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Tracks Unwrapped

I'm In The Seventh Heaven

 

 

Number 7

 

Feel the way my heart keeps thumpin'
Notice how my two eyes shine
See the way my feet keep jumpin'
Jumpin' with joy, I'm some lucky boy

 

Say It With Songs movie poster

 

 

I'm In The Seventh Heaven was written by Lew Brown, Buddy DeSylva, Ray Henderson and Al Jolson and featured in the 1929 Jolson film Say It With Songs. Apart from in Variety magazine, reviews at the time were mostly critical saying the film was 'mawkish' and 'blatantly sentimental'... 'except for the singing of Mr. Jolson'. 'Director Lloyd Bacon doesn't try to control Jolson's incredible overacting for the camera. Those two factors were what mainly sank the film.' It was received so badly in Los Angeles that the Warners Theatre closed it after only forty-eight hours.

Nevertheless, two of its songs I'm In The Seventh Heaven and Little Pal were picked up by a number of bands in 1929.

Al Jolson plays Joe Lane, a radio singer who kills a radio manager in a fistfight after learning that the man has made improper advances towards his wife. On his release from prison, Joe visits his son "Little Pal" at school and when Little Pal tries to follow Joe downtown, the boy is hit by a truck and becomes paralysed.

There is a short video in which Joe prays his sick child will get well and his wife takes the recording of the song Little Pal from the record sleeve .... click here, but in the following clip Al Jolson sings I'm In The Seventh Heaven and the potential for syncopated versions is evident:

 

 

 

 

 

Joe Venuti

 

 

 

Joe Venuti's Orchestra recorded the song (with Little Pal on the B side) in May 1929.

The band's personnel were notable jazz musicians of the time but, in my opinion,the result was not as notable as other recordings. The band included Phil Napoleon (trumpet); Tommy Dorsey (trombone); Jimmy Dorsey (clarinet and alto sax); Joe Venuti (violin); Frank Signorelly (piano); Eddie Lang (guitar); Joe Tarto (tuba) and Ted Napoleon (drums).

 

Joe Venuti

 

 

 

 

 

The late trombonist John R. T. Davies, who was also an audio engineer who specialised in restoring classic jazz recordings, produced this version of the Joe Venuti recording:

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy Dorsey

 

 

Perhaps a more interesting version came from Sam Lanin's Troubadours. Sam Lanin was a bandleader and contractor who was responsible for hundreds of recordings between 1920 and 1932, many of little jazz interest, but others, often under band pseudonyms, where musicians were given opportunities to solo. My discographies do not give the personnel for this recording where Tommy Dorsey is again present and is featured in a solo. (Perhaps someone has more information about the recording?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muhammeds Paradise

 

So why 'Seventh' Heaven? 'Seven' and 'Eleven' of course are two of the few words that rhyme with 'heaven', but the 'seven heavens' also refer to the seven divisions of Heaven, the abode of immortal beings. Many religions refer to 'seven heavens'.

The idea of seven heavens is said to have originated in ancient Mesopotamia. Sumarian incantations of the late second millennium BCE make references to seven heavens and seven earths. One thought is that the notion of seven heavens may have been derived from the magical properties of the number seven, like the seven demons or the seven thrones. In Hinduism, according to some Puranas, the Brahmanda is divided into fourteen worlds. Among these worlds, seven are upper worlds and seven are lower worlds. In the Jewish Talmud, the universe is made of seven heavens. In Islam, the Qur’an mentions the existence of seven samaawat customarily translated as 'heaven'.

 

Muhammed's Paradise

 

In these belief systems, the ‘seventh heaven’ is usually the highest, the place where the Gods live. In early Sumarian poems there was a fellow named Gilgamesh. We are not sure whether he was just a fictional character or a Mesopotamian king, but whichever, he was pretty awesome. Allegedly, he was  a demigod of superhuman strength who built the city walls of Uruk to defend his people and travelled to meet the sage Utnapishtim, who survived the Great Flood. Gilgy says to his friend Enkidu, in the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’: "Who can go up to heaven, my friend? Only the gods dwell with Shamash forever".

