Completely happy St. Patrick’s Day! All over the world wherever there are individuals of Irish heritage, Catholics who honor St. Pat, or simply people (and a few pets) who get into the enjoyment of all of it, there are parades and celebrations galore. Right here in New York, everyone, together with me, is a bit of bit Irish right now.

I’m not truly Irish, after all. However as a child I grew up with a love of leprechauns as a result of certainly one of my mother and father’ favourite Broadway reveals was “Finian’s Rainbow.” A number of of their pals have been within the musical, we had the solid album, and I knew the phrases to each tune. I even considered it as my birthday play, as a result of the unique manufacturing premiered on Broadway in 1947, the 12 months I used to be born.

For these unfamiliar, “Finian’s Rainbow” is a story a couple of leprechaun’s pot o’ gold being stolen from Eire, solely to finish up within the made-up city of Rainbow Valley, Missitucky, the place the townspeople, white and Black alike, are poor and exploited, whereas the white politicians are overtly crooked and racist. The leprechaun follows his gold from Eire and all types of magic and mayhem ensue.

”Black Music Sunday” is a weekly collection highlighting all issues Black music, with over 200 tales overlaying performers, genres, historical past, and extra, every that includes its personal vibrant soundtrack. I hope you’ll discover some acquainted tunes and maybe an introduction to one thing new.

Written throughout the 2009 revival of the musical, Gwen Orel’s evaluation in The Irish Examiner concisely explains what makes “Finian’s Rainbow” so particular.

It is an uncommon Broadway plot, mixing music, magic, mythology and – political commentary.   Finian McLonergan (Jim Norton) and his daughter Sharon (performed by the luminous Kate Baldwin) depart Eire and settle within the legendary state of Missitucky to cover their stolen leprechaun gold.  Sharon quickly falls for a good-looking sharecropper, Woody (performed by interesting crooner Cheyenne Jackson).  To date, it is a cute Boy-Lady romance, and Celtic imagery was considerably stylish –  Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Brigadoon additionally debuted in 1947, just some months later, amusing Broadway audiences with fictional Scotland).

However in Missitucky the Lonergans encounter not solely American capitalism, which runs (then and now) on debt, but additionally racial division and a bigoted Southern senator. Og the leprechaun follows them to retrieve his gold – the lack of it threatens to show him mortal – and his magic gold inadvertently grants hot-tempered Sharon her hasty want:  that the bigoted senator flip black.  When he does, he turns into a greater man.  Mixing Irish mythology with social criticism of the US was one thing solely new.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ground-breaking criticism of racism in South Pacific got here a 12 months after Finian’s Rainbow debuted.  And though South Pacific’s track “You Need to Be Fastidiously Taught” questions racism hauntingly, the present didn’t have a look at the racial divides that also existed inside American borders.  Broadway Producer David Richenthal believes that it is Finian’s edginess in commenting on American racism at dwelling that “has scared producers off.  In 1946, who was standing up towards the scourge of racism?  Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy have been, courageously.”

Although this plot twist, the concept racism may be solved by turning somebody Black for a day (in addition to a efficiency requiring blackface) might compel detrimental reactions right now, it’s vital to grasp that in 1947, these concepts have been much more radical than the above-mentioned “South Pacific.” The play’s politics and subject material contributed to the blacklisting of “Rainbow” lyricist and co-librettist Yip Harburg, who I wrote about in 2014’s “Blacklisting the Rainbow.” A few of the critiques and background are mentioned in Patrick Healy’s New York Occasions evaluation of the 2009 revival, “One other Journey to Deepest Missitucky.”

Apparently, however not a shock, the staging of “Finian’s Rainbow” within the time of racist Donald Trump’s rise was duly famous in 2017 by Sarah Lawrence Faculty professor Nicolaus Mills, writing for The Observer.

In Trump Period, 70-12 months-Outdated Finian’s Rainbow Issues Extra Than Ever

Billboard Rawkins turns into the villain in Finian’s Rainbow when he tries to evict the black and white tenant farmers whom Finian and his daughter live with from the land the farmers occupy after two geologists conclude the land is wealthy with gold. The geologists don’t understand that they’ve carried out their survey close to to the place Finian has buried the leprechaun’s gold.

Rawkins’s technique is to amass the land with out paying for it by counting on a covenant that claims blacks can’t stay there. When Sharon Finian, outraged by the senator’s racism, says she needs he have been black and will see life from the attitude of the blacks he treats so badly—presto—she will get her want. With out realizing it, she has been standing above the leprechaun’s pot of gold that her father buried within the floor. The pot instantly grants Sharon her want, and Rawkins turns black.

The senator’s transformation shocks him. He quickly finds out how powerful life is for somebody compelled to stay with the Jim Crow legal guidelines he has at all times supported. Rawkins is modified again to white solely when Sharon is about to be hanged as a witch for reworking him. The leprechaun, who has now regained management of his pot, opts to save lots of her by utilizing his closing want to return Rawkins to his unique shade. However the change doesn’t depart Rawkins as he was. Residing as a black man for simply a short while converts him right into a racial progressive.

