Vern

I began writing columns during the 1949 spring semester at USC, when Daily Trojan editors offered journalism students some weekly space.

The calculator on my cellphone tells me I’ve done at least 3,640.

I know Bill Warford is much younger than I, but his splendid column count is many times higher than mine. He does three a week and sometimes even files from the East Coast. That’s at least 156 a year and I’m not sure my calculator can count high enough to tabulate the total figure in the years he’s been writing.

But every week, I struggle to come up with a new topic. My self-imposed deadline is midnight on Monday nights for Thursday publication.

I never miss a chance to write about Judy Garland, who was living in Lancaster when she soared into stardom in the 1920s, registering one of the most remarkable singing voices in the world of

entertainment.

A new movie titled “Judy” is opening on Sept. 27. Renee Zellweger stars in the film as Judy and teams up with Sam Smith on Garland’s classic song, “Get Happy,” and with Rufus Wainwright on a rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” After listening for 93 years to carols, I’ve decided that’s my favorite

yuletide song.

Still on the topic of early 20th century songs, the Wall Street Journal recently featured “Stardust” in a story. The writer, John Edward Hasse, wrote that it is probably the most recorded American song in history. He ought to know, he’s the curator emeritus of American music at the Smithsonian.

The music classic was written by Hoagy Carmichael in 1927, with Mitchell Parish doing the lyrics in 1929.

Here are some samples of his poetic words set to music: “And now the purple dusk of twilight time / Steals across the meadows of my heart / High up in the sky the little stars climb / Always reminding me that we’re apart.”

And the final, emotional verse …

“Beside a garden wall, when stars are bright / You are in my arms / The nightingale / tells his fairytale / of paradise where roses grew / Though I dream in vain / in my heart it will remain / My stardust melody / the memory

of love’s refrain.”

Hasse wrote, “Carmichael’s tune is delicate, intricate and strikingly original, with almost no repeated notes and few neighboring pitches. … The singer yearns for a former sweetheart, rousing our empathy, for who cannot identify with a failed romance.”

Right now, I’m listening to Pandora’s recording of George Shearing’s “Taking a chance on love.” One of the great bounties offered by modern technology is that you can have music wherever you go.

Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw published a book this summer titled, “Songs of America — Patriotism, protest, and the music that made a nation.”

In Time magazine, Meacham saluted Johnny Cash’s contributions to country music. “Cash was invited to the White House by President Richard Nixon, who wanted him to sing ‘Welfare Cadillac,’ a song that made fun of the poor. Cash refused and performed his ‘What Is Truth,’ a meditation on the reasonableness of those questioning war and social conventions. Among the lyrics: ‘The old world’s wakin’ to a new born day’ — which, to Cash, to country music broadly, and to the nation itself, is indeed an ancient and

recurring truth.”

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