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"Begin the Beguine"
Single by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra (original issues as "Art" Shaw)
A-side Indian Love Call
B-side Begin the Beguine
Recorded July 24, 1938, New York, New York
Genre Jazz
Length 3:11
Label Bluebird
B-7746
Writer(s) Cole Porter; (Arranged by Artie Shaw and Jerry Gray)
Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell dance to "Begin the Beguine" in Broadway Melody of 1940

"Begin the Beguine" is a song written by Cole Porter (1891–1964). Porter composed the song at the piano in the bar of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. In October 1935, it was introduced by June Knight in the Broadway musical Jubilee produced at the Imperial Theatre in New York City.

The beguine music form comes from Martinique where in local Creole Beke or Begue means a White person. Beguine is the female form of Begue and it is a combination of Latin and French dance music forms that once created was frequently requested by the hostesses of dances in Martinique. From there requests for the form had spread to Paris.

Porter once said of the song, "I can never remember it—if I want to play I need to see the music in front of me!" Alec Wilder described it in his book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950 as "a maverick, an unprecedented experiment and one which, to this day, after hearing it hundreds of times, I cannot sing or whistle or play from start to finish without the printed music."[1]

Probably due to its exceedingly long form and not being "conventional" (i.e., thirty-two-bars) the song made little impact with regard to general popularity. Three years later, however, bandleader Artie Shaw wrote an arrangement of the song in collaboration with his right-hand Arranger / Orchestrator Jerry Gray.

Upon entering the recording studio after signing a new recording contract with RCA Victor records in the summer of 1938, Shaw called up "Beguine" to be the first of six tunes he would record at his initial recording session on July 24. Until then Shaw's band had been having a very tough time finding an identity and maintaining its existence without having had any popular hits of significance; his previous recording contract with Brunswick had lapsed at the end of 1937 without being renewed.

Whatever the case, the release of Shaw's recording of "Beguine" skyrocketed him and his band to fame and popularity exceedingly fast. The recording, indeed, became one of the most famous and popular anthems of the entire Swing Era. At the time, though, recording managers at RCA Victor had no interest in Shaw recording the song and it was only as a result of Shaw's pleading that they allowed him to record it.

RCA's pessimism with the whole idea of recording the long tune "that nobody could remember from beginning to end anyway" sealed its fate as being released on the "B" side of the record it appeared on. Shaw's persistance to record it was justified, though, and it became a best-selling record in 1938 by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra issued by Bluebird Records as catalog number B-7746 B. Subsequent re-releases by RCA Victor as catalog number 20-1551[2] and other releases on LPs, tapes and CDs have kept the recording readily available continuously to the present ever since its initial release.

Later on, when composer Cole Porter met the by-then famous bandleader, he jokingly remarked to Shaw, "I'm glad to finally meet my collaborator." Shaw reportedly replied, "Does this mean I get half of the royalties?"

A beguine is a spirited ballroom dance. Since "begin" and "beguine" are often pronounced the same by some people, it is common? to see the song's title misspelled as "Begin the Begin", as when used satirically by R.E.M. as the title to a track on Lifes Rich Pageant.

Based on the title dance, the song is notable for its 108-measure length, departing drastically from the conventional thirty-two-bar form. Where a typical "standard" popular song of its time was written in a fairly strict 32-measure form consisting of two or three eight-measure subjects generally arranged in the form A-A-B-A or A-B-A-C, "Begin the Beguine" employs the form A-A-B-A-C1-C2 with each phrase being sixteen measures in length rather than the usual eight. The final "C2" section is stretched beyond its 16 measures an additional twelve bars for a total of 28 measures, with the twelve additional measures providing a sense of finality to the long form.

The slight differences in each of the "A" sections, along with the song's long phrases and final elongated "C2" section at the end, give it unique character and complexity. The fact that the song's individual parts hold up melodically and harmonically over such a long form also attests to Porter's talent and ability as a songwriter.

