By Robert Walton
If you’re interested in American politics, you will know Nancy Pelosi was the 52nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. It was big news when the break-in of her San Francisco residence occurred in which her businessman husband Paul suffered serious injuries from an intruder.
Every time she appears on television, I’m reminded of another Pelosi who was in the music business - songwriter Don Pelosi. He was born Leonardo Domenico Pelosi in North London, the son of Domenico, an Italian from Picinisco, a historical town in the Lazio region. The young Pelosi was born within the sounds of The ‘Bow Bells’ of the church of St. Mary le-Bow. He grew up in Clerkenwell or ‘Little Italy’ in London. (The only other Pelosi I knew was a Welsh priest).
Whenever the great song standards of the 20th Century are discussed, it’s a fair bet that The Stars Will Remember from 1947 will not be amongst them. Why? It might not be in the top echelon of evergreens but this pretty little British ditty can’t be ignored. After all it was recorded by Steve Conway, Robert Farnon (Dick James), Vera Lynn, Scotty McHarg, Vaughn Monroe, Monte Rey and Billy Thorburn. My favourite version of the song from the 1948 film “Smart Girls Don’t Talk” was by one of the most underrated vocalists of the 1940s, Howard Jones with Joe Loss and His Orchestra.
However the most notable recording was by Frank Sinatra with Axel Stordahl’s Orchestra. On the current Google this isn’t even mentioned unless you specifically ask for it. I thought that Sinatra’s connection would have easily warranted an automatic inclusion.
I was first attracted to this plaintive melody because it was easy to play by ear. It’s a no-frills tune, some might say quite ordinary, but it’s that very directness which distinguishes it from other songs of the post war era. It’s an intuitive melody which may well have come to the composer on the spur of the moment. Whilst there’s a definite hymn-like quality about it, the tune would make an excellent national anthem. Listen to the brass at the close of the Joe Loss arrangement.
Unlike most quality ballads with the climax near the end, this one gets to the point very quickly. As early as bar 5 the tune swells quite naturally on the word “stars” appropriately on a top D supported by a major 9 chord, repeating the title in a highly emotive way. And then as an afterthought the words “so will I” are tagged on. Some may have thought that was the actual title. (Strangely enough twenty years earlier there was a song actually called So Will I ).
The listener has now got the message loud and clear. Every time the whole phrase occurs, it tugs at your heartstrings. Bringing a celestial element into the equation is perhaps the ultimate romantic illusion taking the song out of the common place into the rare. It worked well on this occasion. Lyricist Leo Towers keeping his feet firmly on the ground, doesn’t forget earthly things like a rose and a kiss. But his lyrical masterstroke, although he wouldn’t have been aware of it then, was quoting the song which has become the best known in the entire golden era of popular music, As Time Goes By.
Still in the written key of C, the tune slips effortlessly into a totally predictable middle section where we find our lovesick lover in a lonely lane, whose only company are those friendly stars. Harmonically nothing special happens, and yet step by step the melody quickly builds into a modest but perfectly formed climax alighting on the word “call” after the brokenhearted lover imagines he or she hears the ex lover’s voice. So what is the appeal of the song? In a word, simplicity. There are many more ‘star’ songs but none tells this touching little tale so evocatively in a way we can all relate to. And it’s underplayed so brilliantly that one really feels for the unfortunate victim. In such an uncomplicated setting, the pain and suffering seem truly genuine. A perfect match of words and music.
But even when this much neglected song falls into complete oblivion, at least we can be reassured that the stars will remember, and come to think of it, so will I!
Pleasant bittersweet song. Thanks for the excellent analysis of the song.Report Comment Link
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