Amoeblog

(In which we consider some swinging, singing sisters.)

Posted by Job O Brother, May 16, 2011 01:26pm | Post a Comment

 
WAR!
The Boswell Sisters vs. The Andrews Sisters


Last blog, we took a long, almost invasive and menacing look at one of my favorite harmonizing groups, The Ravens. This time, let’s meditate on two groups and the epic chaos that emerged from their earth-shattering battle for supremacy. Yes, we’re going to focus on the blood-thirsty Boswell Sisters and those daughters of doomsday, The Andrews Sisters. (This blog is not for the squeamish and will include death, destruction, and delightfully catchy melodies.)

Many people are already familiar with The Andrews Sisters, and because you, dear reader, are a person, I am including you in this assessment. What these same many people often don’t realize is that The Andrews Sisters actually based their act on another trio of singing siblings, The Boswell Sisters.

The Boswell Sisters were born in the first decade of the twentieth century and, in a show of musical savvy, they chose to be raised in New Orleans, the American music Mecca. By their teens, Martha, Connee, and Helvetia (they were given individual names to make communication in the house more efficient) began singing in movie theatres and on local radio shows, cultivating small celebrity and earning free popcorn.

By the early 1930’s their desire for greater success, along with Helvetia’s having developed a corn allergy, led them to move to New York City. They recorded some records and integrated themselves in the thriving jazz scene. Middle-child Connee proved herself to be a deft and original arranger of music and, against the common practice of the day, was allowed greater freedom to change the standards she and her sisters sang. This earned her respect among her musical peers, even though some choices Connee made were less popular than others. (For example, their 1931 recording of I Thank You, Mr. Moon, in which Connee changed the key of the melody and re-wrote the words as I Will Slit Your Shaking Throat and Drink Your Hot Gushing Blood, Mr. Moon - it was subsequently changed back to the original lyrics.)

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