UKULELE MUSINGS 2021, No. 1, 1 January 2021: “High Hopes” for the Coming Days, Weeks, Months, and Year

Well, here it is: New Years Day 2021!  With all the nasty viruses floating around, and all the political squabbles taking place, it’s a disconcerting calendric transition.  And, with the incessant facts, alternate facts, and polarized opinions being bandied about, I keep searching for something positive on which to begin a new annual (my 6th year!) volume of musical musings. 

Alas, the raising of the globe on New Years Eve here in Northampton and the accompanying festivities were only memories this year. Wait until next year! Really stay tuned for First Night 2022 you AEIOUkers!

Hence, a 2021 New Years Day focus on “Hope.”  And, needless to say, gentle readers, another earworm begins to squirm in my head—the mid-century, Academy Award winning, kinda nonsense song “High Hopes.”

 Our song was first popularized by Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) and child actor Eddie Hodges (1947-) in the 1959 movie “A Hole in the Head.”

Our song was written by James Van Heusen (1913-1990) with lyrics by Sammy Cahn.  Those two teamed up on dozens of songs for Broadway and Hollywood musicals including two other Academy Award winners: “All the Way,” and “Call me Irresponsible.” The team also wrote “The Second Time Around,” and “My Kind of Town,” both of which were gold records for Sinatra.

High Hopes” stretches the imagination by describing two scenarios where animals do seemingly impossible acts.

First, an ant moves a rubber tree plant all by himself, then a ram single-handedly puts a hole in a “billion-kilowatt dam.”  

The goals of these animals are described in the chorus as “high, apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes” although, as the song implies, they ultimately accomplish them! 

Click or tap on the next image or link to hear and see the film sequence of Sinatra and Hodges with this one. 

I hope we’re going to see as the ultimate accomplishment of our hopes this New Year!  As our song finishes by comparing problems to toy balloons, the problems have gone away when the balloons are popped–“Oops, there goes another problem, ker-plop.”

If only life were so simple!  Maybe we just need more balloons—or pins!

What makes this song a bit more interesting in todays political climate is the version that Sinatra recorded for the 1960 Kennedy presidential campaign.  Click or tap on the next image or link to peek in on this tune from the first presidential election I was old enough to vote in.  Remember, in those days you had to be 21 to vote (or buy a beer)!

And, of course, we need a ukulele version of our song which has become a favorite for children of all ages, and found in our blue book.  

 Click or tap on the next image or link for a very nice fingerstyle version of our song. 

As one of those quirky musical asides, one of the more obscure film treatments of “High Hopes,” including an ever so slight nod to Sinatra, is in this great entrance scene.  Click or tap on the next image or link to try to make out what the rabid fans are singing to honor their hometown boy!

Now, it should be noted that there are a couple of new tunes out there that go by the same title as our “High Hopes.”  That’s OK.  Life goes on!  I’ll show my age, however, and stick with the mid-century original!

So, as we all lurch into the new year, I have high hopes that we will stay safe, stay sequestered, stay masked  .  .  .

.  .  . and STAY TUNED!

Oh yes.  Be careful with your rubber trees!

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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