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On a Slow Boat to China

   After a string of string arrangements here, I thought it was time to go back to some basic saloon piano and I chose one of those durable standards that now and then get into my brain.  It’s On a Slow Boat to China.  I never knew who wrote it until just now but it turns out to be Frank Loesser.  Once again!  The breadth and quality of his work is borne out by how often, without my intending, he pops up in these weekly tunes.  He has his name at the top of a lot of great songs.

      This one Loesser wrote in 1945 but apparently didn’t copywright until 1948.  According to Loesser’s daughter, Susan, wanting to get someone on a slow boat to China was a quip originally aimed at cooperatively stubborn and chronically losing poker players. Loesser turned the idea into a more romantic direction, and for awhile afterward “a slow boat to China” became a popular catch phrase.

     The idea is winning, the melody is infectious, the chord changes are strong and fun to play on, and I love the anticipated gleeful revenge in the line “Leave all your lovers, waving on the faraway shore” and the hopefully confident, undiplomatically clear-eyed,  “melting your heart of stone”.  Click on the red title to hear it.  Solo piano first, then bass and drums.  No strings, but I couldn’t resist the gong!

On a Slow Boat to China 

I’d love to get you

On a slow boat to China

All to myself, alone.

Get you and keep you

In my arms evermore,

Leave all your lovers

Weeping on the faraway shore.

Out on the briny,

With a moon big and shiny

Melting your heart of stone,

I’d love to get you

On a slow boat to China

All to myself alone.


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