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#TBT: Al Bowlly - Guilty

#TBT: Al Bowlly - Guilty | Ses Rêveries

Ahh, Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain...  the first French film I ever watched starring the first girl-crush I ever had.

By the end credits, six-year-old me decided she simply had to grow up to be a fabulous, isolated, manipulative, intrusive little French girl, fixing the world (with a slightly more self-serving agenda, I'll admit) one day at a time... Oh, my God. I'm psychic - minus the minor nationality detail but give me time... and money.

Moving on, I'm pretty sure I've only watched this film once and only remember bits and bobs (a refresher is definitely in order). One of those bobs: the fantastic music, of course. But let's pretend to forget dear old Yann Tiersen's remarkable original scores for a minute (don't go calling the cavalry, I said "pretend").

Let's rewind the clocks until they're no longer a handy widgets on your phones (because who still owns a watch these days) and have instead reverted into snazzy mantel clocks like this bad boy, because this week's #TBT goes all the way back to the dirty thirties with Mozambican-South African crooner, Al Bowlly and his cover of Richard A. Whiting, Harry Akst and Gus Kahn's Guilty. The perfect start to the day, wouldn't you say?

I'll be honest, any song from any earlier than the sixties is pretty much guaranteed to get my buzz going. Even when they couldn't be further removed contextually, they "cast my mind back" to the smoky jazz clubs and speakeasies, flapper dresses and the Charleston, Gertrude Ederle and Babe Ruth, Louis Armstrong and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chanel, Dali, Stravinsky, and the promise of modernity and the prevailing theatricality that thrived in the seedy underbelly of 'Noo Yoik'... How time flies, no?

My rather cinematic fantasies aside, life seemed so much more colourful then! And Al Bowlly was definitely a testament to that, from cutting hair in Johannesburg to touring India and Indonesia; finding his wife in bed with another man on their wedding night (shettt, mehn) to losing his voice thanks to a wart in his throat; partnering with the likes of Ray Noble, Jimmy Messene and Lew Stone to starring alongside Bing Crosby in The Big Broadcast... here was a man who had truly seen it all. His career was riddled with highs and lows usually due to bad judgement on his part; and his death, needlessly horrific.

Nicknamed the Big Swoon, Guilty doesn't do the singer's vocal range nearly enough justice, but it does show just how brilliant and emotive a performer he was, his heartwarming delivery laced with as much candour as if he had been penned the song himself - every single time.

Photo credit: Sheet Music Cover of Every Minute Of The Hour by Nick Kenny & Charles F. Kenny, published in New York 1936

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