Other people’s songs: Stardust


Performances by Dylan of traditional songs, and those written by others, with explorations of their origins. 

By Aaron Galbraith in USA and Tony Attwood in UK.  An index to the other articles in this series if given at the end.

Aaron: “Stardust” was composed by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. Now considered a standard and part of the Great American Songbook, the song has been recorded over 1,500 times.

The first version with vocals was released in 1931 by Chester Leighton & His Sophomores

Tony: Not a song that I know but it strikes me as a very curious melody line.   It sounds fine when played on the trumpet (I think) but when sung it just sounds very jumpy to me.  I don’t recall Bob’s version at all… I am intrigued, and brought down several pegs through my lack of knowledge.

Aaron: In the following years, the song was recorded hundreds of times both instrumentally and vocally. The first rock star to record the song was Ringo Starr in 1970 on his Sentimental Journey album featuring an arrangement by Paul McCartney.

Tony: Now this is strange; with this version it makes a lot more musical sense to me – at least the first half of the verse does.   But I did find this picture above both distracting and rather strange, as I do the wandering melody of the song.  It took me a moment to realise there were people at the windows of the pub – I was further distracted by the boy on the bottom right, and the contradiction between the size of the pub with the terraced houses.   It is a very strange picture all round.   A very long pause on the final orchestral notes too.  This really is a piece of music I’m not getting in the way everyone else seems to.

Aaron: In 1978, Willie Nelson recorded it as the title-track of his album of pop standards. In its review, the Gannett News Service felt that “Carmichael would be proud”. National Public Radio commented: “Today, people who never heard of Isham Jones or Artie Shaw or even composer Hoagy Carmichael know his work thanks to Willie Nelson.”

Tony: I guess I am totally back to front.  I mean, I know the work of Hoagy Carmichael, for example, through songs like “Lazybones”, “The Nearness of You”, “Georgia on my Mind,” “Heart and Soul” and so on.   I guess those were the songs I was brought up with (as I’ve probably mentioned before, my father was a pianist and saxophone player in dance bands in the era), but somehow of this song I have no memory.  I guess my dad never played it, or didn’t like it.

But now I am getting used to it, I understand it a lot better.  It still doesn’t do too much for me, but I guess I must have heard it before and now listening to several versions of it a couple of times, old memories buried deep are starting to re-emerge.  Maybe my dad did play it…

Aaron: Dylan recorded it for Triplicate in 2017. Rolling Stone considered that “Dylan’s approach finds a pleasing, country-tinged arrangement” that the reviewer noted to be “somewhere between” Sinatra and Nelson’s version.

Tony: What a strange journey this has been.   Now, having heard the versions above, as we get to Bob’s version, I do indeed find I remember it … a bit.   It’s a lilting swing along but I feel maybe Bob is straining a little for the high notes.

I must admit that when Bob started to record the classics of American popular music I wondered why.  I never had any problem with understanding why he was recording old blues songs, not least because his interpretations were generally original, and of course many people wouldn’t have known the songs at all until Bob came along, but the classics of American songs from the 1930s and 1940s… I’ve never been quite sure that he has added to our understanding.

Doing some background reading I’ve noted that Hoagy Carmichael recorded an instrumental version of the song, and discovering it now, 96 years after it was written, it seems to me that it works much better as an instrumental.  But on the other hand it appears that over 1500 recordings of it with the lyrics have been made, so more than ever I’m out on my own over this one.

Ah well, but I have learned a lot, and a gap in my knowledge has been filled.  As ever Aaron I’m obliged to you for improving my education!  Mind you, it’s a good thing we didn’t start with this song, otherwise I might have abandoned the series before we started.  As it is, this is episode 70.  As I say Aaron, I’m obliged to you.  I’m still learning something every day.

