They Call the Wind Maria

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"They Call the Wind Maria" is an American popular song with lyrics written by Alan J. Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe for their 1951 Broadway musical, Paint Your Wagon, which is set in the California Gold Rush. Rufus Smith originally sang the song on Broadway, and Joseph Leader was the original singer in London's West End.[1] It quickly became a "runaway hit",[2] and during the Korean War, the song was among the "popular music listened to by the troops".[3] Vaughan Monroe and his Orchestra recorded the song in 1951, and it was among the "popular hit singles at the record stores" that year.[4] It has since become a standard, performed by many notable singers, such as Robert Goulet, who considered it "a personal favorite".[5]

Critical reception[edit]

It has been called "the show's best known song" and "rousing but plaintive"[6] Musicologist Stephen Citron wrote, "Perhaps the most unusual song in the score is a beautiful ballad of lonely prospectors hungering for their women, "They Call the Wind Maria" – not chauvinistic in this case, for each man is yearning for his own girl.[7] Composer and conductor Lehman Engel wrote that the song "has a cowboy flavor", and commented that "In the lyric, its folk quality is accentuated." Engel concluded that "Lerner has invented an interesting kind of narration".[8] Princeton University historian Robert V. Wells wrote that it is "a sad and wistful song about being far from home"[9] Theater historian Don B. Wilmeth called the song "haunting", and said that it evokes "emptiness".[10]

Folk music revival[edit]

The song gained renewed popularity during the American folk music revival. In 1959, it was included on the Kingston Trio's first live album, ...from the Hungry i, which reached #2 on the Billboard Pop chart, and won a RIAA gold record in 1960.[11] It was also included on the Smothers Brothers first album, The Songs and Comedy of the Smothers Brothers! Recorded at the Purple Onion, San Francisco, released in 1961.[12] Other folk singers who performed the song included Josh White and Burl Ives. Musical historian John Bush Jones wrote that the song "so evokes the American West that during the folksinging craze of the later 1950s countless Americans thought 'They Call the Wind Maria' was a folksong, not a show tune!" [13]

1969 film version[edit]

The song was featured in the 1969 Hollywood film Paint Your Wagon, starring Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and Jean Seberg. In the film, the song was performed by Harve Presnell. The New York Times said that Presnell's role in the film "delivered the golden opportunity to sing the unforgettable ballad."[14] Theater writer Thomas Hischak said that "in one of the film's few pleasing moments, Harve Presnell gave full voice to 'They Call the Wind Maria' and it was lovely to hear".[2] Referring to Eastwood and Marvin, film reviewer Brian W. Fairbanks wrote that "Harve Presnell steals both stars' thunder with a knockout version of the best song."[15]

In a promotional tie-in with release of the film, recorded versions of the song were issued by seven singers and groups, including Presnell, Ed Ames, Burl Ives, Jim Nabors and the Baja Marimba Band. Several record labels participated.[16] A version by Jack Barlow charted at number 58 on Hot Country Songs.[17]

Background and pronunciation of "Maria"[edit]

In George Rippey Stewart's 1941 novel Storm, he gives the storm which is the protagonist of his story the name "Maria".[18] In 1947, Stewart wrote a new introduction for a reprint of the book, and discussed the pronunciation of "Maria": "The soft Spanish pronunciation is fine for some heroines, but our Maria here is too big for any man to embrace and much too boisterous." He went on to say, "So put the accent on the second syllable, and pronounce it 'rye'".[19]

The success of Stewart's novel was one factor that motivated U.S. military meteorologists to start the informal practice of giving women's names to storms in the Pacific during World War II. The practice became official in 1945. In 1953, a similar system of using women's names was adopted for North Atlantic storms. This continued until 1979, when men's names were incorporated into the system.[20] Although Stewart's novel is set in 1935, the novel and its impact on meteorology later inspired Lerner and Lowe to write a song for their play about the California gold rush, and like Stewart, they too gave a wind storm the name Maria, which is pronounced /məˈr.ə/.[19] The lines throughout the song end in feminine rhymes mostly using the "long i" sound /aɪ/, echoing the stress pattern and vowel sound of the name Maria.

