They Say It’s Spring

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They Say It’s Spring (Bob Haymes, Marty Clark)

Wikipedia says:

In the early 1950s, Bob Haymes began work as a songwriter. In 1952, he co-wrote the song “My Love, My Love” with Nick Acquaviva, which became a hit when recorded by Joni James (Acquaviva’s eventual sister-in-law) later that year. That same year, Haymes copyrighted the song entitled, “C’est Tout,” which was the early incarnation of his most notable song, “That’s All.” In 1953, he refined the song’s lyrics with Alan Brandt, who was subsequently credited as co-writer.

In the mid-’50s, he co-wrote the song “They Say It’s Spring” with Marty Clark; the song was made popular by jazz singer Blossom Dearie, who recorded it on her 1957 album Give Him the Ooh-La-La.

“That’s All” has been recorded by hundreds of artists, and a look at its recording history suggests that it had become an established standard by the mid-1960s. Co-written with the obscure songwriter Marty Clark*, “They Say It’s Spring” is evidently the second most popular song among those written or co-written by Bob Haymes, though it hasn’t always been popular — the great majority of recordings that I’ve found have been released in the last 20 years.

Wikipedia (see above) suggests that the song was written in the “mid-’50s.” Though I haven’t yet found a copyright date or other information regarding the year in which it was written, according to all sources that I’ve consulted the 1957 recording of the song by Blossom Dearie is the first.

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Blossom Dearie Quartet — from the 1958 LP Give Him the Ooh-La-La, (US) Verve Records MGV-2081; album recorded in NYC on 12 & 13 December 1957***

Blossom Dearie –  piano, vocal
Herb Ellis –  guitar
Ray Brown – bass
Jo Jones – drums

.

Tommy Flanagan — from the 1978 album Ballads & Blues, (Germany) Enja Records 3031 ST — album recorded on 15 November 1978 at Penthouse Studio, NYC

personnel:

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Reg Schwager — from his 1997 album Border Town, on the Jazz From Rant label

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Harry Allen — released on 21 November 1998 on the album Day Dream, (Japan) BMG BVCJ-3100 — The Tommy Flanagan Trio accompanies Allen on some tracks of the album

musicians on this track:

  • Harry Allen – tenor saxophone
  • Tommy Flanagan – piano

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The Stuart Hemingway Trio + 1 — from the 2000 album Cool Jazz in Paradise…, on MJT Records

In this live performance, the following lines from the original lyric:

Though I know
That it’s so
That my fancy may turn in the spring

With the right
One in sight
One can find a perpetual thing

are replaced with the lines below, of unknown authorship:

Love’s a word
So absurd
Whether written, spoken, or sung

What clichés
We all say
When your heart’s on the tip of your tongue

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Bryan Shaw, with vocal by Rebecca Kilgore — from the 2000 CD album Night Owl, Arbors Records ARCD 19

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Erin McKeown — from the CD album Sing You Sinners, released in 2006 on the following labels: Nettwerk America — US & Canada, Nettwerk — US, Nettwerk Productions UK Ltd. — UK

The lyric sung by McKeown is nearly the same as that of the original except for ill-advised changes to the section which in the 1957 Blossom Dearie recording goes:

If poets sing
That when a heart’s sympathetic
It’s merely spring
Then poets’ plights are pathetic
Though I’m poetic too

McKeown replaces this carefully crafted and perfectly logically statement with the following:

If poets sing
That when a heart’s sympathetic
It may be spring
Then poets’ plights are pathetic
But I’m poetic too

This is what happens when someone tries to improve a lyric without understanding how their modifications change or obscure the meaning of the original words. Poets know just as well as you and I when it’s spring, so why would they sing that “It may be spring,” when a heart is showing signs of being sympathetic? They wouldn’t, unless the phrase means “It may be spring that’s causing the effect.” There’s no obvious and compelling reason to believe that it does mean that in the substitute line sung by McKeown. On the other hand, it is quite clear that “It’s merely spring” in the lyric sung by Blossom Dearie means that the presence of spring alone, according to poets, is sufficient to explain the condition of a heart being sympathetic. Incidentally, the line “It may be spring” does appear in the 1957 Dearie version, but in the previous section, where it is used appropriately.

