Monday, May 11, 2020

Blue Skies—Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival 2020

Blue Skies sung by Willie Nelson.

We are celebrating Irving Berlin’s birthday over at the Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout blog.  And what better way these days than to celebrate with maybe his most cheerful song—Blue Skies. 
The song was composed in 1926 as a last-minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical Betsy. The show running for only 39 performances but Blue Skies was an instant success leaving the principal composing team’s work in the dust.  On opening night audience demanded 24 encores from star Belle Baker.  The song was also a celebration, after the death of his first born son as an infant, of the birth of Berlin’s daughter Mary Ellin.

Irving Berlin at the piano belting out one of his own songs.
In 1927, the music was published and Ben Selvin’s recorded version was a hit. That same year, it became one of the first songs to be featured in a talkie, when Al Jolson performed it in The Jazz Singer. The song was recorded for all of the major and dime store labels of the time.  In 1935 Benny Goodman recorded a big band swing version.

A lobby card for the 1945 Paramount musical Blue Skies.
In 1946 it became the title song of a Paramount Technicolor musical starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Joan Caulfield, and Billy DeWolfe with a slew of other Berlin hits including Putting on the Ritz danced spectacularly by Astaire.  Crosby did it again six years later with Danny Kaye in White Christmas.
Willie Nelson recorded it in 1972, 52 years after it was written,  had a #1 Billboard Hot Country chart hit with it.  He also included it on a Greatest Hits compilation and on his beloved 1978 Stardust album of material from the Great American Songbook. 

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