Tag Archives: singing

The Lollipop that got away

Yesterday saw the passing of one of the most pioneering of child performers, Shirley Temple.

As Internet and television news outlets review her more than 80 years of accomplishments in entertainment and political life, everyone is playing and replaying the most famous clip – the cherubic actress belting out “On the Good Ship Lollipop.”

Cripes, another childhood memory:

Saint Dominic’s Catholic School, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 1968. For the school’s annual musical performance, second graders were divided into two groups. One performed “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” made famous by Shirley Temple. The other performed “Dearie.” If you remember it, then you’re much older than I. For the benefit of those who don’t, it was made famous by Ethel Merman.

Can you guess to which group I was assigned? This eight-year-old had to sing a song made famous by Ethel-freakin’-Merman.

Sorry for the outburst. The months I spent at Saint Dominic’s packed a chest of gloomy memories in the old emotional attic; that movie clip cracked the lid for a second.

The kids assigned to the Lollipop group got to wear cute, short sailor dresses and sing about bon-bons while dancing a perky little shuffle. I still remember a few of the steps. I made a point to learn them in the hopes that Sister Somebodyorother might spot my raw perkiness and switch me into the good group.

The other group did their number seated in rocking chairs, donning gray wigs and dressed in ankle-length frocks, because “Dearie” is about getting old. Not to mention the references to things no second grader would relate to. One group, lemonade stands; the other, running boards.

My father still teases me about how grumpy I was when we rehearsed, my lips pursed and eyes rolling. “Do you remember?” Yes, I remember.

On the Good Ship Lollipop

On the good ship lollipop
It’s a sweet trip to a candy shop
Where bon-bons play
On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay

Lemonade stands everywhere
Crackerjack bands fill the air
And there you are
Happy landing on a chocolate bar

See the sugar bowl do the tootsie roll
With the big bad devil’s food cake
If you eat too much ooh ooh
You’ll awake with a tummy ache

On the good ship lollipop
It’s a night trip into bed you hop
And dream away
On the good ship lollipop

By Richard A. Whiting and Sidney Clare


Dearie, do you remember when we
Waltzed to the Sousa band
My wasn’t the music grand

Chowder parties down by the seashore
Every Fourth of July.

My Dearie, Do you recall
when Henry Ford couldn’t even fix
the running board under a Chandler six

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Dearie, do you remember when we
Stayed up all night to get
Pittsburgh on a crystal set

Keystone movies, Coogan and Chaplin
Made you laugh and then cry

My Dearie, do you recall
When Orville Wright flew at Kitty Hawk
Take it from me, I would rather walk

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Dearie, do you remember how they
Loved Harry Lauder’s act?
My wasn’t the Palace packed

Jenny Lind presented by Barnum
Sang her sweet lullaby

Test your memory my Dearie,
Chicago all in flames sure caused a terrific row
They blamed it on Mrs. O’Leary’s cow

Dearie, life was cheery
In the good old days gone by.

Do you remember?
Yes, I remember.

Well if you remember, Dearie
You’re much older than I.

By David Mann and Bob Hilliard


Filed under Family and Friends, Movies, Television and Radio, Music

Behind the music

Mondays seem to be shaping up as human interest blog days, so feel free to skip this if you came today for wordishness.

I’ve been making my way through the “Tell us more about . . .” requests that arose from the seven things I shared about myself upon receiving the Versatile Blogger award.

After telling my party-crasher story a few weeks ago, I had planned to tackle how I could be the child of two musicians without having any musical talent. I just couldn’t come up with a natural angle. Or an answer.

Nonetheless, if you happened to read about how I figuratively shot myself in the foot to get out of a piano lesson, you’ve had a glimpse into the obstacles I’ve encountered on the path to musicianhood.

I’ve told you before, when I was growing up, family parties involved everyone singing around the piano and children performing plays and magic acts for the adults. In retrospect, I suspect their sending us upstairs to rehearse might have been intended to let the adults complete their sentences uninterrupted.

