When Marilyn Sings: An Appreciation

Over at the Best American Poetry blog, editor David Lehman gives a timely tribute to Marilyn’s musical legacy.

“Listen to her sing ‘I’m Through with Love,’ or ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You,’ ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ or ‘Bye Bye, Baby’ — but listen to the songs without looking at the visuals. You’ll hear a melodious voice of limited range, thin but accurate, with a husky low register, a breathy manner, and a rare gift of vibrato. When her voice trembles over a note — over ‘you’ or ‘baby’ — the effect is seductive and yet is almost a caricature of the seductress’s vamp. The paradox of her singing is that she reveals her sexual power and flaunts her vulnerability — to flip the usual order of those verbs. She can be intimate and ironic at the same time.

Compare her version of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ with Carol Channing’s definitive Broadway treatment … Monroe’s treatment of ‘Diamonds’ may not be as effective as Channing’s in its service to Leo Robin’s marvelous lyric for Jules Styne’s delightful tune. But Monroe’s version is younger, friskier, sexier. When she sings it, the song is about her.

Nowhere is she better than ‘I’m Through with Love,’ which she sings in Some Like It Hot. Gus Kahn’s lyric, which rhymes ‘I’m through’ with ‘adieu,’ is as apt for Marilyn as ‘Falling in Love Again’ was for Marlene Dietrich. In ‘I’m Through with Love,’ the singer feigns nonchalance, affects an uncaring attitude. But melodically during the bridge, and lyrically in the line ‘for I must have you or no one,’ the song lets us know just how much she does care.”

Samantha Fish Brings Sugar to London

Blues singer Samantha Fish, a Kansas City native, was giving out Sugar Kane vibes at her latest UK show, as Paul Davies reports for National Rock Review. (She’s not the first musician to evoke memories of Marilyn’s iconic ‘Running Wild‘ number, as Kate Bush referenced it back in 1991 for her ‘Rocket Man‘ video, as did Kylie Minogue with ‘2 Hearts‘ in 2007.)

“There’s a scene in the 1959 classic movie Some Like It Hot where both a dragged-up Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are playing the saxophone and double bass with wild abandon and slap bang in the middle of these on the run from the mafia characters is Marilyn Monroe, as Sugar, giving it some on a ukulele.

Spool forward 60 years to this evening and onstage is a hot and sexy Samantha Fish looking for all the world like Marilyn with her platinum blonde bed-head curly hair, vivacious smile and sassy fashion sense playing up a storm with her exquisite electric guitar technique at a sold-out London Garage.

Charismatic and oozing sex appeal with her sweet fallen angel voice and heavy rocking-out guitar play, leavened by a well-balanced setlist of subtler songs, Fish captivated and captured her devoted fans in the alluring net of her stage-craft and fiery hot licks.”

Marilyn On the Dancefloor

Tech house partnership Leftwing: Kody have picked a Marilyn-inspired dance track for their ‘Starter For Five’ at Clash magazine. First released in 2015 on The Beginning EP, Tim Baresko ft. Room 303’s ‘Marilyn Monroe’ features lyrics about pursuing a fantasy woman – check it out here.

Marilyn Gets ‘Lazy’ With Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin (left) with Earl Wilson and Marilyn in 1954

The great American songwriter was born on this day in 1888, and lived to the grand old age of 101. To celebrate this musical anniversary, Matt Micucci has posted a playlist featuring Marilyn’s version of ‘Lazy’ (as performed in the 1954 movie There’s No Business Like Show Business, an all-star tribute to Berlin), and ‘You’d Be Surprised’, as well as Ethel Waters’ original 1933 version of ‘Heat Wave’ and other Berlin classics, over at the JAZZIZ website.

Georgie Currie’s Ode to ‘Norma Jean’

Norma Jean‘ is one of six tracks on Flowers For Your Worst Days, the debut EP from Australian folk singer Georgie Currie, released today, as Augustus Welby reports for the Beat website.

“The lyrics in ‘Norma Jean’ are cleverly layered. Initially it seems like a love letter to the woman Norma Jean, who you could interpret as Marilyn Monroe or a metaphor for a media-approved beautiful woman. But the second line of the chorus is a watershed moment, as Currie sings: ‘Norma Jean, she’s so much easier to love than me.’

‘I think I used the story of Marilyn Monroe as a bit more of a channel of how I was feeling at the time, which was not feeling like you ever really measure up compared to what you perceive to be all these beautiful people around you.'” 

