Monday, November 21, 2011

Important people in musical history - Paula Vance

When a songwriter writes a song, he'll sometimes write it about the people around him. As a result, some people who would not otherwise be famous suddenly gain some level of fame - even if you don't know their names.

Perhaps you read about the recent death of composer Lee Pockriss. Pockriss wrote the music for the song "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," a 1960 hit for Brian Hyland. The lyricist for the song was a man named Paul Vance, who was inspired to write the lyrics after watching his two-year old daughter, Paula.

Well, time passed, and the seemingly innocent early 1960's gave way to the seemingly guilty mid 1970's. However, there was one thing that the two decades shared in common - death songs. While the '60s certainly had its share of death songs, culminating with the over-the-top "Dead Man's Curve," the '70s certainly had its share, between "Seasons in the Sun," "One Tin Soldier," "The Night Chicago Died," et al.

Paul Vance was still writing songs and partnered with Jack Perricone to write a much darker song than "Itsy Bitsy." In this song, a young girl gets in a fight with her dad over something that couldn't be explicitly stated, even in the relatively free 1970s:

Daddy please don't, it wasn't his fault, he means so much to me
Daddy please don't, we're gonna get married...just you wait and see.

The plaintive plea, repeated at the end of the song when the girl's dad accidently shoots her, was sung by Paul's daughter Paula, now 15 year old. There's a picture of Paula recording the song on Paul Vance's website. However, a male voice was needed to sing the majority of the song, so Paul Vance contacted a law student, David Cole Idema, who had left the music industry (where he worked under the name David Geddes). Adrian Qiana describes what happened:

Imagine that you’ve given up on your musical dreams, you’re knee-deep in habeas corpus and a successful songwriter calls you up out of the blue to sing on one [of] his songs. But that’s what happened to David. I wonder if after he recorded Run Joey Run, he said, ‘Uh, yeah, thanks Paul.”, rolled his eyes and muttered, what a piece of crap.

Idema went back to law school, but when the song was actually released, it turned out that David Geddes had a top ten hit.

I'm not sure what happened to Paula Cole after "Run Joey Run" charted in 1975, but whatever did happen, she has her place in musical history.

P.S. If you're interested in such songs, check out the story about how Jack Lawrence ended up writing a song about the daughter of his lawyer. Lawrence's friendship with the lawyer ended when he found out that the lawyer ended up with the copyright on the song, simply entitled "Linda." Well, Linda grew up and had more songs written about her, but these were written by her husband, a musician named Paul McCartney.

Oh, and Jack Lawrence's song was eventually recorded by Jan & Dean - the same people who would record the parody death song "Dead Man's Curve" that I previously mentioned.

The music industry is small and incestuous.
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