We are able to all consider a complete lengthy checklist of MAGA-publicans who deserve the identical destiny. The place’s a leprechaun while you want one?

However now, let’s dive into the music. I did an off-the-cuff and unscientific survey of my pals of all ages, and most had by no means heard of “Finian’s Rainbow.” Nevertheless, once I hummed a number of of the tunes from the present (songlist right here) they acknowledged most of them. Songs from “Finian” have really entered the Nice American Songbook. 

First up: “How Are Issues in Glocca Morra,” sung by Maxine Sullivan.

For these of you who’re unfamiliar with Sullivan, right here’s a short, illustrated introduction.

Maxine Sullivan is taken into account among the best jazz vocalists of the 1930’s. She was a precursor to better-known later vocalists similar to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Peggy Lee. Sullivan was posthumously inducted into the Huge Band and Jazz Corridor of Fame in 1998.

— BlackAmericanMerch 🇺🇸 (@blkamericamerch) February 20, 2023

Hannah Grantham wrote her bio for the Smithsonian NMAAHC.

A Life Properly-Sung: Maxine Sullivan (1911-1987)

Singer Maxine Sullivan (1911-1987) used her voice to signify the Bronx group she and different jazz artists referred to as dwelling. 

In 1937, a swinging model of the normal Scottish people track “Loch Lomond” captured widespread consideration and catapulted younger jazz singer Maxine Sullivan to stardom. The track, her solely large hit, adopted her over the course of a 40-year profession, however behind the candy voice was a girl juggling a number of roles and a ardour for giving again to the Bronx group she cherished. A portion of her life’s work housed within the Museum’s assortment tells the story of Maxine Sullivan as a jazz musician, a mom, a spouse, an entertainer, and an lively group organizer.

Maxine Sullivan, born Marietta Williams in Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1911, started singing and enjoying music at a younger age. Though none of her relations have been educated musicians, a lot of her kin performed musical devices and contributed to the sounds of what she fondly referred to as the household’s “entrance porch orchestra”— an off-the-cuff sort of musical training frequent throughout the US within the early twentieth century. Throughout this era, Marietta honed her singing expertise, realized to play trumpet and valve trombone, and sang round Homestead and close by Pittsburgh sitting in with numerous bands making the most of her standing as the one singer on the town.


To maintain the momentum going following “Loch Lomond,” Maxine launched quite a lot of different swing preparations similar to American composer Stephen Foster’s (1826-1864) fashionable parlor track “Jeanie with the Gentle Brown Hair.” Hollywood too got here knocking on Sullivan’s door, desirous to characteristic her in musical movies together with Going Locations (1938) alongside different jazz star Louis Armstrong and St. Louis Blues in 1939. Each movies positioned Maxine within the few roles open to African American girls on the time, maids and singers. Maxine returned to New York Metropolis in 1939 and shortly rejoined Armstrong to star reverse him and plenty of different African American entertainers in Swingin’ the Dream. The musical, a jazzed up model of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Evening’s Dream set in 1890 New Orleans, ran for less than 9 performances and went down in historical past as a catastrophe. Regardless of the failure, the musical featured Maxine introducing the world to the beloved jazz customary “Darn that Dream” as Queen Titania. The track turned an enormous hit for fellow Swingin’ the Dream musician, Benny Goodman in 1940 with Mildred Bailey on vocals.

With all respect to the Irish, we’re making a detour to Scotland for Sullivan’s hit “Loch Lomond.”

Again in the Rainbow Valley, “How Are Issues In Glocca Morra” is a tune that’s caught the ear of a cross-section of jazz instrumentalists. Tenor saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins recorded it in 1956. 

As All About Jazz reviewer Matt Marshall writes in his evaluation of the “Sonny Rollins: Vol. 1 album:

The inclusion of “How Are Issues in Glocca Morra?” has been cited as a curious, if adventurous, selection for a bopper. However Rollins demonstrates his deftness at crooning a ballad, a la Johnny Hartman or Al Hibbler, then switching to interrupt aside the melody harmonically, revealing a multidimensional, cubist imaginative and prescient.  


Personnel: Sonny Rollins, saxophone; Donald Byrd, trumpet; Wynton Kelly, piano; Gene Ramey, bass; Max Roach, drums.

Give it a pay attention!

On “Normal Time, Vol. 3: The Decision of Romance,” launched on in Might 1990, jazz trumpter Wynton Marsalis groups up together with his father, Ellis Marsalis Jr. for a lyrical, mild model of “Glocca Morra.”