Singer Mariah Carey was named after this song.[21][22]

Cover versions[edit]

Notable acts who have performed the song include:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Green, Stanley (1980). Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre. Da Capo Press. p. 417. ISBN 978-0-306-80113-6. 
  2. ^ a b Hischak, Thomas S. (2008). The Oxford companion to the American musical: theatre, film, and television. Oxford University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-19-533533-0. 
  3. ^ Edwards, Paul M. (2006). The Korean War: American Soldiers' Lives. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-313-33248-7. 
  4. ^ Desiderio, Bob (December 1, 2001). "1951 concludes amid boom in real estate". Daytona Beach News-Journal (Daytona Beach, Florida). Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Hamblin, Dora Jane (April 26, 1963). "Handsome Sir Robert, The Lady-Slayer: Gangway for Goulet". Life magazine (New York). pp. 86–94. Retrieved March 25, 2011. 
  6. ^ Browne, Pat (2001). The guide to United States popular culture. Popular Press. p. 486. ISBN 978-0-87972-821-2. 
  7. ^ Citron, Stephen (1995). The wordsmiths: Oscar Hammerstein 2nd and Alan Jay Lerner. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-508386-6. 
  8. ^ Engel, Lehman (1975). Their words are music: the great theatre lyricists and their lyrics. Crown Publishers. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-517-51682-9. 
  9. ^ Wells, Robert V. (2009). Life flows on in endless song: folk songs and American history. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-07650-3. 
  10. ^ Wilmeth, Don B. (2007). The Cambridge guide to American theatre. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83538-1. 
  11. ^ Liner notes: The Kingston Trio and ...from the Hungry i Capitol Records reissue. Liner notes by Ben Blake, 1992.
  12. ^ "Smothers Brothers Albums". SmothersBrothers.com. January 1, 2001. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  13. ^ Jones, John Bush (2003). Our musicals, ourselves: a social history of the American musical theatre. UPNE. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-87451-904-4. 
  14. ^ Grimes, William."Harve Presnell, Singing Actor, Dies at 75,"The New York Times, July 2, 2009
  15. ^ Fairbanks, Brian W. (2005). I Saw That Movie, Too: Selected Film Reviews. Lulu. ISBN 978-1-4116-3535-7. 
  16. ^ a b c d e "Movie Inspires Music Campaign". Calgary Herald (Calgary). October 9, 1969. Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  17. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 43. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  18. ^ Norcross, Bryan (2007). 2007 Hurricane Almanac: The Essential Guide to Storms Past, Present, and Future. Macmillan. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-312-37152-4. 
  19. ^ a b Heidorn, Keith C. "George Stewart's Storm: Remembering A Classic.". The Weather Doctor. Retrieved 2006-12-10. 
  20. ^ Landsea, Chris. "How are tropical cyclones named?". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Celebrity Central / Top 25 Celebs – Mariah Carey". People. Retrieved December 15, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Mariah Carey: About This Person". The New York Times (New York). Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Romantic Classics (3 Disc Box Set) (with 5 Exclusive Downloads)". Walmart.com. October 26, 2010. 
  24. ^ a b c d "Recording: They Call the Wind Maria". Second Hand Songs:a cover songs database. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  25. ^ Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2001). All music guide: the definitive guide to popular music. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-0-87930-627-4. 
  26. ^ Strong, Martin Charles; Peel, John (2004). The great rock discography. Canongate U.S. p. 329. ISBN 978-1-84195-615-2. 
  27. ^ "Discographie des Country Gentlemen". Rocky 52: Fan de Rockabilly de Rock'n'Roll et de Country Music. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  28. ^ Forester (January 11, 1973). "ELECTRIC RHYTHM AND BLUES". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  29. ^ Schwann long playing record catalog, Volume 18, Issues 1-2. W. Schwann Inc. 
  30. ^ Connelly, Christopher (May 11, 1984). "Springsteen takes to stage for 'Born in U.S.A.' release". Palm Beach Post (Palm Beach, Florida). Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  31. ^ Voedisch, Lynn (November 24, 1989). "Star-filled gala betrays subtlety of Lerner's tunes". Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago). Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  32. ^ R.B.M. (November 6, 1961). "Frenzied Concert Pace: Pickin' and a Singin', Kingston Trio Big Hit". Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario). Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Wheels of a Dream: Frankie Laine". Amazon.com. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  34. ^ Desiderio, Bob (December 1, 2001). "1951 concludes amid boom in real estate". Daytona Beach News-Journal (Daytona Beach, Florida). Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  35. ^ Dyer, Richard (June 18, 1992). "JOHN RAITT, BARITONE HIGHLIGHTS OF BROADWAY; UNDER OPEN SKIES Capitol Double Play CD". Boston Globe (Boston). Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  36. ^ Roberts, Pernell. "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies". MSN Music. Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  37. ^ Myers, Mark (November 19, 2009). "Zoot Sims: Bossa Nova Sessions". JazzWax. All About Jazz. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  38. ^ Corliss, Richard (April 21, 2003). "That Old Feeling: Get Along, Little Folkie". TIME (New York). 
  39. ^ Wald, Elijah (2000). Josh White: society blues. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press. p. 290. ISBN 978-1-55849-269-1. 
  40. ^ "TV Concert Stars Lois Hunt". Chicago Tribune (Chicago). December 10, 1961. Retrieved March 27, 2011.