Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rant #677: The Prototype For All Who Followed

Did you like the Supremes in the 1960s?

How about Honey Cone in the 1970s?

Maybe you also liked En Vogue later on, or maybe Destiny's Child?

All of these groups were made up of female singers, usually about three, with one standout as lead singer.

They all had numerous hits that we still hum today.

But for the prototype to these girl groups, you have to go back to the 1930s and 1940s, to a threesome--actually three sisters--who had hit after hit after hit, especially during the years of World War II.

I am talking about the Andrews Sisters, and specifically Patty Andrews, who turns 94 today.

She led her two sisters--Maxene and LaVerne--to a solid legacy of hits during those war years.

The songs are as well known today as they were when they were new--"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," (I'll Be With You) in Apple Blossom Time," and "Rum and Coca-Cola."

Between 1938 and 1955, they placed more than 100 songs on the charts.

And they appeared in numerous movies. I am, of course, especially fond of their appearances with Abbott and Costello, especially in "Buck Privates," where they performed "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."

You just know Bette Midler probably saw this film 100 times before she did her cover version of the tune.

Another one of their hits that is near my heart is "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," which translates to "To Me You're Beautiful," a Yiddish tune from an obscure musical. Although the Andrews Sisters were not Jewish, their version retained the title, turned the lyrics into English via lyricist Sammy Cahn, and had their first No. 1 hit with this tune in 1938.

In my family, this song has become something of legend. I can only imagine how important this song was to American Jews at the time, just based on its prevalence in my family.

I can just remember that my aunt used to sing a few bars of it, and it would make my grandmother so happy to hear it. To this day, whenever I hear the song, I get goosebumps just remembering the smile on my grandmother's face. She is long gone now, but I will never forget that smile she had from that tune.

The Andrews Sisters had a strained relationship from early on, and it blew up in the 1950s.

Maxene and LaVerne are long gone, and Patty carries the mantle today, retired and living in California.

However they got along with each other, the Andrews Sisters made some absolutely great recordings. Their influence stretched into the emergence of rock and roll.

Whenever a new girl group comes around, you can thank the Andrews Sisters. They set the bar, and although often imitated, few have reached their level of success.

Happy birthday, Patty. Myself and so many others would like to say to you, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen."

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