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?
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!
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?