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Music: Bright Stars, Deep Blues

2 minute read
TIME

Two songs that are poles apart are now vying for top popularity among U.S. song hits.

Biggest hit of the moment is the novelty handclapping number Deep in the Heart of Texas. Its childishly simple but rollicking tune has only 30 notes; to fill out a 32-bar chorus, the melody has to be repeated. With Deep in the Heart of Texas, two newcomers, Lyricist June Hershey and Composer Don Swander (in private life, Mr. & Mrs. Swander), hit their first jackpot. With the royalties from sheet-music sales (200,000 to date) and records (nine versions), the Swanders can now buy the ranch they have dreamed about.

They thought up the handclapping interludes themselves. Opening lines:

The stars at night are big and bright (clap, clap, clap, clap)

Deep in the heart of Texas.*. . .

The other smash hit is on the other side of the fence completely. A meandering, rhapsodic flowering of the old-fashioned W. C. Handy type of blues, Blues in the Night promises to take its place beside St. Louis Blues as a classic. Unlike the Handy songs, it did not spring from Mississippi Valley soil, but was machined to order for a Warner Brothers movie by two Tin Pan Alley veterans. Curly-haired Harold Arlen, composer of the unforgettable Stormy Weather, did the music; 32-year-old Johnny Mercer, the words. After hearing the song, the Warners promptly changed the film’s title from New Orleans Blues to Blues in the Night. Since November, 14 recordings of Blues in the Night have sold a million-odd copies. To sing it from start to finish is a tricky job for an amateur, but almost any man in the street can take a whack at the lines:

My mama done tol’ me. . . .

A woman’s a two-face,

A worrisome thing who’ll leave ya t’ sing the blues in the night.*

* Songs are reproduced with permission of the copyright owners: Melody Lane Publications, Inc.; Remick Music Corp. (1941).

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