Is It Wrong To Kiss?
Songs about Kisses and Kissing.
Ah, the kiss. One of mankind's greatest comforts and the source
of love, happiness and even jealousy and conflict. This month we explore some
of the aspects of the kiss and its many variables as seen through the eyes of
the composers of Tin Pan Alley. Our feature this month presents a short survey
of some fun as well as serious looks at kisses from the late 19th century into
the early 20th.
As always, we'd love to hear from any of you about this feature
and solicit any of you to submit music and features for future publication.
If you are interested, the "rules"
for submissions can be found here, we'd love to have submissions by any
of our readers, anytime and would enjoy having a "reader submission"
or "favorites" feature from time to time. Heck, get involved, help
us out and write a feature for us!
Recently we've corresponded with Terry Smythe, a piano roll collector
in Winnepeg (Canada). Terry has devised a machine that scans and converts old
piano roll music to MIDI. The result is a near perfect recording of the piano
roll music. The significance of this is that we can again hear the performances
of many important pianists from the golden age of American music without having
to have a player piano. Terry has graciously granted us permission to post his
MIDI files whenever we feature a song for which he has converted a roll. This
month we introduce Terry's works with two of Victor Herbert's classic songs;
Kiss Me Again and A Kiss In The Dark (both
on page two of this issue) .
As always, this issue is on two separate pages so don't miss page
two of this issue.
It Wrong To Kiss?
Music by: J.W. Bischoff
Lyrics by: Bischoff
Cover artist: Unknown
It seems appropriate, at least to me, to establish the moral basis for
this month's subject. Fortunately, in 1882 J.W. Bischoff did just that
in a song. Here we have a very clever and entertaining song with a bit
of a surprise ending. A sweet maiden asks the question of many a person
as well as the forces of nature about the morality of kissing and gets
no answer. Only when she encounters a rather bold young man does she find
the truth. See the scorch version or the lyrics link below to find out
how the story goes, it is a wonderfully good humored work.
In addition to its good humor, the song is one of the earliest examples
of a Tin Pan Alley style song to emerge in the late Dead Zone of American
music. With an interesting cover and title, the sheet music is designed
to sell. In addition, the musical style though through composed and still
carrying the attributes of the dead zone, points ahead to the popular
music style that would become America's musical signature.
The lyrics are still firmly grounded in Victorian ideals yet coyly points
to a more liberated and titillating time in music. It is a real gem.
John W. Bischoff (b. 1850, Chicago - d. 1909 Washington, DC) Blind
from the tender age of two, Bischoff went on to become a noted organist,
compiler of musical collections and composer. His compilations included
a significant number of his own works and include Gospel Bells,
1883, God Be With You, 1880 and Not Half Has Been Told,
1877. He was principal organist at the First Congregational Church in
Washington from 1874 till his death in 1909.
Hear this clever
kiss song (Scorch format)
listen to MIDI version
And Let's Make Up
Music by: Charles K. Harris
Lyrics by: Harris
Cover artist: unknown
Now that we've established the validity of the kiss, at least musically,
we can move on to the various uses of the kiss and some of the many songs
that were written around this rather odd human behavior. Charles K. Harris,
the man we've dubbed the "King of The Tear Jerkers" wrote many
songs that were firmly entrenched in the Victorian penchant for emotion
and sweetness. Though not his most famous song (After
The Ball, 1892), this song was one of his most popular and one still
often remembered and sung as a children's song. Very similar but before
another song from the same era, I Don't
Want To Play In Your Yard (1894, H.W. Petrie), the song deals with
a childhood friendship gone wrong and then later mended as a lasting loving
relationships. Of course the kiss' value and use here is to "make
up," between friends but later, lovers.
This song steps firmly into the Tin Pan Alley with the more familiar
strophic song style and with music that is a bit further away from the
classical style of earlier times. Harris always managed to hit on subjects
that were timeless and told stories of interest, this song's lyrics are
no exception and hold one's interest still today. The music is full of
Victorian era ornamentation and playing style including trills and arpeggiated
chords. The harmony is clearly of that era.
Kassell Harris was born in 1867 in Poughkipsie,
NY and died in NYC in 1930. He lived for many years in Milwaukee and published
many of his early songs there. His After The Ball, published in
1892 is generally considered to be the watershed song that started the
popular song industry in earnest as a commercial juggernaught. Though
Harris wrote many songs over the years, none ever rose to the level of
popularity as After The Ball. See our in-depth
biography of Harris for much more information
this great old Harris song (Scorch format)
listen to MIDI version
Me, Honey Do
Music by: John Stromberg
Lyrics by: Edgar Smith
Cover artist: unknown
Kisses of course are more often connected to romance than to making
up and the "kiss song" managed to cross over virtually all styles
and genres of popular song. Here we have an early "coon
song," that solicits the romantic kiss from his honey, Dinah.
