Thursday, January 22, 2009

“At Last”

Beyonce was wonderful on Tuesday night, serenading President and Mrs. Obama as they danced to “At Last.” This beautiful song is from the era defined as the Great American Songbook. (Of all the songs performed at the various Inaugural Balls, it’s probably the only one whose words I knew.)

In today’s New York Times, Jon Pareles has written about the song and how its title may be interpreted in several ways. To me, however, “At Last,” written in 1941, will always remind me of the days of WNEW in New York City. The station first went on the air in 1934 and was “the standard bearer for the best in classic American music.”

WNEW was my station (“1130 on your AM dial”) and I cannot overestimate its impact on me and so many others. Here was Sinatra and Ella and Ellington and Miller and Basie and Steve and Edie and Tony and Nat “King” Cole and every great band and singer of the time. Even when Elvis entered the scene, I remained loyal to the music played by William B. Williams, Ted Brown, Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins and others.

An era ended in 1992 when WNEW became an all-business-all news station. It was resurrected when it moved to 1560 AM, WQEW, but it just wasn’t the same.

So when I hear “At Last,” it takes me back to my WNEW days “where the melody lingers on.”