Eastern Standard Time
Yes, I am a complete sucker for Harry Connick, Jr., and I do not apologize.
My loving husband is aware of this fact, and knows that my adoration stems less from Harry’s well-mannered Nola charm, wry humor, prodigious talent, and drop-dead good looks than from his singing and piano playing (really).
Besides, I never stood a chance of being Mrs. Connick, anyway. Having met his future wife(former Victoria’s Secret model Jill Goodacre) a month before he met me, Harry fell in love at first sight, leaving me with nothing but an autograph and a worn-out copy of the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack. And that’s a true story (well, at least the part about him meeting me a month after he met Jill, back in 1990).
The real reason I love Harry Connick is his unapologetic love of standards.
My grandmother and her neighbors, Bobbie and Tilly, were big fans of music from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Growing up, I’d go for a visit, and spend afternoons in my grandmother’s living room, listening to my mom’s old 45s and my grandmother’s and Bobbie’s 78s and 33s. Nanny didn’t have much, but she had a lot of big band and bluegrass – including a record purchased direct from Bill Monroe on an early tour before WWII.
Every year, for my grandfather’s birthday, we’d go down to their country club, where some old-timers would play a spate of swing-era tunes, and I loved it. I loved to watch the old folks dance, and I loved the sentimentality of it all.
“It Had to Be You” was always my favorite, and a favorite of my friend Laura’s as well. When Harry Connick released it in on record in ’89, I couldn’t believe that there was a guy my age (a straight guy my age) out there who loved those old tunes as much as I did. I also never believed that later, through the Cobain years, Harry Connick’s purity (or gimmickry, depending upon how you look at it) could thrive and eventually spawn a standard renaissance running the gamut from serious musicians (Michael Feinstein) to Sinatra wannabes (Michael Bublè).
Plus, Harry is one of the closest friends of saxophonist Branford Marsalis (also a New Orleans native), whom I befriended in ’89 shortly before I met Harry. Bran and I still keep in touch regularly today, and he often plays and records with Harry, so it is an extra special treat whenever I get to hear them perform together live or on record.
I really owe Harry a lot, musically. He introduced me to Carmen McRae (whose music I now love) on his album called 20 (from 1988). He shares my love for the heartbreaking beauty of Harold Arlen’s Wizard of Oz gem, “If I Only Had a Brain.” And to top it all off, he loves Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Al Joslon and Gershwin, too?
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I wouldn’t have missed Harry Connick’s show at Chastain Park this summer. I had to go, and I’m so glad I did. Although I preferred some of the other shows I’d seen him do to this one (the children’s concert at Sci-Trek in ’02 was unforgettable), it was wonderful to be reminded again of his genuine talent. Then, of course, there’s the whole Musician’s Village/Habitat for Humanity aspect to what he’s been doing since Katrina, and I totally support those humanitarian efforts.
So, there I sat, amongst a sea of ladies with fake tans and fake boobs and their fidgety-looking preppy dates who clapped after every song in proper obligatory fashion but who really wanted to be home watching a rerun of the Sopranos finale. I wasn’t there to eat. I was there to be entertained, and Harry delivered.