Contents

Use in films

  • Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell danced to an instrumental version in Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940).
  • Deanna Durbin sang it in the film Hers to Hold (1943).
  • In the 1946 movie Night and Day, the Latin singer Carlos Ramirez performed this song.
  • "Begin the Beguine" was referenced in the 1968 animated movie Yellow Submarine in a conversation between the characters John and Jeremy.
  • Begin the Beguine was the chosen English title for Volver a Empezar (José Luis Garci, 1982), the first Spanish film that won a Hollywood Academy Award for a foreign language movie. Garci includes another tribute to Cole Porter in another of his films, You're the One (2000).
  • "Begin the Beguine" is referenced in the movie The Worst Witch, during the song "Anything Can Happen on Halloween" sung by Tim Curry as The Grand Wizard. (1986)
  • "Begin The Beguine" is featured in the 1989 documentary "The Life And Times of Hank Greenberg", during the chapters in which Hank is drafted into the armed forces and in a part of the chapter about the relationship between Hank and his wife, Caral.
  • "Begin the Beguine" is sung by actress Melora Hardin in the South Seas Club scene in The Rocketeer (1991).
  • "Begin the Beguine" is performed by Sheryl Crow in the movie about Cole Porter, De-Lovely (2004).
  • Instrumental music played during a ballroom scene in the 2008 movie Australia includes "Begin the Beguine."
  • "Begin the Beguine" is referenced in the movie "The Aristocrats The Aristocrats (film)" as the song Susie Essman's grandmother plays every night.(2005)
  • In the film Hope and Glory, the song "Begin the Beguine" is sung by Dawn while her family is repairing windows broken during an air raid.
  • Sung by Sammy Davis Jr in Moon Over Parador

Use in other media

  • Elvis Presley recorded his own song in 1962 based on the Cole Porter song entitled "You'll Be Gone". Presley co-wrote the song with his bodyguard Red West and his assistant Charlie Hodge.
  • A character in Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero (2007) refers to this song several times.
  • The song is quoted musically and affectionately parodied in Noel Coward's Nina from Argentina.
  • Mentioned several times in Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. Milton Stephanides, father of the novel's main character, Cal, plays the song on his clarinet in order to woo Tessie, Cal's mother.
  • Mentioned in Jimmy Buffett's novel A Salty Piece of Land.
  • In the Little Mermaid song Under the Sea, Sebastian the crab sings "When the sardines begin the beguines, it's music to me."
  • In the short story "Julio Iglesias" by Haruki Murakami, Iglesias' recording of the song proves to be unbearable to a group of sea turtles.
  • Tom Lehrer refers to it in his song "Alma" - "Her lovers were many and varied/From the day she began her -- beguine."
  • Medal of Honor recipient Ernie Yost sings the song in an episode of NCIS when he proclaims his love for Artie Shaw over Benny Goodman in the episode "Call of Silence".
  • In the Valentine's Day episode of the hit sitcom The Golden Girls, Julio Iglesias & Sophia (Estelle Getty) sing the first line.
  • In a 6th season West Wing episode called "A Good Day", President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) sings part of the song while dancing in the Oval Office with the First Lady, Abby Bartlet (Stockard Channing).
  • In Episode 8 of Twin Peaks, character Leland Palmer regains consciousness after collapsing and menacingly exclaims "I feel good... Begin the beguine!".
  • On the "Chess (musical)" Concept Album in the song "Mountain Duet", the Russian sings "Get to the point, begin the beguine".
  • In The Violins of Saint-Jacques by Patrick Leigh Fermor, the beguine is described as "the dance that more than any other typifies the fusion of African and French influences in the Antilles"

Other recordings

Preceded by
"Under Pressure"
by Queen & David Bowie
UK number one single
5 December 1981
for (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Don't You Want Me" by The Human League

Citations

  1. ^ Wilder, Alec. American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 240.
  2. ^ RCA Recordings in the 20-1500 series
  3. ^ Biography of Tony Martin
  4. ^ Decca recordings in the 2000 series
  5. ^ Decca recordings in the 25000 series
  6. ^ RCA Recordings in the 20-2500 series

