Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I hope you can do for me what you've done for many others.

My latest entertainment addiction is "The Forsythe Saga," the 2002 mini-series.

If you've seen it, you'd know that nearly every episode ends with the same song. It's just a guess, but the title may be "Life Is a Dance." They don't put a name on it.

Since it is heard only at the end while the credits roll, I don't know if it would be considered their theme.

Either way, I can't locate this music anywhere (Pandora, iTunes, Rhapsody, etc.). What I do find, but don't need, is a book of the same title.
—Rochelle Jones, Lancaster, Pa.

DEAR ROCHELLE: It's your addiction, but has John Forsythe ("Charlie's Angels," "Dynasty," etc.) somehow infiltrated your thinking?

I ask because John Galsworthy's original trilogy, and the films they inspired for theater and television, are about the Forsyte family, not Forsythe. The difference may or may not have hindered your search, but it seems you'd want to get the name right.

First published in 1906, with sequels over the next 14 years, Galsworthy's "Forsyte Saga" is still among Britain's Top 125 Best Loved Novels, according the BBC's Big Read Poll.

As for the title you actually wrote about, there is no official "Theme from Forsyte Saga." Yet, the tune you hear over the end credits, titled "Irene's Song," is often referred to as the show's theme.

"Life is a dance we must learn" is merely an oft-heard line in "Irene's Song."

Irene Herron-Forsyte, played by Gina McKee, is the story's most compelling character. Of the 25 tracks on the 2002 Universal Classics soundtrack album, eight are about Irene who married into the Forsyte clan — twice.

So important is Irene that the first U.S. film adaptation (1949) is even titled "That Forsyte Woman," with Greer Garson cast in the starring role.

"Irene's Song," composed for the 2002 "Forsythe Saga" by Geoffrey Burgon (music) and Jacqueline Kroft (lyrics), is performed by the renowned opera star, Bryn Terfel.

Soon after (2003), the Prince of Wales honored Terfel, making the Welshman a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and thereafter designated as Bryn Terfel CBE.

In 2006, he received the Queen's Medal for Music, an annual award for one's contribution to the musical life of Great Britain.

DEAR JERRY: I thought I could solve my own music mystery, but I now realize I need your help.

None of the Billboard record history or survey chart books credit Lou Monte as having a hit song before "Lazy Mary," from early 1958.

However, about a year earlier there was a big hit in New England by Lou. I know this because I recall where I lived then, where I was in school, and how I faithfully I listened to the Top 40 stations.

About half the song is sung in Italian, so the title may also be Italian. Either way, I can't identify it.

Can you help me close this case?
—Wes Marlowe, Woonsocket, R.I.

DEAR WES: Because you seem certain about the year, I confined the search to 1957, a year in which Lou Monte had eight songs on four singles.

None of those made Billboard, as you know, but "Roman Guitar" (RCA 6769) did hold the No. 50 spot for a couple of weeks on Cash Box — exactly one year before "Lazy Mary."

The clincher came when I spotted "Roman Guitar" sitting at No. 2 on WCOP's "Forty Top Tunes of Greater Boston," for the week of March 4, 1957.

You are right about its popularity in that area. In fact, only Elvis Presley's "Too Much" prevented "Roman Guitar" from reaching No. 1 in Boston.

Case closed.

IZ ZAT SO? For the record, "Lazy Mary (Luna Mezzo Mare)" was not Monte's first hit song. Four years earlier, accompanied by Hugo Winterhalter and His Orchestra, Lou made the Top 10 with "Darktown Strutters Ball (Italian Style)" (RCA Victor 5611).

As is more often than not the case with recording artists, not every release becomes a hit. That is certainly true for Lou Monte and his first eight years with RCA.

From his debut single (1952) to his last before switching to Roulette (1960), then to Reprise (1961), RCA Victor issued 31 singles.

Considering that only two, "Darktown Strutters Ball" and "Lazy Mary," reached the national Top 40, RCA showed phenomenal belief in Monte, but success eluded them.

When Lou joined fellow amici, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, at Reprise Records, everything changed.

In 1962, with just his fifth Reprise single, "Pepino the Italian Mouse" (R-20,106), Monte reached the Billboard Top 5 for the first time.

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column. Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368 E-mail:   Visit his Web site:

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