I was reminded this month of one of my favourite singers from the 1960’s and decided to learn my favorite songs of hers. I remember those slow, romantic dances to songs like I’m Sorry at the “sock hops” when I was in high school in Lachine. The dances were held in the school gymn and everyone had to take off their shoes so as not to ruin the wood floor. I also remember playing basketball, for the school team on that same floor before realizing that I should stick to football. Basketball required a more varied and fast focus that I couldn’t seem to master.
Back to Brenda Lee. My favorite five of her songs are: I’m Sorry, Break It To Me Gently, Fool #1, All Alone Am I, and The End of the World.
All ballads. All romantic. All sweet and schmaltzy. All arranged in a sophisticated style. All sung with magnificent intonation, feeling and timing. Such a big, wonderful voice from a petite, 4′ 9″ of unbelievable vocal power and depth. Brenda was born December 11, 1944. Her father died when she was about 9 and by the time she was 10 she was her family’s primary breadwinner – a successful child performer whose domination of the late fifties – early sixties charts was surpassed only by Madonna – in 1986.
Anyway, I bought the above 5 songs on iTunes and the sheets you will see here were lifted from her songs. I got the lyrics from azlyrics, a site which I consider to be the best lyric site out there. In going through them I was impressed by the deceptively simple, but brilliant, arrangements. I’ve tried to be faithful to the feeling and the chord progressions used in these songs. These arrangements work for me.
I’ll not apologize for the crowded sheets; two songs on one page and three on another. I do this to keep an already thick and heavy binder from overwhelming the support of my collapsible music stand. Hope you find them useful. I am adding the links to these songs so you can play along.
I’m Sorry This is in Bb, so capo 3 to play along. G suits my voice better.
Mack the Knife is one of my favorite songs of all time. I’ve been a fan of Bobby Darin since well before his 1959 version was a #1 hit in the US. I found Darin’s lyrics quite faithfully recorded at sing365.com, making only slight changes in spelling or caps for my chart below. The song was originally in a German operetta – music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Bertholt Brecht – that premiered in Berlin in 1928. The history of this song is a musical education in itself- fascinating! I was motivated to learn to play this one in response to a request by one of the complex care patients I entertain on Mondays at the local hospital. The reason I’d passed over it before is because it rises chromatically five times from concert Bb to Eb. It was beyond my guitar chops in 1959 to put this together, but if you can play bar chords it’s not that tough to follow what I’ve done here. If you plunk your capo on fret 1 you can start off in a comfy A and play along with this great YouTube video shared by Armadilloman.
Using a capo for this piece isn’t all that necessary. I just like the way it ends with me playing in a comfy key of D which, because of the capo, sounds like Eb, a key I still shy away from if I can.
Singing for palliative and complex care patients at the local hospital, I know that people usually really enjoy hearing a song in their own mother tongue. That is why I purposely did this song as Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu in the original Domenico Modugno Italian version from 1958 instead of Volare, which Dean Martin and the MacGuire Sisters also recorded in the same year. I’ve just finished it and thought I would pass it on.
I used my ear, Domenico Modugno’s YouTube performance from 1958 and this guitaretab website to figure it out. Playing the song in the key of G and using a capo on fret 3 enabled me to play along with the video, since the orchestra played it in concert Bb. I noticed in listening to Modugno’s version that many diminished chords were used, so I sprinkled in those liberally because they really enhance the song. The guitaretab website revealed to me the crazy Bb – D piece I was having trouble identifying, but it doesn’t contain the important diminished chords. Also I emphasized the syllables that coincide with the beat to help me with the word timing, since romance languages tend to blend vowel syllables together. That, for an English speaker, helps smooth out the piece. If you would like help with the diminished chords or anything else, comment on my site and I’ll do a post on diminished and augmented chords, which are easy to learn.