Why this tune?
Last week I remembered my late father Mel, who got me started on a lifetime of playing and appreciating music. This week I’m remembering my stepmom Symme, who would have turned 94 this week (Aug. 22). “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” was (at least according to our dad) her favorite song, which I’m sure we heard many times in many versions during our younger years.
Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke wrote the song in 1939 for Tommy Dorsey band, which recorded a hit version with the young Frank Sinatra in 1940. Since then it has been recorded almost 400 times, making it a top 100 jazz standard according to jazzstandards.com.
The song is more popular as an instrumental than a vocal piece, which may have to do with the somewhat corny lyrics. I suspect my mom liked it in part because of those lyrics, “all about a pug-nosed dream.” I can see her laughing at the silliness of the words while enjoying the beautiful melody.
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Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey band
James Moody (with Kenny Barron, Todd Coolman, and Lewis Nash)
Bob Dylan (!)