Willow Weep for Me

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Willow Weep for Me (Ann Ronell)

Excerpts from Wikipedia:

Willow Weep for Me” is a popular song composed in 1932 by Ann Ronell, who also wrote the lyrics. The song form is AABA and it is written in 4/4 time,[1] although it is occasionally adapted for 3/4 waltz time, as on recordings by Phil Woods (Musique du Bois, 1974) and Dr. Lonnie Smith (Jungle Soul, 2006.) It is mostly known as a jazz standard, having been recorded first by Ted Fio Rito (with vocal by Muzzy Marcellino) in October 1932 and by Paul Whiteman (with vocal by Irene Taylor) the following month.

One account of the inspiration for the song is that, during her time at Radcliffe College, Ronell “had been struck by the loveliness of the willow trees on campus, and this simple observation became the subject of an intricate song”.[2] The song was not initially accepted by publishers, for several reasons. First, the song is dedicated to George Gershwin; a dedication to another writer was disapproved of at the time, so the first person presented with the song for publication, Saul Bornstein, passed it to Irving Berlin, who chose to accept it. Other reasons stated for its slow acceptance are that it was written by a woman and that its construction was unusually complex for a composition that was targeted at a commercial audience (i.e. radio broadcast, record sales and sheet music sales).[1] An implied tempo change in the fifth bar, a result of a switch from the two quavers and a quaver triplet opening in each of the first four bars to just four quavers opening the fifth, then back to two quavers and a quaver triplet opening the sixth bar, which then has a more offset longer note than any of the previous bars, was one cause of Bornstein’s concern.[1][4] Notable recordings continued from the early 1950s, following the success of Stan Kenton’s 1950 release (with vocal by June Christy) of the song.[1][2]

ANN RONELL – biography by Steve Huey, as published at AllMusic.com

One of the first successful female composers working in Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley, Ann Ronell was born in Omaha, NE, on December 28, 1908 (some sources alternately list 1906). She attended Radcliffe College and studied composition with Walter Piston, and also served as an editor on the college newspaper, where she got the chance to interview George Gershwin. Gershwin wound up giving her a job as his rehearsal pianist, giving her entry into the world of Broadway theater. Additionally, she took up teaching, worked as a vocal coach, and kept perfecting her songwriting, ranking as one of the few professionals of the era to handle both lyrics and music. She got her start in the business with 1930’s “Baby’s Birthday Party”; two years later she wrote the song that would become her greatest success, “Willow Weep for Me,” a jazz and pop standard recorded by countless singers and instrumentalists. [read more]

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1932


(above, left) Ted Fio Rito, (right) Muzzy Marcellino

Ted Fio Rito and his Orchestra, vocal: Muzzy Marcellino – recorded in San Francisco, October 1932

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Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, vocal: Irene Taylor – recorded in New York, 17 November 1932

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Bert Ambrose and his Mayfair Hotel Orchestra, vocal: Sam Browne — 1933

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June Christy: (left) radio broadcast, (right) with Stan Kenton

Stan Kenton and his Orchestra with June Christy (v) – the song appeared on the album Artistry in Rhythm in 1950; but it was recorded in 1946.

The first video has an interesting slide show featuring images of June Christy, but the first photo (later shown again several times) is of Jo Stafford in a recording studio, not June Christy.

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Art Tatum – solo, 1953

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Billie Holiday — radio broadcast transcription, recorded live on 6 October 1953, at Storyville Club, Boston — Carl Drinkard (p) Jimmy Woode (b) Peter Littman (d) Billie Holiday (v)

paulo.novaes@billieholidaysongs.com comments:

[T]here’s a small chat at the track beginning. The tempo gets very slow and it ends in a lament…” This clip is missing that chat and the introduction by John McClellan.

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Billie Holiday – Probably 29 Aug 1956, recorded for radio broadcast at the Red Hill Inn at Pennsauken, New Jersey –  Live Session #46 [radio broadcast] New Jersey- Musicians: prob. Carl Drinkard (p), Unknown (b), (d) Billie Holiday (v). I’ve chosen this date out of several live recordings of the song listed at billyholidaysongs.com primarily because it’s the closest match with respect to both duration and instrumentation.

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Sarah Vaughan and her Trio — from the 1957 album At Mister Kelly’s; recorded 6-8 August 1957* at at Mister Kelly’s jazz club in Chicago

album links:

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Muzzy Marcellino with studio orchestra led by Russ Garcia

From the album Birds of a Feather, 1957. The whistling is by Muzzy Marcellino, 25 years after his 1932 hit with Ted Fio Rito.