Also, replacing “Though” with “But” in the last line of this section in the 2006 McKeown version is unhelpful and weakens the line. “Though” sometimes means the same as “but,” when it used as a coordinating conjunction that connects ideas that contrast, but in the original lyric it specifically means “despite the fact that.” It’s not obvious that the word “But” in the McKeown version of the line carries the same meaning.

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Depart — from the 2006 album Reloaded, on the German ACT label (ACT 9453-2)

Harry Sokal —  soprano saxophone, tenor sax, effects, mastered by
Heiri Känzig – bass
Jojo Mayer – drums

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Terri Cerritto — from the CD album Last Night When We Were Young, released in 2007 on the Fedora label

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Joe Alterman Trio, with Ralph Lalama — recorded on 15 December 2010 at New York University – video by David Sidorov

Joe Alterman – piano
Ralph Lalama – tenor saxophone
Michael Feinberg – bass
Allan Mednard – drums

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Bonnie Harris — from the 2010 CD album Listen Here, on the Lush Life Records label

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Sally Jackels — from her debut CD album The Promise of Spring, released in 2011 on the Sally Jackels label

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Nicki Parrott —  from the 2012 CD album Sakura Sakura, (Japan) Venus Records VHCD-1068; album recorded at Avatar Studio in New York on 25, 26 & 28 November 2011

album personnel:

Nicki Parrott – vocal and bass
John Di Martino – piano
Lisa Parrott – soprano and baritone saxophones
Paul Meyers – guitar
Tim Horner – drums
Dominick Farinacci – trumpet
Martin Wind – cello

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Unidentified small combo — Voorspeelavond Junior Jazz College, 22 June 2012, Amsterdam Blue Note, Conservatorium van Amsterdam

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Joe Alterman Trio — from the 2012 CD album Give Me the Simple Life, Miles High Records MHR-8619 — album recorded at Avatar Studio B, New York City, NY,  on 13 & 14 September 2011

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Aiko Ito with the Phillip Strange Piano Trio — from the album They Say It’s Spring, released in 2013

Ito Aiko – vocal
Phillip Strange – piano, arrangement
Tetsuro Arakado – bass
Takeda Tatsuhiko – drums

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Brian Patton, Hospitality Manager at North Hill senior living community in Needham, MA — published on YouTube, 25 April 2014

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Mimi Terris & Monday Night Big Band, with trumpet(?) solo by Fredrik Davidsson — Mattssons Musikpub Malmö, Sweden, 1 September 2014, featuring an arrangement by Mikael Karlsson

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onboro trio — published on YouTube, 9 February 2016

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* I have yet to find even a very brief biography of Marty Clark, or Marty Clarke. These two spellings of his last name are each frequently seen among discographies, and it’s unclear which one is correct.

** For those who wonder why I don’t stick to popular lyrics sites, and sometimes refer/link to rather obscure ones, as I do in this case, or even occasionally to a post or page on a blog, the answer is as follows: I generally prefer the lyric of the first, known vocal recording of a song, and I insist that a lyric transcription should be entirely correct. Since even popular lyric sites often have one or more errors in a given lyric transcription, and those errors get duplicated all over the web, I’m often compelled to either transcribe the lyric myself or look elsewhere. In this case, Sweets Lyrics (sweetslyrics.com) was one of only two sites that I found online that provides, without transcription errors, the full lyric of the first known vocal recording.

*** Disagreement as to the date of the recording sessions that produced the tracks on the 1958 album Give Him the Ooh-La-La, (US) Verve Records MGV-2081:

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: the spark of a firefly’s fling | Songbook

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