R.I.P. Billy May
So I’m reading Mark Evanier’s web page this morning, and I see that arranger Billy May has passed away. As Mark recounts here, May not only conducted and arranged the music for many of Stan Freberg’s records, he also had a side business with a little-known singer named Frank Sinatra. As with most comedy records, the sketches on Frebergs’ start to show their age after a while, but you can always listen to the music, and that’s largely because of May’s arrangements. I think of the contrapuntal “Round, Round World” as a great example. Similarly, his work with Frank Sinatra–he’s considered one of the “big three” of the songer’s mature years, with Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins–is immidiately identifiable.
What stands out? His knack for vocal arrangements, sometimes in duets and trios as on Frank & Sammy’s “Me & My Shadow” or the Rat Pack group sings on the Reprise Repetory Theater albums. His love of percussion and overall sense of humor. Other great May/Sinatra records include “Come Fly With Me,” “Luck Be A Lady” and the 1979 version of “The Song Is You.”
Nelson Riddle always said his favorite arrangement of a Sinatra song that he didn’t do himself was May’s “Indian Summer,” recorded in 1967 with Duke Ellington & his orchestra and featuring the most sensuous saxophone solo–by Johnny Hodges–you’ve ever heard in your life. My own favorite is “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You,” from 1961.
Here’s hoping the first person May met in heaven was Frank, telling him about a new record date he had planned and handing him a glass of booze.