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I Concentrate on You

    Simply because it’s been on my mind for awhile, and I think it’s beautiful, I’ve chosen Cole Porter’s I Concentrate on You this week.  It was written in 1939 for the movie Broadway Melody of 1940 with Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell.  (It is remarkable, isn’t it?, how many great tunes attached themselves to Fred Astaire.)

     I was introduced to this song by my friend, the clarinetist Herb Hesch, when we began playing together at Downey’s in 1979. (Herb went on to play for years at the Hunt Room in the Bellevue, which was then known as the Fairmont, though we continued to play together off and on for years.  Herb is now retired and living in Manhattan.)

     Though Porter is often remarked for his urbanity and witty lyrics, I Concentrate on You shows you what a compelling melodist he could be when he wanted to.  This song, and others like In the Still of the Night and So in Love, rank right up there with great tunes of Rodgers and Gershwin.

     A very typical form for an American tune is AABA, i.e. two nearly identical stanzas, A, followed by a bridge (or “release”),B, with a final A stanza.  Usually each section is eight measures, making 32 in all.  Porter often followed the general form but frequently his sections were 16 bars, to make 64 measures in all.  And a mannerism of Porter’s was to change the succeeding A sections more than is usual.  For example, here, the phrase ‘whenever the blues become my only song&rsqu o; is a third higher than the first section’s ‘whenever the winter winds become too strong’.  (And the final section here is entirely different except for the title phrase.)  Similarly in other Porter songs, the notes of ‘a trip to the moon on gossamer wings’, for example, are just a little bit different than those of ‘one of those bells that now and then rings’;‘the stars fill the sky’ is not the same interval as ‘I know darling why’, an d so on.

      But enough of that.  I Concentrate on You is such a pretty tune that, apart, from a little noodling around on the second bridge, I was content to do nothing but stick with the melody here, lushly and Latin.  Click on the title in red to hear it.  The lyrics show Porter in Hollywood mode, i.e. they are pleasant but not as sophisticated as those he wrote for Broadway.  They are below.

I Concentrate on You 

Whenever skies look grey to me

And trouble begins to brew

Whenever the winter winds become too strong,

I concentrate on you.

When fortune cries “nay, nay!” to me

And people declare “You’re through,”

Whenever the Blues become my only song,

I concentrate on you.

Bridge:

On your smile so sweet, so tender

When at first my (your) kiss you (I) decline,

On the light in yours, when you (I) surrender

And once a gain our arms intertwine.

And so when wise men say to me

That love’s young dream never comes true,

To prove that even wise men can be wrong,

I concentrate on you.

I concentrate and concentrate

On you.


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