May 27, 2014

"Misty," "I Want to Talk About You," and Tadd Dameron


The next entry in our “Who Wrote It?” chronicles:

It’s been observed by many that “Misty” (Errol Garner) and “I Want to Talk About You” (Billy Eckstine) have pretty much the same chord changes, with just a bit of difference in the bridge. 

Rahsaan Roland Kirk noticed the similarity:




Here’s John Coltrane's classic version of Eckstine’s tune:






Most people assume that “Misty” came first, but that’s not the case. “I Want to Talk About You” was first recorded in 1944; “Misty” was written in 1954. Errol Garner seems to have borrowed from Eckstine, not the other way around.

Here’s Billy Eckstine from a featurette made in 1946, with an arrangement by Tadd Dameron:





If you’re interested in more info about the film, it’s all here.

True, the progression follows some common patterns: I, then II V to the IV chord, etc. - and the bridge starting with II V I in the key of the IV. But the two tunes' progressions are too similar for it to be a coincidence. The opening melodic motifs of the two songs are also similar: a strong gesture of three notes, members of a major 7 chord, moving downwards, followed by a pause.

It's been suggested that Tadd Dameron actually was the composer of "I Want to Talk About You," but there seems to be no real evidence for this.


While looking into the Tadd Dameron question, I stumbled onto another odd bit of information: According to this very interesting “jingle” websiteDameron may have written the famous “Wildroot Cream Oil” theme (though the melody borrows heavily from “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” - see this post). 

Details from the jingle site: 
Woody Herman's radio show was sponsored by Wildroot Cream Oil hair tonic, and he co-wrote two compositions -- one simply called "Wildroot" was co-written with arranger Neal Hefti and the other one below; It's not known what part (if any) of these compositions used the melody "I've Been Working On The Railroad" from which the hair tonic jingle was adapted... 
"Cream Oil Charlie"; [Wildroot Cream Oil Charlie] melody by Tad Dameron & Woody Herman. (c) Jan. 27, 1946; EU 4670. Charling Music Corp., New York.
Update: A Youtube search turned up the Hefti tune, "Wildroot," played by the Herman band. It was named for the sponsor of Woody's radio show, but was not an advertising theme. I guess that leaves Dameron and Herman as the composers of the tune I remember from my childhood. That seems kind of bizarre - but after all, a jingle is a gig too. 


1 comment:

  1. Another tune in the Herman book from the Wildroot show days was "Non-Alcoholic." It was written by John LaPorta, according to AllMusic.

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