Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Blow ill wind...Let me rest today..."

At piano. Photo: ASCAP web site.

Ill Wind...a song composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Ted Koehler, was written for their last show at the Cotton Club Parade, in 1934.  The melody came to Arlen whilst he was visiting Anya Taranda, a model who was to become Arlen's wife.

Photo: From Wikipedia.
Background. Harold Arlen was born Hyman Arluck, in Buffalo, New York, the child of a Jewish cantor. His twin brother died the next day. He learned the piano as a youth and formed a band as a young man. He achieved some local success as a pianist and singer and moved to New York City in his early 20s. He worked as an accompanist in vaudeville.  At this point, he changed his name to Harold Arlen.

In 1929, Arlen composed his first well-known song: "Get Happy" (with lyrics by Ted Koehler). Throughout the early and mid-1930s, Arlen and Koehler wrote shows for the Cotton Club, a popular Harlem night club, as well as for Broadway musicals and Hollywood films. Arlen and Koehler's partnership resulted in a number of hit songs, including the familiar standards "Let's Fall in Love" and "Stormy Weather." 

Until the lovely snow of this morning, this Arlen song seemed perfectly suited for our century's planetary ills, including a divisive national election here.  

 I think the song is still appropriate. The snow will soon melt and all you have to do is look at the headlines and articles that frame our lives this January, 2012.


Denee Barr,  amazing song stylist, sings the haunting Arlen song for us...the Ted Koehler lyrics comprise the refrain of my "blog feature," a vocal appeal to let the ill wind pass, and to let love return.

Blow ill wind, 
blow away                 
Let me rest today 

Blow ill wind, blow away          
Let me rest today  
You're blowin' me no good (no good)

Go ill wind, 
go away  

Skies so gray
Around my neighborhood, 
and that's no good

You're only misleadin' the sunshine I'm needin'

                                     Ain't that a shame?

It's so hard to keep up with troubles that creep up  
From out of nowhere, when love's to blame...

So ill wind, blow away

Let me rest today  


You're blowin' me no good (no good)
You're only misleadin' the sunshine 
I'm needin'

Ain't that a shame?

It's so hard to keep up with troubles that creep up  
From out of nowhere, when love's to blame...

So ill wind, blow away   Let me rest today
You're blowin' me no good (no good)

Blow, ill wind, blow.

All of Arlen's songs, by year:


Special thanks to Caroline Gill--origins and use of the phrase: 

An ill wind


A negative effect. <**But see, below.>


The use of ill wind is most commonly in the phrase 'it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good'. This is first recorded in John Heywood's A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:
"An yll wynde that blowth no man to good, men say."

Its listing there as proverbial demonstrates an earlier derivation. 
That meaning, which is still understood today, was subverted somewhat later to provide a second meaning. In Rob Roy, Sir Walter Scott included:
"Nane were keener against it than the Glasgow folk, wi' their rabblings and their risings, and their mobs, as they ca' them now-a-days. But it's an ill wind blaws naebody gude."

**The meaning there is clearly the opposite of the old proverb, i.e. a wind that didn't provide benefit to someone would be a bad and unusual one indeed. 

Into the 20th century we find a punning joke on the phrase that has been attributed to many people, notably Sir Thomas Beecham, although I'm unable to authenticate the true source. This calls the notoriously difficult to play French horn - "the wind that nobody blows good". 

Kay Weeks  and  Denee Barr


Trudy said...

Thank you for sharing beautiful verse, song and photos.

Denee Barr Art News and More said...

It's winter time. Might as well break out in a song to take the chill away with lovely commentary, images,and beautiful songs from the Great American Songbook. Let the wind blow!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kay, for sharing your thoughts, your incredible photography, Denee's singing of this awesome-ly appropriate song...

Cindi Ryland
Ellicott City, MD

Anonymous said...

Great Kaydi... I enjoyed it. Lovely voiced Denee is a gem.

Lora Robertson
Seattle, WA

Anonymous said...

Lovely Kay, Love that photograph, really is good...::)

Wendy Mary Lister

Caroline Gill said...

A wonderful rendition. You might find this interesting, Kay . . . I knew the meaning, but wondered about the origin.