Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

postscript to the series on songs about themselves:

What about Orpheus, that quasi-divine patron of singing whose head kept singing after having been removed from his neck? What about Monteverdi and Gluck’s Orpheus operas? Or the bossa nova movie Orfeu Negro? Or the Cocteau film?

What about Sappho’s numerous poems (which are believed to have originally been songs) about music, even about her lyre? (See: lyric.) What about the people of Renaissance England singing “sing lullay”? The whole tradition where poets refer to their poems as songs? “Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song,” wrote Edmund Spenser more than 400 years ago. Did he intend the Thames to stop flowing when his song ended?

William Blake purportedly sang his poems, some of which mention singing; Rabindranath Tagore certainly wrote music to his poems, many of which mention singing. (Tagore was of the “any song is at best a partial reflection of the Song” school.)

Couldn’t this go on forever?

Well, Perry Como and Julie Andrews once sang a medley of songs about singing and songs about songs for nine minutes thirty-seven seconds on Sesame Street. Andrews was radiant. Como was suddenly surprisingly moving in his cover of “Killing Me Softly.” I stumbled across the video on the internet, looking for songs about themselves.

Orpheus, Odilon Redon, 1903



Your 4-part series on SAT's is a delight. Smart and soulful. Thanks.

I also love that image of the parted lips in "San Antonio Rose" that you draw attention to. It's a magical song. One of my favorite melodies, and a rare song whose words seem to carry its melody in them: it seems to sing itself.

Another type of the species is Dylan's "Song to Woody." It always tickles me to realize that when Dylan wrote the opening line, "Hey Hey Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song," he hadn't in fact written the song. What a cocky start!

Thanks so much for your kind words.

And thanks for pointing out Dylan's debut as a recorded songwriter -- you're right. "Hey Hey Woody Guthrie I will have written you this song" doesn't really flow.

I just watched the first half of "Gold Diggers of 1935," songs by Harry Warren (m) and Al Dubin (w), and the first two songs are S-A-T's. They're everywhere!
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