By THE ENTHUSIAST
Loesser Is Greater
With the Feast of Stephen now behind us, the attention of The Enthusiast turns to songs celebrating the New Year, starting with "What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?" As we’ve noted, surprisingly few Christmas songs come from Broadway shows. Neither does this one, but it was written by one of the all-time Broadway greats: Frank Loesser, later lauded for Guys And Dolls and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying with Tony awards for the music and lyrics to both. Clearly what Frank was doing on New Year’s Eve, as on any other day, was everything.
Doo-Wop Is What I’m Doing This New Year's
Margaret Whiting was first to record the song in 1947, but it didn’t enter the charts until two years later when it became a top-ten hit R&B hit for The Orioles, the group that pioneered the "doo-wop" sound along with The Five Keys and The Spaniels. The Orioles were originally called The Vibra-Naires, by the way. The Enthusiast feels that they made the right choice there.
Baby, Get Cold Outside
Loesser penned not one but two holiday classics, the other being "Baby, It’s Cold Outside," a song which he wrote not for a Broadway show but as a duet for him and his wife Lynn to perform at parties. In A Most Remarkable Fella: Frank Loesser And The Guys And Dolls In His Life, his daughter Susan notes that they sang the song for the first time at their housewarming party at the Navarro Hotel in New York City, deploying it as a sly way of letting their guests know it was time to head out. “My mother just loved both the song and the fact that it was hers,” she adds, “And it kept them in champagne and caviar."
Susan Loesser makes a surprising clarification in the same book: "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" isn’t a New Year’s Eve song at all. “It’s early spring,” she says of the song’s setting. "The singer, madly in love, is making a (possibly rash) commitment far into the future. ("Maybe it's much too early in the game. Oh, but I thought I'd ask you just the same - What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?") It always annoyed my father when the song was sung during the holidays." The Enthusiast hopes it is not overly cynical to suggest that the royalties may have somewhat soothed his savage breast, along with the aforementioned champagne and caviar.
A Fistful Of Offers
One lyric has always given The Enthusiast pause:
Maybe I'm crazy to suppose I'd ever be the one you chose Out of a thousand invitations you'd receive
Given that The Enthusiast has never received more than a handful of invitations at any given New Year’s Eve, the notion of having a thousand to choose from is mind-boggling. But, then again, The Enthusiast is not Frank Loesser. And The Enthusiast is just going to have to accept that.
Number twenty-seven in a series.
27 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.