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What's In A Name?

Songs About Women, By Name.

 

Though song titles generally are the title to the story within ( i.e. The Tale The Church Bells Tolled ) or somehow descriptive of the music ( The March Of The Wooden Soldiers). There are other songs dedicated to things, places and events of which we've featured many over the years. Yet another category we've not yet explored is the simple naming of a song after a woman, using her name. There are literally hundreds of "name" songs out there. I suspect that every woman's name in the western world has been used at least once as the subject of a song. Men's names, though a little less prolific are surprisingly also prevalent. But, women take the prize.

 

Of course most of these songs are love songs or songs of adoration. I suspect that every one of them was written for a real person in the songwriter's life. Since little is known about the private life of most songwriters (except for the most celebrated ones) it is unlikely that we would be able to track down the name relationship. I've always believed that love and the emotions surrounding it goad most songwriters into creation of music and words. I believe that most songs are inspired by real life experiences of the songwriters so these would be no different.

 

If time and space permitted, I'd try to honor every woman's name but alas, posting one for every name would take the next year of issues and beyond so we'll have to settle for a sampling, chosen at random from our archives that cover the glory days of Tin Pan Alley. We've selected some songs that may be familiar and others that have been lost to the ravages of time. Unearthed and exposed, I wonder why many of them did not survive. One of the greatest pleasures I get from producing our monthly features is the discovery of grand and wonderful music and then being able to share it with our readers. Every month is such a journey of discovery and one that inspires me. I hope you'll enjoy this months songs too.

 

Rick Reublin, January, 2005. This article published January, 2005 and is Copyright © 2005 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Academy. Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author or a company officer.


Cindy You're My Dream

1903


Words and Music by: J. B. Mullen
Cover artist: unknown

 

I hope that all you "A"s and "B"s aren't disappointed that I skipped you! It's just that the one's I had did not have covers that were very inspiring so off we go with Cindy, spelled the "old" way rather than the more common today's Cyndi. Did you ever notice that the i and y simply changed places? The artist of this wonderful Victorian cover is unfortunately not identified, or at least that my aging eyes can see. The composer, J.B. Mullen though identified, is just as elusive. I'm unable to find any reference to him on the net or in any of the references I have.

 

As for Cindy, we do know a lot about her, not this particular one but all you Cindys out there. Actually, Cindy is not a name in and of itself, it is most commonly the diminutive of the name Cynthia. That name has its origins in ancient Greece. The name Cynthia us a Latin form of Greek Kynthia which means "woman from Kynthos". This was an epithet for the Greek moon goddess Artemis, given because Kynthos was the mountain on Delos on which she and her twin brother Apollo were born. It seems that many of our modern names have roots in ancient times although today we seem to find more and more "made up" names that are sometimes beautiful and sometimes not. It is also interesting to me to find (as you sill see later) how many different names have the same roots.

 

Oh, the music! This work is about that insanity we have when we're in love where we obsess about "her" and just can't get, in this case Cindy out of our head. The singer laments about how Cindy is always on his mind and he then concludes that he must be in love. You may note that the song is about African Americans and the cover is that of a dark skinned lady. This song appeared during the peak of the "Coon song" rage and may have capitalized on that, or Mullen himself may have been black. The verse is very upbeat with a skipping grace noted bass line. The melody is crisp and more modern than one might expect for 1903, but still grounded in the more commonly expected Victorian age harmonies. The chorus is much more in the period formula with a dotted note rhythm that makes the song more lively and interesting.

 

Hear this great "Cindi" song

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

 



Always Take A Girl Named Daisy

1913


Music by: George W. Meyer
Lyrics by: Alfred Bryan, Sam M. Lewis
Cover artist: Unsigned


With yet another unsigned cover, we take a look at a girl named Daisy. The subtitle ('Cause Daisies Won't Tell) sets the stage for the story told within. It's a cautionary tale of the dangers of telling secrets to others and also about cheating in a marriage and who you can and cannot trust. The song is a bit of a novelty song but deals with some very serious subjects. By this time, 1913, the Victorian age was slipping away and though America's morals were still very staid, we see a hint of the loosening of them and a bit less hiding of relationship activities. The song names a few other names but concludes with the idea that telling a girl named Daisy is safe because unlike others, Daisy won't tell your secrets.

