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Friday, August 22, 2014

Just A-Swingin': BOTB Results

A Close One!

        Benny Goodman was known as "The King of Swing" and Lena Horne was a "queen" of female vocalists during the Swing Era.   Putting up the two of them against each other in my most recent Battle of the Bands contest was like swinging at the playground.   The vote went back and forth--and understandably so.

        Like me, many of you were torn about which way to go with your vote.   This was a tough decision.  If any contest so far deserved to be a tie then this was the one.   I like both Horne's and Goodman's versions of "The Man I Love" so much that I am tempted to call it a tie for my own vote, but I prefer to state a clear winner instead of establishing a precedent of wishy-washy decision making.   So I made a choice.

       Before I tell you who I voted for, let me tell you the predicament that I have here.   At my final count, according to your voting Goodman takes a narrow win with 13 votes against Horne's 12 votes.    As you can see, the outcome of my vote will either result in a tie or it will mean a win for Benny.  So what to do?

A Dilemma

      In the comment section of his own Battle post, BOTB co-host Stephen T. McCarthy made the following bold prediction about who my choice would be in my own contest:

         On your own August 15th 'BOTB' installment, without the slightest hesitation, undoubtedly, unquestionably, and with 100% certainty I can predict that you will cast your own vote for Lena Horne.

       Well, now what?  With that statement I feel almost an obligation to vote for Lena.   Her recording is indeed top notch.  It's not just the vocal either.   The orchestration is sublime to my ears.  Mr. McCarthy knows that I have a particular fondness for strings in music and the string section in this arrangement is sublime.  Then when that beautiful brief violin solo comes in my musical heart melts.   This recording by Lena is a real winner.

        If I vote for Benny Goodman's version I might be accused of just trying to prove Mr. McCarthy wrong.  The Goodman version is a winner as well, but do I dare vote in that direction appearing in the end as just attempting to be a contrarian?   I may have a bit of a reputation at times for going against the grain just for the sake of controversy so voting the opposite way that my good blog buddy predicted could appear to be suspect.

        Perhaps some further explanation is warranted in this case.

The Story Behind My Vote

       Throughout my childhood I'd been very familiar with Benny Goodman's music.   I'd seen the movie biopic of his life which starred Steve Allen, one of my childhood heroes--I loved Allen's television show.  Goodman himself had also appeared in several movies which were sometimes played on television.  The clarinetist was an iconic representative from the Swing Era who maintained a presence on the entertainment scene when I was a kid.

         After I started college in 1970, I continued to expand my musical knowledge and sought out recordings of music beyond the rock that I had been mostly been listening to.  Most of the classical, jazz, and world music albums that I began to purchase I obtained through some clearance house that would send out a catalog through the mail.  That's where I got my copy of "The Benny Goodman Quartet Live at Carnegie Hall".

          The music thrilled me.  I gained a new perspective of what jazz was all about and this album fueled my interest in the genre.  The Goodman Quartet album was on my turntable frequently.  The standout song on the album was "The Man I Love".   This was not frantic wild music like I had associated with the term "jazz", but it was mellow relaxing music where Goodman let his fellow musicians shine in their quiet elegant solos.  This album has been a big favorite of mine for over 40 years.

          Lena Horne was a frequent presence on television during my younger years, but her music never much caught my attention until around the mid 1990's when I ordered a compilation CD of her earlier music.  It was older sounding music from a music era that I love.  This disc had great classics that I'd known all my life--some of my favorite songs.   This is an album I continue to listen to with regularity.   Her voice, the orchestration, the songs, the style--this is music that I truly enjoy.

         In the end though, if I have to pick my favorite version of "The Man I Love" between Goodman and Horne, then I'll go with the Quartet.  This is not to say that I like Lena's less because there is a parity between the two.  However going with personal favorite in terms of the version that has been with me the longest and provides me with the best memories then I vote for the version by the Benny Goodman Quartet.

         My vote is not a "swing vote", but just an affirmation of the outcome as voted by the voters in this contest.   Benny wins this one, but Lena is right there close to the top.   Great contest!

Final Tally:

Benny Goodman Quartet    14 votes
Lena Horne                        12 votes 

          Thanks for voting in this BOTB!   Join me again on Monday September 1 for another classic song contest pitting the girls against the boys.   My next Battle is one that I think you will find interesting.  It's one that will be tough for me to predict as my choices may be considered rather odd.

