Posts Tagged ‘Ella Fitzgerald’

These Foolish Things
Eric Maschwitz Lyrics
Jack Strachey Music



















Ella Fitzgerald

Pia Beck

Chet Baker

Nat King Cole

Oscar Peterson

Frank Sinatra















These Foolish Things      


A cigarette that bears a lipstick’s traces,
An airline ticket to romantic places,
And still my heart has wings…
These foolish things remind me of you.








A tinkling piano in the next apartment,
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant,
A fairground’s painted swings…
These foolish things remind me of you.





You came, you saw,
You conquered me.
When you did that to me,
I knew somehow this had to be.







The winds of march that made my heart a dancer,
A telephone that rings,
And who’s to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings…
These foolish things remind me of you.






First daffodils and long excited cables,
And candle light on little corner tables,
And still my heart has wings…
These foolish things remind me of you.









The park at evening when the bell has sounded,
The ‘Ile de France’ with all the gulls around it,
The beauty that is spring’s…
These foolish things remind me of you.





How strange, how sweet
To find you still,
These things are dear to me,
They seem to bring you near to me.









The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations,
Silk stockings tossed aside, dance invitations.
Oh, how the ghost of you clings!
These foolish things remind me of you…









These foolish things remind me of you.








Eric Maschwitz Lyrics
Jack Strachey Music

















The story goes that Eric Maschwitz wrote the lyrics to this classic when he was parted from Anna May Wong, the glamorous American movie star (Maschwitz was British.) Whether the story is true or not is impossible to establish with any degree of certainty. Wong had a long career in Hollywood despite the caustic racism and blatant discrimination of the day. She never married, and is rumoured to have had affairs with Alla Nazimova and  Marlene Dietrich.

Whether or not Wong was involved with Eric Maschwitz, she was the worthy muse of his inspiration. His plaintive lyrics found their perfect match in Jack Strachy’s music, and they collaborated to put the two together in the space of a single day.

I have included six versions of the song in this post, including Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition, which, as always is remarkable for its unlaboured clarity and unforced emotion.

I love Pia Beck’s playing for many reasons, but particularly I think because I grew up listening to recordings of Erroll Garner’s music, and her style reminds me of his. Not that Pia isn’t great in her own right – she is – and the sound of applause you hear could be from the patrons of her own piano-bar in Churriana, Spain, where she and her partner Marga lived since 1965. They died within five months of each other in 2009.

The other four artists featured here, Chet Baker, Oscar Peterson, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra,


need no introduction. They each infuse this song with their own individual spirit and character, but I think Chet Baker stays the truest to the original sentiment suggested by the lyrics.

I first heard this tune in the late ’50’s, when I was about 5 years old. I lived with my grandparents in Kandy (Ceylon) and my parents would come up from Colombo for the occasional weekend visit. Both my parents played this song on the old black-varnished the piano with the brass candlesticks and ivory keys, in my grandparents’ living-room, but I preferred my father’s treatment of the tune. I would make him play it on every visit. Sometimes I would sit on his lap and place my hands lightly on his, while he played.

I have no exact recollection of how I learned the lyrics of this song, but they always created familiar images in my mind – as if the words came out of my own memory. Tinkling pianos and lipstick-stained cigarettes were familiar to me since both my parents smoked, and both played the piano.

When I listen to this song  now, it evokes a time that slipped outside time for me. The ghost of the ’50’s lives in me somewhere, and when I hear these familiar notes, it comes to stand close behind me, to share the moment.



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Ella Fitzgerald (April 25 1917 – June 15 1996)



















Its Alright With Me
















Take Love Easy
















The Very Thought of You















How Long Has This Been Going On
















I Wished on The Moon













Speak Low













Too Darn Hot















All of Me
















Every Time We say Goodbye














These Foolish Things
















My One And Only Love
















You’re the Top































Body and Soul















My Melancholy Baby
















Don’t Be that Way
















All Or Nothing At All
















Mean to Me
















Begin the Beguine















Take the ‘A’ Train
















I Want to Talk About You















Do I Love You



















My memories of Ella Fitzgerald go back into the the distant mists of my childhood and and from there they continue to pervade the rest of my life. I remember my father sitting at the old piano in my grandfather’s house playing “These Foolish Things” – his long fingers moving deftly on the old ivory keys and the cigarette in the corner of his mouth curling its wayward smoke around us, and even now I can summon the sense of cloudy magic which suffused my imagination in those moments.