The story told in this song is rather unremarkable and it clearly was
written to capitalize on the coon song craze which would have been at
or near its peak when this song was written. The music is rather common
and not particularly memorable either. With a mostly simple right hand
that mostly doubles the melody and a fairly simple left hand chordal accompaniment,
the song presents no major challenges to the pianist. The song was originally
a part of the 1898 Weber & Fields stage production Hurley-Burley
and was originally titled Dinah.
John Stromberg (b. 1853, New York City - d. 1902, New York) was
a popular composer during the 1890's and worked almost exclusively with
lyricist Edgar Smith. Together they wrote a number of shows for Webber
and Fields stage works including, The Geezer (1896), The Glad
Hand (1897) Hurley-Burley (1898) and Whirl-i-gig (1899).
Famed performer Lillian Russell introduced several of his songs in that
1899 production including When Chloe Sings A Song. Stromberg teamed
up with Harry B. Smith to write several popular songs including, I'm
Making A Bid for Popularity (1899), The Kissing Bug (1899),
My Josephine (1899) and De Cake Walk Queen (1900). Unfortunately,
little of Stromberg's music is heard today and none seems to have made
it into the lasting hit category. Stromberg died by his own hand in 1902.
That same year, after his death, Russell introduced his previously unperformed
song Come Down, Ma Evenin' Star in a performance of Twirly-Whirly.
Listen to and see this
kissing "coon" song (Scorch)
Listen to MIDI version
I Print A Kiss?
Music by: Carrie Jacobs-Bond
Words by: Bond
Cover artist: Bond
It's often said that big things come in small packages and this exceptional
example by Carrie Jacobs Bond proves that point without doubt. From a
1902 compilation of short but memorable songs, May I Print A Kiss is a
creative song by a master of the short song. Bond was able to convey a
complete musical idea in short order. However, it would be a mistake to
assume the music she wrote was simple, it was quite accomplished. As well,
she could convey volumes with a short lyric. This set of songs, and in
particular this one, demonstrates her ability in this regard. Bond reached
the pinnacle of this art with her Smile Songs, a group of sixteen songs
of eight bars each that though short to the extreme, convey a full measure
of musical and lyrical thought. This song though twice the length of the
Smile Songs, is still a model of efficiency. At sixteen measures and a
playing time of a mere 28 seconds, it is much more complex than one would
think. For the best musical experience, be sure to view the Scorch version.
Jacobs-Bond suffered many tragedies in her life
but managed to overcome them all through courage and determination. Her
life is inspirational and her ability to overcome the odds made her one
of America's most loved composers. We've featured many of her works on
ParlorSongs and still have many more to present. We recommend you spend
the time to learn much more about this remarkable woman by visiting our
in depth biography
of her and our June,
2000 feature on her music. For even more of her songs we've published,
use our search page and search
for "Carrie Jacobs-Bond."
Hear this old Bond original
using Scorch format
Listen to MIDI version
Me Good-Bye Sweetheart
Music by: Henry W. Armstrong
Lyrics by: Armstrong
Cover artist: unknown
During the early 20th century, many of the major newspapers in the US
published Sunday supplements that were in fact, sheet music for popular
(or maybe not so popular) songs of the day. As with many such publications,
the sheet music was a marketing method to get buyers of the Sunday paper.
In October of 2000, we published a
feature about Sunday supplements. See that article for more information.
As with most newspaper supplements, this one is suffering from acid paper
decay. This work appears to have been a part of a six issue series contracted
by the paper of "six songs written for the New York Sunday World"
by popular composers. The song is a march that starts out very reminiscent
of the Madden work, Blue Bell (MIDI)
from the same year, listen and see if you agree. And like Blue Bell, the
song is a "good-bye" song for a military man about to leave
his sweetheart for the perils of combat. Of course, all of us who have
been in the military know the romantic value of departing on an assignment
to danger and it seems that it's been a tried and true method for as long
as conflicts have existed!
Henry W. Armstrong (aka Harry) (b. 1879, Sommerville, Mass.,
d. 1951, New York, NY) One does not often think of a prize fighter as
a genteel lovers of the arts, but Armstrong is an exception. His varied
career not only included his bout(s) as a pugilist but also included booking
agent, producer, singer, pianist and of course composer. As a performer,
Armstrong entertained in hospitals during the first world war and as well,
performed in night clubs, radio and near the end of his life, even on
TV. His biggest hit was Sweet Adeline, in 1903 with Richard H.
this classic kiss song (Scorch format)
Listen to MIDI version
Me My Honey, Kiss Me
Music by: Ted Snyder
Lyrics by: Irving Berlin
Cover artist: John Frew
Before he was the master of American popular song, Irving Berlin was
a lyricist, in fact he got his start as a lyricist and singing waiter.
