Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: It has been many years since I saw the film “The Deer Hunter,” but I have never forgotten its fascinating theme music.

Not much more than a simple acoustic guitar melody, yet it seemed so perfect over the opening and closing scenes.

Do you know the title of this music? Might it be something so obvious as “Theme from the Deer Hunter”? Is it available on a CD?

I've fooled around a bit with the guitar for about a year, and this piece is one I would like to learn to play.
—Charles Holloway, New Haven, Conn.

DEAR CHARLES: A little to the south of New Haven, in Tarpon Springs, Florida, lives Norma Casale, who asks pretty much the same “Deer Hunter” theme question. Now you both will know.

The beautiful music you describe is titled “Cavatina,” and it is played in the film and on the soundtrack album by John Williams (“The Deer Hunter,” Capitol C2-92058).

Another fascinating version, by Sweden's Göran Söllscher, is easily available on “Mad About Guitars (The Greatest Stars, the Greatest Music)” (Deutsche Grammophon CD).

Making something so complex sound so simple is in itself an art. As for learning to play this piece, it likely will be quite difficult for someone who just fools around a bit with the guitar.

When beginners hear what John Williams does with “Cavatina,” they often think it is impossible to do live, and that it must be the result of studio overdubbing, or other technological wizardry.

On “Cavatina,” Williams plays both the bass notes and top notes at the same time. Another way to think of this feat is to imagine one person playing both lead and rhythm guitar at the same time, on the same guitar.

Seeking a professional guitarist's opinion, I contacted Ray Hume, a Britain-based guitar instructor for over 30 years, and here are his comments:

“It certainly is possible [for one person to play “Cavatina”], as the sheet music clearly shows. However, this is a grade 7 level (or beyond) piece and definitely impossible for someone who has only been learning for a year or so.

“It is also pretty well impossible to play it as a solo and have it sounding anywhere near as good as the recording. Some studio gizmo may be involved, but never, never underestimate the genius of John Williams, who is about the most perfect classical guitarist who ever lived.

“And never underestimate just how fiendishly difficult it is for we lesser mortals to achieve this level, on one of the hardest-to-play of all musical instruments!” (Ray Hume, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, U.K.)

DEAR JERRY: This question is from three retired school teachers, who between us put in 88 years in that profession.

We all remember a song titled “I'm Going Back to School,” by Dee Clark. Of course Clark is best remembered for his smash hit, “Raindrops.”

Though we all know this tune, it is never heard anywhere and apparently is not considered a classic oldie. Is it even available on an album or collection?
—Joe Sparkman, Hartselle, Ala.

DEAR JOE: Add me to the list of friends who know “I'm Going Back to School,” a summer 1962 hit for Dee.

However, it did not sell very well at the time, and its “don't drop out” message may seem a bit dated to programmers — especially the Chipmunk-like (Alvin, Theodore, and Simon) dialogue with Charlie, Marv, and Humphrey.

You will be pleased to know “I'm Going Back to School” is found on the CD “Dee Clark - Raindrops” (Vee Jay 054106-07032-0).

Congratulations to each of you for devoting so many years to one of our most crucial professions.

IZ ZAT SO? The classical guitarist mentioned above, John Williams, is not to be confused with the gentleman of the same name who is so closely associated with film soundtracks as well as the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Among the most successful composers ever, this John Williams holds five Academy Awards, 17 Grammys, three Golden Globes, two Emmys and five BAFTA Awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

From 1980 to early '95, Williams conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra, the 19th person so honored since its founding in 1885.

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page