I Got the Sun in the Mornin'

We went to an open mic at the Ranger Station on SE Hawthorne Blvd last Thursday. One guy played a cover of Irving Berlin’s ‘I Got the Sun in the Mornin' (and the Moon at Night)’ from the 1946 musical ‘Annie Get Your Gun’. Splendid it was too! And complex. That song changes key maybe twice before changing again back to the original key, depending on which version you listen to. But he did it all. I was impressed.

It prompted us to talk about how music used to be written with more complexity. I have to agree. Not all music, of course. But the ‘hits’ were so tidy. It makes you think. That music was popular 70 or 80 years ago, in living memory for many people. As of writing this, Doris Day, who had a hit with the song in 1963, is still alive at 96.
I think it can only benefit an artist to study the work of the past, even if it seems out-dated or out of context now. Just listen to the work of Irving Berlin, Meredith Wilson, the songs of Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, and Paul Robeson.

Time may divide us from them, but really it’s not that much time at all. To the same end, reading the verses of Matsuo Basho, Shakespeare, and Rumi, you can’t help but relate to them. It brings to mind the wisdom of visual artist Wassily Kandinsky. He wrote in his book ‘Concerning the Spiritual in Art’ that (and again, I’m paraphrasing, probably badly) the key to moving art forward is to harness and develop the emotion and intention of the art of the past, as opposed to simply copying the style.
To me this shows itself in music where someone, for example, plays ‘blues’ by simply playing a twelve bar in a pentatonic scale and singing some lyrics about ‘my woman’ loudly. They’ve heard the style, but not the heart. It’s like a cardboard cut-out of a house with nothing inside.

This guy who played ‘I Got the Sun in the Mornin’ (and the Moon at Night)’ last Thursday didn’t just copy it, he got inside it and, in the words of my love, “made everyone smile.”