Other people’s songs…

  1. Other people’s songs. How Dylan covers the work of other composers
  2. Other People’s songs: Bob and others perform “Froggie went a courtin”
  3. Other people’s songs: They killed him
  4. Other people’s songs: Frankie & Albert
  5. Other people’s songs: Tomorrow Night where the music is always everything
  6. Other people’s songs: from Stack a Lee to Stagger Lee and Hugh Laurie
  7. Other people’s songs: Love Henry
  8. Other people’s songs: Rank Stranger To Me
  9. Other people’s songs: Man of Constant Sorrow
  10. Other people’s songs: Satisfied Mind
  11. Other people’s songs: See that my grave is kept clean
  12. Other people’s songs: Precious moments and some extras
  13. Other people’s songs: You go to my head
  14. Other people’s songs: What’ll I do?
  15. Other people’s songs: Copper Kettle
  16. Other people’s songs: Belle Isle
  17. Other people’s songs: Fixing to Die
  18. Other people’s songs: When did you leave heaven?
  19. Other people’s songs: Sally Sue Brown
  20. Other people’s songs: Ninety miles an hour down a dead end street
  21. Other people’s songs: Step it up and Go
  22. Other people’s songs: Canadee-I-O
  23. Other people’s songs: Arthur McBride
  24. Other people’s songs: Little Sadie
  25. Other people’s songs: Blue Moon, and North London Forever
  26. Other people’s songs: Hard times come again no more
  27. Other people’s songs: You’re no good
  28. Other people’s songs: Lone Pilgrim (and more Crooked Still)
  29. Other people’s songs: Blood in my eyes
  30. Other people’s songs: I forgot more than you’ll ever know
  31.  Other people’s songs: Let’s stick (or maybe work) together.
  32. Other people’s songs: Highway 51
  33. Other people’s songs: Jim Jones
  34. Other people’s songs: Let’s stick (or maybe work) together.
  35. Other people’s songs: Jim Jones
  36. Other people’s songs: Highway 51 Blues
  37. Other people’s songs: Freight Train Blues
  38. Other People’s Songs: The Little Drummer Boy
  39. Other People’s Songs: Must be Santa
  40. Other People’s songs: The Christmas Song
  41. Other People’s songs: Corina Corina
  42. Other People’s Songs: Mr Bojangles
  43. Other People’s Songs: It hurts me too
  44. Other people’s songs: Take a message to Mary
  45. Other people’s songs: House of the Rising Sun
  46. Other people’s songs: “Days of 49”
  47. Other people’s songs: In my time of dying
  48. Other people’s songs: Pretty Peggy O
  49. Other people’s songs: Baby Let me Follow You Down
  50. Other people’s songs: Gospel Plow
  51. Other People’s Songs: Melancholy Mood
  52. Other people’s songs: The Boxer and Big Yellow Taxi
  53. Other people’s songs: Early morning rain
  54. Other people’s Songs: Gotta Travel On
  55. Other people’s songs: “Can’t help falling in love”
  56. Other people’s songs: Lily of the West
  57. Other people’s songs: Alberta
  58. Other people’s songs: Little Maggie
  59. Other people’s songs: Sitting on top of the world
  60. Dylan’s take on “Let it be me”
  61. Other people’s songs: From “Take me as I am” all the way to “Baker Street”
  62. Other people’s songs: A fool such as I
  63. Other people’s songs: Sarah Jane and the rhythmic changes
  64. Other people’s songs: Spanish is the loving tongue. Author drawn to tears
  65. Other people’s songs: The ballad of Ira Hayes
  66. Other people’s songs: The usual
  67. Other people’s songs: Blackjack Davey
  68. Other people’s songs: You’re gonna quit me
  69. Other people’s songs: You belong to me

One comment

  1. Not sure what is suggested here ….

    memory of song lyrics cannot just be shut down as if never heard, faded though they may be ,..

    A different story if never known by a listener

    Add to that what Dylan’s says in his book bout putting words and music together ..,
    It’s akin to an ‘alchemic’ process rather than being a purely scientfic’ one.

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