UKULELE MUSINGS 2020–7 November 2020: “Happy Days are Here Again,” or are they? Go Figure.

The strangely evolving presidential election of this week isn’t over after hours and days of delays, decisions, counting, recounting, reflecting, hoping, praying, and whatever we are all doing when we turn off FOX, MSNBC, PBS, CNN, or whatever at a bedtime with no answers. Since I find myself pensively pecking at the keyboard while waiting for some sort of decisions to be made, I have found myself indecisive about this week’s musing. So, being the way I am, I am taking the easy way out–falling back on reworking a posting of the past. Bear with me if you have seen this one before but, to me, it works while we count, count, count and wait, wait, wait.

Here we go again!

Talk about an old musical chestnut!  This lively tune is in our Blue Book and—aside from some unfamiliarity with the B Part—is enjoyed from time to time by our group.  “Happy Days Are Here Again” was written in 1929—just after the great stock market crash—by our old Tin Pan Alley songwriter friends Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics). 

The song was first recorded by the Leo Reisman Orchestra and was featured in the 1930 film “Chasing Rainbows.”

Tap or click on the next image or link to go back into musical history with this one.

Today, the song is usually remembered as the campaign song for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign.  According to Time Magazine, it gained prominence after a spur-of-the-moment decision by Roosevelt’s advisers to play it at the 1932 Democratic National Convention. 

Picking up the mood of the day, it went on to become the party’s unofficial theme song for years to come.  

The song is also associated with the Repeal of Prohibition which occurred shortly after Roosevelt’s election where there were signs saying “Happy days are BEER again.”

Tap or click on the next image or link to follow up on this.

The song is a true “barroom” and Tin Pan Alley standard, and had been sung by virtually every performer since the 1940s.   In a way, it’s the political pop version of “Auld Lang Syne.”

Another popular recording of the song was Barbra Streisand’s made 33 years after its first recording.  While the song is traditionally sung at a brisk pace, her recording is notable for how slowly and expressively she sings it. Tap or click on the next image or link to hear her minor key interpretation. 

Streisand first sang the song during a “Wonderful Year” skit on television representing the year 1929. She performed it ironically as a millionairess who has just lost all of her money and enters a bar, giving the bartender her jewelry in exchange for drinks.  The whole YouTube is a bit long, but just look at her song–an adaptive reuse of a happy tune!

A search on YouTube will give a few dozen more interpretation of this ear-worm of a song ranging from Bollywood, to Japan, to the Balkans with—as would be expected—a few ukulele versions thrown in. Tap or click on the next image or link for something a bit musically bizarre!

So, let’s keep this venerable song in mind as we push and plod through the politics of the day and the uncertainty of the next four years.  Will the happy Reisman original, or the poignant one by Streisand be apropos?  We’ll just have to wait (and stew) and see.  Meanwhile, click or tap on the next image or link for an optimistic view on all this by the younger generation!

So, once again, stay safe, stay socially distanced, stay masked . . .

. . . let’s keep our sense of humor, . . .

. . . and STAY TUNED!

Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

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