Straw Hat and Cane? Oh no!

February 4, 2008

Mel Shapiro is from a different generation, one that has straw hat and cane numbers in their bones. Imagine my surprise to turn the page of our script to find that a straw hat and cane have been tossed onto the stage and now I’ve got four people singing and dancing to my music.

Oh shit! I never wrote no song n dance music.

Hmmmm, guess I better do my homework. Here’s Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in “Chicago Style” from ROAD TO BALI (1952 – the year I was born). What’s going on harmonically? Every chord is and can be a secondary dominant, and they usually go through the circle of fifths, starting on V7/ii [V7/ii V7/V V7 I]. Then the break steps up to IV for a “break,” but then gravitates right back into that circle of 5ths momentum that takes us back home.

Secondary dominants are, in a sense, surprise chords. So a song filled with them has a lot of surprises, and, well, cheery feelings. Such was Vaudeville.

Songs finished so far in my Palm Springs long weekend: “That Guy in a Dress” for three women, “Sit by my Side” for alto and chorus, “Women Are” for 2 baritones, “I Used to be Beautiful” for solo soprano, and “This Boy” for solo baritone. Now, back to work on “Give ‘Em What They Want” — the straw hat and cane song.

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