Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Astrud Gilberto: Who Can I Turn To?

In life, I am a pretty happy, smiley (some might even go so far to say "bubbly") person. And yet, in music, I have always been drawn to melancholy songs. I love sad songs and songs about longing and loneliness. And anytime you bring Astrud Gilberto's soft, honest, plaintive voice into the mix...I'm instantly sold.

Who Can I Turn To? (When Nobody Needs Me) is a song I came across a couple years ago and it has stuck with me. The lyrics and the melody are almost painfully lovely. I could write all morning about the simplicity of perfectly crafted, eloquent lines that set the scene like "With no star to guide me and no one beside me," (doesn't that just say everything?) but I'll print the lyrics in full here so you can simply experience them:

Who can I turn to when nobody needs me?
My heart wants to know and so I must go where destiny leads me
With no star to guide me and no one beside me
I'll go on my way and, after the day, the darkness will hide me

And maybe tomorrow I'll find what I'm after
I'll throw off my sorrow, beg, steal, or borrow my share of laughter
With you I could learn to, with you what a new day
But who can I turn to if you turn away?

With you I could learn to, with you what a new day
But who can I turn to if you turn away?

So after a short bit of research, I found that "Who Can I Turn To?" was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for a 1965 Broadway show The Roar Of the Greasepaint-The Smell Of the Crowd which I had never heard of. Of course, after doing a Google search on this musical I came across this blog post about another song from that musical showing up as a favorite on this season of American Idol. I skipped American Idol this year, and believe me, I have been out of the loop on a lot!

I've heard other versions of this song. It was charted by Dionne Warwick at #62 in 1965, Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughan both had pretty famous versions. But these versions are so dramatic and stagey, you lose the intensity, the simplicity, the honest, real, human part of the song that I love. Even the Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans instrumental versions make the piece kind of bouncy and almost hide the beautiful melody in all the piano flourishes.

So in my mind, there is only the Astrud Gilberto version. When she sings it, you feel like she's just walking on a beach somewhere, sandals in her hand, looking up at the night sky and singing a little tune to make herself feel better. Just like you or I would do. Now that's some feel-good melancholy.

Download Astrud Gilberto, Who Can I Turn To? on iTunes.

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