Monday, 21 June 2010

The Noon Crowd

Driving home from work this afternoon, I was listening to one of several CDs I had burned of Duke Ellington's thirties big band recordings on the History label, against the day (soon, I hope) when Mosiac do the job properly.

The track was Billy Strayhorn's Something to Live For with Jean Eldridge, vocalist and I was struck, as I am always struck, by the immediacy, the power of the imagery in the lines:

My eye is watching the noon crowd
Searching the promenade
Seeking a clue...

So struck was I, in fact, that when I got home, I googled the phrase, the noon crowd on Images. One of the first hits it turned up was the photograph from Life I include above. The caption reads:

A view showing the noon lunch hour crowds streaming to the Bata Stores.
Photo: John Phillips./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Jan 1, 1938

Ellington's recording was made on the first day of Spring, 1939. Whilst Strayhorn probably composed the song some years earlier as a teenager (hence the truth and immediacy of the words, I suppose), it pleases me to think that the words were inspired by a very similar view.

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