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Remind Me

Hang your head in shame, A. Edward Sutherland. This was the film director who allowed the first performance of the Fields/Kern classic Remind Me to be interrupted and overlaid with comedy business from Abbott and Costello!

The song was not written for the film concerned - One Night in The Tropics. Kern and Fields had written a number of songs for another, abandoned film project, and three of them were called into service for the new film. Two songs were shoehorned into the plot itself (though one, Back in My Shell, makes no sense for the characters involved). Remind Me however was sung by Peggy Moran, apparently dubbed, in a nightclub. The splendid verse was omitted, and much of the lyric was inaudible due to Bud's and Lou's shenanigans.

Despite this inauspicious start, the song's quality was noted and many artistes picked it up and recorded it. Many cite it as their favourite Fields lyric, and Deborah Grace Winer wrote: "If you had to single out one song as the finest example of a Dorothy Fields lyric, the overwhelming temptation is Remind Me. ... as a popular song lyric, Remind Me is not only perfect, it couldn't have been written by anyone else. From the first line ... it is quintessentially Fieldsian."

Winer is right about the first line. The verse is a perfect introduction to this twisting, entrancing lyric. The singer is on the brink of falling of love with some charmer, and she lingers self-indulgently on the moment, savouring her struggle between an inclination to hold back and save herself the inevitable heartache, and the temptation to succumb and give herself over to the romantic and sensual rush of a passionate love affair.

The twists and turns start in that verse. Turn off that charm - what a perfect phrase for the start of a song, grabbing the listener's attention. Then I'm through with love for a while clarifies the first line, but immediately the singer starts to waver with ... and yet.

Turn off that charm,
I'm through with love for a while,
I'm through ... and yet,
You have a fabulous smile,
So if I forget ..........

Then the gorgeous, complex Kern melody starts, with its pulsating Latin American rhythm. The lyric returns several times to the idea originated with that initial Turn off that charm; she knows she can't rely on her own self-control to stop her falling in love, so she asks her prospective lover to help her out: Remind me, not to find you so attractive ..... Remind me, to be sorry that we met .... Remind me to ignore you.

The ending of the song is perfect, with a beautiful trio of rhyming phrases followed by the last line in which the singer finally gives in. This last line was aptly described by Deborah Grace Winer as ".. the surprising deft mental turnaround that that 'buttons up' the end of the song."

So when your charm begins to blind me,
I'll simply tie my hands behind me,
Don't let me kiss you, please remind me,
Unless, my darling, you forget

I once heard Barbara Cook talk about the great cabaret singer Mabel Mercer, and she used the above lyric as an example of how Mercer, unconventionally, relished the consonants of a lyric, emphasising the n in blinnnnd me / behinnnnd me / reminnnnnd me.

There are a lot of great versions of this song, although some make it a bit more sombre than the lyric requires. Ella Fitzgerald delivers the most musically stunning version of the Kern melody. Although not that expressive in most of the song, she gives a feeling rendition of the end of the song, lingering on the "darling" in the last line.

Margaret Whiting and Mary Cleere Haran, both singers with outstandingly beautiful voices, recorded splendid versions of the song, although Whiting, unforgiveably, omitted the verse.

A notable version is by Bobbie Baird on the An Evening With Dorothy Fields disk. Although occasionally a little overwrought, she sings and acts the song to the full. Because of the shifts in viewpoint and indecison of the singer, it's a great song to see being performed, and I loved seeing Morag McLaren deliver it at a recent concert.

The song is generally considered to be one for the ladies, principally because of the line Remind me that the world is full of men. However, both Mark Murphy and Michael Ball have sung it, and altered that line to Remind me that we shouldn't meet again (Murphy) and Remind me not to gaze at you again (Ball).

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