We're just over a week into fall, my favorite season of the year. We had a very hot summer here in Nashville so fall weather is particularly welcome. Love of fall is nothing new for me. I loved the fall best during the sixty years I lived on Long Island. I don't know how much I'd like it if I lived somewhere like North Dakota. It's so nice now to feel that little chill in the morning air when I go out to get the paper wearing a sweat shirt and jeans rather than a t-shirt and shorts.
I thought I'd take a look at songs that celebrate the arrival of fall or at least mention things commonly associated with autumn. Most of the few fall songs I found appear to be about lost love couched in autumnal terms, mentioning the fall months, fall type weather, color of the foliage, the falling leaves, etc. By the time I come up with a decent size list of fall songs, "Winter (could have) Has Me In Its Grip" - a Don McLean song - so I'll just go with the few I have. The songs about autumn from my youth were mainly pop songs. The few country songs I found were from more recent years. One blog I googled listed 71 songs about autumn or fall and only two were by country artists. I will digress from the songs now and then but that's the good thing when it's your own blog. You can do whatever you want. Here goes:
"I'm Tying the Leaves (So They Won't Come Down)", a song from 1907. My mother used to sing this song when I was a kid. It's a real tearjerker. The doctor says that a little girl will die when the first leaves fall so the little boy decides to tie the leaves, so the wind won't blow them away. It's probably based on an O. Henry story called "The Last Leaf" which appeared in "The Trimmed Lamp", an O. Henry short story collection published in 1907. The story may have appeared in the New York World somewhere between December 1903 and January 1906 when O.Henry wrote a story a week for that newspaper. The themes of song and story are essentially the same. There's a 1952 film called "O. Henry's Full House", which dramatizes five O. Henry short stories including "The Last Leaf" as well as "The Cop and the Anthem" (featuring Marilyn Monroe and Charles Laughton), "The Ransom of Red Chief", "The Clarion Call" and "The Gift of the Magi". One of my favorite movies, "Ruthless People" starring Bette Midler and Danny DeVito, is based on the Red Chief story.
"Autumn Leaves" (1945) by Nat King Cole and many others concludes "But I miss you most my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall". It's arguably the most famous song about autumn. It was originally a French song. English lyrics were provided in 1947 by Johnny Mercer.
"The Last Leaf" (1963) by the Cascades - I have the 45 in my record collection. It begins "the last leaf clings to the bough, just one leaf that's all there is now" and later continues "Before the leaves of autumn touched the ground, my love promised she'd be homeward bound". Also influenced by O. Henry? Maybe. The big hit for the Cascades was "Rhythm of the Rain".
"See You in September" (1966) by the Happenings, another of my 45's, was on the list of 71 fall songs I mentioned above; the original song was by the Tempos in 1959. The guy's girl is going away for summer vacation. He's worried about losing her to a summer love and hopes to see her in September. So, if he does get back together with her it will be when summer vacation ends - around Labor Day which does not occur in the fall. When you get right down to it, September is more a summer than a fall month since the first 3 weeks are in the former season, just as December is more fall than winter. I like the song even if it really isn't about fall. The other big hits for the Happenings include uptempo updates on "Go Away Little Girl", "I've Got Rhythm" and "My Mammy" which I first heard in the movie, "The Jolson Story".
Bobby Goldsboro recorded "Autumn of My Life" in 1968, a song about the end of a marriage. The third verse begins "But in the autumn of my years I noticed the tears, and I knew that our life was in the past". The year before he gave us "Blue Autumn", another song of lost love that has the autumn leaves of red and gold all appearing to be like he feels - blue.
"When Fall Comes to New England" (1993) by Maryland born Cheryl Wheeler provides a poetic description of her adopted home during autumn. "The northern geese fly south instead, and leaves are Irish Setter red, when fall comes to New England".
Now for the country fall songs:
Lorrie Morgan - "Autumn's Not That Cold" (1991), written by Skip Ewing and Max D. Barnes. She's handling a break-up well. There are references to October and leaves turning gold. The last verse begins "I almost feel guilty, that the hurt's not taking hold". (almost glad breakup)
George Strait - "Chill of an Early Fall" (1991), written by Gretchen Peters and Daniel Green. The first verse concludes "that same old chilly wind will blow like a cold winter squall, and I'll begin to feel the chill of an early fall". Definitely a fall song - it mentions the coming and going of October - but it's a metaphor for the sad recognition that his wife doesn't love him anymore. (sad breakup)
Lisa Brokop - "November Trees" (2008), written by Lisa Brokop and Jefferson Ross. It begins "First cold snap of an angry autumn". (Lisa's from Canada so she probably has experienced some "angry autumns".) The chorus goes "You stripped me down to shakin', now my soul is naked, I feel like I'm about to freeze, crackin' from the pressure, beaten by the weather, cryin' like November trees". (bad breakup)
There you have it, ten autumnal melodies (actually nine since one happens to be an impostor). Obviously, there are more but generally not by artists I care about. I'm sure I missed some good ones so let me know your favorites.
Attention country song writers. This is a largely untapped subject for songs. Get to work on writing some fall country songs for next fall. You know, I'll bet that O. Henry could have been a great country songwriter if he had lived a century later.