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It Ain’t Necessarily So

Cab Calloway

It was Normie Rowe who first sang this song to me. Well, maybe not to me specifically … he was on the TV singing it. Very small screen, black and white picture, thin sound – but it captured my attention. Maybe it was the girls screaming and through streamers his way. Mind you a few months later, when he did Shakin’ All Over, there seemed to be more girls, more streamers, and louder screams.

Normie Rowe around 1965

Anyway, I don’t think it was just the popularity of the song (Top Ten Hit) that made me pay attention back in 1965. It was a combination of things. This song presented an alternative world view to the one we faced in weekly school scripture lessons. A view suited to my contrary nature.

I came across this version in Cab Calloway’s 1959 album Hi-De-Hi-De-Ho released by RCA.

I had been hunting for a Cab Calloway album that was still reasonably early but did not have the thin sound of the typical 1920’s and 1930’s jazz orchestras – and this was just what I was looking for. Apart from Cab classics like Minnie the Moocher, The Hi-De-Ho Man, The Jumpin’ Jive and Kickin’ The Gong Around, it has Cab’s versions of some great songs like It Ain’t Necessarily So, Summertime, St James Infirmary, Stormy Weather, and (I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead) You Rascal You.

Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway

(I must say my ears pricked when I recently heard You Rascal You used for a TV Commercial – I think it was for a car.)

Calloway always claimed that he was the inspiration for the Porgy ‘n’ Bess character Sportin’ Life – it makes sense that his performance of this song would be among the best.

But … this version is missing two verses!!!

I had not paid any attention to that …  that until now. The missing verses are about Moses being found in a stream; and David slaying Goliath.

I couldn’t believe it when I listened to the song, so I played it again! And then I took out the CD and played it again. I’m still shaking my head.

Cab Calloway of course had a massive resurgence in the 1980’s due to The Blues Brothers film – he was 73 at the time.

How are It Ain’t Necessarily So and Summertime/Motherless Child connected?

They both form part of the Gershwin/Heyward opera Porgy and Bess … at least that’s the connection with the Summertime part of Mahalia Jackson’s medley.

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Other Stuff You Might Enjoy.

* The Hi-De-Ho Man  – a great article from Roger Ebert – Pulitzer Prize winning film critic.

* Cab Calloway & Betty Boopin the early 1930’s three Betty Boop animated cartoons featured Cab Calloway. Max FleischerBetty Boop’s creator – had pioneered a technique he patented as Rotoscope. The technique basically enabled animation to be adapted from action film. In these cartoons you’ll see animated characters moving in Cab Calloway style. Each of the cartoons is around 7-8 minutes and they feature Minnie the Moocher; St James Infirmary; and The Old Man of the Mountain.

* It Ain’t Necessarily So YouTube Playlist – 12 videos including: Normie Rowe; Maxine Sullivan; Bronski Beat; Cab Calloway (live);  two pianos in concert; Aretha Franklin; Miles Davis; Sammy Davis Jr (from the movie); Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald; Paul Robeson; Peggy Lee and Frank Zappa (It Ain’t Necessarily The Saint James Infirmary)

Destination next?

North:  Summertime/Motherless Child both left behind.
East:     Don’t Take Everybody To Be Your Friend by Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
South:   Big Rock Candy Mountain by Harry McClintock 
West:    Ain’t Got No – I Got Life by Nina Simone

Crossroad 20

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