Het is vandaag 85 jaar geleden dat het nummer “Cocktails for two” op de eerste plaats van de Amerikaanse hitparade stond in de versie van Duke Ellington. Ik vind dit belangrijk enerzijds om aan te tonen hoe populair Ellington wel was, ook bij blanken, en anderzijds is er aan het nummer zelf een heel verhaal verbonden.

“Cocktails for Two” is a song, written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow. The song debuted in the movie “Murder at the Vanities” (1934), where it was introduced by the Danish singer and actor Carl Brisson. Duke Ellington’s version of the song was recorded in 1934 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.
The song seems to refer to the ending of Prohibition in the United States. Mentioned discreetly in the song’s introduction is that people could be “carefree and gay once again”. The song was written in 1934, and the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition, was ratified in December of the previous year.
Early recordings in 1934 were also by Johnny Green and Will Osborne but “Cocktails for Two” is best remembered today due to the comic, sound effects-laden version by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. The Slickers first recorded it in 1944 with Carl Grayson supplying the vocal. It was their biggest all-time hit, reaching number 4 on the charts. Sam Coslow hated Jones’ irreverent treatment. Even so, the recording’s success earned him large royalties. In Vlaanderen werd deze versie op de BRT-televisie gebracht door Nicole Josy & Hugo Sigal samen met Jenny Bischops & Johnny Voners, maar het is twijfelachtig dat Coslow hier veel royalties heeft aan over gehouden…
Jonathan and Darlene Edwards (a comedy act by Paul Weston and Jo Stafford) also lampooned the song on their first LP, “The Piano Artistry of Jonathan Edwards”, released in 1957.
Bing Crosby recorded the song in 1955 for use on his radio show and it was subsequently included in the box set “The Bing Crosby CBS Radio Recordings” (1954-56) issued by Mosaic Records (catalog MD7-245) in 2009.
Other covers include Zarah Leander’s Swedish version for Odeon in 1934, Tommy Dorsey’s swing version for Victor in 1938, Keely Smith’s version on her album “Politely!” (1958) and Ray Charles and Betty Carter for their album “Ray Charles and Betty Carter” uit 1961 (Wikipedia).

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