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Rolling Stones songs: The Nearness of You
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It isn’t your sweet conversation/ That brings this sensation, oh no…
Written by: Carmichael/Washington
Recorded: Olympia Theatre, Paris, France, July 11 2003
In 1940 Glenn Miller and His Orchestra introduced “The Nearness of You” with vocals by Ray Eberle. The Bluebird label recording was a moderate success, appearing on the pop charts at the end of June and remaining there for eleven weeks, peaking at number five. In 1953 the song became a charted hit again; this time Bob Manning, singing with Monty Kelly and His Orchestra, saw his recording climb the charts to number sixteen.
With regard to the song’s introduction, according to Richard Sudhalter’s Hoagy Carmichael biography Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, “The Nearness of You” was a melody that Carmichael dashed off for a screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring fifteen-year-old Mickey Rooney as Puck. With [Ned] Washington’s lyric, it became “The Nearness of You,” scheduled for inclusion in the feature Romance in the Rough. The film was never produced and the song had to wait for republication in 1940 to win its place as a standard.
In Sudhalter’s notes, of which there are more than 50 pages, he comments that despite accounts to the contrary, “The Nearness of You” was never scheduled to be included in the 1938 Paramount film, Romance in the Dark, starring John Boles, Gladys Swarthout and John Barrymore.
Probably a result of the similar titles, Romance in the Rough versus Romance in the Dark,the introduction of “The Nearness of You” is mistakenly credited to Ms. Swarthout in Romance in the Dark in at least one reference book, numerous sheet music books, and as a result, the error appears on hundreds of websites.
Out of all of Carmichael’s hits, “The Nearness of You” is his most straightforward love song, with both the music and lyrics conveying an unguarded sentimental tone. Alec Wilder in American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 calls it “simple and unclever,” “tender,” and “a forthright expression of the romantic world in which boys and girls once were wont to dream and dance and gaze and hold hands.” Wilder also comments that it is “the sort of song that an academic musical mind would sneer at.”
As if to refute Wilder’s latter comment, Allen Forte, Battell Professor of the Theory of Music at Yale University, devotes over five pages in his book Listening to Classic American Popular Songs to discussion of “The Nearness of You” terming certain aspects of the song “unusual,” “remarkable,” and “striking,” and even offering a “Congratulations, Hoagy!” for Carmichael’s slightly concealed replication of the refrain’s opening phrase in the verse.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track book:
The song “The Nearness of You” was written by Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington and was used in H. C. Potter’s movie Romance in the Dark (1938) Two years later, Glenn Miller and his big band had a major success with it, opening the way to many other versions by singers like Dinah Shore, Nat King Cole, and a duet with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. It is no secret that the Rolling Stones have always preferred traditional blues to the songs of American popular music.
In Life, Keith Richards writes: “It took me years to fully appreciate the talent of Broadway composers and musicians […]. And then when I started to write songs myself, I was able to measure the art of musical construction and the craftsmanship of these guys. I have the same esteem for Hoagy Carmichael, whose phone call I will never forget six months before his death.” The phone call was Hoagy wanting to congratulate Keith Richards on the demo he had made playing the piano in “The Nearness of You.” So it was partly in memory of Hoagy Carmichael, who died in 1981, that the Rolling Stones added this song to their set list on the Licks Tour.
Categories: Can You Hear the Music?