Stories of Standards: "A Foggy Day"

Jun 14, 2018

Joan Fontaine and Fred Astaire in “Damsel in Distress”
Credit https://alchetron.com/A-Damsel-in-Distress

Tune in to Jazz with Victor Cooper - weekdays from 6-9 a.m. MT - for Stories of Standards to hear our favorite versions of this song all week long starting on Monday, June 18!

Stories of Standards is sponsored by ListenUp - If you love music, you’ll love ListenUp.

“A Foggy Day” (1937) was written by George and Ira Gershwin for the movie “Damsel in Distress”. Based on the P. G. Wodehouse book of the same name, which had already been successfully adapted as a silent film and stage play, the lead character (Fred Astaire) is a composer named George who has difficulty finding the right woman to marry. Interestingly, the character may have been based on George Gershwin, who served as rehearsal pianist for “Miss 1917”, a musical involving Jerome Kern and P. G. Wodehouse as well as introducing Gershwin to musical theater. “Damsel in Distress” was Joan Fontaine’s first appearance with Astaire and fans who had anticipated another Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pairing were greatly disappointed. Nevertheless, Astaire’s recording of “A Foggy Day” went to #3 on the pop charts. The original title - “A Foggy Day (in London Town)” – is still sometimes used on recordings.

George Gershwin (1898-1937) wrote his first big hit – “Swanee”– for Al Jolson in the 1919 Broadway musical “Sinbad”. He then went on to write more than 500 additional songs, an opera (“Porgy and Bess”), plus music for piano and orchestra, including the tone poem “An American in Paris”. With contributions to musical theater, pop music, and classical music, George Gershwin remains one of the most popular and significant American composers of the 20th century.

Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) first published lyrics under the name Arthur Francis (the first for his younger brother, the last for his younger sister), before beginning the partnership with George which lasted until George’s death in 1937, with their last major work being the opera “Porgy and Bess”, which was not initially well-received but has since gone on to become known as the American Opera. His post-1937 collaborators included Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill, and Harold Arlen. He wrote the book “Lyrics on Several Occasions” (1959), a critically acclaimed source of information on the art of the lyricist.