Mode last week, I referred to but did not...

IN AN OBITUARY

April 12, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

IN AN OBITUARY mode last week, I referred to but did not name the man who wrote the most quoted poem of all time.

Everybody has heard and probably recited, "Some-times I won-der why I spend the lone-ly night. . . "

The poem is the song "Stardust." Most people associate the song with Hoagy Carmichael, including Hoagy, who titled one of his two autobiographies "The Stardust Road" and the other one "Sometimes I Wonder."

Actually, Mitchell Parish, who died this month at age 92, wrote the familiar words. Hoagy wrote:

Da-da da da da da-da da, dadadadada.

People argue over whether words or music make a popular song immortal. In this case it seems obvious. Carmichael's tune was written and recorded in 1927 (as "Star Dust"), but was still little known in 1929, when Parish, at the request of a sheet music publisher, added his words to the by-then mis-spelled "Stardust." Today there are 1,300 recorded versions of the song. It has been estimated that it is playing on some radio station somewhere every minute of every day.

Parish also wrote the words to many favorites of today's golden oldies radio stations. Among others: "Moonlight Serenade," "Stars Fell on Alabama" and "Deep Purple."

* * *

Political footnote to the Marian Anderson obits:

After she gave her great Easter concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 because the Daughters of the American Revolution refused her the use of Constitution Hall, rumors circulated that Vice President John Nance Garner had refused to attend or sponsor. Garner, who was planning a bid for the presidency in 1940, denied the rumors.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was mulling over a third term try. Garner was his strongest rival. Garner's denials prompted FDR to plant with friendly columnists proof that Garner had been invited and did not respond. Black Democratic voters were just then becoming an important bloc in pivotal Northern states. Many calculating pols lost interest in Garner, and he retired.

* * *

Today is the 48th anniversary of the death of FDR and the 38th anniversary of the announcement that polio, then the most dread disease in the nation, might be eradicated with the use of a vaccine developed by Jonas Salk in research partly funded by a foundation started by FDR, a polio victim. The date chosen for the vaccine announcement may or may not have been related to this.

The Salk vaccine did indeed prevent polio. But it had to be injected by needle several times. Thus not all potential victims took it. A few years later Albert Sabin, who died last month at 86, developed a vaccine that could be administered once on a cube of sugar. The disease no longer occurs naturally in this hemisphere.

* * *

The DAR has changed a lot since 1939. A recent reference to it in this space implied otherwise. I will try to atone for this in a later column.

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