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  • Writer's pictureladiesvoices

Fabulous Friday: *I Could Go On Singing*

Richard and I were cruising around the dial looking for something to watch the other night and saw that *I Could Go On Singing* was on TCM. We caught it in the middle but we'd both seen it before, so where's the harm. It was Judy Garland's last film.

This YouTube compilation starts with the opening credits and the title song, which is not so remarkable (in spite of the fact that it was written by Arlen and Harburg). The sequence I want you to watch starts at 2:23.

Spoiler alert! The sweet boy visiting her in her dressing room is her son, but he doesn't know it. We see Garland at a concert standing in the wings while the orchestra plays the overture. I read somewhere that this was exactly how Garland would pump herself up at a concert engagement. She walks onstage during the final moments of the overture, the audience leaps to their feet, and I am a mass of tears.

The song she sings, "Hello Bluebird," is presented in a classic Garland arrangement. It starts warm and quiet, it gradually builds up to a strut (7:49), and in the final verse (8:44), a key change, a slight slowing down of the tempo, and an apparent emphasis on every freaking beat. Her "HELLO!" at the end - - the high note is more an act of will than any comfortable, secure vocal plan. And it's thrilling in the extreme.

"Hello Bluebird" was written by Cliff Friend. I didn't know that name so I looked him up on Wikipedia - - he wrote a song called "The Merry Go Round Broke Down," which was used as the theme to the Looney Tunes cartoons. Who knew? "Hello Bluebird" is, in my opinion, not in itself a great song, but it's perfectly crafted for Garland. The arrangement and her performance make it great.

At 10:32 we see her singing a really great song, "It Never Was You," by Kurt Weill and and Maxwell Anderson. It's lovely to see her singing a ballad with just a piano, mostly singing tenderly with a splash of verve here and there. What an artist.

And a little bonus:

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