To Valerie and Marilyn, in Desparation

Valerie Solanos – the female artist notorious for shooting Andy Warhol – and Marilyn – his most famous subject – may seem to have little in common. But composer Pauline Oliveros thought otherwise, and her 1970 work, To Valerie Solanos and Marilyn Monroe In Recognition Of Their Desperation, has now been restaged in Toronto by the experimental music collective Public Recordings, as Lise Hosein reports for  CBC Arts.

“The work referenced Monroe, whose talent may have been somewhat eclipsed by her objectification, and Solanas, an impassioned figure who shot Andy Warhol. Oliveros saw both figures as ‘desperate and caught in the traps of inequality.’

The appeal of this composition to Toronto experimental music collective Public Recordings may have been in the moment in which it was written. Public Recordings producer Christopher Willes notes: ‘We wanted to bring this piece to people now because the moment that it was created — 1970 — was a moment of conservative backlash to many things. In many ways, we’re living through what feel like similar time politically, socially, and doing this piece because it’s about people finding, in real time, new ways of being together and new ways of organizing themselves.'”

Another Elvis: Dick Dale in ‘Let’s Make Love’

Richard Anthony Monsour was born in Boston, of Lebanese and Polish-Belarusian descent. His family moved to Quincy, Massachusetts when he was a child, and he had learned to play several musical instruments before buying a guitar from a friend (paying back the $8 cost in instalments.) In 1954, his father began working for the Hughes Aircraft Company and the family moved to El Segundo, California. At 17, the aspiring musician began playing at country bars, where TV presenter ‘Texas Tiny’ suggested he adopt the name Dick Dale.

Born left-handed, Dale played the guitar upside-down, and later partnered with Leo Fender to test new equipment. His love for Arabic music inspired him to use Middle-Eastern scales in his compositions, and his experiments with reverberation would make him a pioneer of surf rock.

But in 1956, Dick Dale was just like every other teenage boy who wanted to be the next Elvis Presley; and that year, he won an Elvis Sound-A-Like Contest in Los Angeles.

This led to an uncredited bit part in Let’s Make Love (1960.) In a short scene just after Marilyn sings ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’, a group of Elvis impersonators audition for a part in a revue. Dick Dale, wearing a red jacket, is the first to perform and by far the best. (You can watch the clip here.)

But the role is won by another impersonator, played by 16 year-old John Gatti Jr., who dons the red jacket for his cameo in Marilyn and Frankie Vaughan’s duet, ‘Specialization.’

John Gatti Jr. as another Elvis Presley lookalike

In 1961, Dale began playing surf guitar with his new band, the Del-Tones, at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. His first hit single was ‘Let’s Go Trippin’’. They appeared on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show, and in two of the popular Beach Party movies, and released two seminal albums. Among his many fans was a young Jimi Hendrix. As the British Invasion put an end to the surf craze, Dale battled cancer for the first time. He later returned to music and became an environmental activist.

Dale’s career enjoyed a resurgence when his early hit, ‘Misirlou’, was featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction. A teetotaller and vegetarian, Dale also practiced karate. In later years, he continued touring to pay his medical bills. Dick Dale died in Lorna Linda, California,  on March 16, aged 81.

Thanks to Fraser Penney 

Haley Reinhart References Marilyn in ‘Honey, There’s the Door’

Haley Reinhart, who first found fame on American Idol and has worked with retro covers band Postmodern Jukebox, references Marilyn in her jazzy new single, ‘Honey, There’s the Door,’ with the lyrics  “You better tell me that I sparkle/That my eyes are diamonds/Tell me I remind you of Marilyn Monroe/Treat me like the star of your show/If you don’t well honey, there’s the door.” The accompanying video clip also pays homage to vintage glamour.

Marilyn, Kate and the Rocket Man

The celebrated English singer Kate Bush has just shared the unreleased video for her 1991 single, ‘Rocket Man’, with fans, the NME reports ( a bootleg version was previously available.) A cover of Elton John’s 1972 hit, she chose to cover his tribute to Marilyn, ‘Candle in the Wind’, for the B-side. Both tracks were recorded by Kate for the all-star album, Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. They will now be reissued as part of her new compilation, The Other Sides, due for release in March.

What’s doubly interesting about the ‘Rocket Man’ video is that during the chorus, it appears to reference Marilyn’s performance of ‘Running Wild’ in Some Like It Hot (complete with black dress, backing band and even a ukulele!)

Thanks to Fraser Penney