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Duke Ellington and his Orchestra – recorded 10 October 1957, soloist: Shorty Baker, trumpet . Released on the album Ellington Indigos, 1958

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Frank Sinatra – recorded 29 May 1958 — arrangement by Nelson Riddle; released on Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely

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Mary Lou Williams – recorded c.1950, possibly 3 January 1950

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Wes Montgomery — from the 1967 album A Day in the Life

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Ron Carter – solo, Switzerland – 1984

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Hank Jones – piano solo at Carnegie Hall, 6 April 1994 — part of the Verve 50th anniversary celebrations

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Willow Weep for Me (Ann Ronell) – lyric

Willow weep for me
Willow weep for me
Bend your branches green along the stream that runs to sea
Listen to my plea
Hear me willow and weep for me

Gone my lovers dream
Lovely summer dream
Gone and left me here to weep my tears into the stream
Sad as I can be
Hear me willow and weep for me

Whisper to the wind and say that love has sinned
Left my heart a-breaking, and making a moan
Murmur to the night to hide its starry light
So none will see me sighing and crying all alone

Weeping willow tree
Weep in sympathy
Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me
When the shadows fall, hear me willow and weep for me

Oh, weeping willow tree
Weep in sympathy
Bend your branches down along the ground and cover me
When the shadows fall, hear me willow and weep for me

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* Wikipedia dates the recording 6-8 August 1957, while Discogs.com dates it 6 August 1957.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wayneman
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 16:03:06

    An absolutely incredible website! Thank you so much for all your labors in putting these treasures together. So much history and so much heavenly chords to tie our hearts as one. Do you have much on the Latin standards over the years? Thankfully, Wayneman

    Reply

    • doc
      Mar 17, 2010 @ 16:34:56

      Wayneman, Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree, music is the thread which ties us all together, by the heart. Do I have much on the Latin standards? Not really. I do have another site, bossanova1.wordpress.com, which features not only bossa nova music but also tropicália, and other early MPB. Although I’ve expanded beyond the original parameters (only bossa nova), the major focus remains on the popular music of the period 1958 to the early 70s. — Cheers, Jim

      Reply

    • doc
      Nov 11, 2013 @ 21:01:14

      wayneman,

      Have been periodically adding Latin standards. Today I created an index of those I’ve done feature pages on:

      Latin standards: 21 selected songs, 1928-1972

      I’m trying to think of a better, more precise but not overlong, title for the page.

      Reply

  2. doc
    May 30, 2011 @ 03:41:51

    My bossa nova & MPB site is presently closed due to insufficient free time with which to maintain it. — doc

    Reply

  3. Barry Hutchins
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 20:43:07

    Thanks doc for the education and the great work on this site. In the early sixtys when stationed at NAS Argentia, Newfoundland spent many nights listening to a wonderful Kenton LP that had (as far as I was concerned) the best WW4Me instrimental ever (w/o Julie) so … since I can’t find it anywhere my favorite rendition still has to be one available only in my memory……. thanks again Hutch

    Reply

    • doc
      Jun 26, 2011 @ 01:32:06

      Barry,
      That wasn’t so hard to find…if you know how. Second Hand Songs lists a recording by Stan Kenton and his Orchestra for 1960. So I search through Kenton’s album discography at Wikipedia and find a couple dated 1959 and one 1960. The 1960 title doesn’t look promising: Too Much (with Ann Richards). So I decide to try the ’59 titles first.The title Standards In Silhouette looks like it might be the one and cduniverse.com has a review and tracklist, here. Willow Weep for Me is the first track. All About Jazz has a review as well.

      I’m not certain that this is the track you’re looking for, but chances are better than slim I’d say.

      I’ve just recently reinstalled my Operating System and don’t have an account set up yet to allow me to play many audio files. I typically use Rhapsody.com for LP’s, Windows Media Player or a substitute for individual MP3s, and Real Alternative for ra sound files (the site redhotjazz.com uses this format). Let me know if you need any more help. — Cheers, Jim

      Reply

  4. doc
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 01:40:40

    Sorry about giving the wrong title originally of the 1959 Kenton LP which leads off with WW4Me. I’ve made a few corrections in the message immediately above. Again, it’s Standards In Silhouette.

    Reply

  5. Kim Morgan
    Mar 28, 2017 @ 12:19:41

    Hello, Songbook! I just found you. I am a singer, band player and very interested in song history, including biographies. What a wonderful resource, thank you.

    Reply

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