#QueerQuote: “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.” – Fran Landesman

From the collection of S.Rutledge

This song from 1955 is in my All-Time Top Ten Songs. I play it often at this time of year. I have two different versions that bookend my Spring Mix for which my friends are clamoring.

Once I was a sentimental thing

Threw my heart away each spring

Now a spring romance hasn’t got a chance

Promised my first dance to winter

All I’ve got to shows a splinter for my little fling!

Spring this year has got me feeling like a horse that never left the post

I lie in my room staring up at the ceiling

Spring can really hang you up the most!

Mornings kiss wakes trees and flowers,

And to them I’d like to drink a toast

I walk in the park just to kill lonely hours

Spring can really hang you up the most.

All afternoon those birds twitter twit,

I know the tune, this is love, this is it!

Heard it before and I know the score

And I’ve decided that spring is a bore!

Love seemed sure around the new year

Now its April and love is just a ghost

Spring arrived on time, only what became of you, dear?

Spring can really hang you up the most!

Spring can really hang you up the most!

Spring is here, there’s no mistaking

Robins building nests from coast to coast

My heart tries to sing so they won’t hear it breaking

Spring can really hang you up the most!

College boys are writing sonnets

In the tender passion they’re engrossed

But I’m on the shelf with last year’s Easter bonnets

Spring can really hang you up the most!

Love came my way, I hoped it would last

We had our day, now that’s all in the past

Spring came along a season of song

Full of sweet promise but something went wrong!

Doctors once prescribed a tonic,

Sulphur and molasses was the dose

Didn’t help a bit, my condition must be chronic

Spring can really hang you up the most!

All alone, the party’s over

Old man winter was a gracious host

But when you keep praying for snow to hide the clover

Spring can really hang you up the most!

What could possibly have inspired a songwriter to write with the idea that Spring is the cruelest season? It’s such a striking idea for a song that is otherwise full of the usual Tin Pan Alley clichés. I have been thinking about this in the past day.

Thanks to my music library and that Internet thing, I found the answer. The song’s composers are Fran Landesman (lyrics) and Tommy Wolf (music). Landesman, who left this world in Spring 2011, had set up her own website to expound on her art. She wrote:

“Fran Landesman is still the poet laureate of lovers and losers: her songs are the secret diaries of the desperate and the decadent. No one can convey the bitter-sweet joys of melancholy or the exhilaration of living on the edge like Fran.”

Wolf and Landesman , Masterworks via YouTube

Well, that certainly sounds right. But, what about that song? According to the intriguing biography on her site, Landesman wrote the song shortly after she initiated her collaboration with Wolf at the Crystal Palace in St. Louis:

“Fran and Tommy soon began writing songs which he would sing nightly to the drinking masses at the Crystal Palace. One night the British born piano player George Shearing came into the club and was particularly taken with a song whose title Fran had come up with while speculating on how a hip jazz musician might express the T.S. Eliot line ‘April Is The Cruelest Month…’. The song was called ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most’.”

Hmmm… that is it! The source of this striking song lies in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:

April is the cruelest month,

Breeding lilacs out of the dead land,

Mixing memory and desire,

Stirring dull roots with spring rain

Many artists have covered Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most. I lost count at 50, but here are a few: Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Mark Murphy, Julie London, Rickie Lee Jones, and Bette Midler.  Barbra Streisand recorded it in 1962, 1967, 1991, and 2010.

For me, Spring has always been equal measures of invigoration and melancholy. No wonder this song has always struck a chord.

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By Stephen Rutledge

2 years ago

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