Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne

FOR THE WEEK OF February 1, 1999

DEAR JERRY: At the end of the 1982 movie, “The Tempest” (John Cassavetes, Susan Sarandon and Molly Ringwald, etc.) there is a wonderful song. Unfortunately, as with many televised films, the credits roll by so fast it nearly impossible to read anything.

What I do recall is that the lyrics include “Manhattan,” and “we'll take manhattan.” It could be a '40s or '50s tune. Please tell me the correct title as well as the artist's name? Is it currently available on CD?
—J. Moore, Metropolis, Ill.

DEAR J.: You have the title right, “Manhattan,” though the signature line that sticks in one's mind is “we'll take manhattan.”

Like many other fine works of art, “Manhattan” is a masterpiece because of its simplicity. In fact, one-half of its bars are exactly the same.

“Manhattan” has but one verse and one refrain, yet while the verse is sung just once, the refrain's melody is sung four times — each with a completely different set of lyrics.

Written in 1925 by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, “Manhattan” is widely regarded as the song that put that songwriting duo on the musical map.

The version heard in “The Tempest” is by Dinah Washington, whose incomparable rendering is one of the tracks on her 1960 album, “What a Diff'rence a Day Makes.”

If you'd like to add Dinah Washington's “Manhattan,” plus 19 other Rodgers & Hart standards to your CD collection, get “GreatAmerican Songwriters, Vol. 5: Rodgers & Hart” (Rhino R2-71505).

DEAR JERRY: I heard a clip of “The Auctioneer” in a TV commercial. I recall that this tune was in fact a hit of many years ago, but I don't know who recorded it.

I have asked at different shops but they look at me like as though I were seeking an auctioneer for my next livestock auction. Help!
—Terry Stalin, Oakland City, Ind.

DEAR TERRY: For you, and for Betty Fleming (Tacoma, Wash.) who asks essentially the same question, “The Auctioneer” is a Top 10 C&W hit from 1957, by Leroy Van Dyke (Dot 15503).

Most who hear Van Dyke's authoritative and convincing auctioneering on this recording believe he must have had some professional experience — and they would be right. Before taking up the guitar and singing, Leroy did indeed rattle off those bids in rhythmic, rapid auctioneer fashion.

Van Dyke's fame and special talent landed him a part in the 1967 film, “What Am I Bid.” Other music stars with roles as themselves in this movie include: Al Hirt, Tex Ritter, Johnny Sea and Faron Young.

DEAR JERRY: In 1943 I had the pleasure of appearing on the same bill with Sophie Tucker, at the Show Box in Seattle. I recall her telling me to “roll with the punches 'cause it's a rough go out there in the entertainment field.” Now in my late seventies I am still performing, mostly at retirement and nursing homes. I believe she was in her fifties or sixties at the time, though she held her age very well. I am hoping you can tell me the year of her birth and of her death.
—Peggy Oniel, Puyallup, Wash.

DEAR PEGGY: Born Sonia Kalish in Russia in 1885, the vaudeville star known as Sophie Tucker lived to be 81. She died in February 1966. When you met Sophie in 1943 she would have been 58, thus making your estimate of her age very accurate. Congratulations! It sounds like you rolled with the punches just fine.

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IZ ZAT SO? Twice Dinah Washington hit the charts with “I Want to Be Loved” (1950 and 1962). Finding that love apparently proved difficult for Dinah. Between 1942 and 1963 the Queen of the Blues went through, depending on which source you consult, eight or nine husbands. She died in 1963 from an overdose of sleeping pills.

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