Saturday, July 16, 2016

SHG: Doris Day: "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Qué será, será)"

Doris Day: “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Qué será, será)”
Entered the chart on: 7/7/1956
Peaked on: 8/11/1956
Weeks at #2: 3 weeks
Songs at #1: “I Almost Lost My Mind” by Pat Boone and “My Prayer” by the Platters

Hmmm...that Pat Boone song at #1 is making me want to listen to Ivory Joe Hunter. Come to think of it, most Pat Boone songs make me want to listen to something else.

I first knew Doris Day not as a singer, but as an actress, via her 60s romantic comedies like Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers. These films kind of get short-shrift these days but they deserve a bit of credit for presenting Doris as an independent, sexually active and successful working woman in the days before feminism. And there was a bit of witty dialogue there, not to mention good chemistry with her male leads, as long as we’re talking about Rock Hudson when we say “male leads” (Such films rather jumped the shark with the Rod Taylor co-starring The Glass Bottom Boat, and the less said about Caprice the better!).

Sure, they weren’t without their flaws (see the latter-day spoof Down With Love for a funny take-off of both their flaws and their charms), but they weren’t bad. But the point I’m trying to make is, I didn’t even know that Doris had a whole other career as a singer, and that said career was actually her first (somehow ignoring the fact that the theme song to Send Me No Flowers* was sung by her).

Actually, pity the case of poor Doris Day. She’d had a stellar career as a singer, starting with her classic lead vocal performance on Les Brown’s “Sentimental Journey,” yet it seems the only song people wanted her to sing was this one cutesy bilingual children’s song. It even wound up as the theme to her 1960s TV series (which at least gave Denver Pyle some work). Never mind the question as to why Doris Kappelhoff’s German immigrant mother should suddenly start spouting Spanish aphorisms.

It helps to listen to “Sentimental Journey” for comparison. For those baffled by Doris Day’s appeal, listen to that song, and think of what a revelation a knockout blonde with a lustrous voice murmuring sweet nothings into your ear must have been in 1945. Tastes by 1956, at least grown-up tastes, were a lot more sentimental.

It also helps to have context for this song. It was originally from a film, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, to be specific. Now, Hitch was no dummy. If he had an actress who could sing in his film, damn it, she was going to sing!

That said, he was also not the sort to put random, pointless musical numbers into his film. This is the lullaby Day’s character sings to her son (played by child actor Christopher Olsen, big brother of The Brady Bunch star Susan Olsen). Without giving away spoilers (in case you haven’t seen the movie yet), the song becomes a plot point. Chew on that for a while when you’re remembering Ned Flanders singing this tune on The Simpsons, or the many ironic uses since.

Maybe it’s that that’s having me sense that there’s a bit of subtext that belies Day’s sunny performance on the recorded version that cuts past the sparkly orchestration, led by that jaunty mandolin hook. Day knew how to insert subtext into her singing, just ask those who claim there’s a gay subtext to her performance of “Secret Love,” her hit from the musical Calamity Jane. It’s precisely her ability to insert subtext into a song that got her acting gigs in the first place.

By the way, this song won an Oscar. So there must be something to it, even if you think it’s corny.

But...yes, I prefer “Sentimental Journey.”

Rating: 4

*“Send Me No Flowers” was an early Burt Bacharach composition. He’d also written songs for a couple of other SHG alumni: Nat “King” Cole and Cathy Carr, as well as artists I’ll be covering later such as Brook Benton, Marty Robbins and, of course, his preferred male interpreter Gene Pitney.

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