In 1959, Anne Phillips recorded Born to Be Blue
(Roulette)—one of the finest female vocal albums of the year. I posted about it here
in 2011 along with my conversation with Anne. A few days ago, Anne and I exchanged emails and she shared with me new lyrics she wrote to the melody of Lullaby of Birdland—
along with a 2007 demo recording of her singing her new lyrics backed by Marian McPartland on piano.
The original song and lyrics were written in 1952 by George Shearing and George David Weiss as a tribute to the famed jazz club. Birdland opened in December 1949 on Broadway, between 52nd and 53d St. It had been known previously as the Clique Club and was re-named Birdland in honor of Charlie Bird" Parker. But as jazz styles and tastes changed, Birdland closed in 1965 after the club went bankrupt. The space was aquired by R&B singer Lloyd Price, who renamed it The Turntable.
Here's the email Anne sent along...
A few weeks ago I was walking home from the jazz club Iridium and thinking about what New York was like when I first came to town from Pennsylvania. As I walked past what is now a “gentleman's club” called Flashdancers, I sighed and said out loud to no one in particular, 'And that used to be Birdland.' From out of the dark, a quiet voice responded, 'And I used to be Pee Wee Marquette.'
Startled, I looked up and saw a very tall, thin white man. It was the doorman of Flashdancers, holding his hand down to the size of Pee Wee—about 3-foot, 9-inches. I stopped and said, 'Do you remember Birdland?' We got into a wonderful conversation about the club, where Pee Wee worked after Birdland closed, how he'd purposefully botch the musicians' names if they didn’t lay a little bread on him, and so on. 'New York has changed so much but I love the history,' he said.
I was tempted to start singing my lyric to Lullaby of Birdland—
called I Remember Birdland—
but it seemed little inappropriate. I wrote the lyric in 2007, the year I recorded my Ballet Time
CD. I was at Nola Recording Studio with Marian as she recorded her song In the Days of Our Love
. I had just finished writing the Birdland lyrics and sang them for her. Marian said, 'Come on, lets do it!' We went over the piano and wrapped it in one take, leaving me with a priceless demo! Bless Marian's heart!
You should have seen [trombonist] Benny Powell's face when he heard it! And Clark Terry's. But up until now, it has just made the rounds among a few friends. Please feel free to share the recording with JazzWax readers."
For the first time on the web, here's Anne Phillips and Marian McPartland collaborating on I Remember Birdland
, with lyrics by Anne...I Remember BirdlandI remember Birdland in its day Where the cats came to play Down the steps to Birdland Into a cavern of jazz, evermore unsurpassedSippin’ beer and listening, almost free In the peanut gallery Do you not concur, man That was the hippest in jazz historyBud, Charlie Mingus and Basie Just twenty feet away All introduced by Pee Wee A little ‘dust’ he’ll get your name right, they sayThere may be other clubs that use the name But I’ve been there, they’re not the same I remember Birdland and I will treasure it All my life longCarman and Ella and Sarah They taught us all how to sing Oh, what a fabulous era Long, long before Elvis was kingMr. Shearing wrote this lullaby An anthem to a time gone by I’ll remember Birdland and swing it Every little songbird will sing it I’ll remember Birdland ‘til the end of time