Pennies From Heaven
This song originated as the feature track from the 1936 film of the same name. Originally sung by Bing Crosby in that film, it was later recorded by almost every famous singer since. The list of those who covered the song is too long to write here, but it includes Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan. For me, this is best heard sung by a ‘crooner’, and the sadness underlying the central message of hope comes over well if it is recorded in a somewhat plaintive tone.
In 1978, the BBC produced a landmark television series of the same title, written by Dennis Potter, and starring Bob Hoskins, Cheryl Campbell, and Gemma Craven. The song featured heavily of course, and the version used was by Arthur Tracy. This was also made into a -best forgotten- Hollywood film adapted by and starring Steve Martin. The TV series brought the song back into my consciousness. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and 37 years later, this is still true today.
Arthur Tracy was really Abba Tracovutsky, so no surprise he changed to his stage name. He emigrated to the US from Russia in 1906, and some years later, become popular in musical theatre. He adopted the name ‘The Street Singer’, to add a certain intrigue to his radio performances, and became very well known during the 1930s. He even came out of retirement at the age of 82 to perform live, after the success of the TV series and film brought his voice to the attention of new listeners. He lived to the grand old age of 98, leaving a legacy of some memorable song performances, including this one.