 

Could that be true? What is the nature of the name Daisy? According to the very useful site "Behind The Name," a wonderful site that gives the meanings of thousands of names, Daisy simply means "daisy" from the English word for the white flower, ultimately derived from Old English dægeseage meaning "day eye". The name Daisy was at its peak of popularity from 1900 to 1909 then slowly waned to the 498th most popular name by 1980. After 1980 the name has become more prevalent again and has improved its rank to 198th. In spite of the song's contention, there seems to be nothing inherent in the meaning of the name that would make "Daisies" more willing to keep secrets than any other name.

 

No matter for it is always the music and lyrics that count and this one is terrific having been written by a trio of some of America's best songwriters from the Tin Pan Alley era. The melody is a wonderful period piece that evokes the best of early popular song. The verse is lively and so too is the chorus. This is the sort of song that you can visualize Judy Garland singing in a production such as Meet Me In St. Louis, Louis. I know you'll enjoy it whether your name is Daisy or not.

 


Enjoy this wonderful old song

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



 

Sweet Emalina, My Gal

1917

 


Words and Music by: Henry Creamer & John Turner Layton
Cover artist: Unsigned

 

I love the cover on this piece and it too is unsigned. However, the style seems to be in that of the artist Frederick Manning who was one of the best artist of the period to paint women. Manning later became quite famous for his "pin up girl" paintings. Later in this feature we have some signed examples of his work. Emalina does not in and of itself seem to have a separate identity and is most likely a variant of the name Emelina which is the feminine form of the name Emil. That name is from the Roman family name Aemilius, which was derived from Latin aemulus meaning "rival". Exactly how such a beautiful woman could be a rival only makes sense in the arena of love triangles for the one pictured here is far too sweet and beautiful to be anything but a paper tiger.

 

The music is sweet and lovely with nice harmony and good lyrics. The verse is very similar melodically to the chorus but has a bit more of a cantibile feel to it. The chorus is marvelous with a recurring echo of a motif after several phrases. Be sure to see and hear this one using the Scorch plug in.

 

Though virtually unremembered by name today, Henry Creamer and John Turner Layton were one of the hottest songwriting teams of the period. Many of their songs are very familiar to us today but I'm sure if you asked someone who wrote Way Down Yonder In New Orleans for example, perhaps one in a thousand might be able to answer.

 

Henry Creamer was born in 1879 in Richmond, Virginia. One of America's most prominent African American songwriters and performers, his career spanned the golden age of Tin Pan Alley and he was involved in just about every aspect of the music business. He worked for the music publisher Gotham-Attucks for a while, sang, danced clowned and performed in Vaudeville with his pianist and co-composer, John Turner Layton. He also wrote material for Broadway productions from 1920 to 28. His compositions include That's a Plenty (1909), After You've Gone (1918), Dear Old Southland (1921), 'Way Down Yonder In New Orleans (1922) and If I Could Be With You (1930). Creamer died in New York City October 14, 1930. (Life facts from Kunkle, Vol 2, p. 758)

 

John Turner Layton was born in 1894 in Washington D.C. One of the few successful Black composers of the period, he was teamed with the lyricist of After You've Gone, Harry Creamer in a vaudeville act. Both Creamer and Layton left the United States (due largely to constraints on them due to race) and settled in England where both enjoyed very successful careers. With Creamer he also wrote another enduring hit, Way Down Yonder In New Orleans in 1922 and Dear Old Southland in 1921. Layton died in 1978.


Listen to and see this 1906 novelty song Printable score! (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics


Oh Helen!

1915



Music by: Carey Morgan
Words by: Chas. R. McCarron
Cover artist: Unattributed photo

 

For some of us guys, a gorgeous woman can set our mind to jello and make us stammer and stutter when first given the opportunity to talk. Of course that truly impresses the young lady (not!) and usually sends us packing in abject embarrassment. This really creative but very difficult to sing song makes merry of such a situation and entertains as well. Of course in today's politically correct environment, such a song would never be written in fear of offending stutterers or others afflicted with speech impediments.