See also


Not to be confused with the R.E.M. song Begin the Begin or the television episode Begin the Begin (Grey's Anatomy).
"Begin the Beguine"
Single by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra (original issues as "Art" Shaw)
A-side Indian Love Call
B-side Begin the Beguine
Recorded July 24, 1938, New York, New York
Genre Jazz
Length 3:11
Label Bluebird
B-7746
Writer(s) Cole Porter; (Arranged by Artie Shaw and Jerry Gray)
and Eleanor Powell dance to "Begin the Beguine" in Broadway Melody of 1940]]

"Begin the Beguine" is a song written by Cole Porter (1891–1964). Porter composed the song at the piano in the bar of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. In October 1935, it was introduced by June Knight in the Broadway musical Jubilee produced at the Imperial Theatre in New York City.

Contents

Music

The beguine music form comes from Martinique where in local Creole Beke or Begue means a White person. Beguine is the female form of Begue and it is a combination of Latin and French dance music forms that once created was frequently requested by the hostesses of dances in Martinique. From there, requests for the form had spread to Paris.

A beguine is a spirited ballroom dance. Since "begin" and "beguine" are occasionally pronounced the same[who?], it sometimes happens that the song's title is misspelled, as parodied by R.E.M. in their track "Begin the Begin" on Lifes Rich Pageant.

Based on the title dance, the song is notable for its 108-measure length, departing drastically from the conventional thirty-two-bar form. Where a typical "standard" popular song of its time was written in a fairly strict 32-measure form consisting of two or three eight-measure subjects generally arranged in the form A-A-B-A or A-B-A-C, "Begin the Beguine" employs the form A-A-B-A-C1-C2 with each phrase being sixteen measures in length rather than the usual eight. The final "C2" section is stretched beyond its 16 measures an additional twelve bars for a total of 28 measures, with the twelve additional measures providing a sense of finality to the long form.

The slight differences in each of the "A" sections, along with the song's long phrases and final elongated "C2" section at the end, give it unique character and complexity. The fact that the song's individual parts hold up melodically and harmonically over such a long form also attests to Porter's talent and ability as a songwriter.

Porter once said of the song, "I can never remember it—if I want to play I need to see the music in front of me!"[citation needed] Alec Wilder described it in his book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950 as "a maverick, an unprecedented experiment and one which, to this day, after hearing it hundreds of times, I cannot sing or whistle or play from start to finish without the printed music."[1]

Artie Shaw version

Probably due to its exceedingly long form and not being "conventional" (i.e., thirty-two-bars) the song made little impact with regard to general popularity. Three years later, however, bandleader Artie Shaw wrote an arrangement of the song in collaboration with his right-hand arranger / orchestrator Jerry Gray.

Upon entering the recording studio after signing a new recording contract with RCA Victor records in the summer of 1938, Shaw called up "Beguine" to be the first of six tunes he would record at his initial recording session on July 24. Until then Shaw's band had been having a very tough time finding an identity and maintaining its existence without having had any popular hits of significance; his previous recording contract with Brunswick had lapsed at the end of 1937 without being renewed.

Whatever the case, the release of Shaw's recording of "Beguine" skyrocketed him and his band to fame and popularity exceedingly fast. The recording, indeed, became one of the most famous and popular anthems of the entire Swing Era. At the time, though, recording managers at RCA Victor had no interest in Shaw recording the song and it was only as a result of Shaw's pleading that they allowed him to record it.

RCA's pessimism with the whole idea of recording the long tune "that nobody could remember from beginning to end anyway" sealed its fate as being released on the "B" side of the record it appeared on. Shaw's persistance to record it was justified, though, and it became a best-selling record in 1938 by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra issued by Bluebird Records as catalog number B-7746 B. Subsequent re-releases by RCA Victor as catalog number 20-1551[2] and other releases on LPs, tapes and CDs have kept the recording readily available continuously to the present ever since its initial release.

