By THE ENTHUSIAST Let’s Be Frank
Ol' Blue Eyes has had an outsize influence on the festive season. Attentive readers will recall that Sinatra asked lyricist Hugh Martin to rewrite part of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." He tasked Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne (who had written "Three Coins In The Fountain" for him three years earlier) to contribute an original Christmas song to the same album, A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra. Cahn scoffed at the idea. "Jule, we're not going to write any Christmas song. After Irving Berlin's "White Christmas"? The idea's just ridiculous." Styne set him straight. "'Frank wants a Christmas song,” he said. Frank got a Christmas song.
The two met at Styne’s apartment to start kicking ideas around, and Cahn asked “Hey, Jule, has there ever been a Christmas waltz?” When Styne couldn’t think of one, Cahn asked him to play a waltz he’d been toying with and started jotting down lyrics. Cahn, by the way, always felt that rhyming "time" and "mine" ("And this song of mine, in three-quarter time") was less than his best work. As we shall see below, The Enthusiast will make so bold as to suggest that "time" and "mine" are the least of the lyrical concerns here.
Caveat No. 1
Allow The Enthusiast to draw your attention to the following:
Frosted window panes Candles gleaming inside Painted candy canes on the tree
Painted candy canes? Painted? No one has ever painted a candy cane. Go ahead – log onto Etsy right now and just try to track one down. The Enthusiast acknowledges that the meter requires two syllables prior to "candy," but honestly, painted?
Caveat No. 2
And then we have this:
Santa's on his way He's filled his sleigh with things Things for you and for me
Now, look. Sammy Cahn is a legendary songwriter, and far be it from The Enthusiast to throw shade. But – things? Did Frank stop by unannounced to hear his new song just as Sammy was penning that particular lyric? “What does Santa bring?” one imagines him shouting to Jule as Sinatra glides up in the elevator. “I don’t know – stuff?” Jule stammers, panicked. “He’s filled his sleigh with stuff – stuff for you and for me,” Cahn sings to himself as Sinatra raps at the door. “No! Wait! Things!” he cries just as Jule throws up the door. “Frank! What an unexpected delight!” And the rest is Christmas history.
Wish A Wish Or Two
Perhaps having mulled over these very caveats in the intervening years, Cahn wrote an additional set of new lyrics for "The Christmas Waltz" when Mel Tormé brought out his album Christmas Songs in 1992. And what fine new lyrics they are:
There are songs to sing
Every family’s a choir
Toys to wrap and bring to the tree
Your own wishing star is not so far from view
Wish a wish or two, I promise you
Christmas wishes can, and do, come true
Hear, hear, Mr. Cahn. That "and do" is especially nice. A tip of the Santa hat your way.
Number eighteen in a series.
18 December 2020
The Enthusiast (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.