Music Throwback Saturday: On Broadway

A young Phil Spector played the distinctive lead guitar solo on The Drifters’ recording.

ClaudeMckayI’ve been involved with an office JEOPARDY! game. A recent clue: “A hundred shouting signs shed down their bright fantastic glow” in Claude McKay’s “On” this NYC street. No idea, but because of a question I’d missed earlier, I take a guess, and it’s correct.

Here’s On Broadway by Claude McKay, a rather melancholy piece:
Upon the merry crowd and lines
Of moving carriages below.
Oh wonderful is Broadway — only
My heart, my heart is lonely.

Claude McKay was born in Jamaica on September 15, 1889, and became an early key figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

I wonder if the poem inspired a song a few decades later:

New York City-based composers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote On Broadway “originally recorded by the Cookies (although the Crystals’ version beat them to release)”…

“Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller liked the song but felt that it was not quite right [for the Drifters] and the four held an overnight brainstorming session which culminated in the better-known version of the song, now with a rock-oriented groove and with a more bluesy feel… A young Phil Spector played the distinctive lead guitar solo on The Drifters’ recording.”

LISTEN to On Broadway

The Cookies

The Crystals

The Drifters, #9 pop, #7 soul in 1963

Dave Clark Five

The Chipettes

Bobby Darin

Percy Faith Orchestra

Neil Young

George Benson, #7 pop, #2 soul

“George Benson’s version… from his 1978 album Weekend in L.A…. won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance. The song appeared in the films Big Business and American Beauty, and… was used in the 1979 film All That Jazz in a sequence that featured dancers on stage auditioning for a musical similar to Chicago. George Benson also performed “On Broadway” with Clifford and the Rhythm Rats for the 1994 Muppet album Kermit Unpigged.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Music Throwback Saturday: On Broadway”

  1. “And one thin dime won’t even shine your shoes.” I have no talent to take to Broadway, or anywhere else, but I always felt a twinge from that line.

  2. George Benson’s juicy version of “On Broadway” is the best, for me, hands down. The sung riff (his register brings Slam Stewart’s vocals-and-bowed-bass technique), the whole thing.

    I didn’t know that other song, but “Broadway” would have been my guess, just because of the many NYC songs. And “Bowery” would not have matched the lyrics!

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