I’ve often mentioned my fondness for Mark Steyn on this site. It’s one which dates back many years, long before he referenced Dad’s Telegraph obituary in his National Review column. I think it even dates to before my discovery that he spent many of his formative years in Birmingham in the UK, my family stomping grounds, and that he attended King Edward’s School, a British public (USA readers, understand this means “private,” please) school founded in 1552, and counting among its alumni a couple of my uncles, JRR Tolkien, Lee Child, Ken Tynan, Edward Burne-Jones, Enoch Powell, and many others.
While many may view Steyn’s online persona as an aggressively political one, and while they may not agree with those politics, right now, I’d like to highlight his particular interest in music, and point you to his weekly gig on “Serenade Radio.”
Serenade Radio is an artifact of the past, that which the Internet is really good at, when it’s not in “Let’s Destroy Each Other!!!!” mode. As its website says:
Sometimes, it’s an escape into the past with a wealth of great songs written at a time when quality was paramount. At other times, we long for the gentler, more carefree world of our childhood. Often, all it takes is a good song well sung, to refresh the soul.
This on-line radio station was born out of a real appetite to hear those great songs from that golden era of song writing. Not just the occasional treat, buried in a sea of pop mediocrity, but all day every day.
Among its offerings, many of which I remember from my childhood but a few of which are more contemporary, is Steyn’s Song of the Week, which runs on Sundays (during summer time) at 12:30PM Eastern (US) time. It’s repeated a couple of times, but that’s when I have it saved to record on my iPhone. Like much of Mark’s cultural oeuvre, it’s free of political overtones, and is simply a recap–from a remarkably informed perspective–on a particular aspect of Western culture, in this case, popular music.
This particular week’s Serenade Radio edition of SSOTW focused on Bing Crosby and his signature tune, “When the Blue of the Night Meets the Gold of the Day…”
Mr. Right used to tell me of the days before drink and dissolution destroyed Crosby’s voice. Cannot think of a better example than this 1932 recording.
Along the way, Steyn (who could give me a run for my money on the “digression” front), talks about the difficulties of signature tunes for musical icons, invoking Bob Hope’s Thanks for the Memory.
making the point that the unique value of the songs themselves sometimes gets lost in their historical and cultural context.
Then he returns to “When the Blue of the Night.”
And yeah. Even if he’d let things drift (not an unexpected Steyn behavior, TBPH, I’d still find a way to catch up:
And dredges up a version of the song recorded in 2006 by the late John Prine and the late Mac Wiseman (giants of their respective fields, both.)
I’ve also written before about my fondness for John Prine, one of the few contemporary musical artist I’ve actually bothered to go see live when he was somewhere in the area. (Sorry, most of those iconic 70s, 80s, 90s acts who came to Pittsburgh. I was busy doing other (more worthwhile) things.)
Lord. I’d not heard the Wiseman/Prine version before. But as Mark Steyn says in his Serenade Radio “Song of the Week” podcast, it does remind me of the value of the song itself.
Sometimes, a fresh perspective on something we thought we understood is valuable. Especially when it’s presented by a man who’s operating at the limits of human endurance.