Friday, September 17, 2010

Grab Bag Friday: Be Baba Leba

Songs I Like to SingApparently, the start of school and the novel I'm working on are taking up so much space in my brain that I can't remember anything else in my life. The other day, I walked out of the house and got all the way to the car before I realized I was wearing my fuzzy slippers instead of shoes!

So here is the video I was planning to post on Wednesday and completely forgot about. Since I've been following kind of a chain reaction of music videos, from Cathedrals to Hootin the Blues to The Blues Ain't Nothin But a Woman (with a brief vocal bit by Helen Humes), I thought I'd move on to one of Helen Humes' big hits.

As I mentioned last week, Helen Humes started recording when she was 14 years old, and in 1938, she took Billie Holiday's spot in the Count Basie orchestra (Lady Day was just starting to see a big rise in popularity and moved on to sing with Artie Shaw; she recorded "Strange Fruit" in 1939). Now, I always wondered what that must have been like, being the girl that came after Billie Holiday. A lot of people would find that more than a little intimidating. How do you fill those shoes? How could you possibly measure up?

But that's what I like so much about Helen Humes. She didn't really seem to care. I've read some interviews with her and she seems like she really just wanted to have a good job, sing, and have fun. She turned down Count Basie's first offer because she didn't want to travel a lot and he was offering her less money than she was making in Harry James' sweet band. (As a big band snob, I think What kind of crazy person would choose Harry James over Count Basie? Who cares about money at a time like this?) But she wasn't trying to be a star in the way so many girl singers were. Anyway, enough talk. Here she is with Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra in about 1947.

Helen Humes: Be Baba Leba

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