Friday, December 13, 2013

Swingin' with the Andrews Sisters (part 3)

Dear Muse,

By the time WWII was over, the Andrews Sisters had left a remarkable impact on the American public. Rallying America's positive national spirit had given them a great boost in popularity, making them one of the most beloved girl groups in history.

At war's end and beyond, the Andrews Sisters expanded their outreach, collaborating with other singers and other big names to spread cheer across the nation. While Americans knew them well enough to distinguish them individually (Patty, the youngest and most fun-loving; Maxene, the prettiest; and LaVerne, the eldest and most serious), they were unanimously loved as a group. And, despite personal clashes, the three sisters continued to delight audiences as a group well into the 1950s and '60s.

Swingin' with the Andrews Sisters (part 3)

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

Beyond the war

While Patty, Maxene and LaVerne scored their biggest hits during the Depression and war years, the end of the war demonstrated that their success was far from over. The Girls had already established their positive identity in the music world and positive ability to leave people feeling good. Now all they needed to do was continue their chain of success.

So they did. They kept on making hits like "Pennsylvania Polka" and "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," joining their name with entertainers like Bing Crosby and Tommy Dorsey. They kept singing with an energy that was so empowering that Disc highlighted it in 1946: 

The Andrews Sisters have managed to pick up a potent style of delivery that wows the listeners – sends every tune they warble sliding right into the groove. What makes these three jukebox royalty is fundamentally their own. They have a zest, a kind of earthy gusto that gets under the skin of John Doe or GI Joe, makes him relax and feel good. The girls like to sing, like the people they’re singing to, and that genuineness gets across. (qtd. in Sforza, Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story 71. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2000. Print.)

But their fame didn't stop there. By the end of their career, they had starred in more Hollywood films than any other singing group in motion picture history; made 113 charted Billboard hits; and sold between 75-100 million records. (See Wikipedia for further details.)

Heck, they even worked with Disney, providing the musical narrative for the shorts "Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" (Make Mine Music) and "Little Toot" (Melody Time). Say what you want: being affiliated with Disney is HUGE for musical pop stars. (And speaking of "Johnny Fedora," check out this article comparing it to Pixar's pre-Monsters University short, "The Blue Umbrella." Personally, I think "The Blue Umbrella" is a total ripoff of "Johnny Fedora." Besides, "Johnny Fedora" is so much better with the Andrews Sisters narrating. 'Nuff said.) You can check out the first short in the Youtube video below and the second short here.

But while I can argue that the Andrews Sisters' career was very successful, I cannot claim that their lives were perfect. Although picture-perfect to their fans, Patty, Maxene and LaVerne had a turbulent relationship behind the scenes. During the 1950s and '60s, they went through several break-ups and reunions. Personally, I feel that the break-ups were mainly Patty's fault. Being the lead singer, she felt she deserved more money than either of her sisters, and broke off in 1951 to pursue a solo career (without telling them, might I add). In short, she effectively caused an estrangement between her, Maxene and LaVerne.

Nevertheless, in spite of Patty's selfishness, the Girls realized how important it was to keep the group together. The Andrews Sisters continued as a duo through the 1950s, with the members changing when Patty rejoined the group in 1956 and LaVerne died in 1967. Despite how petty the sisters could be at times, I respect them for being able to set their personal problems aside out of respect for their fans. They knew fans needed cheerful inspiration from their beloved girl group. So, being professionals, they put their listeners first and gave them the cheeriness they were hoping to hear.

All in all, the Andrews Sisters' perseverance and giving spirit was like nothing any other celebrity has demonstrated in history. Sure, there have been philanthropists in the celebrity lineup - but none that made so much effort to be there for so many people. Patty, Maxene and LaVerne were there for those who needed them in the roughest times of the '30s and '40s, and they continued to be there for people who relied on their optimism to help them get through the post-war years.

Essentially, the Andrews Sisters were a group America needed to progress. They were important factors in America's ultimate victory against the Axis Powers, and they were important cultural icons in the years following. For that reason - for the lasting impact they made on American culture - it is crucial for people to remember them today. I hope that this fascinating trio will never be truly forgotten. And, as long as there are people like me who keep humming "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" from time to time, there is a good chance that the Andrews Sisters' shining name will never completely fade.

To conclude, here are the last few of their songs I'd like to share with you.

1. "Pennsylvania Polka" (Hits of '42)

When I hear this song, I always think of one of those big-band dance halls from the '40s, like the ones you see in Radio Days. You can practically hear the Andrews Sisters dancing as they sing to the big-band swing. At least Patty sounds like she's having fun.

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

2. "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" (The Song Is...Harold Arlen)

This popular song from 1945 peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard charts. Although it's considered a prominent Bing Crosby song (since he's leading), the Girls provide a really rollicking backup. It's one of the most enjoyable songs they ever did, so it's definitely worth concluding their story with.

Source: via Ariel on Pinterest

P.S.  By the way, something coincidentally wonderful and related to the Andrews Sisters happened over Thanksgiving Break! While I was flying to California and mulling over revisions for my blog posts, I happened to sit next to one of the Directors at the History Theatre in Minneapolis. He informed me that the Theatre is showing an Andrews Sisters musical this next month, based on their life - which is just what I happened to be writing about!! He even gave me a 2-for-1 coupon so that I could bring a friend to the show at a discount!! It's the most amazing stroke of luck ever!!

Unfortunately, I won't be able to bring Siena or DivaStar (who I know would especially appreciate the music). But I'll find someone. I can't to wait to watch the show and then write a review about it!

Until next time,

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