Sunday, May 24, 2020

My Buddy—Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival 2020

My Buddy sung by Henry Burr.

Memorial Day is inevitably taking on new significance as Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. top 100,000 with no end in sight and the people are being purposefully turned against each other nearly to the point of civil war by a crazed and vicious President and the oligarchs who support and encourage him.  It is beyond tragic.  Today and tomorrow we will share songs of love and separation identified with two of our nation’s wars.  The losses we are enduring today are no less heartbreaking.
My Buddy is popularly assumed to be a song about World War I Doughboys, but it was not written and recorded until 1922, four years after the war ended and makes no reference to it.  It was composed by Walter Donaldson, with lyrics by the successful and prolific Gus Kahn.  In a simpler and more naïve time it was taken as a sentimental paean to male friendship but the lyrics have homoerotic overtones that undoubtedly sailed right over the heads of most listeners.   And there were a lot of them. 

Tenor Henry Burr had been a major recording artist sisnce 1913 when he recorded My Buddy in 1922.
The Victor recording by popular tenor Henry Burr was the biggest seller of 1922 and various editions of sheet music for parlor piano sing-alongs were just as successful.  Within two years Ernest Hare, Ben Bernie, and Al Jolson also had hit records.
Whatever the intent of the songwriters, the song was adopted by many veterans and was often played at gatherings of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).  The identification with the Great War was cemented when it was used on the recorded soundtrack for the otherwise silent 1927 film Wings staring Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen, Clara Bow and Gary Cooper.  The movie about Army Air Corps pilots was the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture.
My Buddy was on the soundtrack to the otherwise silent Wings, the mega hit of 1927.
Interest in the song was revived during World War II with recordings by Harry James and His Orchestra with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Kaye, Guy Lombardo, and Glenn Miller.  In his self-financed pre-USO tours to American bases in the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean, and Britain and Northern Ireland, Al Jolson always included My Buddy in the performances.

My Buddy was not a huge hit for Al Jolson, he did make the cover of one of several issues of the sheet music and included the song in his World War II troop entertainment performances.
Many artists have covered the song.  A short selection of them includes Gene Autry and Bing Crosby, both of whom seemed to record everything, and Count Basie, Mario Lanza, Dinah Shore, Mel Tormé, Kate Smith, Doris Day, Lionel Hampton, The Mills Brothers, Connie Francis, Barbra Streisand, and Glenn Frey.
Too many of us are missing our Buddies today.

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