 

Written and published during the first World War, Morgan included his "U.S.N" status inside the sheet music on the first page. Despite searches through my reference library and the net, this is yet another pair of songwriters who have faded into obscurity. I did find I'm Glad I Can Make You Cry and Eve Wasn't Modest Till She Ate That Apple attributed to McCarron. Though I did find a genealogical site that gave very sparing information " born about 1885, Indiana occupation: song writer and employee of L.B. Smith Typewriter Co." Otherwise, there seem to be no other songs by him that are documented.

 

The name Helen is possibly from either Greek helene "torch" or "corposant", or Greek selene "moon". In Greek mythology Helen was the daughter of Zeus and Leda, whose kidnapping by Paris was the cause of the Trojan War. The name was also borne by Saint Helena, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, who supposedly found the True Cross during a trip to Jerusalem. Thanks to Mike Campbell for providing this information to us from his site: http://www.behindthename.com . All of the name information was used with permission.

 

Hear this stuttering song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics




IVY (Cling To Me)

1922



Music by: Isham Jones & Jimmy Johnson
Lyrics by: Alex Rogers
Cover artist: Perret


Ivy, a short name and one with a simple and elegant meaning. Like "Daisy," the name Ivy means simply "ivy" from the name of the climbing plant that has small yellow flowers. In the case of this song, the writers added an element of ivy that is perhaps its main attribute; the ability to cling and hold on tightly to its base of support. The subtitle, "Cling To Me" clearly expresses that attribute.

 

This song is more forward looking melodically and harmonically than the other songs we've seen and once you listen the difference will be apparent. Harmonically the intervals are somewhat dissonant and the song is much more chromatic in nature. This is very noticeable in the chorus. Written in the beginning of "the Jazz Age," this song is more "modern" sounding. The dissonance and chromaticism is not something I'm particularly fond of. I much prefer the simpler and more comforting harmony of earlier times. Nonetheless, it is a very accomplished work that I'm sure many of you will enjoy. This song was one of Isham Jones' earliest published songs though he had been involved in music for many years before its publication.

 

Isham Jones (1894 - 1956)Isham Jones was best known as a dance band leader in the twenties well into the thirties. At the same time, a number of his compositions have Jones was born in Coalton, Ohio but the family moved to Saginaw, Michigan when he was very young.
Isham Jones & Orchestra

Passionate about music from an early age, at 18, young Isham started and led his own band. Then in 1915, he moved to Chicago where he played tenor Sax and led a trio. Later he led an orchestra at Green Mill, and at the Rainbow Gardens in Erie, Pennsylvania. By the twenties, Jones was well established and was sought after by some of the best venues. In 1924, he appeared in New York before sailing to London, England.

 

During this time Jones and his band appeared on many recordings and he became very popular. Jones became equally important as a composer during this period and many of his songs have become standards. He managed to compose hits every year through the twenties and thirties. His hits include; I'll See You In My Dreams (1924), It Had To Be You (1924), My Castle In Spain (1926), Song Of The Blues (1929), Let's Try Again (1932) , No Greater Love (1936) and How Many Tears Must Fall (1948). After the 30's Jones involvement in music became spotty and he led bands at intervals between near obscurity, mostly on the west coast. Jones died in 1956 in Hollywood, Ca. (Essential biographical facts from Kunkle, V.2, pp. 1196-1197 and The Wolverine Antique Music Society ).

