Sunday, 20 June 2021

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KEN FITT entertained members at Badgemore Golf Club with American songs and tunes from the first 20 years of the

KEN FITT entertained members at Badgemore Golf Club with American songs and tunes from the first 20 years of the 20th century.

Well before he retired as headteacher at Chiltern Edge School, Ken was playing and singing songs from what he called the Great American Songbook.

At the beginning of the century, America was hungry for music for singing, dancing or just to listen to.

Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Jerome Kern came into prominence with a series of songs which are very much alive today: The Songbook. Others followed.

Harry Warren wrote mostly for publishers and agents who worked in the area known as Tin Pan Alley, for stage shows and films with the new soundtracks. He is best remembered for Glenn Miller’s music.

Richard Rodgers, working with Hart and Hammerstein, wrote for 26 musicals, 30 films and more.

Oklahoma! came from Hart’s partnership with Hammerstein, which achieved great success just before Hart died. He is also remembered for The Lady Is A Tramp, sung by Frank Sinatra and others.

Ken played and sang some of the best-known melodies from that period.

Cole Porter was a complex but very successful composer, although mostly self-taught.

Artie Shaw made Begin The Beguine, one of the best-known tunes of the day and still enjoyed today.

Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson wrote some excellent music, including a smash hit for Eddie Cantor with Yes Sir, That’s My Baby.

Johnny Mercer emerged as a folk-poet of music, coming from humble beginnings to leave a permanent mark on Tin Pan Alley and films with his music. Frank Sinatra made One For My Baby, a firm favourite.

George Gershwin was born into an immigrant family but grew up with a mission to popularise music. I’ve Got Rhythmn remains a favourite today as does Summertime.

Yip Harburg emerged from bankruptcy in the Great Depression after running an electrical equipment business to make a success of writing lyrics. Then Frank Lessor wrote Guys And Dolls with such famous songs as Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat. This was the time when Britain’s Noel Coward wrote some of his best music.

Irving Berlin left Russia and was allowed to settle in New York, where he began selling songs for a few cents. In a few years his music made him wealthy — so much so, he wrote little in the last 30 years of his life. As with many of the composers and lyricists of the period, Berlin’s music is still played today.

Henley Men’s Probus meets on the second Tuesday of the month at Badgemore Golf Club at 10.30am. For more information, visit henleyprobus

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