Tuesday morning get-up-and-get-motivated song:
Canonsburg’s Perry Como is rightfully known for his laid-back, almost somnolent stage presence — memorably parodied by Eugene Levy on “SCTV” — but for my money, his relaxed style was really outstanding when he sang against an uptempo arrangement like this one.
From his 1959 album, “Como Swings,” this version of the song was arranged by Joe Lipman. The orchestra is conducted by Mitchell Ayres, Como’s longtime bandleader, who also worked with Connie Francis, Frank Sinatra and others become becoming the music director on ABC’s “Hollywood Palace” until his untimely death in 1969.
“Dear Hearts & Gentle People,” written by Sammy Fain and Bob Hilliard, has a Pittsburgh connection beyond Como’s recordings of the song. It’s based on the last words of Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster.
This scrap of paper was found in his wallet when he died in January 1864 and researchers speculated it was an idea for a song:
I don’t know that Foster ever envisioned Fain and Hilliard’s jaunty lyrics or a swinging RCA Victor Living Stereo recording.
Trivia Question: Which artist featured on the soundtrack of “Pulp Fiction” covered “Dear Hearts & Gentle People” in 1961? Answer at the end.
Switching abruptly from dear hearts and gentle people to not-so-dear or gentle people, greasy skidmark and fash-curious God-botherer Michael Knowles is scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh tonight.
Even before economist Deirdre McCloskey dropped out of appearing alongside Knowles in Pittsburgh, there was little chance that the advertised “debate” was going to be anything besides 60 minutes of snide remarks and sarcastic jabs at the expense of transgender people and their allies.
To me, the only heartening thing has been the overwhelming outpouring of opposition against Knowles and his peculiarly whiny and oleaginous bigotry.
Knowles is in town, as he is everywhere, to stoke anger and hatred in order to score some cheap clicks. Right-wingers have been saying things like, “Well, if you’re not even going to go to the debate, how do you know what he’s going to say?”
Well, I’m not going to stick my hand into a running lawn-mower, either, but because I have an I.Q. above room-temperature, I don’t need to try that to know it’s a bad idea.
Anyway, I’ve watched his YouTube videos. They’re moronic. They are, to borrow a phrase, a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like. So no, I’m not going to go to his “debate.” I’d rather stick my hand in the lawn mower than spend one minute in the same room with him.
His arrival comes just a few days after a report from Vice News that documents how fundamentalist Christians and the Republican Party — but alas, that’s redundant, I know — have ginned up propaganda and misinformation against the transgender community, culminating in something like 500 different pieces of legislation designed to harass, intimidate and ostracize anyone who isn’t straight and straight-acting:
The emails are littered with false claims about trans people, including claims that show the group believes they’re doing God’s work by targeting a vulnerable minority group. . One person used the term “perpetrators,” presumably to refer to trans people or parents who support their trans kids. Several equated transgender identity to “severe mental illness.” Notably, they were already sharing fringe media equating drag queen story hours to “grooming”—a narrative that’s playing out all over the country right now as more states consider banning drag altogether. The team of people in the emails also repeatedly reduced trans existence by referring to it as “ideology.”
So if it sounds like anti-trans dimbulbs on Fox News, Twitter and local talk-radio are all repeating the same talking points … that’s because they are. It’s not a coincidence, it’s the same bullshit, funded by the same authoritarian billionaires, who are wrecking American democracy every chance they get.
The best possible outcome for Knowles’ talk would be for the audience to sit, bored, playing on their phones and ignoring him.
The second-best outcome would be for his convertible to slide into the back of a manure truck on his way to the auditorium.
A better use of your time tonight would be listening to Perry Como records, or to the multiple recordings of “Dear Hearts & Gentle People.”
Dinah Shore scored the first hit in 1949 with a very bouncy version. It went to Number 2 on the Billboard charts.
Why isn’t Dinah Shore better remembered today? She had a great voice and she was a TV talk-show pioneer. Before Oprah, Rosie, “The View” or Drew, there was Dinah:
I love Dennis Day, an Irish tenor who came to prominence on Jack Benny’s radio and TV shows, but I don’t especially like his treatment of the song:
Bing’s brother Bob Crosby — who became the bandleader on “The Jack Benny Program” after Phil Harris left the show — had a nice Dixieland-flavored version.
You seldom go wrong with Bob Crosby & The Bobcats:
Finally, here’s a 1961 folk-music treatment by Dusty Springfield, singing with The Springfields. Springfield had a posthumous career revival in 1964 when her recording of “Son of a Preacher Man” was featured on the best-selling soundtrack of “Pulp Fiction.”
Sadly, this version of “Dear Hearts & Gentle People” doesn’t quite make it, in my opinion. See what you think:
As always, opinions expressed are not those of my employer, WRCT Radio Inc., Tube City Community Media Inc., or any other group or organization.
They’re not even the opinion of the Perry Como statue standing outside of the Canonsburg Borough Building.