Monday, May 28, 2012

He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings
In the 1920s and 30s it was rare for a there to be a girl singer with a band; It was quite common for songs that were written for a woman to sing would sung by a man. The Columbia Art Deco series put out a CD of these type of songs called "Can't Help Lovin' That Man". The very idea of homosexuality was so far from the listening public's mind that no one questioned this practice. In transferring a few records this weekend, I came across this Kay Kyser song. By the mid-40s there is no reason I can think of for Harry Babbitt to sing this song that could have been sung by their girl singer, Ginny Simms.

In any case, it's a pretty song that just drips with male affection; And pre-dates 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' by about fifty years. It also reminded me of the book Affectionate Men. The photo above is from David Claudon's web-site.

6 comments:

David said...

Johnny, that was so pretty.

Aaron said...

Big band ballads are so marvelous, with their vibratto-ey horns. It's like New Year's Eve every night!

And the photo of the two servicemen is adorable.

mister_tmg said...

Very interesting post. I was trying to find information online about this recording. I have the CD box set "Club Verboten", collecting gay-inspired music and it includes this track. The sleevenotes suggest that it was possibly recorded with this male-to-male sentiment because from the 20s to the 40s, music publishers forbade any changes in their lyrics. But according to a YouTube video, this version is an alternate take, mistakenly used on CD re-issues over the years. This is the 'hit' recording, sung from the third-person about a girl's love for a guy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGWHW_0LQ64

If you search for the song on YouTube, you can hear a couple of transfers of the original 78, which are the 'straight' lyric. It was a bit too good to be true that in 1942 this could have been a big hit without raising a few eyebrows, and seems to make more sense that it was unreleased - although why it was recorded with the 'gay' lyric in the first place seems curious. Perhaps before they obtained permission to change the lyric? But yeah, a lovely number (especially to hear now as a gay man) and very atmospheric.

The Art Deco CD you linked to is a new one on me. How interesting, I may have to purchase it sometime.

mister_tmg said...

So, I must ask - what did you transfer your recording from? An LP? CD? I'd be shocked if it was a commercially released 78...

Johnny C said...

It was from an LP called The Best Years of Our Lives on the Adam VIII label, which did direct marketing records.

There was an fashion with some big bands that the lyrics were sung as is so the gender wasn't changed. I believe Ella has several same sex songs, and I think somewhere I have a copy of When the Sun Comes Out sung by a man using the lyric, "when my man walked out and left me in the rain."

I've never searched out any information about the song or there wasn't any information when I wrote the blog post. I'll have to listen to the YouTubes.

mister_tmg said...

Thanks for the info. It's interesting this 'alternate' was recorded, seemingly unreleased, and then used on multiple reissues through the years.