Tales, Truths & Tirades – 19 January 2017


More than three decades after the film’s release, I recently watched Neil Diamond, Sir Laurence Olivier and the beautiful Lucie Arnaz for a second time in The Jazz Singer. I must admit I actually quite enjoyed it, even though the film bombed at the box office and earned Mr Diamond a Razzie for Worst Actor at the Golden Raspberry Awards.
The movie was clearly a vehicle to launch a number of new Neil Diamond songs, including “America, Hello Again”, “Summerlove” and the evergreen “Love On The Rocks” (co-written by that French heartbreaker Gilbert Bécaud). The soundtrack became Diamond’s biggest selling album in the United States.
But The Jazz Singer is not the topic for today. Do you remember Neil Diamond’s rendition of that haunting Jewish folk song, “Hava Nagila”, in the film? It was during a bar mitzvah in one of the scenes where Neil started singing while his father, Cantor Rabinovitch, and the other guests began to dance, clap hands and sing along. “Hava nagila, Hava, nagila, Hava, nagila, ve-nismeha.” (Let’s rejoice and be happy.)
But “Hava Nagila” is also not today’s topic. I want to focus on Allan Sherman, the American comedy writer who became famous as a song parodist in the 1960s. You’ll remember him from his amusing adaptation of “Dance of the Hours” by Italian composer Ponchielli. “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)”.
Sherman also did a parody on “Hava Nagila”. He called the song, wait for it, “HARVEY AND SHEILA”. A very clever, screamingly funny, foot-tapping, sing-along song.
“Harvey and Sheila, Harvey and Sheila, Harvey and Sheila, Oh, the day they met. Harvey and Sheila, Harvey and Sheila, Harvey and Sheila, No one will forget.”
Sherman skillfully exploits the Americans’ love for overworked abbreviations. “Harvey’s a CPA. He works for IBM. He went to MIT and got his PhD. Sheila’s a girl I know, At B.B.D.& O. She works the PBX, And makes out the checks.”
You have to listen to this song on YouTube. We need to laugh more.