Some tunes travel quite a long way from their inception to the popular form we know. If we follow the remarkable journey of the tune Baubles, Bangles, and Beads, we find that it begins in a classical string quartet by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), then it experiences a rebirth in the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet, then it starts to swing in a 1953 hit by Peggy Lee, and it keeps swinging in renditions by The Kirby Stone Four, Frank Sinatra, Sara Vaughan, and too many more artists to mention here.
Here is the place in the second movement of Alexander Borodin’s String Quartet No 2. where the journey begins:
Fast forward to 1953, when Robert Wright and George Forrest created the music for Kismet by adapting material from Borodin’s works. In Kismet’s Act 1 there is a scene where the beautiful Marsinah, lead female role, has been given money by her father. Now surrounded by merchants, she marvels at the “baubles, bangles, and beads” they are hawking, and imagines how these sparkling jewels could help her find a suitor. Marsinah’s role is sung here by Dorretta Morrow:
In the same year, 1953, we can hear Baubles removed from its theater context, now in a hit recording by Peggy Lee. One aspect you’ll observe about Lee’s recording is how it doesn’t swing for the first half — nothing we’ve heard yet has swung — but in a gentle, seamless transition around the 1:42 mark, we can hear Baubles acquire a groove. It’s a magical moment:
Now stopping for a visit in 1958 with the Kirby Stone Four, we hear a bright, boisterous, up-tempo rendition that is much the opposite of Peggy Lee’s intimate, slow, and beguiling version. Stone’s perky mix of jazz, pop, and instrumentally-inflected unison vocals has been known as the “Go” sound:
Continuing with the theme of brightness and vibrancy, Sinatra’s 1959 big-band performance is just as brilliant as we’d expect from Frank:
And while 1964 is not the end of this tune’s journey, not by far, it’s a good place for us to stop, with a remarkable performance by Sara Vaughan, perhaps the most spontaneous and free of anything we’ve heard yet in this tour:
Here’s the Borodin, where it all began, one more time:
3 thoughts on “Baubles: The Journey of a Tune”
Interesting. I’d never heard of this tune, and it’s amazing history. I just sent your blog post to a singer I know who does a Peggy Lee show. Wonder if this was a hit for Lee.
OOPs. I spelled ‘it’s’ incorrectly.
Don’t worry 🙂 I have a thing about that here: https://rudiseitz1.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/4-04-punctuation-rule-its-vs.-its.png