 

Enjoy this classic name song Printable music! (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Jean

1919



Words and Music by: Shelton Brooks
Cover artist: Manning

 

Jean, a seemingly simple name but one which begins to tell us about the complexities and intertwining of names. This is one of only two names we've featured that can be both a masculine name and a feminine one. The feminine Jean is the Medieval variant of Jane. So we get a two for one with this song. The origins of Jane are fascinating; it is the English form of Jehanne, an Old French feminine form of Johannes, whose English variant is John which owes its consistent popularity to two New Testament characters, both highly revered as saints. The first being John the Baptist, the second was the apostle John. The name has been borne by 23 popes, as well as kings of England, Hungary, Poland, Portugal and France. (Name origin information from Behind The Name, used with permission.) So, this one name seems to be almost one in the same with Jane, Johannes and John. So now we have a four way! Oh, I almost forgot, the song is wonderful! Very upbeat and a bit jazzy. Give it a listen and be sure you get the Scorch player so you can fully enjoy the song. As an additional treat, we're also including Terry Smythe's great piano roll midi of this song. The performers are Arden and Kortlander.

 

Shelton Brooks ( b.1886, Amesburg, Ontario, Canada d. 1975.) A child of Native American and Black parents, Brooks learned his keyboard skills on the family pump organ. His father was a Preacher, and Shelton and his brother would play the organ at services. (Shelton played, and his older brother pumped the Bellows pedals which Shelton couldn't reach.) His family emigrated to Detroit, and the 15 year old Shelton made some appearances as a child prodigy. In time, he became a cafe pianist, and a very famous black performer. He performed as a pianist, playing Ragtime around 1909 and began his composing career with mainly Ragtime numbers.

 

Shelton wrote his first big hit in 1910, Some of These Days with his own lyrics. He had already introduced the song in his own vaudeville act, when Sophie Tucker's maid, introduced both him and the tune to Sophie. Tucker loved it and she made it her theme song. Brooks also tried his hand at performing is stage roles such as Plantation (1922), Dixie To Broadway (1924), and Ken Murray's Blackouts of 1949. Perhaps Brook's best known hit was his 1917, hit The Darktown Strutter's Ball. Among his other great songs were Walkin' The Dog, There'll Come A Time and Jean. Brooks enjoyed a long recording career as well. Many of his recordings were comedic for example the Okeah record 4632 carried the titles, Collecting Rents and Chicken Thieves both comedy skits, not songs. Shelton died on On September 6, 1975. (Biographical facts from Kunkle V. 2, p. 625)

 

Listen to this great old song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Margie

1920



Music by: Con Conrad & J. Russel Robinson
Lyrics by: Benny Davis
Cover artist: Barbelle

 

Here we have a name song that has been somewhat of a staple for many years. It reminds me of the 50's TV show My Little Margie starring Gayle Storm in the title role and Charles Farrell as her widower father. The show aired from 1952 through May of 1955 and of course used this song as a musical theme. I can remember sitting in front of our old black and white TV watching this show with my big sister! The song has enjoyed a fairly long life with many recordings by some of America's greatest performers (Eddie Cantor) and appeared in two films; Margie, a 1946 comedy where a woman named Margie and her daughter reminisce about Margie's girlhood in the roaring twenties and The Eddie Cantor Story in 1953. It's a very upbeat and happy song, I know you'll recognize when you hear it.

 

The name Margie is where we find an interesting link up of women's names that again shows that names can be related and tied together. There is yet another (after the next two ) that is linked to Margaret. It is probably obvious to everyone that Margie is a pet form of Margaret (I know it only because I have a granddaughter named Margaret.) Margaret has a beautiful and ancient meaning. It is derived from Greek margarites meaning "pearl". Saint Margaret was martyred at Antioch in the 4th century. She is the patron saint of expectant mothers. Another famous bearer was Queen Margaret I of Denmark, who united Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in the 14th century. During the period this song was written, it was the 3rd to 5th most popular name in the US. Surprisingly, Margaret was also used as a male name From 1900 to 1949 after which it rarely if ever was used as a man's name. I can only imagine the soldiers named Margaret who may have fought in the Wars and how tough they must have had to be. Second only to a boy named Sue.

