Song Lyric Sunday/Song of the Day: The Manhattan Transfer, “Poinciana”; Helen O’Connell & Bob Eberly, “Green Eyes”

Jim gave us kind of an interesting assignment for this week: share a song that starts with either a "P" or a "G." I think I’ll do one of each…

First. the "P" song: "Poinciana" was writen in 1936 by Nat Simon (composer) and Buddy Bernier (lyrics). Wikipedia tells us:

The song has been identified as a development of a Cuban folk song entitled “La Canción del Árbol” whose title translates as “the song of the tree”, the royal poinciana being a favorite Caribbean flowering plant. However, composer Nat Simon would claim the song’s tune came to him while he was dining at Manhattan Theater District restaurant Leone’s, and that he jotted down a rough draft of the melody on his table’s cloth which – with Leone’s permission – he took home to work out the completed melody at his piano. Lyrics for the song were completed in about thirty minutes by Buddy Bernier, who cited as his inspiration a postcard of a royal poinciana tree he’d recently received from Florida.

Reportedly “Poinciana” was largely overlooked for several years being somewhat longer than a typical contemporary song. Orchestra leader Jerry Wald was a rare early aficianado of the song, and Wald’s showcasing of “Poinciana” during his 1943 gig at the Hotel New Yorker has been credited with boosting its profile, “Poinciana” being recorded in 1943 by Glenn Miller with his Army Air Force Band, with three 1944 recordings of the song afforded hit status, being those by Benny Carter and His Orchestra; Bing Crosby (recorded October 1, 1943); and David Rose and His Orchestra.

The song has been covered many times (it’s pianist Ahmad Jamal’s theme song), both as a vocal and as an instrumental. I chose The Manhattan Transfer’s cover, from their third album, 1976’s Coming Out.

Lyrics are courtesy AZLyrics:

Poinciana, your branches speak to me of love
Pale moon is casting shadows from above

Poinciana, somehow I feel the jungle heat
Within me, there grows a rhythmic, savage beat

Love is everywhere, its magic perfume fills the air
To and fro you sway, my heart’s in time, I’ve learned to care

Poinciana, from now until the dawning day
Our love will live forever and a day

Poinciana…

Poinciana, from now until the dawning day
Our love will live forever and a day

Blow tropic wind
Sing a song through the tree
Tree sigh to me
Soon my love I will see

Blow tropic wind
Sing a song through the tree
Tree sigh to me
Soon my love I will see

Now, the "G" song: "Green Eyes" was written in 1929 as "Aquellos Ojos Verdes" by Adolfo Utrera and Nilo Menéndez. A bolero, it was recorded that year and became a hit in Cuba and New York, the only hit for Menéndez. English lyrics were written in 1931 by Eddie Rivera and Eddie Woods, but it wasn’t until Jimmy Dorsey recorded it in 1941 with vocals by Bob Eberly and Helen O’Connell. The version I’ve selected was done in 1953 on a Chesterfield show, with the Ray Anthony Orchestra providing the accompaniment.

The lyrics, once again, are from AZLyrics, with some minor corrections:

Your green eyes with their soft light
Your eyes that promise sweet nights
Bring to my soul a longing
Of thirst for love divine
In dreams I seem to hold you
To find you and enfold you
Our lips meet and our hearts too
With a thrill so sublime
Those cool and limpid green eyes
A pool where in my love lies
So deep that in my searching
For happiness I fear
That they will ever haunt me
All through my life they’ll taunt me
But will they ever want me
Green eyes
Make my dream come true

Soft lights
And eyes that promise sweet nights
Bring to my soul a longing
A thirst for love divine
In dreams I seem to hold you
To find you and enfold you
Our lips meet and our hearts too
With a thrill so sublime
Those cool and limpid green eyes
A pool where in my love lies
So deep that in my searching
For happiness I fear
That they will ever hunt me
All through my life they’ll taunt me
But will they ever want me
Green eyes
I love you!

And that’s Song Lyric Sunday and Song(s) of the Day For January 3, 2021.

18 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday/Song of the Day: The Manhattan Transfer, “Poinciana”; Helen O’Connell & Bob Eberly, “Green Eyes”

  1. I hadn’t thought of “Green Eyes” in ages. My mom had a compilation set of big band pieces, from the Longines Symphonette Society, that included this piece. It really was lovely.

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    1. Mom had a lot of Longines Symphonette Society records. When my stepfather was still a priest, one of the older priests died and had a whole collection of them. Since no one else wanted them, he brought them to our house. Their Christmas set was right up there with Andy and Bing during the season…

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    1. The first time I saw MT, I thought they looked weird (specifically Alan Paul wearing glittery lipstick), but man, that harmony. I was sixteen and just loved it.

      I know about “Green Eyes” because Allan Sherman did a parody of it called “Green Stamps.” I learned a good deal about great music listening to him…

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  2. Both are great tunes in different genres. Love the big band period. My father-in-law loved jazz and the big band period. I always think of him when I hear this type of music. We watch a lot of movies from that period. 🙂

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    1. The bands would be front-and-center in those movies. Xavier Cugat was in a lot of them, including “You Were Never Lovelier” with Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, and Gene Krupa was in “Ball of Fire” with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. But you knew that…

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  3. Poinciana is a nice mellow song, very beautiful. There is a Poinciana in Florida that is southwest of Kissimmee. The Bing Crosby Show for Chesterfield was an old radio show.

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    1. I believe it about Bing, and it explains why they featured him in ads for Chesterfields at Christmastime. Mom smoked them; I guess they were popular at one time. There was a liquor store near her that stocked them knowing that she would be in to buy them.

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  4. Thanks for sharing… Poinciana is new to me! I enjoyed the song… I bet this is a singable one via smule 😀
    Happy New Year!

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