Tuesday, September 3, 2013

At the Music Hall: The Limehouse Blues, 1922

And those weird China blues
Never go away
Sad, mad blues
For all the while they seem to say

Oh, Limehouse kid
Oh, oh, Limehouse kid
Goin' the way
That the rest of them did
Poor broken blossom
And nobody's child
Haunting and taunting
You're just kind of wild

Oh, Limehouse blues
I've the real Limehouse blues
Can't seem to shake off
Those real China blues
Rings on your fingers
And tears for your crown
That is the story
Of old Chinatown

Rings on your fingers
And tears for your crown
That is the story
Of old Chinatown 

For me, hearing “Limehouse Blues” brings to mind the brilliant and talented Gertrude Lawrence as well as the 1968 film about her life, "Star!" starring Julie Andrews.  “Limehouse Blues”  is a celebrated jazz standard written in 1922 by Douglas Furber (lyrics) and Philip Braham (music).  The song was made famous by Gertrude Lawrence, but it has been recorded thousands of times. 

This tune of betrayal and sadness was prominently featured in a 1934 film which borrowed its name (also known as “East End Chant”).  The film  was set in London's Chinese district and starred George Raft and Anna May Wong. The song was also performed in “Ziegfeld Follies” (by Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer in Asian makeup).

Enjoy this clip from the Gertrude Lawrence biopic with Julie Andrews performing the song:

The Great Al Hirschfeld depicted Andrews as Lawrence performing the "Blues," in 1968

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