Song Lyric Sunday — To Sir With Love

Jim Adams picked a versatile topic for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday.  School/Books/Learning presents so many possible songs! I’m going with one that left me as awash in emotion today as it did over fifty years ago: “To Sir With Love.” The 1967 movie, based on the autobiographical novel by E. R. Braithwaite, tells the story of the impact a British Guiana immigrant has as a teacher in a tough London neighborhood school wrestling with social and racial issues. The film starred Sidney Poitier and introduced teenage Scottish singer Lulu, who sang the title song, making her an international star.

Lyricist Don Black, in response to the movie producer’s unusual request, wrote the lyrics before a composer was chosen. Coincidentally,  Lulu’s manager was dating composer Mark London, who wrote the music within 30 minutes of receiving the lyrics. The title song was released as a single in 1967 and shot to the top of the charts.

To my knowledge, the three-verse song has never been recorded in its entirety. The first two verses were overdubbed on the movie’s opening credits and on the museum field trip scene. The third verse, sung by Lulu’s character, featured in the movie’s climactic school dance scene in which the students thanked Poitier’s character. The popular single was released with only the first and third verses. The sheet music is available with lyrics to all verses, but presented in the “logical” order of verse 1, 3, 2.  Luckily, YouTube has one video with the three verses presented in the order they appeared in the movie. Here it is:

 

To Sir With Love

Those schoolgirl days
Of telling tales, and biting nails, are gone
But in my mind,
I know they will still live on and on
But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
It isn’t easy, but I’ll try
If you wanted the sky,
I would write across the sky in letters,
That would soar a thousand feet high:
“To Sir, With Love”

Those awkward years
Have hurried by. Why did they fly away?
Why is it, Sir,
Children grow up to be people one day?
What takes the place of climbing trees,
And dirty knees in the world outside?
What is there for you I can buy?
If you wanted the world,
I’d surround it with walls. I’d scrawl
In letters ten feet tall:
“To Sir, With Love”

The time has come
For closing books; and long last looks must end
And as I leave,
I know that I am leaving my best friend
A friend who taught me right from wrong,
And weak from strong — that’s a lot to learn
What — what can I give you in return?
If you wanted the moon,
I would try to make a start… But I
Would rather you let me give my heart
To Sir, With Love

 

Song Lyric Sunday – Mod Sox

Jim Adams has announced the topic “Animal” for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday. Here’s my thinking: Insects are animals, and grasshoppers are insects, so grasshoppers are animals. Right? Well, The Grasshoppers were also a Cleveland, Ohio, band founded in 1962. Two years later, Grasshoppers founder Dante Rossi left the band, and Benjamin Orzechowski replaced him on rhythm guitar and vocals. The Grasshoppers became the house band for a teen dance show, The Big 5 Show, and lead singer “Benny 11 Letters” became a local teen idol. (A decade later, he changed his last name to Orr and co-founded The Cars. But that’s a different story that you can read about here.)

The Grasshoppers recorded two local hit songs: “Pink Champagne (and Red Roses)” and “Mod Socks.” I featured “Pink Champagne,” the more lyrical of the two, as my contribution to SLS on August 5, 2018. Although Benny sang lead, “Mod Socks” was written by Grasshoppers lead guitarist Louis Pratile and record producer Carl Maduri. It’s a very simple, good-time song that, to me, epitomizes the mid-60’s innocent crossroad of 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll and the late-60’s psychedelic/acid rock, prog rock, hard rock, country rock explosion.

 

 

Mod Socks

Well who wears mod socks?
Well, girls wear mod socks.
My sister wears mod socks.
My mother wears mod socks.
My aunt wears mod socks.

Now Benny wears mod socks.

Girls wear mod socks.
My friends wear mod socks.
My mother wears mod socks.
My aunt wears mod socks.
My cousin wears mod socks.
My fans wear mod socks, let’s go now….

Well I said who wears mod socks?
Girls wear mod socks.
Your sister wears mod socks.
Your mother wears mod socks.
Your aunt wears mod socks.

Now Benny wears mod socks.

Girls wear mod socks.
Your sister wears mod socks.
My granny wears mod socks.
Your cousin wears mod socks.
Your sister wears mod socks.
Your mother wears mod socks

I said who wears mod socks?
I said who wears mod socks?
My baby’s got some mod socks.
Yeah I think those are mod socks.*
Go on and grab some mod socks.*
Come on and grab some mod socks, yeah right now*

 

 

Song Lyric Sunday — “Working in the Coal Mine” and “Working Man”

Jim Adams continues to masterfully chaperone Song Lyric Sunday, originated by Helen Vahdati. Jim’s update on Helen’s health is here; I hope she feels better soon. I agree with her that SLS has become a community and, with Jim now at the helm, is no longer “hers.”  Seems to me that Jim’s stewardship has also brought in some new players, so our musical world is expanding. Thanks to both Jim and Helen!

This week’s topic, occupation, immediately reminded me of two songs that, although written more than twenty years apart, both describe the hardship of a coal miner’s life.  New Orleans jazz and blues songwriter/musician/producer, Allen Toussaint, penned my first choice “Working In The Coal Mine” in 1966. It became an international hit for singer Lee Dorsey. Dorsey’s peppy delivery, echoed by such subsequent artists as Devo (1981), belies the somber lyrics, so I’ve chosen a better-suited fan-made video with audio featuring Dorsey.

My second choice, “Working Man,” was released twenty-two years later in 1988, written and performed by Canadian Rita MacNeil. MacNeil was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada’s coal mining center from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s. Inspired to write the song during a visit to a local coal mine, she related in her autobiography that she wrote the melody and lyrics in her head as the tour guide talked. The video I’ve chosen comes from a Celtic Thunder 2010 tour and is sung by the late George Donaldson. (You can read my previous SLS posts featuring George here and here.) Never a coal miner, Donaldson, as the group’s oldest member, performs the song authentically, having been a working man building buses daily and singing in pubs nightly for many years before his success in Celtic Thunder.

 

 

Working in The Coal Mine

Workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Five o’clock in the mornin’
I’m already up and gone
Lord, I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Daddy, workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

‘Course I make a little money
Haulin’ coal by the ton
But when Saturday rolls around
I’m too tired for havin’ fun

Too tired for havin’, I’m just workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Lord I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Daddy, workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Five o’clock in the mornin’
I’m already up and gone
Lord, I’m so tired
How long can this go on?

Daddy, workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

‘Course I make a little money
Haulin’ coal by the ton
But when Saturday rolls around
I’m too tired for havin’ fun

Too tired for havin’, I’m just workin’ in the coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down, down, down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Oops, about to slip down

Lord, I’m so tired

 

 

Working Man

It’s a working man I am
And I’ve been down underground
And I swear to God
If I ever see the sun
Oh for any length of time
I can hold it in my mind
I never again
Will go down underground
At the age of sixteen years
Oh he quarrels with his peers
He vowed they’d never
See another one
In the dark recess of the mine
Where you age before your time
And the coal dust lies heavy
On your lungs
It’s a working man I am
And I’ve been down underground
And I swear to God
If I ever see the sun
Oh for any length of time
I can hold it in my mind
I never again
Will go down underground
At the age of sixty four
He will greet you at the door
And he will gently lead you
By the arm
Through the dark recess of the mine
He will take you back in time
And he’ll tell you of
The hardships that were had
It’s a working man I am
And I’ve been down underground
And I swear to God
If I ever see the sun
Oh for any length of time
I can hold it in my mind
I never again will go down underground
I never again will go down underground
Songwriters: Rita Macneil
Working Man lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc