Fall for Two Great Songs About Autumn
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“Fall” For Two Great Songs About Autumn This Season!

If you grew up back East like I did, (or even if you didn’t), there is something magical about the coming of autumn. The air feels different, the light changes, there’s a cool tinge to the air, and the days quickly grow much shorter. Summer things get put away, and school days begin. The leaves start turning gorgeous colors, and it’s a time for anticipating the special holidays that tumble by all too quickly in the coming months. We’re inspired to feather our nests with comfy pillows and warm throws, buy pumpkins to put by the door, and get out our woolly sweaters for chilly mornings and evenings,  It’s time to “Fall” for Two Great Songs About Autumn!

Autumn is such a fleeting and unique part of the year! So let’s discover (or re-discover) some great songs that will put you in the mood for the season. I’ve picked out two classics to share with you, performed by legends whose vocals are timeless, and move us all to this day…

Autumn Leaves

“Autumn Leaves” was originally a popular French song, written after WW II and originally recorded in 1945. “Les Feuilles Mortes” literally means “the dead leaves” and like many songs and poems about autumn, was really a metaphor for the seasons of life and love. The song was composed by Joseph Kosma with lyrics by French poet Jacques Prévert. Its debut was in the movie “Les Portes de la Nuit” (1946) starring Yves Montand.

The English version of “Les Feuilles Mortes” was written by American song writer Johnny Mercer in 1947 with title “Autumn Leaves“. The song was introduced in America by popular big band singer Jo Stafford. On Christmas’ Eve 1950, Édith Piaf sang the French and English versions of the song on the radio program The Big Show, hosted by Tallulah Bankhead, which was heard across America. The song really took off in 1956 when Nat King Cole sang “Autumn Leaves” in the title sequence of a film of the same name staring Joan Crawford. The English lyrics and Cole’s delivery were somewhat lighter in nature than the original French version:

The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sunburnt hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Enjoy the beautiful fall leaves in the video as you listen:

https://youtu.be/MueIzCR7tTg
“Autumn Leaves” is one of the most recorded songs of all time, by artists in every genre of music. In a recent interview in AARP magazine, singer Bob Dylan said “a singer has to have lived a little to get to the song’s meaning. You sing that and you have to know something about love and loss and feel it just as much, or there’s no point in doing it. It’s too deep a song. A schoolboy could never do it convincingly.”

For more information on Nat King Cole, visit:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nat_King_Cole

Autumn in New York

“Autumn in New York” is a jazz standard composed by Vernon Duke in Westport, Connecticut in the summer of 1934. It first appeared in the short-lived Broadway musical Thumbs Up! but only achieved success as a single much later, with a version by Frank Sinatra in 1949. Recorded by many artists over many decades, one of my favorites is an exquisite version by the incredible Mel Tormé, and also a great recording by Ella Fitzgerald (check them both out on You Tube).  Take a look at the gorgeous photo of Central Park in autumn above, and then enjoy more scenes of Autumn in New York as you enjoy the Frank Sinatra recording that brought this great song to fame…

Close your eyes and listen:

The lyrics (including the introduction, which you’ll hear on other versions):

(Verse)
It’s time to end my holiday
And bid the country a hasty farewell
So on this gray and melancholy day
I’ll move to a Manhattan hotel

I’ll dispose of my rose-colored chattels
And prepare for my share of adventures and battles
Here on the twenty-seventh floor
Looking down on the city I hate and adore

(Chorus)
Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so inviting?
Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of first-nighting
Glittering crowds
And shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel;
They’re making me feel:
I’m home

It’s autumn in New York
That brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York
Is often mingled with pain
Dreamers with empty hands
May sigh for exotic lands;
It’s autumn in New York;
It’s good to live it again
(Chorus 2)
Autumn in New York
The gleaming rooftops at sundown
Autumn in New York
It lifts you up when you’re run down
Jaded roués
And gay divorcées
Who lunch at the Ritz
Will tell you that it’s
Divine

It’s autumn in New York
Transforms the slums into Mayfair
Autumn in New York
You’ll need no castle in Spain
Lovers that bless the dark
On benches in Central Park
Greet autumn in New York;
It’s good to live it again

For more information on Frank Sinatra, visit:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Sinatra

Vernon Duke was actually a Russian immigrant who had studied classical composition in the old country. His friend George Gershwin, a son of Russian immigrants himself, convinced Duke to adopt the new American name to pursue writing popular music, although Duke kept his Russian name for his classical compositions. Duke said that “Autumn in New York” was “ a genuine emotional outburst” of his longing for the city during his stay in Connecticut. With elements of both popular and classical composition, the song was more complex than the usual radio hits. When Duke played the song for friends in Westport, he reported that he noticed them “retreating to the bar in the middle of the verse.” We’re glad he didn’t give up on the song after that!

As I always tell my college Voice classes, there is a huge treasure trove of American music just waiting to be rediscovered by younger (and not so young!) generations. Exploring these gems of the Great American Songbook will give you many happy hours of listening, and inspire you to get the sheet music and start singing these songs yourself!
As it says in the title of this post, you’ll “Fall” for these two great songs of Autumn this season, and hopefully be led to discover many more in seasons to come.

Happy Autumn, everyone!

For more information about the Great American Songbook, visit my earlier post:

https://nadiasmelser.com/fall-in-love-with-the-great-american-songbook/

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