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Close Your Eyes (1933)

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“‘Close Your Eyes’... is an essentially dark song except for the major cadence at the end of the second section.”

- Alec Wilder

Rank 298
Words and Music Bernice Petkere

Although composer/lyricist Bernice Petkere has only two major song hits to her credit--“Lullaby of the Leaves,” which she wrote in 1932 with lyricist Joe Young, and “Close Your Eyes” for which she wrote both music and lyric in 1933--she was known as “The Queen of Tin Pan Alley.” She had worked as a pianist for Irving Berlin’s publishing company, written radio theme songs, and enjoyed successes with some of her romantic songs such as “Starlight” (recorded by Bing Crosby) and “The Lady I Love” (recorded by Russ Colombo).


More on Bernice Petkere at JazzBiographies.com

More on Ray Noble at JazzBiographies.com

English-born bandleader Ray Noble first recorded “Close Your Eyes” in 1933. The melody intertwines major and minor chords which set the mood for its deeply romantic, sophisticated lyric:

Music play
something dreamy for dancing
while we’re here romancing
It’s love’s holiday
And Love will be our guide

In American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, Alec Wilder says, “‘Close Your Eyes’... is an essentially dark song except for the major cadence at the end of the second section. And so it is slightly incongruous to read an ungloomy, rather lullabyish lyric along with it. Even in the release, which is a development of the main idea, the lyrical phrase ‘Love’s holiday’ is set by a minor (key) musical phrase. And when the words say next, ‘and love will be our guide,’ the music continues to remain dark. This curious juxtaposition may have to do with the thirties’ love of safe gloom in a melody, which comes off as a kind of shopgirl Shakespeare. I guess my antipathy arises from a sense of the song’s self-consciousness, well written musically though it may be.”

In 1956 saxophonist Lee Konitz popularized the song among jazz musicians and vibraphonist Cal Tjader led the way for its inclusion in the repertoire of Latin bands. Vocalist Arthur Prysock delivered his rendition with a swinging big band, and Benny Goodman’s rendition appeared in the 1996 film The Grass Harp.

Vocalist Kurt Elling’ 1995 CD titled after the song was nominated for a Grammy, and vocalist Stacy Kent used the song as the title cut of her 2000 CD. “Close Your Eyes” was recorded in the ‘90s by bassist Ray Brown, pianists Keith Jarrett and Roger Kellaway, harmonica player Toots Thielemans, guitarist Russell Malone, drummer Leon Parker, and conguero Poncho Sanchez. It was recorded in 2003 by vocalist Ernie Andrews and in 2004 by trumpeter Warren Vache and vocalists Queen Latifah and Nola Bogle.

More information on this tune...

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(Author/composer Wilder offers a musical analysis in his definitive book on American popular song.)

- Sandra Burlingame

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