 

Con Conrad (b. 1891, New York City, d. 1938, Van Nuys, CA.) was born Conrad K. Dober and came to Tin Pan Alley by way of vaudeville where he had starred since age 16. His first published song was Down In Dear New Orleans in 1912. He was a partner in a publishing firm, The Broadway Music Corporation, with Henry Waterson (later of Berlin, Waterson & Snider) and by 1918 was associated with other publishers, including Shapiro Bernstein. Conrad's 1920 hit Margie was a resounding hit and established Conrad as a major songwriter of the era. Margie was written for Eddie cantor and the name came from Cantor's five year old daughter. Cantor introduced the song at the Winter Garden and later included it in the 1921 revue, The Midnight Rounders. Conrad wrote a number of other big hits from 1920 through the 30's till his death. Some of his big hits included, Barney Google, 1923 with Billy Rose , Ma! (He's Making Eyes At Me), 1921 and Prisoner of Love in 1931.

 

Listen to this great song Printable sheet music (scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Mary's The Girl For Me

1895



Words and Music by: Dave Marion
Cover artist: unattributed photo.

 

Mary, a name for the ages. Made popular in many songs over the years by some of America's greatest composers. Mary is a regal as well as very spiritual name. It also may be one of the oldest, dating back to ancient Egypt. According to behindthe names.com, Mary is the English form of Maria, which was the Latin form of the New Testament Greek names Mariam or Maria (the spellings are interchangeable), which were from the Hebrew name Miriam. The meaning is not known for certain, but there are several theories including "sea of bitterness", "rebelliousness", and "wished for child". However it was most likely originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from my"beloved" or my"love". This is the name of several New Testament characters, most prominently Mary the virgin mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. Two queens of England have had this name, as well as a Queen of Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots. (Used with permission)


This song is also the oldest one featured in this article and shows it both in the faded condition of the cover and the harmonies and sentiments within the song. Using octaves and with ornaments and interludal runs and trills, the song is a classic "gay nineties song." It's got a wonderful melody and the lyrics reflect the (perceived) innocence of the period. A sweet story is told of a man's first love, it's a fabulous period piece.

 

This song and one other are all I can find attributed to the composer. The other is a coon song from about the same period, Dar's No Coon Warm Enough For Me. I've been unable to find any information about his life.

 

Listen to this great old song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Mickey

1918



Music by: Neil Moret
Words by: Harry Williams
Cover artist: Barbelle

 

Graced with a terribly sullen looking Mabel Normand, this song was extremely popular in its time as it was tied to the hit movie of the same name that starred Normand in the title role. This song was issued with many different covers over a period of years, most also featuring Normand and referring to the Mack Sennett movie. The masculine form of the name Mickey is easy, Mickey is a pet name for Michael. The feminine side begins with the name being a pet form of Michaela which is (SURPISE!) the feminine form of Michael! The name is yet another ancient and respected name. It is from the Hebrew name Miyka'el which meant "who is like God?". This was the name of one of the seven archangels in Hebrew tradition and the only one identified as an archangel in the Bible. In the Book of Revelation in the New Testament he is portrayed as the leader of heaven's armies, and thus is considered the patron saint of soldiers. This was also the name of nine Byzantine emperors and a czar of Russia. Quite an impressive pedigree indeed. (From beyondthename.com, used with permission)

 

It's a great song so it's fairly obvious why it was such a success. In addition to the "straight" midi version we've created from the sheet music, as a special treat we're including one of Terry Smythe's piano roll midis of Mickey scanned directly from an original period piano roll. You MUST listen to it! For a more staid and ballad like performance, listen to ours for comparison.

 

Neil Moret (b. 1878, Leavenworth KS. - d. 1943, Los Angeles, CA.) Moret was the pen name for Charles N. Daniels, a composer with a fairly limited output but whose works are significant in musical history. He collaborated with several of Tin Pan Alley's best including Harry Williams, Gus Kahn and Richard Whiting. He began composing at 17 and in 1904 co founded the Daniels and Russell Publishing Company in St. Louis. He also was an executive with Remick and later formed his own publishing house in 1915. He moved to Los Angeles in or around 1923 and then in Los Angeles formed Villa Moret publishers for whom he presided as President from 1924 - 31. Moret's most important works were; Hiawatha (1901, Scorch format), You Tell Me Your Dream (1908), On Mobile Bay (1910), Mickey (1918), Moonlight and Roses (1925) and Chlo-e (1927). The highly regarded Ragtime researcher, author and music lecturer Nan Bostick of Menlo Park, California is Daniels' grand niece and has written a biography of Daniels.

