Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why I Didn't Name the Songs in Romancing the Rumrunner - But You Can Find Out What They Are Now!

I have a general rule to never respond to reviews, good or bad. Reviews are for readers, not the authors, so I don't feel it's ever my place to respond to or comment on them. However, I've had several reviews that have mentioned the wish that I'd included the names of the songs my heroine Jessie sings in Romancing the Rumrunner. And I totally understand. If I was a reader, it would bug me too. Which made making the decision to leave the song titles out of the book very difficult. But I promise I had a good reason :-)

So for the sake of those who are curious, I'd like to explain my reasoning behind leaving the titles out, and reveal what the songs are that Jessie sings :-)

The book is set in 1928. I spent many, many hours researching, making sure that every detail I included in the book - from the language to the camera Tony uses to the prices Jessie charges for her meat in her butcher shop - were details that are historically accurate for 1928 Chicago.

And then it came time to choose the songs Jessie sings. The song I originally envisioned was that sexy little jazz number Fever...or Why Don't You Do Right, the song that Jessica Rabbit sings :-) Unfortunately, both of those were recorded well after Rumrunner takes place. But that vibe is what I was looking for. And then I started listening to songs actually from 1928. While some of the lyrics are, shall we say, risque, none had that Jessica Rabbit feel.

Finally, after listening to dozens of songs from that era, specifically from 1928 or earlier, I found two in particular that I just HAD to include in the story. The lyrics, the way I saw her singing - they were just too perfect. The original recordings are campy, peppy, not at all sex-kittenish (at least by today's standards). But my Jessie changes them up ;-) So if you listen to these songs, just picture Jessie up on the stage, the tempo slowed down, swaying to the beat :-)

The first song she sings is I Wanna Be Loved By You sung by Helen Kane. This one presented no problems for me. It was recorded in 1928 and is therefore a song that Jessie could have sung in her speakeasy.

I wasn't so fortunate with the second song, I Want To Be Bad, sung by Annette Henshaw. Upon researching this one, I found that it wasn't recorded until 1929. This was a huge problem for me. Yes, it's just a few months off and I'm probably the only one who would have known that. And I never specifically mention that the book is set in 1928, so I probably could have gotten away with it. But I knew it and just couldn't bring myself to include it in the story knowing it was a historical inaccuracy.

So I searched for other songs, and I found a few, but they just weren't as perfect as I Want To Be Bad. That song is Jessie to a T, and the way she sings it, directing it right at Tony *sigh* I just couldn't stick another song in there. So my editor and I made the decision to remove the song titles from the story, make them a little more vague. It allowed me to keep the song in there without compromising the historical accuracy of the story.

I did leave some hints, though I suppose only someone familiar with the songs of that time might get them. My apologies on that :-) The "boop-boop-a-doops" were a signature of Helen Kane's singing style, the most well-known song being I Wanna Be Loved By You (a la Betty Boop). In fact, when I hear that, this song always pops into my head so I hoped if I mentioned it (though I made sure to include that Jessie changed that signature sound for one of her own) that this song might pop into my readers' heads.

And for the second song, I Want To Be Bad, I got a little more specific, trying to include some of the lyrics in a round about way. "She swayed her shoulders and shook her hips as the song dictated" and "When she sang the line about letting someone take a kiss, Tony’s teeth scraped along his lower lip" are direct references to the lyrics in that song. Again, I realize this is vague, but I hoped it would help a bit. With copyright laws and public domain issues (as copyrights can be extended and because these songs have been re-recorded several times making their public availability even more murky), I wasn't sure about their public domain state, so I found it safer to not directly list them.

During one of my interviews recently, I was asked if there was anything I'd change about this story if I could go back. I answered no. But I would like to go back and add the song titles, or at least add some more lyrics, make the clues a little less vague :-) Of course, I'd probably need to change the year the book was set or choose a different song or.....well, I would have made it work ;-)

In any case, for those who wanted to know, you now know the songs that Jessie sang :-) And for a little extra fun, I'll also list my top 5 favorite songs from 1928 along with their youtube videos so you can hear them to! :-)

My Top 5 Favorite Songs from Romancing the Rumrunner’s Era - 1928

These are all songs Jessie would have been sure to have on her playlist. And they are surprisingly naughty…I’m not sure what I expected songs from the 20’s to be about, but you don’t even need to read between the lines on some of these! ;-) Sound-wise I much prefer Bessie Smith, but the lyrics of all of these are pretty great :-) Enjoy!

1. I Wanna Be Loved By You – Helen Kane

2. I Want To Be Bad – Annette Henshaw (This one is actually from 1929, but it’s fabulous!)

3. Let’s Misbehave – Ben Bernie

4. Empty Bed Blues – Bessie Smith

5. That’s My Weakness Now – Helen Kane

1 comment:

Toni Kerr said...

The lyrics in these songs are hilarious!

I have such a new appreciation for this era after reading Rum Runner.
Loved it! :-)