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Autumn in New York

For a seasonal touch, this week’s tune is Autumn in New York, written, both words and music, by Vernon Duke who also wrote, among other standards, April in Paris and I Can’t Get Started.  Click on the title in large red letters below this commentary to hear my version.  The lyrics are below as well.

     Autumn in New York was written in 1934 and was – I’m cribbing Alec Wilder here -- the closing song for a show called “Thumbs Up”.  I find it a little odd it was the closer because it ends, more in a “thumbs down" kind of way, in the minor key. 

     I never knew the verse until Marc Golde, a devotee and walking encyclopedia of American music, brought it to me once when I was playing on Camac Street.  (A note on song jargon:  the “verse” of a song, at least in this context, is the introduction sung before the refrain or chorus.)  Most theater songs have one, though they are frequently omitted when performed in a pop setting.  This is a shame, because not only do they set up the main lyric of a song, the verses are sometimes as good as the chorus, or even better, because writers could be a little more adventurous and try some things that they might not risk in the main tune.

     The verse to Autumn in New York is a case in point.  It’s not better than the chorus, maybe, but it’s difficult and interesting and reminds us that Vernon Duke was a composer of serious music as well, under his real name, Valdimir Dukelsky.

Autumn in New York

Verse:

It’s time to end my lonely holiday

And Bid the country a hasty farewell.

So on this gray and melancholy day

I’ll move to a Manhattan hotel.

I’ll dispose of my rose-colored chattels

And prepare for my share of adventures and battles.

Here on the twenty-seventh floor,

Looking down on the city I hate and adore!

Refrain:

Autumn in New York,

Why does it seem so inviting?

Autumn in New York,

It spells the thrill of first-nighting.

Gliterring crowds and shimmering clouds

In canyons of steel,

They’re making me feel

I’m home.

It’s Autumn in New York

That brings the promise of new love.

Autumn in New York

Is often mingled with pain.

Dreamers with empty hands

May sigh for exotic lands;

It’s Autumn in New York

It’s good to live it again.

Autumn in New York,

The gleaming rooftops at sundown.

Autumn in New York,

It lifts you up when you’re run down.

Jaded roués and gay divorcees

Who lunch at the Ritz

Will tell you that “it’s

Divine!”

This Autumn in New York

Transforms the slums into Mayfair;

Autumn in New York

You’ll need no castles in Spain.

Lovers that bless the dark

On benches in Central Park

Greet Autumn in New York

It’s good to live it again.


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