 


Listen to this movie love song (Scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Peggy

1919



Music by: Neil Moret
Lyrics by: Harry Williams
Cover artist: Frederick Manning

 

With this song we find the second of the duo of related names. From the pen of the same two who wrote Mickey, we have another name song tribute to Peggy, written a year after Mickey. I always thought Peggy was a name in and of itself but darned if it isn't traceable back to another name we've seen, and is actually part of a chain of three. First, it is a pet name for Meg, which is the short form of Margaret! We've already seen the origins of that name above. Peggy = Meg = Margaret. This song was very popular in it's time It was introduced to the public by Dorothy Dickson in a revue and recorded many times over. It also was produced on a number of period piano rolls one of which was scanned to midi by our friend Terry Smythe of Canada. Our version is not as exciting but true to the sheet music. The piano roll midi is exciting and complex, listen to it and enjoy it thanks to Terry. Performance is by Clair and Joyce.

 

With the above song, we published the bio of the composer Neil Moret, here is his partner Williams' short bio.

Harry Williams (b. 1879, Minn. - d. 1922, Calif.) Williams is considered an important early Tin Pan Alley lyricist who collaborated with several of the greatest composers of the time including Niel Moret, Jean Schwartz and most frequently with Egbert Van Alstyne. He also collaborated on several Broadway scores including A Yankee Circus On Mars (1905), Girlies (1910) and A Broken Idol (1909). He began his musical industry career in vaudeville with Van Alstyne and then they began writing songs together. Williams formed his own publishing company and also became a director of silent movies in 1914. Among his most important and lasting hits are; In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree, Goodnight Ladies, It's A Long Way To Tipperary and Mickey.(Scorch format) (Essential facts from Kunkle, V. 3, p. 1960)

 

Listen to this great old song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Along Came Ruth

1914



Words and Music by: Irving Berlin
Cover artist: unidentified

 

Of course the dean of American songwriters wrote a number of "name" songs among his many thousands and only three years after making it big with Alexander's Ragtime Band, he wrote this nice ballad. It states it was sung in the comedy of the same name. The couple on the cover must have been the leads in the play but the sheet music does not identify them. Ten years later (1924) MGM produced it as a film (silent) that starred Viola Dana, Walter Hiers, Tully Marshall and Raymond McKee. Ruth is another very ancient and meaningful name. It is from a Hebrew name which was derived from the Hebrew word re'uth meaning "friend". This is the name of the central character in the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. She was a Moabite woman who was the ancestor of king David.

 

The song is very melodic and typical of many of Berlin's works during this period. With a jaunty verse that moves into a flowing dotted melody for the chorus the song is sheer enjoyment, as were almost all of Berlin's tunes. Enjoy it!

 

Irving 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. For a more complete biography of Berlin, including several of his songs, go to our Irving Berlin Biography.

 

Listen to this great old Berlin song Printable! (Scorch format only)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics



Thelma

1915



Words and Music by: Dick B. Bruun
Cover artist: Baker Brothers Engraving, photo by Apeda, N.Y.

 

The cover of this work is fabulous. Though monochromatic, the blue color evokes the cold and beautiful climate of Norway in the winter. The cover photo of Doris Wilson is outstanding and the small inset photo features "The Wilson Triplets." Presumably Doris was one of them but I'm afraid I am unable to find out anything about them. As for the name Thelma, this one is also interesting in that it is not at all very old a name. According to behindthename.com, the name Thelma was invented by Marie Corelli for the Norwegian heroine of her 1887 novel 'Thelma'. She perhaps took it from Greek thelema meaning "will". That certainly explains the Norwegian link in this song. The book was made into a movie at least four times, in 1916, 1918, 1920 and 1922. They sort of wore that one out quickly. The author of this song carries a Finnish surname so the entire song seems of Scandinavian origin. I've been unable to track Bruun down in any of my resources.

