'The Greatest Songs You've Never Heard,' Rescued From History | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

'The Greatest Songs You've Never Heard,' Rescued From History

Play associated audio

Three for a Song is a performing trio with a love for the 1930s, during which some of the greatest songwriters who ever lived wrote music that would enter the canon of American popular song. But the group has recently added a quirk to its repertoire: performing songs that were never popular.

"You will always hear Burton Lane's 'How Are Things in Glocca Morra?' " says the trio's pianist, Alex Hassan, who is also a pop-music archivist. "But you will not hear an incredible torch song that he wrote for a 1935 MGM flick that never got made."

That Burton Lane tune, "Blue Serenade," is just one of many to appear in The Greatest Songs You've Never Heard, a traveling production created by Hassan, tenor Douglas Bowles and soprano Karin Paludan. The three found their material in a trove of virtually unknown music by Lane, Vernon Duke and other luminaries; it came to light recently when the Library of Congress digitized it.

Some of these songs were hitched to movies that were never filmed or Broadway musicals that flopped. Others appeared in entertainments so strange, the stories might have overshadowed the music. Take, for example, "Low Down," originally performed by Lillian Roth in an over-the-top 1930 film called Madam Satan.

"Lillian plays the female plaything of an aristocrat who has become bored with his wife," Bowles says. "The wife realizes he's messing around. She introduces herself to Lillian Roth's character — who's named 'Trixie,' of course — and Trixie teaches the wife what she's doing to fascinate the husband. The wife redefines herself as Madam Satan and attends an orgiastic party on a blimp. She seduces her own husband back into her arms — at which point the blimp catches fire."

The members of Three for a Song spoke with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel and performed selections from The Greatest Songs You've Never Heard live in the studio. Click the audio link to hear their full conversation.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Infiltrating 'The Dark Net', Where Criminals, Trolls And Extremists Reign

Jamie Bartlett exposes an encrypted underworld to the Internet in his book The Dark Net: "Anybody with something to hide, whether it's for good reasons or for ill, finds a very natural home there."

Drought May Cost California's Farmers Almost $3 Billion In 2015

The state's farmers could be out $2.7 billion dollars and more than 18,000 jobs, with 564,000 acres fallowed by the end of 2015, researchers at UC Davis write in a new report.
WAMU 88.5

Virginia Lobbies DC United To Move To Loudoun County

Virginia is making a last-minute pitch to DC United to scrap its deal with the District and instead move into a new stadium in the commonwealth.

Detroit Hopes To Drive Tech Startups Away From Silicon Valley

It doesn't have a lot of high-tech companies, but the city is interested in attracting young tech entrepreneurs. Detroit's rents are far more affordable, but then there are the brutally cold winters.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.