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Louis Prima: Great Talent, Great Timing

Louis Prima was a riot. And he was a riot that came came along at the perfect time. Whenever I hear this music, I think of what it must have been like to be in New York City in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

The medley above is comprised of When Your’e Smiling, Zooma Zooma and Oh Marie. The song below, Just a Gigalo/I Ain’t Got Nobody, was a hit many years later for David Lee Roth. Another great song, Angelina — which is Prima’s mother’s name — is used at Citi Field in New York during Mets games.

There is an element of performance art in what Prima did. The funniest moment in the clip above is that while the boys are jumping around like maniacs, Keely Smith — one of Prima’s wives — stands immobile, looking disinterested and superior. Check out the look on her face throughout. She can hardly be bothered and seems disappointed that she has to be there. It’s fun.

The lyric to Angelina is great:

I eat antipasta twice
Just because she is so nice, Angelina
Angelina, the waitress at the pizzeria

I give up soup and minestrone
Just to be with her alone, Angelina
Angelina, the waitress at the pizzeria

A good bit of the song — the part played at Shea and now Citi — is in Italian. Even funny lyrics say something about the time during which they were written and became popular. Angelina was written in the 1940s, when there was a good deal of anti Italian sentiment, most Italians were in the northeast — I doubt there were many pizzerias in Des Moines or Phoenix — and not everyone was familiar with antipasta. This was an extremely urban and ethnic song for the time.

Wikipedia’s profile offers a lot of interesting and probably accurate information.

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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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