There was a night when I was about four years old, when sometime in the small hours I was awakened to a rapping at the front door. I overheard a the low voices of my grandparents and the messenger from the house of my grandmother’s unmarried siblings, and soon the lights came on, and  my grandparents were dressed and leaving with him. The news, as I was to find out the next day, was that my grand-aunt Maud had died. I must have cried and asked to accompany my grandparents, but was told I could not. My young aunt Jean who must have been around 24 years old at the time, who must have felt pressed to do so, consoled me with a tumbler of ‘sugar-water’. Whether or not I am confusing two memories or not I cannot say, but as I now recall it, my aunt put a record on her turn-table with the dark madder-coloured rubber pad, and in her room, with the shadows cast by the street-light of the rose tree outside her window, she picked me up in her arms and danced with me.
I don’t remember the song – but I remember the voice – It was Ella Fitzgerald’s.

When I was in my early twenties and living in Trinco, one stiflingly hot afternoon, I remember the radio being tuned to The Voice of America. I had been waiting for lunch to be prepared so that I could pack it in a plastic bag and take it with me to the shallow bay by Fort Frederick; I used to ride there on an old Raleigh bicycle to hunt for sea-shells in the soothing water. Instead I sat at the dining table which had turned warm to the touch from the ambient heat, and postponed my escape to the bay, and listened to that magical voice.
When I came to the U.S in ’76, that very first summer I bought two records – one of Ella with Oscar Peterson, and the other with Joe Pass. I must have played them hundreds of times, because every note of every track is engraved indelibly in my mind, and amenable to immediate recall.

To describe the effect on me of Ella’s voice, without  using that trite word ‘magic,’ is impossible. It is transportive. What makes Ella’s singing so unforgettable? Could it be the perfect pitch – the impeccable timing – the ravishing tone, the  brilliant and seemingly effortless scats, the confiding and straight-to-the-heart delivery, the perfect glissandos, the silky smooth modulations, the unfaltering way in which a song is carried to its conclusion, and yes, even the sometimes charmingly messed-up lyrics? But none of these things in themselves can explain the overall effect. That will always be a mystery.

I remember that sad day in the Summer of ’96,  I heard on the radio that this remarkable being had left us. I listened, bereft, as the radio announcer played Ella’s exquisite version of “Do I love You” – and I heard my heart reply, as it always had in response to that imitable sound – “Yes” – and always “Yes.”


From the Wikipedia Article on Ella Fitzgerald, these two comments on her voice:


As Will Friedwald noted,

Unlike any other singer you could name, Fitzgerald has the most amazing asset in the very sound of her voice: it’s easily one of the most beautiful and sonically perfect sounds known to man. Even if she couldn’t do anything with it, the instrument that Fitzgerald starts with is dulcet and pure and breathtakingly beautiful. As Henry Pleasants has observed, she has a wider range than most opera singers, and many of the latter, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, are among her biggest fans. And the intonation that goes with the voice is, to put it conservatively, God-like. Fitzgerald simply exists in tune, and she hits every note that there is without the slightest trace of effort. Other singers tend to sound like they’re trying to reach up to a note – Fitzgerald always sounds like she’s already there. If anything, she’s descending from her heavenly perch and swooping down to whatever pitch she wants.

Henry Pleasants, an American classical-music critic, wrote this about her:

She has a lovely voice, one of the warmest and most radiant in its natural range that I have heard in a lifetime of listening to singers in every category. She has an impeccable and ultimately sophisticated rhythmic sense, and flawless intonation. Her harmonic sensibility is extraordinary. She is endlessly inventive… it is not so much what she does, or even the way she does it, it’s what she does not do. What she does not do, putting it simply as possible, is anything wrong. There is simply nothing in performance to which one would take exception… Everything seems to be just right. One would not want it any other way. Nor can one, for a moment imagine it any other way. Fitzgerald had an extraordinary vocal range. A mezzo soprano(who sang much lower than most classical contraltos), she had a range of “2 octaves and a sixth from a low D or D flat to a high B flat and possibly higher”

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