Mid-century music: around the world


Today it would be bizarre for multiple singers to do their own versions of the same popular song over the course of just a few years. Just imagine Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, Kendrick Lamar, and a host of others all doing their own versions of “Shape of You” after it was a hit for Ed Sheeran. How unimaginative! What a bunch of copycats! We just heard this song last month, and the month before, and the month before that! Right? We expect to hear new popular songs all the time, even if most of the stuff on the radio is just some generic, manufactured corporate commodity.

But in the mid-century years, songs were so well-crafted that this kind of thing happened quite frequently. It was perfectly normal, and even expected, for certain hit compositions to become standards, whether they were originally written for a particular singer, or for a stage musical or a movie soundtrack. Different singers and arrangers would give their own creative spin to the older standards and the recent hits, giving the public a variety of unique versions of the same song to choose from.

For your enjoyment, here are three versions of the song “Around the World,” first heard as an instrumental in the 1956 movie “Around the World in Eighty Days,” which was based on the Jules Verne novel. The theme of this song was quite fitting to the era. International travel had a greater presence in the public consciousness than in previous years, as jet travel had become more common and accessible.

Courtesy of various Youtube channels:

First up, Buddy Greco’s lively, swinging version.

Next, Frank Sinatra’s lilting, waltz-like take.

And finally, Brenda Lee lends her country/rockabilly-twangy voice to a version that has more of a bebop jazz rhythm.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Living MCM…


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