This week the timeless classic “Blue Skies” was written by the brilliant composer Irving Berlin in 1926. The beautiful and simple lyrics he wrote were quite likely a reflection of the world’s post war optimism.
The first live performance of this song was in a play called Betsy. If what I read is true, the woman who performed “Blue Skies” on opening night, Belle Baker, received 24 encores to sing the song. By the 24th time she apparently forgot some of the words so Mr. Berlin himself helped her complete the version from his front row seat in the theatre. That had to be quite a moment!
The first recorded version of "Blue Skies" by dance bandleader/musician Ben Selvin and his orchestra known as The Knickerbokers, became a hit in 1927. During this same year the one and only Al Jolson recorded a version for the well known film “The Jazz Singer”, one of the first “talkies”.
From its inception, Blue Skies has gone on to be recorded by hundreds maybe thousands of performers over the last ninety years! Young jazz singers and musicians inevitably include it in their beginning repertoires and lounge singers know it inside out and backwards. The fact that the song so easily lends itself to such a wide variety of musical arrangements and styles helped it crossed over into the mainstream. Willie Nelson had a country music hit with it in 1978! If you have a moment google the song title and your will be amazed at how many well known artists have covered this classic.
In my seniors chair fitness classes I lean towards the more contemporary stylings on recordings by people like Doris Day or Rod Stewart. I choose versions with simple arrangements and shorter solo sections so my participants have the opportunity to sing along with the tune; something they do without prompting because it’s so familiar and well loved.