"Stardust" is a popular song composed in 1927 by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics added in 1929 by Mitchell Parish. Carmichael first recorded the song, originally titled "Star Dust", at the Gennett Records studio in Richmond, Indiana. The song, "a song about a song about love", played in an idiosyncratic melody in medium tempo, became an American standard, and is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, with over 1,500 total recordings. In 2004, Carmichael's original 1927 recording of the song was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.
|Song by Hoagy Carmichael's orchestra|
According to Carmichael, the inspiration for "Stardust" (the song's original title was "Star Dust", which has long been compounded into "Stardust") came to him while he was on the campus of his alma mater, Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. He began whistling the tune, then rushed to the Book Nook, a popular student hangout, and started composing. He worked to refine the melody over the course of the next several months, likely in Bloomington or Indianapolis (sources cite various locations, and Carmichael himself liked to embellish the facts about the song's origins). "Stardust" was first recorded in Richmond, Indiana, for Gennett Records (Gennett 6311) by Carmichael, with Emil Seidel and his Orchestra and the Dorsey brothers as "Hoagy Carmichael and His Pals," on October 31, 1927, as a peppy (but mid-tempo) jazz instrumental. Carmichael said he was inspired by the types of improvisations made by Bix Beiderbecke. The tune at first attracted only moderate attention, mostly from fellow musicians, a few of whom (including Don Redman) recorded their own versions of Carmichael's tune. (The Redman arrangement was issued on OKeh as by The Chocolate Dandies, but was in reality the moonlighting McKinney's Cotton Pickers who were exclusive Victor recording artists.)
Mitchell Parish wrote lyrics for the song, based on his own and Carmichael's ideas, which were published in 1929. A slower version had been recorded in October 1928, but the real transformation came on May 16, 1930, when bandleader Isham Jones recorded it as a sentimental ballad. "Stardust" is a 32-bar melody with a slightly unusual ABAC structure, preceded by a 16-bar verse. While the verse is often omitted in recordings, Frank Sinatra made a recording in 1961 of just the verse (see below). The verse and chorus have the same final cadence, though other than that they are musically distinct.
The original sheet music publication of "Stardust" was published under the title "Star Dust" by Mills Music with a copyright date of 1929. The first recording of the song (Gennett 78, 6311-B.), which was made by Hoagy Carmichael in 1927 prior to the writing of the song's lyrics, was titled "STARDUST". Carmichael referred to his song as "Stardust" in a 1936 letter to M.B. Yarling of the Sears & Roebuck Company's Radio and Publicity Dept. Carmichael also refers to the song as "Stardust" in his memoir "The Stardust Road" while relating his version of the story of its composition. Popular music historian Will Friedwald, in his book "Stardust Melodies: The Biography of Twelve of America's Most Popular Songs," states that "the correct title is given as two words, 'Star Dust'".
There have been many interpretations of the standard over the decades, both as a jazz instrumental and as a popular song. Isham Jones's recording became the first of many hit versions of the tune. Young baritone sensation Bing Crosby recorded a version on August 19, 1931 with Studio Orchestra directed by Victor Young, and by the following year, over two dozen bands had recorded "Stardust." It was then covered by almost every prominent band of that era, and the Artie Shaw version of 1941, with memorable solos by Billy Butterfield (trumpet) and Jack Jenney (trombone) is likely the favorite Big Band version. Many notable versions have been recorded by other jazz greats, including Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey (Frank Sinatra on vocals), Harry James, Django Reinhardt, Tex Beneke with The Glenn Miller Orchestra (recorded in New York City on February 1, 1947 and released by RCA Victor Records as catalog number 20-2016B and by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalog number BD 5968), Jan Garber, Fumio Nanri, Lester Young, Erroll Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Brown (with strings), Dave Brubeck (a number of times), John Coltrane, Wynton Marsalis, and many others. Glenn Miller also released a recording of the song on V-Disc, No. 65A, with a spoken introduction recorded with the AAFTC Orchestra which was released in December 1943. Many smaller bands also covered the song with one of the best versions being by Ben Selvin and His Orchestra (as Chester Leighton and the Sophomores) recorded April 22, 1931 for Harmony records (1320-H (351014)).
Notable vocal interpretations include those of Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Joni James on her 1956 MGM X1211 Extended Play single, Nat King Cole on his 1957 album "Love is the Thing", Mel Tormé, Connie Francis, Joe Reisman Orchestra and Chorus, Jean Sablon, Keely Smith, Terumasa Hino, Harry Connick Jr, Hank Crawford, Ella Fitzgerald, Olavi Virta, The Peanuts, Barry Manilow, Pat Boone, Nino Tempo & April Stevens, Earl Grant, Willie Nelson, George Benson, Mina, Ken Hirai, Al Hirt, Berl Olswanger on his 1953 album Berl Olswanger at the Piano, Los Hombres Calientes, Mireille Mathieu, The Shadows, Bob Dylan and many others. Billy Ward and His Dominoes, in 1957, had a #12 hit with the song on the Billboard Pop chart, which is one of the earliest R'n'B/rock'n'roll recordings in true stereo. It became a gold record. Ringo Starr recorded a version for his first solo album, Sentimental Journey, released in 1970. Sergio Franchi covered the song on his 1964 RCA Victor album The Exciting Voice of Sergio Franchi. Rod Stewart recorded the song for his album Stardust: The Great American Songbook Volume III (2004). Katie Melua recorded a cover on her EP Nine Million Bicycles in 2005. Michael Bublé recorded it for his album Crazy Love, released in 2009.
Certain recorded variations on the song have become notable. Armstrong recorded "Stardust" on November 4, 1931, and on an alternate take inserted the lyric 'oh, memory' just before an instrumental break. This version became prized over the issued take among jazz collectors, including Carmichael. Thirty years later, Sinatra recorded just the verse on his November 20, 1961 recording for his album Sinatra and Strings – much to Carmichael's initial chagrin, although Hoagy is said to have changed his mind upon hearing the recording.
The early portion of the 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre included a rendition of the song played by the fictional "Ramón Raquello and his Orchestra". The actual band performing in the broadcast featured, among others, a young Mitch Miller.
Les Deux Love Orchestra included their version of Stardust on the 2001 album, Music From Les Deux Cafés.
A 1953/54 version by Eddie Cochran was released in 1997 on the album Rockin' It Country Style.
In 2007 The Japonize Elephants' Evan Farrell recorded Stardust which was released on the 2012 album Melodie Fantastique.
Violinist Vov Dylan and Pianist Glenn Amer recorded an instrumental of this song for their album "The Violinist – Romantic Classics"
The original 1927 recording on Gennett Records by Hoagy Carmichael and His Pals was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995. In 1999, "Stardust" was included in the "NPR 100", a list compiled by National Public Radio of the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century. In 2000, Swedish music reviewers voted it as "the tune of the century", with Kurt Weill's "Mack the Knife" as second. In 2004, Carmichael's original 1927 recording of the song was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.
Attempting to explain the song's "eternal popularity," Carmichael biographer Richard M. Sudhalter credits "some combination of young Carmichael's heartland upbringing, Bix's uniquely bardic sensibility, and the unself-conscious emotional directness that characterizes much non-urban American pop music."
- Sudhalter 2002, p.XI. See also p.123: "..."Star Dust" is obviously a song about a song—a genre relatively rare in American popular music. There had been such songs before: Irving Berlin's 1909 "That Mesmerizing Mendelssohn Tune" (about the great German composer's famed Spring Song) is one example among many. But none had been a major song about a song—particularly a song that didn't actually exist. This was new."
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