I wish could tell you more about Hoagie Carmichael, as he was one of the great 20th century American songwriters. I do know that he was born in 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana. He began gigging at piano at age 19, and soon was playing and leading jazz bands. An enthusiastic adherent of the new “hot jazz” movement, he joined up with jazz bands in Chicago, where he played with Louis Armstrong and with his lifelong friend and associate, the legendary Bix Beiderbecke. Carmichael began writing songs early on, and in the 30’s 40’s wrote for many movies. He starred in a number of musical revues and radio shows, and acted in fourteen movies. He also worked on a number of other non-music jobs over the years. Quite a guy. He wrote hundreds of songs, but his three most famous, written in the 1930’s, are among the finest fruits of the jazz genre: Georgia On Mind, Up a Lazy River, and Stardust.
Ray Charles’ iconic version of Georgia On My Mind has been playing in my head for my entire life. In my first novel, Up in the Bronx, I had one of my characters, Madeleine Rose, pause from her busy life to listen to Georgia on her car radio. Although no one will ever match the Ray Charles version, the song is still worth playing. Anyhow, I played it, perhaps a bit over-sweetly, the other day.
The Up a Lazy River recording I did about a year ago, but it seems I was too up a lazy (up a river) to record it again. It’s such a perfect ragtime progression. Everyone has done it. The Mills Bros. version is my favorite. Check out the Mills Brothers and check out Hoagie Carmichael too.
Up a Lazy River
As for Stardust, I’ve been trying to learn it for the longest time. I still don’t have it down, but it is still a pleasure to try to get it right, because the moments you do get it right are so sweet. It’s just that great a song. All the great jazz bands and singers have sung this one.