DEAR JERRY: When I hear Tchaikovsky's beautiful “6th Symphony,” also known as “Pathetique,” the melody gets me wracking my brain trying to come up with the lyrics that have been added to this music.
A friend told me you often resolve these type mysteries, so now I'm hopeful Tchaikovsky will stop tormenting me.
Claudia Gruber, Evansville, Ind.
DEAR CLAUDIA: Stopping the torment by NOT listening to Tchaikovsky's “Pathetique” may be the only other option, so take comfort knowing you made the right choice.
Peter Tchaikovsky completed “Pathetique,” his sixth, final, and most famous symphony, just nine days before his death (November 6, 1893).
“Pathetique” is an hour-long symphony in four movements: 1) Adagio - Allegro non Troppo; 2) Allegro con Grazia; 3) Allegro Molto Vivace; and 4) Finale - Adagio Lamentoso.
The first theme of the first movement runs about four minutes and, after a brief pause, the second theme begins and also runs about four minutes. It is this second theme providing the music for three hit songs, all of which are lyrically very different.
First came “The Story of a Starry Night,” a 1942 hit for Glenn Miller and His Orchestra with vocal by Ray Eberly. This Top 15 single (Bluebird 11462) is the only charted version of “The Story of a Starry Night,” though many other recordings of it followed.
A few among those are versions by Ronnie Aldrich; Ray Anthony; Jackie Gleason; Robert Goulet; Hal McIntyre's Orchestra (Featuring Carl Denny); Jim Nabors; Della Reese; Jerry Vale; the Vibrations, and Danny Williams. There's even a 2007 recording, true to the original and beautifully performed by Filipino superstar, Amapola.
Another marvelous adaptation of the same “6th Symphony” segment, titled simply “Where,” became a summer 1959 hit by Tony Williams and the Platters.
“The Story of a Starry Night,” a 1966 single by the Vibrations, is most unusual in that its title places it with the “Starry Night” group, yet its lyrics do not. It is instead very similar to “Where.”
Next on the scene came “In Time,” one side of a double-sided hit in 1961 for Steve Lawrence. The flip, “My Claire De Lune,” is also based on the classic “Suite Bergamasque,” composed by Claude Debussy.
DEAR JERRY: In the 1950s movie “The Racers,” starring Kirk Douglas, the theme song is by Peggy Lee, titled “I Belong to You.”
Did Peggy Lee ever release this song on a record?
Dan Goris, Erieville, N.Y.
DEAR DAN: Written especially for “The Racers,” with lyrics by Jack Brooks and music by Alex North, Peggy recorded “I Belong to You” January 19, 1955 for Decca Records.
About a month later (February 21) a single came out (Decca 29429) on both 45 and 78 rpm.
This single came at the same time as Peggy's legendary film-song connection, providing the voices of the Siamese cats in the Disney classic, “The Lady and the Tramp.” Peggy's single release immediately preceding “I Belong to You,” is “The Siamese Cat Song” (Decca 29427) from that film.
Peggy, along with Sonny Burke, wrote this and the five other songs in “The Lady and the Tramp,” including the beautiful “Bella Notte.”
Until 2003, “I Belong to You” could not be found on CD. That year, “Peggy Lee - Love Songs” came out (Universal, 0881131002) with that selection among its 14 tracks.
IZ ZAT SO? When it comes to composing, writing the lyrics of “The Lady and the Tramp” soundtrack is but a drop in the bucket for Peggy Lee easily the most popular singer-songwriter of the pre-Rock Era.
Of all that period's top pop singers, no one wrote more of their own hits, as well as ones for numerous other performers. Peggy is also the first woman to write her own Top 10 hit, “I Don't Know Enough About You” (1946), and first to write and sing her own No. 1 hit, “Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me) (1948).”
Between 1941 and 1986, Peggy composed and published nearly 200 songs.