Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Happy Days Are Here Again—Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival 2020

Happy Days Are Here Again sung by Annette Hanshaw and Her Boys.

Today we look back on the song that was supposed to cheer up Americans in the early days of the Great Depression and then became best remembered as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 presidential campaign song.  But happy days were not exactly on the doorstep.  The country would not really recover from the Depression until late 1939 with the ramp up of defense spending.  Then, of course, it was right into World War II which was not exactly a bed of roses either.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that our Coronavius depression and pseudo war doesn’t drag on just as long.
A surprise about Happy Days Are Here Again is that it was written, recorded, and included in a talking picture before the Black Friday 1929 stock market crash.  It was composed by Milton Ager with lyrics by Jack Yellen and first recorded by Leo Reisman and His Orchestra featuring vocalis Lou Levin.  
A lobby card from the MGM musical Chasing Rainbow which featured Happy Days Are Here Again against the background of the World War I Armistice.
It was featured in the MGM musical Chasing Rainbows as the closing number which was filmed in two-strip Technicolor and was set against the Armistice to the Great War, not to economic catastrophe.  The film reunited Bessie Love and Charles King, the stars of the huge hit Broadway Melody with a supporting cast including Jack Benny, Marie Dressler, and Polly Moran.  The movie was shot on the MGM lot in 1929 but not released until 1930.

Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland sang a memorable duet of Get Happy and Happy Days Are Here Again on the Judy Garland Show in 1963.
There have been many covers but the most well known to current listeners are versions by Barbra Streisand whose parents had endured and been scarred by the Depression.  Instead of a fast, sunny romp her version was slow, plaintive, and ironic.  She first did it as part of a Those Were the Days segment on the Gary Moore Show and the sang it in a memorable duet medley with Get Happy with Judy Garland on her CBS variety show just days before the Kennedy assassination.  She featured it on her debut The Barbra Streisand Album and it has become a signature part of her repertoire

Radio diva Annette Hanshaw.
But today we are going back to one of the first hit recordings of Happy Days by Annette Hanshaw and her Boys.  Henshaw was the biggest female radio star of the early 1930 and recorded a prolific 250 sides in her 10 year recording career making her a distaff Bing Crosby.

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