Sweet soul music

Earlier this month at my band rehearsal, we sightread through a new piece of sheet music: “It’s All in the Game.” Then we had our usual follow-up discussion after trying new pieces: Did we like it? Enough to work it up to performance level?

Maybe. To me, the waltz rhythm (3 beats per measure) gave it a schmaltzy feel. We toyed with the tempo a bit, then set the piece aside. We might come back to it another night.

But during our rehearsal discussion, a band member noticed the song’s copyright date: 1912. That intrigued me. I was sure a version of the song had been popular in my youth. A much less sappy version.

The next day I looked more closely at the copyright information. I’m not very good with Roman numerals, so I needed a minute to figure it out.

Turns out the 1912 copyright is for the melody. The lyrics came much later.

“It’s All in the Game” started as “Melody in A Major,” a wordless composition by General Charles G. Dawes, who was Calvin Coolidge’s Vice President from 1925-1929.

Carl Sigman added lyrics in 1951 and gave the song its new name. A new copyright was issued. Sigman wrote the words for many hits, including “Ebb Tide” and the big band tune “Pennsylvania 6-5000.” And another sappy one: “Where Do I Begin,” theme music for the 1979 film Love Story.

Tommy Edwards recorded “It’s All in the Game” for the first time in 1951, using a slow arrangement with lots of violins:

In 1958, Edwards rerecorded the song. This time, he ditched the ¾ waltz beat and toned down the orchestra strings, immediately updating the feel of the music. It became his biggest-selling record and his only top ten hit.

Many others covered “It’s All in the Game” over the years: Nat King Cole, Johnnie Ray, Louis Armstrong, Barry Manilow, Cass Elliott. Even Van Morrison put his unique spin on the song.

But the recording I remember from my younger years is this soulful one by Motown’s Four Tops, released in March 1970, when I was a junior in high school.

Definitely not a waltz:

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey

This entry was posted in Music and emotion, Music history and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sweet soul music

  1. Jessa says:

    Interesting how pieces have been repurposed over the years. You hear it in popular music all the time these days. Tempo makes a huge difference too. There is a video of someone playing the same bars of music but in different time and it makes all these different songs. If I can find it, I’ll send it to you.

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