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Vidal Sasson’s desert island discs

Vidal Sassoon cuts the hair of sixties icon, designer Mary QuantMy comrade Jim Denham points us to the excellent musical  choices of the late Vidal Sassoon, style icon and, more importantly, street-fighting ant-fascist. Read obituaries here. You can listen to his extraordinary life story and listening choices on Desert Island Discs here.

The music follows, with my comments in italics.

Dinah WashingtonWhat a Difference a Day Makes

Composer: Adams/Grever
Label:  EMI

Billy Eckstine— Everything I have is yours

Billy Eckstine Greatest Hits, Polydor

Eckstine was one of the most stylishly dressed of jazz musicians. He was kind of a godfather to many of the more intellectual bebop generation of innovators, but he himself remained rooted in the urban black popular culture from which swing was born.

The jazz music of that period, as we will see again later, emerged from the extraordinary symbiosis of Jewish-American writers and African-American performers. This song is written by Burton Lane and Harold Adamson. Lane was born Burton Levy; Adamson, however, was one of the few songwriters in that milieu who was not Jewish.

As a bonus, and for Jim, here’s Billie Holiday singing the same song.

Anton Bruckner— Part of the first movement from the 9th symphonyAnton Bruckner

Artist: The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis

Charles Aznavour— What Makes a  Man

Composer: Aznavour/Aznavour/Craig
The Best of Charles Aznavour, Premier

Giacomo PucciniGiacomo Puccini— Un bel di – One beautiful day – from  Madame Butterfly

Artist: Kiri Te Kanawa
Arias by Puccini, ERATO

Bryan Ferry— The Way You Look Tonight Bryan Ferry

Composer: Fields and Kern
As Time Goes By, Virgin

Gustav MahlerGustav Mahler— Part of Symphony No.8

Artist: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  – with Jon Villars, The City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Youth Chorus. With the London Symphony Chorus & the Toronto Children’s Chorus all conducted by Sir Simon Rattle
Symphony No.8/Gustav Mahler, EMI

The Count Basie OrchestraApril in Paris

Composer: Vernon Duke
Count Basie and His Orchestra April in Paris, Verve

Accorrding to Wikipedia, Vernon Duke was born Vladimir Aleksandrovich Dukelsky (Russian: Владимир Александрович Дукельский) was born in 1903 into a noble family of mixed GeorgianAustrianSpanish-Russian descent, in Parafianovo, Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. The 1954 Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians referred to “one of his grandparents” (Princess Tumanishvili) as having been “directly descended from the kings of Georgia”. His birthplace, however, was a small railroad station in Minsk Governorate.

The song is actually co-written with Yip Harlberg, the socialist most well-known for “Brother Can You Spare A Dime?” For more on Harlberg and Duke, read David Lehman on the Jewish-American songbook (Duke wasn’t Jewish by the way) and Carol Oja on the Gershwin circle.

The version the BBC played is the one recorded July 26, 1955 at Fine Sound, New York City, solo by Thad Jones, arranged by Wild Bill Davis. I much prefer this bluesier version, recorded live the same year:

As another bonus, here’s Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1969 with Wild Bill playing it his way and getting the credit:


About bobfrombrockley

South London family man. Eating bacon bagels on the 171 bus, listening to Johnny Cash while reading Hannah Arendt, the kid next to me playing dubstep on his telephone. Mostly politics at http://brockley.blogspot.com and mostly music at https://bobsbeat.wordpress.com

One comment on “Vidal Sasson’s desert island discs

  1. Lovely stuff: Vidal sure had good taste (apart, perhaps, from that Bryan Ferry version of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, which Billie and others (eg Ella) did so much better.
    Oh well. Vidal was a good and brave guy and I think we can forgive him a minor lapse in taste.

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