Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Liberty Records: Cry Me A River

Since I featured Joe Cocker’s version of “Cry me a River” last night, I thought I might divert my Liberty Records’ selection today to the original recording. I hadn’t planned on any Julie London songs for this week, but with the circumstances with the death of Joe Cocker, I thought it might be nice to hear the version that Cocker probably heard first and inspired him to make it his own.

Arthur Hamilton wrote “Cry me a River” in 1953 originally for Ella Fitzgerald to sing in the movie “Pete Kelly’s Blues” – and she did; however, her recording was cut from the film and shelved until 1961. After others passed on the tune, Julie London recorded it and the original release became the sixth single issue for Liberty Records in 1955. It appeared on her second album, “Julie is her Name.” Hamilton had one of the more unusual lyrics in this hit, as he wrote, “Remember, I remember all that you said. Told me love was too plebeian – told me you were through with me and . . .”

Backed with a Spartan accompaniment from Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Leatherwood on bass, it was all that was necessary to provide a platform for London’s low, sultry voice. Charting at #9, it was her signature song as no other Julie London single made it into the Top 40 let alone the Hot 100. In the UK where Joe Cocker would have heard the song, it only charted at #22. No one, including Joe Cocker, has ever matched Julie London’s chart performance of this tune on either side of the Atlantic.

Movie Video

Although Ella Fitzgerald’s recording laid on the cutting room floor, Julie London’s rendition made it into several movies. It has appeared in “Passion of Mind” and “V for Vendetta,” but another film provides a unique haunting version of “Cry me a River.” London sang the complete number in the 1956 release of “The Girl Can’t Help It.” In the clip, Julie appears as an apparition to Tom Ewell’s drunken character Tom Miller. Was it the paranormal or the DTs? We may never know.

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