Saturday, June 04, 2011

Autumn Leaves and Roger Williams: A Winning Combination

"Autumn Leaves" is a much-recorded popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French song "Les feuilles mortes" (literally "The Dead Leaves") with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert. Yves Montand (with Irène Joachim) introduced "Les feuilles mortes" in 1946 in the film Les Portes de la Nuit. The American songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics in 1947 and Jo Stafford was among the first to perform this version. Autumn Leaves became a pop standard and a jazz standard in both languages, both as an instrumental and with a singer.

On December 24, 1950, French singer Edith Piaf rendered both French and English versions of this song on the radio programme The Big Show, hosted by Tallulah Bankhead. The Melachrino Strings Conductor: George Melachrino recorded a version in London on August 18, 1950. It was released by EMI on the His Master's Voice label as catalogue number B 9952.

The film Autumn Leaves (1956) starring Joan Crawford featured the song, as sung by Nat King Cole over the title sequence. The French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg paid tribute to this song in his own song "La chanson de Prévert".

In 1955 Roger Williams made the song a number one hit in the United States, the only piano instrumental to reach number one and remaining in that position for four weeks.

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