Ten Great Songs Of Wealth And Money

When we are children,

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We do not choose our friends and our loves.

They are chosen by propinquity.

A whole new meaning for “Love Thy Neighbor.”

As we acculturate we learn whose world this is:

The power of wealth, station, accomplishment, beauty.

Love is no longer boundless.

Ballads of love are also ballads of life.

And life, like Daisy Buchanan’s voice,

“Is full of money.”

Ten Great Songs Of Love And Money

Here are ten great songs of love and money:

1) Can’t Buy Me Love

Penned by Sir Paul McCartney.

Published under the Lennon-McCartney banner.

Third of so many great Beatles’ hits:

It bespeaks the innocence of youth about money.

If money can’t buy love it surely buys divorce

At a price.

Sir Paul’s divorce cost him 24.3 million pounds.

For a marriage of four years.

By all accounts he is a lovely man:

When I returned to college in September, 1969 two fellow students shared photos of Paul McCartney and his home.

From their trip to England.

These two young American women knocked on his door and he invited them in for a tour.

He wanted nothing but their surprise and delight.

And they took nothing but the photos.

2) I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five And Ten Cent Store)

Money is most important when you have none.

Depression-era songs are filled with the pain of poverty.

Better to enjoy this Harry Warren, Mort Dixon, Billy Rose gem in a latter-day incarnation by the redoubtable Nat King Cole:

3) My Heart Belongs To Daddy

Who thinks most about money?

Those who have none.

And those who have too much.

Cole Porter was born to wealth.

A frail youth with large eyes.

Forever observing the world.

Its pleasures and foibles.

Wove them into song.

Life as it is.

Not as it should be.

To Porter a man and his mistress were as natural as a boy and his dog.

Introduced by Peter Pan’s Mary Martin, instructed by Sophie Tucker to look skyward and innocent when singing of delicious sin, Martin immortalized her stage performance in the Porter pseudobio, “Night and Day” (1946):

Oscar Levant noted it was “the most Yiddish song ever written.”

A sly reference to the sugar daddy’s origins.

Cole Porter was not without the prejudices of his day.

4) Love For Sale

Cole Porter on poisoned eroticism

From the purest voice to ever grace his work:

Ella Fitzgerald.

Cole complained she did not understand his lyrics.

But she understood them immediately if explained.

Ella said, famously:

“It’s not where you came from, it’s where you’re going that counts.”

5) Down In the Depths On The 90th Floor

Cole strikes gold again.

Johnny Hartman, unrecognized genius of vocal jazz, sings the lament of a wealthy lover betrayed for another:

“The one I most adored is bored with me.”

And begs the question:

“What good is swank and cash in the bank galore?”

Never widely known, save for his storied collaboration with John Coltrane, Hartman was featured posthumously on the wonderful jazz soundtrack of Clint Eastwood’s “Bridges of Madison County” (1995).

A devoted smoker, posed with lit cigarette on album covers, Hartman died of lung cancer at 60 in Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital.

He had long opined, smoking improved his voice.

6) I Can't Get Started

Brainchild of Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin---who lost his brilliant brother, George, to a brain tumor mistaken for an anger issue by a misguided psychiatrist---the poignant lament of a suitor

Rejected despite wealth and fame,

Became a jazz classic in the hands and voice of Bunny Berigan,

Trumpeter supreme, admired by the Great Satchmo:

Drunken vocal and imperishable trumpet solo.

Asked how he could play drunk, Bunny answered, with addict aplomb:

“I practice drunk.”

Dead at 33 of alcoholic cirrhosis.

7) The Lady Is A Tramp

Richard Rodgers boasted that he created melody as effortlessly as urine.

His partner, Lorenz Hart, wrought sensitive verse from exquisite pain.

Less than five feet tall, closeted, cigar-addicted, depressed and alcoholic, Hart believed no one could truly love him.

That belief destroyed him.

Unreliable, Rodgers dropped him.

Hart died at 48.

Intoxication and exposure.

His words and insights will be with us forever.

Larry Hart championed the lady who refuses to accede to the conventions of wealth,

Who charts her own course regardless of what elites might think or say.

Voiced unforgettably by Frank Sinatra, to a charmed Rita Hayworth, in “Pal Joey” (1957):

8) I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby

A roaring ‘20s gem, presaging Depression woes, by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields:

Voiced by Una Mae Carlisle, with piano and riffing by Fats Waller:

Love may flourish without money…

With apologies and hopes for tomorrow.

9) It's Only Money

This brief, brilliant pairing of Groucho Marx and Frank Sinatra, decries the necessity of money for romance.

In an obscure song by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, penned for the motion picture, “Double Dynamite” (1951)—a thinly veiled reference to the female lead, Jane Russell, soon to billed atop Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953):

“But there’s this thing about it,

The poor shnook without it,

The girls won’t give dates.”

10) Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend

Introduced on the Broadway stage by Carol Channing in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” penned by Jule Styne and Leo Robin, now the personal property of only one iconic woman, who needs no introduction.

Given second billing in the 1953 movie version, and told she was not a star, Marilyn assured:

“Well, whatever I am, I am the blonde.”

If you’re wondering

Marilyn sang all but operatic notes, dubbed by Marni Nixon.

You hear Marni again on the soundtrack of “My Fair Lady” (1964), dubbing for Audrey Hepburn.

Now, speaking of love and money, Milady…

But that’s yet another story.

See also “Pygmalion” (1938) with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller before Lerner & Loewe added their joyous score.