Tunes on Tuesday: Skylark

Why this tune?

We’re marking the birthday (Nov. 22) of the great American composer Hoagy Carmichael with one of his most famous songs. His melody for “Skylark” was based on a solo by his friend Bix Beiderbecke, an early jazz cornet player who encouraged Hoagy in his musical career. The harmony takes some unexpected harmonic turns, especially in the bridge. Johnny Mercer added an eloquent lyric to complement this musical journey, a call to the skylark to lead the singer to the love they yearn for.

Since its release in 1942 the song has remained popular as a jazz standard and pop classic, with over 700 recordings by artists from many genres, including Bette Midler, k.d. lang, Boz Scaggs, and Aretha Franklin. Carmichael’s own recording of the song is worth a listen. His interpretation is more upbeat than the slow ballad you hear in many other vocal (and instrumental) recordings.

I pulled out the melodica for my version, which I thought would help create a more “vocal” reading of Carmichael’s melody, with Mercer’s lyrics in mind.

Hear my version

Tunes On Tuesday Reel

Check out these recordings

The composer sings his own song

The great Dianne Reeves

A swinging take from Paul Desmond

Published by Oren Levine

Jazz pianist and composer from Washington, DC. Also a digital product and technology consultant currently working with nonprofit cllients

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