Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Sentimental Journey: Doris Day Passes at 97

 

Les Brown and Doris Day (C. 1945)
The most tempting cliche in noting the passing of a celebrity is that a death marks “an end of an era.” Doris Day’s era ended much sooner than she did, but she truly was the last of her kind. She was the last of the great “girl singers” of the Big Band Era, the last of the great musical stars of the Hollywood studio system and the last performer to have headlined a weekly half-hour network radio show.

Rechristened Doris Day because Doris von Kappelhoff was a mouthful and a bit of a stretch for a marquee, she began her career singing on WLW (The Nation’s Station) in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. At that time, WLW had a habit of taking local acts and turning them into national sensations. Besides Day, WLW launched the careers of Rosemary Clooney, Andy Williams, and the Mills Brothers. It was in Cincinnati that she hooked up with Les Brown and his Band of Renown. Their partnership resulted in her first number one hit, Sentimental Journey. 

Brown co-wrote the song in 1944 (with Ben Homer, lyrics by Bud Green) but was unable to record it due to the American Federation of Musicians strike against the record labels. By the time the strike ended America and her Allies were sensing the end of WWII. The lyrics of that song, of longing and reunion, was the perfect soundtrack for the return home of the millions of servicemen who had done their duty.

Many words will be written and read today recounting Day’s career, her awful choice in men, her abilities as an actress, her love of animals and, unfortunately, the acid words of the late Oscar Levant. Remember her for that golden voice that pours from the past like honey, sweet, satisfying and something that never spoils.

For a sampling of Day’s radio work, click here.

There are 17 comments.

  1. Hang On Member

    I just saw the headline on a news site. And I thought of you writing a tribute to her. So I came here, and here it was. Thanks!

    I liked the Man Who Knew too Much. By far her best movie.

    • #1
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:09 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  2. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Songwriters could actually write songs in her heyday. My mom used to sing Que Sera, Sera all the time; a lot of wisdom is packed into those lyrics. I was thrilled when I discovered Hitchcock and heard her sing that song in The Man Who Knew Too Much. Yes, I pine for those more wholesome times.

    • #2
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:14 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  3. KentForrester Coolidge

    Boy could she sing! What enunciation! What pitch-perfect notes! And the way she finishes off each note before going on to the next! I’m not sure anyone today could sing like that. And pretty as a picture, too.

    • #3
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:32 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. Seawriter Member

    She got her three-score-and-ten with a lot of change back. A life well-lived.

    • #4
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:44 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  5. Kay of MT Member

    My favorite star of all time. Had a nodding acquaintance with her for a time in the 80s, from a grocery store in Carmel Valley. I always smiled at her and she always smiled back, never spoke to her as I felt that would be an unwelcome intrusion.

    • #5
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:52 AM PST
    • 15 likes
  6. Aaron Miller Member

    I always thought of her more as an actress than a singer. But I grew up long after her TV show or singing career. 

    She had a variety of acting roles, of course. But often she was the embodiment of joy. 

    • #6
    • May 13, 2019, at 10:00 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Aaron Miller: But often she was the embodiment of joy.

    She certainly was in her professional life. Not so in private. She married two musicians and an agent. The first was physically abusive, the second resented being “Mr. Doris Day,” and the third left her penniless. After her third husband’s funeral she not only discovered she was broke but that he committed her to a sitcom for CBS. It ran for five seasons and drew enough viewers that it would be #1 by today’s standards.

    Her son by her first husband, and who took the name of her third husband, was record producer Terry Melcher. He produced The Beach Boys, The Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders. It was Brian Wilson who introduced Melcher to an aspiring songwriter named Charles Manson. He was in the car with Wilson when he dropped off Melcher at his home – 10050 Cielo Drive – a rental he shared with his then-girlfriend Candice Bergen. Melcher had to tell Manson he lacked talent and that he would not be signed to a record deal.

    When Bergen and Melcher broke up he moved back into his mother’s house as she tried to sort out her finances. Not long afterward Manson returned to Cielo drive, the house now occupied by Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate.

    Bergen called Melcher after the murders. “It could have been me,” she said. Melcher replied, “It could have been us.”

    Correction: I mistakenly said Terry was the son of her second husband. He was not. Corrected above.

    • #7
    • May 13, 2019, at 10:24 AM PST
    • 19 likes
  8. Brian Watt Member

    Her performance in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much is riveting, particularly her emotional breakdown when she’s learned her son has been kidnaped and her husband (played by Jimmy Stewart) gives her sedatives to knock her out. As a parent, if you’re not moved by that performance, well there’s something wrong with you. 

    • #8
    • May 13, 2019, at 10:42 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  9. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Hang OnI just saw the headline on a news site. And I thought of you writing a tribute to her. So I came here, and here it was. 

