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15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Call Me Irresponsible”

Yeah, I know, you thought this was primarily a Frank Sinatra tune. Well that certainly is the most famous recording of “Call Me Irresponsible,” because face it, if you had your choice as a record company would you want to be selling a recording of Jackie Gleason singing drunk or something by Frank? Even if he was in a mild slump at the time. As it turns out, the song was actually only a charting hit for a singer named Jack Jones who most of us probably know best for singing the theme to the Love Boat television show (damn, I’ve got that stuck in my head now).

“Call Me Irresponsible” has had two different origin stories told about it, both attached to other famous singers. Well known crooner Mel Torme shared a version in a book he helped write which claimed that songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen created it specifically for Judy Garland to play on her very public personal issues. According to Torme she didn’t sing the song at the event it was penned for, but she did eventually put her pipes to it on her CBS television show. She doesn’t actually show up in this clip until a little more than two minutes in, but it’s all part of a bit they’re doing.

That’s a solid bit for a variety show of the era. I really doubt the smiles on the faces of those chorus members are painted on. Garland has them genuinely charmed.

The other origin story comes from the song’s lyricist, Sammy Cahn (who also contributed to such classics as “High Hopes,” “All the Way,” “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “My Kind of Town,” and “Let it Snow Let it Snow Let it Snow”) who claims “Call Me Irresponsible” was in fact written directly for the film Papa’s Delicate Condition, only it happened at a time when Fred Astaire was supposed to star in the movie and it was supposed to be a full-out musical. In the end, Astaire had other commitments which kept him from heading the movie and Gleason and a new screenwriter were then attached to it. Gleason evidently didn’t think much of the picture, calling it “vanilla,” but felt that after a series of more serious and challenging projects he needed something lighter to let people know his popular comedic image was not dead and gone. Whether it was good for Gleason’s career in the long run is debatable, but aside from winning this award for “Call Me Irresponsible,” it doesn’t appear to have been much of a success, failing to take in as much as $2,700,000.

The song would eventually hit the singles charts with a recording by Jack Jones and garner cover versions from artists such as Andy Williams, Harry James, and Gloria Estefan. But who are we kidding? You can’t talk about this tune without featuring its definitive take by Frank Sinatra. The superstar singer was in a bit of a career downswing at the time that he recorded it, having left Capitol Records to join Reprise just a couple of years earlier and he hadn’t had a serious hit since “High Hopes” six years earlier. He did have a history with that song’s lyricist, however, so when it came time for his next album he slipped a take on “Call Me Irresponsible” into the mix alongside what was mostly re-recordings of songs he’d already laid on vinyl in past years. Although he wouldn’t break his cold streak until 1965, this seemingly throw away recording would hang around and become a favorite among the “Chairman of the Board”‘s fans, and one of those songs he put his stamp on in such a way that nobody else could ever really lay claim to it again.

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Posted on February 22, 2017, in Awards, Movies, Music, Oscars and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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