Tunes on Tuesday: Body and Soul

Why this tune?

I was happy to find that I share a birthday, November 21, with Coleman Hawkins, one of the pioneers of the tenor sax as a true jazz instrument. One of his most famous recordings is his revolutionary 1939 solo on Body and Soul, a 1930 ballad by Johnny Green. The NPR critic called this solo an “essential document of jazz,” a preview of the first be-bop records which were a couple of years away.

Dig this detail!

The lyrics by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton, are lovely, as you can hear in the Grammy-winning duet by Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse from 2011. In the 1930’s, though, those lyrics led the song to be banned from the radio for nearly a year, because they were too racy for the times. After that, though, the song was recorded in several hit versions through the 1930s and 1940s. It’s a special song that can be a hit then and in the 2010’s.

Speaking of lyrics, Coleman Hawkins’ solo inspired Eddie Jefferson to write lyrics for that melody, which he recorded in 1969. The Manhattan Transfer recorded a variation on Eddie Jefferson’s theme in 1979. Where Jefferson referred to Hawkins in his lyrics, the Transfer added references to Jefferson as well in their version.

Hear the story

Check it out!

Coleman Hawkins, 1939

Eddie Jefferson

Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse

…and a Hebrew version from Alon Olearchik: “Nefesh ve Guf” (Soul and Body)

Published by Oren Levine

Jazz pianist and composer in Washington, DC. Also a digital product and technology professional working at a small DC nonprofit

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