He did not become a phenomenon till after the release of his 1911 Alexander's
ragtime band. For details of his early life see our in-depth
biography of Berlin. Prior to 1911, and for a short time after, Berlin
often teamed up with Ted Snyder as his lyricist and they published a number
of songs that were popular but not lasting hits. This song is one of their
several songs published by Snyder's company. A fabulous cover by John
Frew adorns this catchy tune. The rather large lady on the cover with
the mouthful of tooth gaps is "little" Amy Butler. Butler was
obviously a performer of note in 1910 however, I've been unable to locate
any information about her. The song is a tender ballad, with a musically
interesting chord basis for the accompaniment in the chorus. The verses
are short but have a nice andante espressivo melody that leads to the
more upbeat but delicato chorus. I found this song to be quite interesting
Ted Snyder (b. 1881, Freeport, Illinois
d. 1965, Hollywood, CA) Ted Snyder is the person who gave Irving Berlin
his start in the music business by hiring him in 1909 as a song plugger
for his publishing company. But Snyder is also recalled as a composer
in his own right who wrote hits such as The Sheik of Araby (1921)
and Who's Sorry Now? (1923).
Little is known of Ted's early life, other than he attended the public
schools in Boscobel, WI., and as a very young man, he posted theater bills
for a living. Later, he was a cafe pianist, and then a staff pianist and
song plugger in Chicago and New York music publishing houses. Like Berlin,
his first publications came in 1907 with his first song There's a Girl
in This World for Every Boy, with lyrics Will D. Cobb. Snyder wrote
a number of other tunes in collaboration with other important lyricists
of the day and in 1909 he began his association with Berlin. Some of their
first tunes included, Sweet Italian Love, Kiss Me, My Honey,
Kiss Me, and Next To Your Mother, Who Do You Love? as well
as 1910's That Beautiful Rag.
In 1913, Irving Berlin was writing his own melodies, as well as his own
lyrics and Snyder's firm is reorganized and is called, Waterson, Berlin
and Snyder. Ted Snyder also continued writing his own melodies, often
with other lyricists such as Bert Kalmar and Edgar Leslie. Among the songs
he wrote with Kalmar and/or Leslie are: Moonlight on the Rhine,
In The Land of Harmony and The Ghost of the Violin. From
the end of the first World War till 1930, Snyder continued writing songs
with other talented lyricists.
In 1930, Ted Snyder retired from the songwriting business, settled in
Hollywood, CA., and went into the restaurant business. He died in Hollywood.
He is a member of the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.
(Adapted from Kinkle, pp 1784-85)
Berlin. Born Isidore Baline in Temun, Russia,
in 1888, Berlin moved to New York City with his family in 1893. He published
his first work, Marie of Sunny Italy
(Scorch format) in 1907 at age 19 and immediately had his first hit on
his hands. It was at that time he changed his name to Irving Berlin. His
total royalties for this first song amounted to 37 cents. In 1911 the
publication of Alexander's Ragtime
Band (MIDI) established his reputation as a songwriter. He formed
his own music-publishing business in 1919, and in 1921 he became a partner
in the construction of the Music Box Theater in New York, staging his
own popular revues at the theater for several years. Berlin wrote about
1500 songs. One unique fact about Berlin is that he was not able to read
or write music or play the piano except in one key (F sharp). He picked
out melodies or dictated them and had assistants fill in the harmonies
and accompaniment for him. Berlin never seemed to give credit for these
very talented people. In his later years, he had a special device attached
to his piano that allowed him to transpose any song into his "favorite"
key. His initial start in the music industry was as a singer and then
as a lyricist. It was only after great success in writing lyrics that
Berlin turned to melodies.
Whether for Broadway musicals or films, for humorous songs or romantic
ballads, his compositions are celebrated for their appealing melodies
and memorable lyrics. Among the numerous musical comedies and revues for
which Berlin wrote music and lyrics were Annie Get Your Gun (1946),
and Mr. President (1962). His many popular songs include There's
No Business Like Show Business, God Bless America, and White
Christmas. In 1968 Berlin received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement
Award. On September 22nd 1989, at the age of 101, Berlin died in his sleep
in New York City.
It is almost impossible to provide a meaningful biographical sketch of
Berlin in only a few words, he is perhaps the most celebrated and successful
composer of American song from the Tin Pan Alley era. Way back in November
of 1998 we did a feature
on Berlin's music, which we updated early in 2003. In addition, we
have added a more extensive
biography of Berlin for those who want to know more about him.
Listen to this great
old song (scorch format)
Listen to MIDI version
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