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.
For this song by Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh, a million-seller in 1953-54 for Frank Sinatra, I went first to ultimate-guitar.com to get the words and chords. The words were fine, and the chords helped, but didn’t all fit with what my ear wanted to hear. So I went to work. Once again I’ve posted the result because I see it as an improvement over what’s currently out there. It is rated on the ultimate-guitar site as intermediate for difficulty, and I agree, but I’ve used simplified chords that still sound great and included the chord diagrams for any of the less common chords used. You can play along with this YouTube Gmajor version of Sinatra’s marvelous performance of a wonderful ballad. It’s close enough.
Voicing of the diminished chords: The two diminished chords, to my ear, sound better where I’ve shown them in the tablature. The Ddim chord is played with strings 2 and 4 open and the Gbdim on the fourth fret. I have named them arbitrarily by the lowest note (on string 4). As you may know, as one moves up the fret board the diminished chords repeat themselves every third fret. The Ddim chord can thus be played in the open position or at fret 3 or at fret 6, 9. etc. The open position just sounds better.
The Gadd9 chord: The tab looks awkward because, even though it is barred, I place an x over string 4 showing that it is not to be plucked. Actually it sounds great when only strings 6, 3, 2 and 1 are plucked. String 5 is fine, and string 4 adds the flat seventh, making the chord a G7add9 if all six strings were strummed. It just sounds cleaner with strings 6, 3, 2 and 1. Using the Gadd9 as the final chord is not necessary; a regular G major chord works. The Gadd9, brighter than G major, just adds a bit of class to the finale.
The D7+5 chord: My circle above string 4 got filled in by accident. Play string 4 open.
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.
For this song, another great one by Lionel Ritchie that was requested by a patient at the hospital where I volunteer, I owe the excellent chording to this great link on the ultimate-guitar.com website. All I did was do a little editing on the lead sheet (minor changes and placing the chords as close as possible over the syllables that match the changes – plus changing the font to Times New Roman – the genius here is in the work shown on ultimate-guitar.com. It saved me a lot of work on a beautifully arranged piece made famous by this masterful interpretation by Kenny Rogers. You can play along with Kenny if you capo up one fret:
Here’s another great performance of the song by Lionel and Kenny – there’s a wonderful, hilarious prelude on how the song was written told by Kenny, who appeared to be roasting Richie on MGM’s Red Carpet.
My lyrics and chords for the hymn Abide With Me have generated some interest, so I’ve decided to post this somewhat less dignified (perhaps even ribald) song as well. Whenever I work a while on a song and I’m happy with the result, I’ll be posting the results for others to use or comment on.
Above is a jpeg of the words and chords (“lead sheet”) to the song, Johnny Jump Up sung by Gaelic Storm in this great YouTube version. The chords are in the same key as the video, so it will be simple to play along if you want to learn it yourself.
The chord progression is the same throughout the song (verses and chorus) and I have put the timing at the bottom of page two.
The tempo is lively at about 142 beats per minute in 4:4 time, so the chord changes come fast in the last bar, but the chords are very simple and it’s a great, fun piece to play, though admittedly not quite as sacred as Abide With Me.
There are more songs to come. Hopefully you will find something to like. Please let me know by liking the page or, better yet, making comments and suggestions 🙂