How Deep is the Ocean? (How High is the Sky?)

__________________________________________

How Deep is the Ocean? (How High is the Sky?) words and music by Irving Berlin

The song was introduced on radio, a medium which Berlin distrusted. He openly criticized radio for its tendency to dramatically reduce the arc of a song’s initial rise to and fall from popularity, complaining that radio overplay killed hit songs quickly. A recording by Paul Whiteman became the first of four hit recordings of the song in 1932, the year of its introduction.

Excerpt from WICN.org’s “Song of the Week” feature:

History
When Irving Berlin wrote “How Deep is the Ocean?” he was in a creative depression that must have seemed to him as deep as the ocean. From 1927 to 1932 he composed few songs that met with public success. The loss of most of his fortune in the 1929 stock market crash added to his professional anxiety, but before that he had suffered a much worse personal blow. His only son, Irving Berlin, Jr., died of sudden infant death syndrome on Christmas Day in 1928. Philip Furia and William Lasser in America’s Songs relate how Berlin feared he had lost his songwriting talent: “I had gotten rusty as a songwriter. I developed an inferiority complex. No song I wrote seemed right. I struggled to pull off a hit.” He lost the ability to judge whether or not a song he was writing had hit potential. “There were times between 1930 and 1932,” he said, when he “…got so I called in anybody to listen to my songs – stock room boys, secretaries. One blink of the eye and I was stuck.”

During that low period of his life, Berlin composed two future jazz standards, “Say It Isn’t So” and “How Deep is the Ocean?” But, he discarded both songs because he thought they weren’t good enough. Max Winslow, one of his music publishing associates, took “Say It Isn’t So” to radio crooner Rudy Vallee and asked him to sing it. He said to Vallee, “Irving’s all washed up, or at least he feels like it. He thinks he’s written out as a songwriter. But there’s a song of his I’d like you to look at and please, sing it for him.” Vallee was personally moved by the song, agreed to sing it and it became a number one hit. It was one of the few Berlin songs introduced on the radio. In his biography Irving Berlin: A Life In Song, Philip Furia writes, “Radio was an ironic salvation for Berlin, who had been suspicious of the new medium that offered “free music” to the public since its inception in the early 1920s; by the 1930s, he was openly critical of the threat radio posed to his business – and his art:

We have become a world of listeners, rather than singers. Our songs don’t live anymore. They fail to become part of us. Radio has mechanized them all. In the old days Al Jolson sang the same song for years until it meant something – when records were played until they cracked. Today, Paul Whiteman plays a song hit once or twice or a Hollywood hero sings them once in the films and radio runs them ragged for a couple of weeks – then they’re dead. – Irving Berlin

Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, vocal: Jack Fulton — 1932

.

Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, vocal: Carmen Lombardo — recorded on 17 October 1932

.

Bing Crosby — 1933

.

Judy Garland – radio broadcast transcription from an episode of the ”The Danny Kaye Show,” aired 5 October, 1945 —  Judy and Frank Sinatra were standing in for Kaye, who was away.

.

The following recording is take one (D1156-A) of the two Dial session takes recorded on 17 Dec 1947 at WOR Studios, NYC.

Original Charlie Parker Quintet with J.J. Johnson — Miles Davis: tp, J.J. Johnson: tb, Charlie Parker: as, Duke Jordan: p, Tommy Potter: b,  Max Roach: ds

.

Judy Garland – (radio broadcast)  from Hollywood Party, Jan 1951 (?)

.

Billie Holiday – Session #70 New York, 14 April 1954 — Charlie Shavers (tp) Oscar Peterson (p) Herb Ellis (g) Ray Brown (b) Ed Shaughnessy (d) Billie Holiday – (v), released on Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra (Verve)

.

Harry Edison & his Orchestra — from the 1956 LP Sweets

.

1959-these-tunes-remind-me-of-you-us-verve-mgv-8299

Teddy Wilson Trio —  recorded in September 1956; released on the 1959 album These Tunes Remind Me of You, (US) Verve MGV-8299

Teddy Wilson – piano
Al Lucas – bass
Jo Jones – drums

.

Bill Evans Trio — from the 1961 album Explorations

Bill Evans – piano
Scott LaFaro – bass
Paul Motian – drums

.

Bill Evans Trio – recorded in London, 19 March 1965, for the BBC TV series Jazz 625, hosted by Humphrey Lyttelton

Bill Evans – piano
Chuck Israels – bass
Larry Bunker – drums

Advertisements

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. keithosaunders
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 14:20:35

    I love Bill Evans sublime version of this song. I also love Charlie Parker’s version. He hardly strays from the melody in his solo, but it is one of the most lyrical solos I have ever heard.

    I also have a version of this on my latest trio CD “Lost In Queens”

    http://www.keithosaunders.com

    Reply

  2. doc
    Mar 03, 2010 @ 17:30:49

    Hi Keith,
    Yeah. I couldn’t find a Charlie Parker video for this song, so there’s only a link for now. There will be a lot more of both Parker and Evans to come on the site. – Doc

    Reply

  3. Lee A. Delia
    May 07, 2016 @ 16:45:43

    How about Sinatra’s rendition of this great song?

    Reply

    • doc
      May 10, 2016 @ 13:18:01

      Hi Lee,

      Good suggestion. I may have originally had a Sinatra recording of the song in the page, which was published a little over 6 years ago, and removed it due to the ever-present issue of YouTube killing videos for various reasons. In any event, in some of the early pages, especially those published from 2009-2010, in my haste to construct the skeleton of the site rapidly, I sometimes included only ten or fewer recordings. Today, I typically include one to two dozen recordings in each new page on a single featured song, and aim to update older pages of this kind accordingly. Will try to expand the page ASAP.

      Regards,
      doc

      Frank Sinatra — 1946

      Reply

  4. Trackback: High Flying | Implied Spaces
  5. S. Meyers
    Dec 20, 2016 @ 17:55:43

    One jazz artist who frequently sang this song and with whom it was identified is Chet Baker. The trumpeter and vocalist played it in the 50’s and later in life when he was “rediscovered” by younger jazz lovers. I will always remember Baker’s voice singing this tune.

    Reply

  6. Treewillie
    Jan 19, 2017 @ 08:38:36

    Rufus Wainwright has also a nice performance with this nr.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

free
web stats

  • 2,448,098 views