Sure, Tibbett's venture into popular song was not one of the highlights of
his career, but...
As to DON'T FENCE ME IN, he first sang it on "Your Hit Parade" in January
of 1945, and for five straight weeks it held the top spot. Recordings
clearly indicate "Der Bingle" had nothing to fear. (Some correspondence
between Cole Porter and Tibbett relating to it has been offered lately on
eBay; the offer expired yesterday.)
To me, Tibbett's most successful attempt at pop singing was his widely
available recording of LAST NIGHT WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, which was written
expressly for him by Harold Arlen and Yip "Over the Rainbow" Harburg.
Though ten years older, Arlen's tune is an advance on Porter's
unrelentingly diatonic DON'T FENCE..., as it includes some fairly tough
intervals (for a pop tune) and numerous non-chordal pitches (6ths, 9ths,
etc.). Tibbett handles it all with ease, if not the greatest popular
Over 50 recordings of the tune are available on CD by various singers. It
is interesting to compare a few renditions, for example, Tibbett, Sinatra,
Judy Garland, and Tony Bennett. Sinatra is, in my view, clearly superior
for his ease of phrasing and intimacy. Garland sings it wildly out of
tune, and, of course, as if it reflected life's most crushing experience.
Bennett, for whom I have great respect as a purveyor of mostly good stuff,
at least until recently (and forgiving him SAN FRANCISCO), seems incapable
of negotiating the non-chordal tones and makes the tune largely diatonic!
Crossover can be entertaining, but in the long run, never the twain shall
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