          What do you think of my explanation for my vote?    Have you seen The Benny Goodman Story?    If Lena Horne's style turns you off, why is that?


  1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of their likes and dislikes.
    Though I voted for Lena I valued your explanation.
    Great post Lee, have a grand week-end.

  2. I'll have to come back for McCarthy's response to your choice.

  3. BOIDMAN ~
    Oh, wait, Wait, WAIT!

    Did I say I was sure you would vote for Lena Horne?

    Man, that was just a little mistake. Apparently my fingers slipped and hit the wrong keys.

    What I MEANT to say was: "Without the slightest hesitation, undoubtedly, unquestionably, and with 100% certainty I can predict that you will cast your own vote for Benny Goodman."

    And see? I was right!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  4. You have always been a rebel Lee. The question is whether or not you have a cause! Ha!!!

    I am glad this was such a close race because it deserved it!!!

    Just so you know I tagged you TWICE in THE HERE'S TO YOU post. Now that I am following TWO of your blogs you have twice the opportunity I guess...

  5. Yes I've seen the Benny Goodman story, and I've seen old movie shorts with Lena singing in them. (via a movie theatre group specializing in underground or retro movies and recordings from the early jazz greats)

    Great battle, Lee and nice to know the decision making you went through.

  6. Yvonne-- Lena's version is truly outstanding.

    Alex-- He's right behind you!

    StMc-- I knew you was right all the time. Must has been a slip of the fingers on the keyboard.

    Robin-- Two tags in the same post! Cool--I'll be right over.

    DG-- I love those old biopics even though they were heavily fictionalized. I would have preferred the true stories.


  7. I had just as hard a time choosing between the two versions. Remember, I said that, if you asked me a couple of days later, I'd probably say Lena. They were both excellent examples of performers at the top of their game, but, like you, I went with the version I was more familiar with.

  8. Hey-you just wanted to prove McCarthy wrong!

    1. Exactly right, L.C.

      Most of the people can be fooled all of the time, but... you and I weren't 'Born Yesterday'.

      ~ D-FensDogG

  9. I've seen the Benny Goodman Story and loved it. I just don't care for the Lena Horne kind of jazz. I greatly dislike Eartha Kitt and Ella Fitzgerald. Billie Holiday is OK and Etta James, but overall I don't care for it.

  10. I Love it! You take as long as me to explain one's decision:) I loved the Lena Horne one and sad you chose Benny but I understand your choice and your deliberation:) The Benny Goodman story is on my list to see-a long list. Can't wait for the next one.

  11. I have the Benny Goodman story on VHS - it was my Mom's. You explanation was superb, and Eartha Kitt is okay. There's only one type of music I don't like which is Acid Rock. I just don't understand all that noise.

  12. I love Lena, but you made the right choice.

    McCarthy's starting to sound like a politician. Ha, ha, ha!

  13. John-- One of my toughest matches yet.

    Larry-- I was afraid that accusation might arise, but honestly it's just like I said.

    JoJo-- I do think Lena stands apart from the artists you mention. I kind of agree with how you feel about them.

    Birgit-- With McCarthy's challenge I just felt like I had to explain my choice.

    Marie-- I'm not sure who you class as "acid rock" but psychedelic music is one of my favorite genres--not sure if we're thinking of the same things or not.

    FAE-- McCarthy for President!! I'll vote for him.


  14. A great contest with a fitting outcome. I love your explanation of how you made your decision and have to agree with you.
    Well played, Lee!

  15. I may have watched the Benny Goodman Story back in my younger days when I really enjoyed biopics and before my brain was polluted by reading great bios about the person in question.

    To me, jazz is jazz, in that it makes great background music while I'm either waiting for another program to come on (I listen to a lot of college radio) or on the drive home.

    There are two types of jazz I don't like: big band/heavy brass style. To me, big band and heavy brass don't really belong in jazz; and scat. I find scat to be severely offensive to my ears. If you're gonna sing a song, be a man/woman and sing it. Don't through out nonsensical syllables that does absolutely nothing to show off your vocal talents and gives everyone the impression that you forgot the lyrics.

    Father Nature's Corner

  16. good to have yr thought processes elucidated Arlee ... always interesting. decisions can be agonising.


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