soulful, sultry deliveries that were and still are unmatched by modern singers. Today all some people know of this great old music is through movies like Sleepless in Seattle that used Jimmy Durante and others as the soundtrack.
Not all the old singers had great voices, but their delivery and timing made them more than their abilities. No one will ever say that Jimmy Durante had a great voice but when he belted out a tune it was intoxicating. He could phrase a song perfectly as could Bing Crosby, Satchmo and many others. The meanings of the song were made clear and have endured the test of time.
There are only a few remaining singers who can equal the old ones. Willie Nelson can still hold the standard. When he is gone it will be hard to find another. Hopefully there will be someone to fill the void. Someone who loves good music more than the almighty dollar.