    Adequately Meeting Expectations Since 2010.™️

    • #9
    • May 13, 2019, at 10:49 AM PST
    • 14 likes
  10. GFHandle Member

    I love her early stuff. One of my favorites is “Alexander, the Swoose.” Someone on youtube said of the Kay Kaiser version that it was “Some weird ass song from the 1940s about a swoose named Alexander.” Which fits that version.

    I first heard it done by Doris with Les Brown. (I had a huge crush on her growing up.) The added coda to me changes what one commenter on the Kaiser version called “a celebration of bullying” [how woke can you get] into a paen to American tolerance during the war against Nazism. I couldn’t find the lyrics, so I transcribed them. If you get all the references, you are neither Swoose nor Spring Chicken.

    (male voice, speaking: I am Alexender the Swoose, and I am so confused.)

    Mother, mother Goose, why am I not like other goose
    The other geese all laugh at me
    And call me a catastrophe
    (chorus)
    Swoose, Swoose, Alexander is a Goose
    Swoose, Swoose, Alexander is a Goose
    Half swan, half goose
    Alexander is a Goose

    Whenever they play hide and seek
    I hide my head cause I’m a freak
    They say my pappy was a swan,
    A good for nothing vagabond.
    (chorus)
    Swoose, Swoose, Alexander is a Goose
    Swoose, Swoose, Alexander is a Goose
    Big beak, big feet
    Alexander is a freak

    They’re so unkind but I don’t mind their slander
    I’m just disturbed because I heard
    They’re gonna cook my goose and gander
    I guess I’ll have to run away
    I know what they’ll do if I stay
    I’d rather be a refugee
    Instead of chicken fricasee

    (male voice, speaking: I don’t know now Doris, maybe you can tell me what a swoose is)
    Now you just listen to me and I’ll tell ya:

    Alexander the Swoose is a composite bird
    Faintly resembling Mortimer Snerd
    And bold Donald Duck, Only very much grander
    For he isn’t a dummy, a drake, or a gander.
    He’s old for his age, and small for his size,
    Has Garbo’s big feet and Cantor’s big eyes
    The beak of Durante, the mouth of Joe Brown
    And a Harpo Marx wig made of pink eiderdown.
    Rochester’s voice, the curves of Mae West
    And the Stars and Stripes tatooed on his chest.

    • #10
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:03 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  11. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    @gfhandle

    Those lyrics should read:

    Mother, Mother, Mother Goose, why am I not like brother goose
    The other geese all laugh at me
    And call me a catastrophe
    (chorus)
    Swoose, Swoose, Alexander is a Swoose
    Swoose, Swoose, Alexander is a Swoose
    Half swan, half goose
    Alexander is a Swoose!

    The Swoose is also the oldest known combat surviving B-17 in the world. At one point during her service in the South Pacific she had the tail section of another B-17 welded on to her, hence the origin of the name. She now resides at the National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, a mere hour drive north of Miss Day’s birthplace.

    • #11
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:27 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  12. OldPhil Coolidge

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
    My mom used to sing Que Sera, Sera all the time

    Mine, too, along with all the other big band songs from the 30s and 40s. I remember being in my high school band and the band director (from the same generation, of course) asking how I knew all the songs he played as a drummer in his dance band. “From my Mom, of course.” Turns out he knew her.

    • #12
    • May 13, 2019, at 12:53 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. ctlaw Coolidge

    Hang On (View Comment):
    I liked the Man Who Knew too Much. By far her best movie.

    One of the great Hitchcock finales:

    https://youtu.be/eHMtYa0ru6o?t=5509

    • #13
    • May 13, 2019, at 2:39 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    EJHill: Brown co-wrote the song in 1944 (with Ben Homer, lyrics by Bud Green) but was unable to record it due to the American Federation of Musicians strike against the record labels. By the time the strike ended America and her Allies were sensing the end of WWII. The lyrics of that song, of longing and reunion, was the perfect soundtrack for the return home of the millions of servicemen who had done their duty.

    To this day I can’t listen to that song without crying. It was my father’s favorite until the day he died as it was the song the band was playing on the ship full of returning soldiers, of which he was one, as it sailed into New York harbor at the end of WWII.

    • #14
    • May 13, 2019, at 2:51 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  15. Bob W Member

    Lost a customer.

    • #15
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:26 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  16. Max Ledoux Admin

    Bob W (View Comment):

    Lost a customer.

    ?

    • #16
    • May 14, 2019, at 10:15 AM PST
    • 1 like
  17. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    My mom used to bring me along to all the various 1960’s Rock Hudson/Doris Day, Cary Grant/Doris Day films. I was probably no older than ten. The glamorous atmosphere of those movies convinced me that by the time I was twenty I would be effortlessly living in New York City, with the fabulous wardrobe all working women like Day displayed, just to make the 9 to 5 more interesting.

    Watching those films on the old movie channel these days, I sit fascinated by how easily she intertwined sex kitten and girl next door.

    I also remain puzzled over how she could never achieve any type of happiness or even harmony in her marriages. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair.

    • #17
    • May 14, 2019, at 3:23 PM PST
    • 2 likes