Remembering Composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond The singer-songwriter owned all of the rights to all of her songs, which isn't terribly uncommon today. But Bond was writing at the turn of the last century — a woman in a man's business.
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Remembering Composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond

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Remembering Composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond

Remembering Composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond

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Summer is traditionally the season for weddings. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, couples marry not just in June, but July and August. And where there are weddings, there are songs.

(Soundbite of song, "Have I Told You Lately")

Mr. ROD STEWART (Singer): (Singing) Have I told you lately that I love you?

HANSEN: This year, wedding guests may have heard a DJ play this Rod Stewart song. A hundred years ago, they would've heard this.

(Soundbite of song, "I Love You Truly")

Ms. ELSIE BAKER (1912) (Singer): (Singing) I love you truly, truly dear.

HANSEN: "I Love You Truly" was composed by Carrie Jacobs-Bond. Her name may not ring any bells, but she is now the subject of a new book.

And as Fred Wasser reports, she was the wedding songwriter of her day.

FRED WASSER: One of the people who has not forgotten the name Carrie Jacobs-Bond is Max Morath.

Mr. MAX MORATH (Musician; Author, "I Love You Truly"): Her music was charming, memorable, hummable. People loved it.

WASSER: Morath is best known for helping to revive ragtime in the 1970s. But Carrie Jacobs-Bond was also an early musical love.

Mr. MORATH: I started singing her music when I was in the seventh grade boys glee club in North Junior High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

WASSER: Morath tells Bond's story in his new book, "I Love You Truly." Morath calls it a biographical novel. It's written in her voice. It begins this way.

Mr. MORATH: In 1927, I wrote an autobiography. It was a volume of soft lies. The lies were mostly those of omission. I was 65 years old, and had created for myself the public image of a wise and motherly woman.

WASSER: She conveyed a similar image through her songs, says mezzo-soprano and voice teacher Joan Morris.

Ms. JOAN MORRIS (Mezzo-Soprano, Voice Teacher): Carrie Jacobs-Bond came from a world that would not have forgiven anything improper. So, in her songs, I think she was careful to stay within boundaries.

(Soundbite of song, "Answer the First Rap")

Ms. PEGGY BALENSUELA (Singing) Opportunity may knock often. But it's better to answer the first rap.

WASSER: When it came to business, Bond pushed those boundaries. Max Morath says she was tenacious and sometimes ruthless.

Mr. MORATH: She had a relentless ego. Now, you know something, we would say that about George Gershwin, and we'd say it about Irving Berlin. And we'd say it about any male composer. Of course they have overwhelming egos. Of course they want success. Of course they try to handle their public image. Carrie Jacobs-Bond never had a press agent. She was her best press agent.

WASSER: She had to be. Her husband died when she was 33 with a young son to support. She moved from Iron River, Michigan, to Chicago, where she'd be closer to the music publishers. But when Bond got to Chicago, the publishers brushed her off.

Mr. MORATH: I have seen all the following words used to tell her, we don't want you. Oh, Mrs. Bond, your music is too arty. Mrs. Bond, your music is too complicated. Mrs. Bond, your music is too simple. Mrs. Bond, why don't you do ragtime?

(Soundbite of music)

WASSER: Carrie Jacobs-Bond did an end-run around Tin Pan Alley and opened her own publishing house. She owned every note and every word of everything she wrote.

(Soundbite of song, "Just a Wearyin' For You)

Ms. MORRIS: (Singing): Just a'wearying for you all the time a'feeling blue.

WASSER: One of the first songs, Bond published is a setting of the Frank Stanton poem, "Just a Wearyin' for You." Mezzo-soprano Joan Morris likes the way Bond marries words to music.

(Soundbite of song, "Just a Wearyin' For You)

Ms. MORRIS: (Singing): Restless, don't know, what to do, just a'wearyin for you.

Ms. MORRIS: You like singing it, and you know you're going to be able to make a good effect with it. So singers love those kind of songs.

(Soundbite of song, "Just a Wearyin' For You)

Ms. MORRIS: (Singing): Morning comes, the birds awake, you still sing song for your sake, but there's sadness in the notes that come trilling from their throats.

WASSER: "Just a Wearyin' For You" became a parlor-music hit in the days when sheet music, arranged for the piano, was how most people heard music. The song sold more than 2 million copies. She had another hit with "The End of a Perfect Day," which became a World War I anthem and was recorded by many singers, including Paul Robeson, right before World War II.

(Soundbite of song, "The End of a Perfect Day")

Mr. PAUL ROBESON (Singer): (Singing) Well, this is the end of a perfect day, near the end of a journey, too. But it leaves a thought that is big and strong, with a wish that is kind and true.

WASSER: Two hundred published songs, almost 20 million copies of sheet music sold. But Carrie Jacobs-Bond only had three hits. That's not bad, says writer and musician Max Morath.

Mr. MORATH: Except for "I Love You Truly," "The End of a Perfect Day" and "Just a Wearyin' for You," I'd never heard of any of her other music. She didn't have any other big successes. Who did in those days? How many other composers of her generation had three hits that were still recorded in 1940?

WASSER: By then, Bond's music had been overshadowed by that of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers. But still, her music continued to be recorded over the decades by Bing Crosby, Pat Boone, Benny Goodman. Maybe one of these days, you'll even hear "I Love You Truly' at a wedding again.

(Soundbite of 'I Love You Truly')

For NPR News, I'm Fred Wasser.

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