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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: Here's hoping 'our songs' never go out of fashion with couples

March 16, 2020 - 12:00 PM



Couples often have a special song – “our song” – that is emblematic of their relationship.

Music is a powerful connecter - an emotional glue - for people. That song can represent what two people mean to each other, when they first met, their wedding, even a time when they were apart.

Bonnie and I chose “our song” –  Coles Porter’s “Night and Day” – a few years after we met. It captures perfectly our relationship...that sense that we would be together the rest of our lives.

Our song - like us - isn’t new. First performed in 1932 by Fred Astaire in the Broadway production of “The Gay Divorcee,” and two years later in the movie with Ginger Rogers, more than one hundred singers…from Frank Sinatra to Diana Krall…have since recorded it. It is the definition of a musical “standard.”

Often as I write late at night, I listen to music or old movies on Turner Classic Movies…most I know well enough to deliver lines. One night recently, just after midnight, I was rewarded with a double treat…music and movie in one…the 1946 bio-pic “Night and Day” about Cole Porter.

It is a wonderful musical with more than two dozen Porter songs, including “Begin the Beguine,” “Easy to Love,” “You’re the Top,” “Just One of Those Things,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “In the Still of the Night” and, of course, “Night and Day.”

Even though the movie avoided Cole Porter’s sexuality…being gay or bi-sexual wouldn’t have played in 1946 society…it enthrals. The music is one reason, and an impossibly elegant Cary Grant as Cole Porter is another.  A third reason was the statuesque leading lady…Alexis Smith…a native of Penticton.

I actually met Alexis Smith and her actor husband, Craig Stevens, in New York City in 1979. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the musical “Platinum” in 1978. I was new to New York and a friend - the CEO of a large company more than twice my age - got me invitations to parties and dinners for the four years I lived and worked in Manhattan. I was a 30-year-old nobody in New York…but I benefitted from having a few friends in high places.

So it was that I snagged an invite to a private party at the Plaza Hotel…Alexis Smith and Craig Stevens were there…looking like they belonged on a wedding cake. She was as tall as me and with heels, taller. He was 6’2” and well, a Hollywood leading man. They were both near 60…but looked younger. They would live to be married for 49 years…so, not the typical Hollywood couple.

She looked more or less like she did in every movie she starred in…hair pulled up…a bright smile…flawless complexion. She was beautiful…young and old. I’ve been a Cole Porter fan since I was in my twenties…and I told her how much I liked her in the movie “Night and Day.”

She told me Porter was her favourite composer…she actually knew him…and performed Cole Porter songs in a memorial to him in London a couple years earlier. I’ve never been in awe of celebrities or famous people…they are – after all – just people…but I was envious that she actually knew one of my favourite composers.

I did have the good sense not to say to her husband something like, “Gee, when I was a small kid I used to watch you on the television series ‘Peter Gunn.’”  As I’ve grown older I realize how that sounds; “Gee, Papa, you were in the Air Force? Did they have jets then?”

I asked friends if they had songs. Most of my younger friends didn’t. Most older friends did. Some things are destined to go out of fashion…understandable…rotary phones and bell bottom jeans did. So, maybe “our song” is a victim as well.

But music is magical. We all know that hearing a few notes from a song can transport you decades…back to high school…university…first dates…first loves. I hope “our song” never goes out of fashion.

I mean there’s some evidence that the “our song” lives on…Taylor Swift’s first album included a cut she wrote actually called, “Our Song.” Of course, that was a dozen years ago.

One of my younger friends suggested the concept might be more a matter of commitment than chronological age. He said folks enter serious relationships later than they used to…and are generally more independent today than a couple generations ago.

I guess that could be. Certainly, relationships are different now than 50 years ago. For example, young couples today often have separate checking accounts…my money and your money. So, maybe the fall off of “our song” is nothing more than changing times.

A writer friend of mine said  – “The Homecoming” – a jazz tune from 1975 by Hagood Hardy called to she and her husband and was their wedding song. They chose it, she said, because “getting married was like coming home to each other.”

Another friend and his wife said they chose Bette Midler’s “The Rose” for their wedding song 41 years ago…and it still works.

I guess every couple doesn't need an “our song”….but it makes me smile when the first few notes of a song plays, and I overhear some couple say in unison, “Hey, that’s our song!” Romantics, after all, can be any age.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.

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