 

Listen to this wonderful song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics


My Little Gypsy Wanda

1918



Words and Music by: Robert Levenson & Ted Garton
Cover artist: E.H. Pfeiffer

I think this is my absolute favorite cover and song from this month's issue. Our final, and lucky thirteenth of this issue is a lovely ballad written by one of Tin Pan Alley's best composers in collaboration with a popular lyricist. The cover image is beautiful and detailed. Pfeiffer used a deeper than usual (for sheet music) color palette thus giving the image a nearly living quality and yet a dreamy sort of composition. The name Wanda seems to have an uncertain origin. Again, according to behindthename.com, we find that Wanda possibly means "a Wend", referring to the Slavic people who inhabited eastern Germany. Since the Slavic area was a geographic area that spawned Gypsy tribes, the name is fitting for a "gypsy" song. The music is a wonderful waltz that I know you'll enjoy.

 

Robert Levenson (1897 - 1961) was born to Samuel and Paulina Levenson in Boston, Ma. (Dorchester/Roxbury area) on July 19, 1897. He had two brothers, an older one, Louis, and a younger one, Henry. The three of them used to play music at social occasions in the area. Henry went on to be a professional musician, playing piano and singing solo with his whiskey baritone voice (he wasn't a drinker, just sounded that way). You could see him 35 years ago as the regular piano player at Bill's Gay Nineties Bar in New York. Brother Henry wrote music too and Rudy Vallee liked one song enough to tinker with it and added his own name as a CO-composer


Robert attended Brimmer School in Boston and later Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in the country. In the early 1900s a student had to pass an entrance exam to attend. Graduating in 1913 he was accepted at Harvard (Class of 1917). It was during this time that he began to haunt the Boston music publishers with his lyrics, particularly, succeeding in winning first prize for his words to the famous WW I marching song, The National Emblem March (Scorch format) by E.E. Bagley, Jr. This march is easily the equal of any American march and is also one of the most popular and often played marches from our early musical heritage. After Levenson wrote the lyrics, all future editions of the march included them.

 


After Harvard, Levenson worked in Boston, particularly as a salesman. He continued to write songs in collaboration with others who appreciated his poetic talent and gracious personality. He did some acting and directing of plays and reviews, continuing also to write fun lyrics for many organizations' annual meetings and music nights.
He moved to New York City in the mid-1920s, met and married, Evelyn Lippman, and though he ended up working for Boston Knitting Mills, stayed in NY as their top salesman and designer of polo shirts and other knit clothing. He was very active in the community in which he lived, Lawrence, LI, serving as Village Trustee, Village Historian, and Honorary Fire Chief. He put in a great deal of time in the Jewish community as well, as Treasurer, Board Member, Chairman of the Music and Religious School committees of Temple Israel of Lawrence, as well as President of Long Island Lodge, B'nai B'rith.


Robert Levenson continued to sing wherever he went, performing his own songs as well as opera, and Broadway numbers at the invitation of local organizations. He died suddenly at the age of 63 in the airport in Rome, Italy in 1961 as he was returning home with the Temple group from a pilgrimage visit to Israel and Jerusalem. He is survived by two children, Paul and Judith, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Among his other credits are a 1925 song Drifting 'Neath the Silver Moon (Levenson biography graciously provided by his son, Paul Levenson)

 

Listen to this wonderful original song (Scorch format)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics

This article Copyright ©2005, written and published by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Academy, Inc., January, 2005

This article published January, 2005 and is Copyright © 2005 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Academy Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author. Though the songs published on this site are often in the Public Domain, MIDI renditions are protected by copyright as recorded performances.


We hope you've enjoyed our short look at women's name in song. Thanks for visiting us and be sure to come back again next month to see our new feature or to read some or all of our over 100 articles about America's music. A special thanks to Mike Campbell of behindthenames.com for his gracious permission for our use of his research results into the names used in this month's songs. See our resources page for a complete bibliography of all other resources used to research this and other articles in our series.

 

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