Polka Dots and Moonbeams
At Cascamorto last Tuesday, my friend Renee requested Polka Dots and Moonbeams, a 1940 song written by Jimmy van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke. They collaborated on a passel of great standards including Here’s That Rainy Day, Moonlight Becomes You, It Could Happen to You and others.
Like most singers, Renee didn’t know the lyrics, but she liked the melody and thought it would make a good weekly tune. It’s a hardy standard, popular with both pop singers and jazz players.
Burke’s lyrics aren’t my favorite here. I could have done without the pug-nosed dream, frankly. But this is a real ballad in the sense that the lyrics tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. (Interestingly, in their outline, the lyrics resemble those of another older song requested that night, Million Dollar Baby. In the first 16 bars boy meets girl; at the bridge the mutual interest is sealed, and in the final 8 bars they are installed in the obligatory and uncommonly blissful cottage. Burke’s lyrics are more sophisticated than the 1929 Million Dollar Baby, but the plotting is identical.)
Click on the red title below to hear my version. The lyrics are below, for Renee’s benefit!
A country dance was being held in a garden,
I felt a bump and heard an “Oh, beg your pardon.”
Suddenly I saw polka dots and moonbeams
All around a pug-nosed dream.
The music started and was I the perplexed one
I held my breath and said “May I have the next one?”
In my frightened arms polka dots and moonbeams
Sparkled on a pug-nosed dream.
There were questions in the eyes of other dancers
As we floated over the floor.
There were questions but my heart knew all the answers,
And perhaps a few things more.
Now in a cottage built of lilacs and laughter
I know the meaning of the words “ever after”
And I’ll always see polka dots and moonbeams
When I kiss the pug-nosed dream.