Thursday, December 29, 2005

Non-Depressing Lyrics: "Not a Care in the World"

When I'm not in a good mood -- which, considering the current state of the world and the fact that I hold myself personally responsible for everything bad that happens in Canada and the U.S., seems to happen more than I'd like -- my favorite kind of song to listen to is not the happy-happy, cheer-up-everything's-fine song. Rather it's the kind of song that acknowledges that there are bad things in life, bad things in the world, and posits that it's possible to be happy in spite of them.

One of my favorite songs of this type is a song called "Not a Care in the World," music by Vernon Duke and lyrics by John LaTouche. It's from a failed Eddie Cantor musical, Banjo Eyes, that reportedly has a terrible script (haven't read it, myself). Duke, originally Vladimir Dukelsky, was one of the most gifted and unique composers in Broadway and pop history; perhaps because he adapted to the American popular style rather than being born into it, his melodies for songs like "Autumn In New York" and "April In Paris" always seemed richer and more complex than the typical popular song. LaTouche, about whom I've written before, was one of the great lyricists and opera librettists, a cultured and sophisticated writer who could also write a great pop lyric.

The song "Not a Care in the World" was recorded by Dawn Upshaw for her Vernon Duke CD, which I highly recommend. LaTouche's lyric for the song is a nice combination of traditional pop-song images with cultural references (Catherine the Great, Nick the Greek) and references to real-life problems juxtaposed with the statement that love makes everything okay. Note also the many internal rhymes that help speed the song along.


Rent's overdue, my sister has measles,
Hole in my shoe, my belt’s drawn tight.
My income is nil, my in-laws are weasels,
My present is dark, my future’s a fright.
But as long as you are there,
What in the world do I care?

Refrain 1

Though hope is low, I’m aglow when you smile at me,
Life is simple as A-B-C,
Not a thought in my head,
Not a care in the world.
Though skies are grey, I’m as gay as a Disney cow,
Not a wrinkle upon my brow,
Not a cent in the red,
Not a care in the world.
I view the scene like that queen of old Russia,
As Kate the Great used to state long ago:
So if I move in a groove with a giddy trot,
I’m a trottin’ because I’ve got
Not a bean in my pot,
Not a care in the world.

Refrain 2

Though I can’t jive, I revive when I see your face,
Not a limp in my merry pace,
Not a crimp in my style,
Not a care in the world.
Though I’m a wreck, I can peck if you take a chance,
Not a shine on my blue serge pants,
Not a crack in my smile,
Not a care in the world.
Why should I fret when I bet on a sure thing?
Like Nick the Greek used to say every day:
So if I’m struttin’ with nuttin’ ahead in store,
There’s a reason I said before,
I’ll repeat it once more:
Not a care in the world.

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