Simanaitis Says

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ON FEMININE RHYMES

I CONFESS BEING BLISSFULLY ignorant of modern pop music. I got as far as Rasputina’s cello rock and Bikini Kill’s grrrl riot, but not much further. 

Indeed, I continue to celebrate the sophistication of the American Songbook. Its musical styles are manifold; its lyrics are wonderfully quotable. Here are several of my favorite ones replete with feminine rhymes (perhaps better known these P.C. days as multiple rhymes).

They’re Either Too Young or Too Old. This Frank Loesser/Arthur Schwartz song was introduced by Bette Davis (in her unique musical bit) in Thank Your Lucky Stars, a 1943 World War II fundraiser. 

The song has appeared before at SimanaitisSays, but its repetition here is warranted by such great feminine rhyming as “I’ll never, never fail ya,/ While you are in Australia./ Or out in the Aleutians,/ Or off among the Rooshians,/ And flying over Egypt,/ Your heart will never be gypped./ And when you get to India,/ I’ll still be what I’ve been to ya.”

Bette Davis sings this war-time romantic lament on YouTube: “For there’s no secret lover,/ That the draft board didn’t discover” 

Let’s Take a Walk Around The Block. Harold Arlen composed this light-footed ditty, witty lyrics by Ira Gershwin and E.Y. Harburg. The song was introduced in the Broadway musical Life Begins at 8:40, which opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on August 27, 1934.

It opens with “I never traveled further north than old Van Cortland park/ And never further south than the aquarium./ I’ve seen the charm of Jersey City, but first let me remark/ I saw it from the Empire State Solarium.”

Other feminine rhyming: “To London in May time,/ To Venice in play time,/ To Paris in time for a frock./ To Boston in bean time./ Darling, meantime,/ Let’s take a walk around the block.” 

“We’ll keep to our promise/ To visit St. Thomas…” 

Ella Fitzgerald sings my favorite rendition of Let’s Take a Walk Around the Block, the YouTube of which has an appropriate collection of visuals. 

You’re the Top! This standard by Cole Porter and John McGlinn was the hit of the 1934 musical Anything Goes. It too is filled with feminine rhymes incorporating its contrasting similes: “You’re the top,/ You’re Mahatma Gandhi./ You’re the top,/ You’re Napolean brandy./ You’re the purple light/ Of a summer night in Spain./ You’re the National Gallery,/ You’re Garbo’s salary,/ You’re cellophane.”

You’re the Top! sung by Cole Porter, with complete lyrics at YouTube.

Wikipedia offers 34 of these references, together with another 31 appearing in other versions of the song. (For a while there, Porter “was flooded with parodies, one reportedly written by Irving Berlin.”)

The most risqué parody is discussed by Slate in “Another Porter Riddle!,” June 22, 2005. (Don’t click here, kids. It’s for mom and dad.) 

In distinct contrast, I am reminded of pal Ron Wakefield’s comment about another music genre: German Lieder. He says the typical Lied, sung dolefully with hands clutched to breast, always reminds him of “Nochmals, völlig nicht fällt mir.” Translated: “Once more, utterly nothing occurs to me.”

It’s quite the opposite in the American Songbook’s feminine rhyming. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022 

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