Monday, July 10, 2017

Stardusty Music Monday ~ Mitchell Parish

Mitchell Parish (July 10, 1900 – March 31, 1993) was an American lyricist.

Parish was born Michael Hyman Pashelinsky to a Jewish family in Lithuania. His family emigrated to the United States, arriving on February 3, 1901 on the SS Dresden when he was less than a year old. They settled first in Louisiana where his paternal grandmother had relatives, but later moved to New York City. By the late 1920s Parish was a well-regarded Tin Pan Alley lyricist in New York City.

The melody of that lovely song, Star Dust, composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1927, was enhanced by Mitchell Parish's lyrics in 1929. Remember them?
Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely night
Dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you......

From a 1993 obituary in the New York Times:
Mr. Parish also contributed lyrics to many other well-known songs, including "Sweet Lorraine," "Sophisticated Lady," "Stars Fell on Alabama," "Deep Purple," "Stairway to the Stars," Moonlight Serenade" "Sleigh Ride," "Ruby" and "Volare"...........

The history of "Star Dust" illustrated Mr. Parish's conviction, expressed in a 1987 interview in The New York Times, that songs that are overnight sensations tend to be quickly forgotten, while those that become standards often take longer to be recognized.

The song was conceived by Carmichael in 1927 as a jazz instrumental, influenced by Bix Beiderbecke. Mr. Parish wrote the lyrics in 1929, and the song became a hit the following year in a recording by Isham Jones, the tenor saxophonist, band leader and songwriter who led one of the most popular orchestras of the pre-swing era. In 1931 Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong also had minor hits with the song.

Not yet a standard, "Star Dust" languished until the dawn of the swing era, when Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey both had hit versions released back to back on the same Victor 78-r.p.m. single. In late 1940, Artie Shaw recorded his classic version of "Star Dust" featuring Billy Butterfield's famous trumpet solo. Its popularity coincided with Tommy Dorsey's second version featuring Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers.

The song went on to have three other commercially significant lives, each in a different style. In 1957, it was a million-selling rhythm-and-blues hit for Billy Ward and the Dominoes. The same year, given a lush orchestral arrangement by Gordon Jenkins, it became the centerpiece of one of Nat (King) Cole's most successful albums, "Love Is the Thing." Of all the recorded versions of the song, Mr. Parish later recalled, Cole's was his personal favorite.

In 1978, Willie Nelson revived "Star Dust" as a spare country-swing ballad, making it the title of an album that sold three million copies.

There are countless versions of Stardust available, from just about every decade. Jo Stafford - what a great vocalist she was - is sometimes overlooked, so...


anyjazz said...

I'll take Paul Desmond's version. I'm probably alone in that. I wondered about it for years. It does not state the actual melody, it goes straight to interpretation. Hard to understand by even die-hard jazz fans. But after reading Doug Ramsey's biography of Desmond, telling of Desmond's history with Stardust, I understand. And appreciate it more.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ I do understand your choice, but that version doesn't have lyrics - which were really the subject of this post.