Thursday, September 05, 2013

John Lawton, meet Allan Sherman

Allan Sherman's 1963 song "Harvey and Sheila" (sung to the tune of "Hava Nagilah") tells a story of upward mobility among postwar American Jews in the form of Harvey, "a CPA / He works for IBM / He went to MIT / And got his Ph.D.," and Sheila, "a girl I know / At BBD&O / She works the PBX / And makes out the checks."

Harvey and Sheila married, "And on election day / Worked for JFK."

They made their way in the world, bought a house with "a swimming pool / Full of H2O / Traded their used MG / For a new XKE / Switched to the GOP / That's the way things go."

I thought of Harvey and Sheila's political evolution when I read the following from a stalwart Labourite in John Lawton's novel Old Flames:
"(W)e breed Tories, you see. You'll see. We get back in next year or the year after, we improve the lot of the workers—do what we're committed to do—and the next election after that the buggers'll vote us out because they're making too much money to trust it to Labour. That's what happened to Cockerell. He made a bob or two."
"It's the British story, isn't it?" Lawton has his character say, but, as Allan Sherman attests, it's also the American story, and, for all I know, Frenchmen and women of the trente glorieuses, the glorious postwar years, struggled their way to a comfortable standard of living before turning around and saying, "Fuck you, Jacques. I'm all right."

Who says crime fiction can't provoke thoughts about the times in which we live, and other weighty matters?
 John Lawton will be part of my "World War II and Sons" panel at Bouchercon 2013 in Albany, N.Y., on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 4:00 p.m. Allan Sherman died in 1973, but he'll be present in spirit.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Dana King said...

This brings back memories:

Harvey's smart, he used his noodle / Sheila bought a white French poodle / Went to Europe on a visa/
Harvey's rich, they say that he's a / VIP...This could be......Only in the USA.

My parents owned this record. I wore it out. Allan Sherman was a genius, and you've piqued my interest in Lawton's book. as you know, this is a topic that interests me.

September 05, 2013  
Blogger Fred said...

I finally found a DVD of my favorite Allan Sherman: "Allan Sherman at the Boston Pops with Arthur Fiedler."

September 05, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I'm glad to have piqued your interest. I wonder what Lawton will think of the Sherman comparison. His books are full of social comedy.

As for Sherman, I'll take "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" and "(You've Gotta Have) Skin" over the rest and, among his album titles, how can one resist My Son the Nut?

September 05, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, speaking of Allan Sherman and classical music, I laughed the first time I heard this piece.

September 05, 2013  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

I never heard of Allan Sherman --at least I thought I hadn't. Now I see that he's the guy who foisted "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" on us. It was a staple of every compilation of novelty songs I heard hawked on TV as a kid.

September 06, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But Allan Sherman was the king of song parodies! Someone said he paved the way for Weird Al Yankovic. That's a dubious achievement, but there is as least one difference between them: Some of Sherman's parodies were of classical music. That means a listener today, and maybe when Sherman recorded the songs, would be exposed to music he or she might not otherwise hear every day.
Yankovic's songs, on the other hand, just expose listeners to what they know.

Warner Bros. cartoons are superior to later commercial animation for similar reasons. One exposes listeners to classical, jazz, and music inspired by both. The other exposes kids to crappy, upbeat pop made just to gratify them. I know which I think is the better way.

September 06, 2013  

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