A Song In Many Forms

A good piece of music can be done in many forms. Some may sound better than others, but a good song has enough that performers of different styles have something to work with. One particular song started when Hoagy Carmichael, the song’s composer, was walking along and started to whistle. He was so pleased with the melody that he wanted to write it down. He called the song Star Dust and worked on it for several months, polishing it and perfecting it as he went along.

Carmichael originally thought of the song as a somewhat mid-tempo little number. The first recording of the song was made on Halloween, 1927, by “Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals,” a group that included, among others, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey.

Somewhere along the line, the two words in the title were combined into one, making it Stardust. Carmichael recorded a somewhat slowed down version of the tune in 1928, but the lyrics, added by Mitchel Parish in 1929, made the slower tempo de rigueur. In 1931, Isham Jones made a recording of the song as a sentimental ballad.

In the early 1940’s, RCA records wanted to use two versions of Stardust on one record, something of a battle of the bands. They wanted to use Tommy Dorsey’s version on one side. and Artie Shaw’s version on the other. The story goes that they first presented the idea first to Dorsey. When he heard Shaw’s version, he begged them not to go through with the idea as Dorsey felt that his version of the song paled in comparison to Shaw’s, arguably the best instrument version of the song.

Walter Winchell was was a crusty old journalist. If you have ever seen an episode of the old TV show The Untouchables, Winchell is the narrator. He was hard as nails and nothing got to him — except Nat King Cole’s version in 1957, considered the best vocal version of the song. This version bought Winchell to tears.

There have been over 1500 recordings of Stardust. It was considered the most recorded song in History until Paul McCartney’s Yesterday took the top spot. What ever version in whatever style you like, the song is a classic that will be played hundreds of years from now.

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