Special Hoagy Carmichael Q&A with Joe Lang (Part I)
Did you know that Hoagy Carmichael’s birthday is on November 22nd? That’s right, the famous Tin Pan Alley songwriter is a Sagittarius!
In honor of the multitalented entertainer, we sat down to chat with jazz journalist Joe Lang, who reviews CDs, books, and live performances for the New Jersey Jazz Society’s magazine “Jersey Jazz.”
Lang, who has been listening to jazz since his early teens, is a huge Hoagy Carmichael fan. He remembers becoming attached to “Stardust” when he was only four years old. Over the years, Lang has watched many of Carmichael’s movies, read his biographies, listened to his songs, and even gave a presentation at his local library about the accomplished composer.
So, you can imagine that Lang was overjoyed when, at Carmichael’s 80th birthday celebration concert during the 1979 New York Jazz Festival, Lang discovered he was seated directly next to the guest of honor! How serendipitous, right?
JK: What is it about Hoagy Carmichael that you love so much?JL: I just like his songs—I never get sick of listening to them. I listened to that [1979 birthday] concert before we had the interview, and I’ve probably listened to that concert dozens of times and I never get sick of it. Of course, there’s a lot of nostalgia involved because I was there and sitting next to him. That was kind of special.
JK: What was Hoagy Carmichael like in person? Was he everything you had imagined?
Well, yeah. He was a character. His wife had passed away and he had remarried and this lady who he was married to was sitting next to him and she kept getting so embarrassed because he kept shouting things out. I remember they were playing a lot of relatively obscure songs and at one point he yelled out, when are you going to start playing my hits? He was just a character.
if you saw his movies, that pretty much captured what he was like. He had a TV show in the fifties—I wish I could find it—for a short time he was the host of a variety show, but I don’t remember watching it when it was on, and I’ve never been able to find it, but it would’ve been interesting to see that because I bet with that little bit of that recording, you’d really get a flavor of what his personality was like.
JK: Is Stardust still your favorite Hoagy song?
You know, it’s hard to pick out one song. I like a quirky little song that he wrote that’s not that well known now—it had its popularity in its time—it’s a song called “Little Old Lady.” I just always found it charming. And he wrote a musical with Johnny Mercer called Walk with Music that didn’t get to Broadway as far as I know and the rest of the score most people haven’t heard, but the title song “Walk with Music” is one that got picked up by a lot of singers and I like that song a lot.
Well, we hope you enjoyed this Feature Friday!
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