Traditional closing songs brim with nostalgia for my older listeners. They remember the dance bands of their younger years playing one last tune that signaled the end of the evening’s performance, a kind of shorthand for “that’s all, folks.” The closing theme was usually a slow dance number, providing a cozy send-off.
To wind up my own solo piano performances, I often go with a classic closing song from the Big Band era, like “Good Night Sweetheart,” used by Ray Noble and his orchestra, or the Gordon Jenkins song “Goodbye,” favored by the King of Swing, Benny Goodman. Bandleader and steel guitarist Alvino Rey finished with “Nighty-Night,” a song later covered by Petula Clark.
I sometimes pick the tender ballad “Sweet Slumber” for my finale, recorded by the Lucky Millinder Orchestra in 1943. It fits the untroubled mood I try to leave behind when I play. So does “Sweet Dreams, Sweetheart” from the film Hollywood Canteen, nominated for Best Song of 1944 (it lost to “Swinging on a Star”).
If I want a little less conventional closing song, there’s “What’s Good About Goodbye?” from the 1948 romantic melodrama Casbah. For a more lighthearted ending, I may choose Huddy Ledbetter’s “Goodnight, Irene” or “Good Night Ladies,” a folksong dating from the mid-1800s. “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You,” works too. It’s a rollicking tune by Woody Guthrie, with a melody suspiciously similar to “Goodnight, Irene.” A more somber conclusion might be “The Party’s Over,” from the 1956 musical Bells Are Ringing.
But I give top marks for cleverness to a drummer friend. His swing band ended each gig with a 1931 song by Sam Stept: “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone.”
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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