IT HAPPENS EVERY SPRING (1948)
MUSIC—JOSEF MYROW, LYRICS—MACK GORDON
Kay Starr is one of the more interesting popular singers of the 1940s and 50s. Referring to her only as a “popular” singer is, I guess, not technically correct, as she also sang country and jazz—Billie Holiday called her the “only white woman who could sing the blues.”
And I suppose even that—“white woman”—is also not technically correct. She was born in 1922 on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma; her father was a full-blooded Iroquois and her mother half Iroquois. She won a singing contest at the age of 7 on a Dallas radio station, and was singing professionally at the age of 15. In her mid-twenties, she signed with Capital Records and had an active career until the rock and roll era replaced her kind of singing.
The “prime time” of her career therefore coincided exactly with the post-war years in which the United States was trying to forget the horrors of war and was rapidly becoming the world’s largest market economy—a time of innocence, at least on the surface, and of looking to the future. Record companies capitalized on this yearning and pushed their best female singers to the top of the charts—Peggy Lee, Jo Stafford, Margaret Whiting, and Kay Starr.
The song I am posting is the very first song I ever heard from Kay Starr, and I instantly fell in love with her vibrato. The best metaphor I can come up with for her—a cliché, it’s true—is that she is a songbird. If Edith Piaf was France’s “Little Sparrow”, I would say that Kay Starr deserved a similar accolade here in the US. I could listen to her sing open vowels forever. And the way she maintains such an appealing vibrato even on some consonants—“n’s” and “ng’s”—is impressive, and so attractive.
This song bears the title of the movie from which it came—a completely forgettable comedy about baseball from 1948 called, of course, It Happens Every Spring. Don’t waste your time looking for it. But this theme song from the movie, slowed down considerably for this version by Kay Starr, is memorable. The lyrics are predictable—baseball, the green grass of spring, love in the air, everything is new, etc. They could equally well have been la-la-la or nonsense syllables. For me, it is her voice that matters.