Later on, when composer Cole Porter met the by-then famous bandleader, he jokingly remarked to Shaw, "I'm glad to finally meet my collaborator." Shaw reportedly replied, "Does this mean I get half of the royalties?"[citation needed]

Uses in films

  • Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell danced to an instrumental version in Broadway Melody of 1940.
  • Deanna Durbin sang it in the film Hers to Hold (1943).
  • In the 1946 movie Night and Day, the Latin singer Carlos Ramirez performed this song.
  • "Begin the Beguine" was referenced in the 1968 animated movie Yellow Submarine in a conversation between the characters John and Jeremy.
  • Begin the Beguine was the chosen English title for Volver a Empezar (José Luis Garci, 1982), the first Spanish film that won a Hollywood Academy Award for a foreign language movie. Garci includes another tribute to Cole Porter in another of his films, You're the One (2000).
  • "Begin the Beguine" is referenced in the movie The Worst Witch, during the song "Anything Can Happen on Halloween" sung by Tim Curry as The Grand Wizard. (1986)
  • "Begin The Beguine" is featured in the 1989 documentary The Life And Times of Hank Greenberg, during the chapters in which Hank is drafted into the armed forces and in a part of the chapter about the relationship between Hank and his wife, Caral.
  • "Begin the Beguine" is sung by actress Melora Hardin in the South Seas Club scene in The Rocketeer (1991).
  • "Begin the Beguine" is performed by Sheryl Crow in the movie about Cole Porter, De-Lovely (2004).
  • Instrumental music played during a ballroom scene in the 2008 movie Australia includes "Begin the Beguine."
  • "Begin the Beguine" is referenced in the movie The Aristocrats as the song Susie Essman's grandmother plays every night.(2005)
  • In the film Hope and Glory, the song "Begin the Beguine" is sung by Dawn while her family is repairing windows broken during an air raid.
  • Sung by Sammy Davis Jr in Moon Over Parador

Uses in other media

  • Elvis Presley recorded his own song in 1962 based on the Cole Porter song entitled "You'll Be Gone". Presley co-wrote the song with his bodyguard Red West and his assistant Charlie Hodge.
  • A character in Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero (2007) refers to this song several times.
  • The song is quoted musically and affectionately parodied in Noel Coward's Nina from Argentina.
  • Mentioned several times in Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. Milton Stephanides, father of the novel's main character, Cal, plays the song on his clarinet in order to woo Tessie, Cal's mother.
  • Mentioned in Jimmy Buffett's novel A Salty Piece of Land.
  • In the Little Mermaid song "Under the Sea", Sebastian the crab sings "When the sardines begin the beguines, it's music to me."
  • In the short story "Julio Iglesias" by Haruki Murakami, Iglesias' recording of the song proves to be unbearable to a group of sea turtles.
  • Tom Lehrer refers to it in his song "Alma" - "Her lovers were many and varied/From the day she began her -- beguine."

The song is cited by name in the first episode of the BBC sitcom, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads.

  • Fictional Medal of Honor recipient Ernie Yost sings the song in an episode of NCIS when he proclaims his love for Artie Shaw over Benny Goodman in the episode "Call of Silence".
  • In the Valentine's Day episode of the hit sitcom The Golden Girls, Julio Iglesias and Sophia (Estelle Getty) sing the first line.
  • In a sixth season The West Wing episode called "A Good Day", President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) sings part of the song while dancing in the Oval Office with the First Lady, Abby Bartlet (Stockard Channing).
  • In Episode 8 of Twin Peaks, character Leland Palmer regains consciousness after collapsing and menacingly exclaims "I feel good... Begin the beguine!".
  • On the "Chess (musical)" Concept Album in the song "Mountain Duet", the Russian sings "Get to the point, begin the beguine".

Other recordings

Preceded by
"Under Pressure"
by Queen & David Bowie
UK number one single
5 December 1981
for (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Don't You Want Me" by The Human League

Citations

  1. ^ Wilder, Alec. American Popular Song: The Great Innovators 1900-1950 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 240.
  2. ^ RCA Recordings in the 20-1500 series
  3. ^ Biography of Tony Martin
  4. ^ Decca recordings in the 2000 series
  5. ^ Decca recordings in the 25000 series
  6. ^ RCA Recordings in the 20-2500 series

See also








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