 

 

 

This short animated video also tells of how Allah, in the seventh heaven, hears the complaints of 'a woman who is otherwise not very famous at all':

 

 

 

 

In 1929 Paul Whiteman's Orchestra also recorded I'm In The Seventh Heaven (and once again Little Pal was on the B-side).

Bix Beiderbecke takes the two cornet solos. This was a time when Bix was not at his peak. He had been in the Rivercrest Sanatorium between December 1928 and Bix BeiderbeckeJanuary 1929 and had then gone back to his home town, Davenport, in Iowa. Paul Whiteman was very supportive of Bix, keeping his chair in the band for him while he was unwell and unreliable. Bix rejoined Paul Whiteman on March 4th, 1929. A month later, they made this recording. A few days after that, Bix was in the studio with Frankie Trumbauer and a smaller group recording some nice solos on Wait Til You See Ma Cherie and Baby, Won't You Please Come Home.

 

Bix Beiderbecke

 

On Seventh Heaven, The Rhythm Boys (Bing Crosby, Harry Barris and Al Rinker) take the 'vocal refrain'. The Bix Society gives the personnel for the recording as:

Charles Margulis, Harry Goldfield (trumpet); Bix Beiderbecke, Andy Secrest (cornet); Boyce Cullen, Bill Rank, Wilbur Hall (trombone); Frank Trumbauer, Chester Hazlett, Irving Friedman, Roy Maier, Bernie Daly, Charles Strickfaden (reeds); Kurt Dieterle, Matty Malneck, Mischa Russell (violin); Roy Bargy, Lennie Hayton (piano); Mike Pingitore (banjo); Mike Trafficante (string bass); Min Leibrook (tuba); George Marsh (drums); Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, Harry Barris (voc):

"The solos are interesting in that it is not Bill Rank and Frankie Trumbauer featured, but: Bix, (straight mute) and Charles Strickfaden (baritone sax) – Chester Hazlett (alto sax) – Bix, (straight mute) and Charles Strickfaden (baritone sax) – vocal trio - Roy Bargy and Lennie Hayton (piano) – Kurt Dieterle (violin)."

 

Listen to Paul Whiteman's recording.

 

 

 

 

I'm in the seventh heaven
It's easy to guess, my baby said yes
I know I've just thrown a great big seven
For she is the prize, what lips and what eyes

She knows that I've got all the stuff, got all the things
She thinks that I'm angel enough without wings
And that's why I'm in the seventh heaven, heaven
Having a heck of a time

 

On the Joe Venuti recording the lyrics are sung by Smith Ballew who sings "having a wonderful time". Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys - and most other recordings and lyric details are "having a heck of a time". I can only assume that this is to do with sensitivity to language of the time where the implied lyrics, much more meaningfully, would be "having a hell of a time".

 

Guys and Dolls Shooting Craps

 

 

The lyricist goes off on tangent in another verse where the reference changes to lucky seven in a dice game. In this 'Nathan Detroit' reference the singer has got lucky in a crap game throwing a seven with his dice. As an aside, the dice game 'Craps' is also known as 'Seven/Eleven'. Apparently the English originated Craps from an early game called 'Hazards'. French gamblers who called it 'Crapaud' (meaning 'toad' because of the way people crouched over a floor) took the game to New Orleans where a high roller called Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville made it popular.

I'm in the seventh heaven
It's easy to guess, my baby said yes
I know I've just thrown a great big seven
For she is a prize, what lips and what eyes

 

 

 

 

'Seventh Heaven' has been the title of several movies, an American TV show, a Broadway musical by Victor Young and even a CD of 'calming music for relaxation, anxiety, sleep and panic attacks'.

I'm In The Seventh Heaven has largely dropped off play lists but does re-emerge from time to time. Here is American cornetist Peter Ecklund and his Jazz Improvisers playing I'm In The Seventh Heaven on their 2010 album Horn Of Plenty. Sadly, Peter died from Parkinson's disease in 2020.

 

 

 

 

She knows that I got all the stuff, got all the things
She thinks that I'm angel enough without wings
And that's why I'm in the seventh heaven, heaven
Having a heck of a time.

 

 

More Tracks Unwrapped:

Call Of The Freaks
Shortnin' Bread
Fables Of Faubus
Laird Baird

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