Everyone was encouraged to sing a song. There was no “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” The kids sang Broadway tunes or popular songs of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.

I got out of it every time. Besides being painfully shy, I suspected from a young age that I was a terrible singer. One of the first songs I ever learned to sing was “Moon River,” but it has never been performed in front of a live audience.

I idolized the von Trapp Family, the King Family and the Partridge Family. As a member of the Russell family, I secretly wanted to be the girl standing beside the piano, doing a number the way my cousins did, and the way their children continue to do, carrying on the tradition.

In 1971, at age 12, I decided to verify my suspicion objectively. I locked myself in my room with a cassette recorder. I flipped on the radio and sang along to “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who. I thought I sounded pretty good—until I played it back. For 40 years I’ve prayed that tape no longer exists. I’ll plead here for any family member who might have it in his or her trunk of memorabilia, to please destroy this humiliating relic.

Yesterday, we had a most wonderful afternoon with my cousin Lesley (remember Lesley?) and her family at my Godparents’ house on Maryland’s eastern shore. We ate steamed crabs and silver queen corn, became reacquainted and laughed over stories told and retold. Then we gathered around the piano.

We heard some old family favorites and the evening ended beautifully with two of Lesley’s daughters sharing their superb singing talents. The 18-year-old stunned us with two perfectly performed songs, from our generation, not hers. Then the 10-year-old sang, a cappella, in perfect pitch, “American Pie,” moving some of us to tears. “American Pie” came out in 1971, the same year as “Behind Blue Eyes.”

As I reflected on the day on our drive inland, I was struck by how the young people are keeping alive the music of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, and I was stirred by how generously they had shared their talent with us.

I was so comfortable in my role as an audience member.



Filed under Family and Friends, Movies, Television and Radio, Music

High on music

When I started this blog, I set out to share periodically words of the good writers, including song writers.

Yesterday I heard an old favorite on the radio and, as I was alone in a well sealed car, I sang loudly along.

John Denver wasn’t among my favorite artists growing up–I don’t think he was much of a singer–but I have always admired him as a song writer. There are a few of his songs I’m not particularly fond of, but there are many more that are outstanding and have endured over the decades.

I do miss the guy. I wonder, if he hadn’t died so young, what inspiring works he might have created as he matured.

My favorite John Denver song is “Rocky Mountain High.” I can’t say why exactly, as I’m not as moved by the outdoors as many people are. I’ve seen the Rockies and they’re lovely. But it’s just not my scene. Either way, musically and poetically, it’s a beautiful song.

“Rocky Mountain High” came out about the time my good friend Cathy moved to Boulder. Cathy would be the first of us to see the Rockies, while the rest of us knew about them only from the song.

Each time I hear it, I hear something new in the lyrics. There was some controversy when the song first came out and the FCC tried to have it banned from the air for its possible drug reference. It has been written that Denver explained publicly—including in congressional hearings—that the “high” was simply the sense of peace he found in this mountain setting.

No matter, Denver can paint a picture with simple words and phrases that are easy to sing along to. I am a terrible singer, but don’t hold back in the car. Yesterday I was thrilled, after months of effort to heal my lungs, to be able to hold those long notes as long as John Denver did, even though I know I sounded awful. That’s the beauty of a Bose nine-speaker sound system that can drown out its owner.

Here, you try it. This isn’t the best version vocally, but the only other clip I found omitted my two favorite verses.

Rocky Mountain High
Words by John Denver; Music by John Denver and Mike Taylor

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin’ home to a place he’d never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hangin’ by a song
But the string’s already broken and he doesn’t really care
It keeps changin’ fast and it don’t last for long

But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullaby
Rocky mountain high

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below
He saw everything as far as you can see
And they say that he got crazy once and he tried to touch the sun
And he lost a friend but kept his memory

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake

And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
Rocky mountain high

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

And the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
I know he’d be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly
Rocky mountain high

It’s Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high
Rocky mountain high

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Music