“Look to the Rainbow” follows “Glocca Morra” within the present. The late nice Dinah Washington first recorded it on her “Dinah” album, launched in 1956. Richard Havers at U Uncover music writes this about Washington:

Dinah Washington was one of many biggest feminine vocalists to have sung jazz and fashionable music within the twentieth century. Her type and supply have been emulated by many who adopted however few have had a voice to match the Divine Miss D. Her life was the stuff of flicks, however even Hollywood shied away from attempting to seize it on movie because it was simply too difficult. Fortuitously, her immense expertise on document has been properly documented and she or he sounds nearly as good right now as she did when she made all these basic albums.

Born in Alabama, Ruth Lee Jones grew up in a staunch Baptist household in Chicago, singing and enjoying the piano within the choir at her native church and shortly turning into adept at gospel’s attribute off-beat, syncopated rhythms and bent or sliding notes. On the age of fifteen, she carried out “I Can’t Face The Music” in a neighborhood newbie competitors hosted at Chicago’s Regal Theatre, received and was quickly performing in Chicago’s nightclubs, similar to Dave’s Rhumboogie and the Downbeat Room of the Sherman Lodge.

‘She had a voice that was just like the pipes of life. She might take the melody in her hand, maintain it like an egg, crack it open, fry it, let it sizzle, reconstruct it, put the egg again within the field and again within the fridge and you’d’ve nonetheless understood each single syllable of each single phrase she sang.’ – Quincy Jones

Right here she is:

A very totally different tackle “Look to the Rainbow” was an providing from singer and vocalese grasp Al Jarreau. 

Al Jarreau’s distinctive vocal type is among the world’s most treasured treasures. His modern musical expressions have made him some of the thrilling and critically-acclaimed performers of our time with seven Grammy® Awards, scores of worldwide music awards and fashionable accolades worldwide.

His stay jazz album, “Look to the Rainbow,” was chosen by Albumism’s Brandon Ousley as one of many 50 biggest stay jazz albums of all time.

Culled from numerous performances throughout his illustrious 1977 European tour, which introduced him large acclaim in his early profession, Look to the Rainbow will be the purest instance of why Jarreau rose as the best male jazz vocalist of his period on stage and on document. It additionally finely captures how fluent and unconfined his vocal dynamism was in a stay setting, as most of his studio output typically offered his vocal skills in measured contexts.

Right here’s Jarreau performing “Look to the Rainbow” stay in 1977.

Can’t depart “Look to the Rainbow” with no point out of the diva, Miss Patti LaBelle herself, who launched an album from her personal “Look To The Rainbow Tour” in 1985.

Right here she is performing on the Songwriter’s Corridor of Fame twentieth Anniversary “Magic of Music” Live performance at Radio Metropolis Music Corridor in 1989, which was hosted by Dick Clark and Anita Baker.

Shifting again to the “Finian’s Rainbow” songbook, Second Hand Songs at present lists 432 covers for “Outdated Satan Moon.” Even together with simply those by Black artists right here can be inconceivable, so I’ve been listening and dithering for days over which to incorporate. There really are so many!

The vocalists embrace Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine with Hal Mooney and His Orchestra, Barbara McNair, Diahann Carroll, Lurlean Hunter with Phil Moore and His Orchestra, Lena Horne, Gloria Lynne, Carmen McRae & Betty Carter, and Terri White.

Instrumentalists embrace The Miles Davis Quartet, The Gene Harris Trio, The Ray Bryant Trio, Jimmy Smith, The J.J. Johnson Quintet, Joe Newman, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Evans Bradshaw with George Joyner, Philly Joe Jones, Sonny Rollins, Eddie Davis with Shirley Scott, Ahmad Jamal, The Ramsey Lewis Trio, The Bobby Timmons Trio, and plenty of extra.

I’ll publish extra within the feedback part beneath, however right here goes.

When doubtful, Ella Fitzgerald is rarely a mistaken selection, so I’ll begin along with her interpretation from her 1969 “Sunshine of Your Love” album, recorded stay in 1968 on the Venetian Room at San Francisco’s The Fairmont.

From the instrumentalist checklist I made a decision to decide on Sonny Rollins’ stay model from from his 1957 album “A Evening At The Village Vanguard,” from Blue Word Data, as a result of his opening interplay with the viewers gave me amusing. You’ll need to play it to listen to it!

Subsequent up: “If This Isn’t Love,” which “Sassy” Sarah Vaughn carried out stay on “The Ed Sullivan Present” in June 1957.

Shifting again to instrumental mode, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley swung it uptempo with Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on double bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums on this 1959 cowl.

Lastly, I like to present props to youthful artists, and I’ve already celebrated Samara Pleasure right here up to now. Right here she is in 2021 with Emmet Cohen on piano, Russell Corridor on bass, and Kyle Poole on drums.

I’ve a lot extra music from “Finian’s Rainbow” to share within the feedback, the place I hope you’ll be a part of me. I’d additionally like to know your favourite tune from the present, when you have one, and when you don’t, what tune you favored most right now! 

Completely happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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