- Number of Discs: 2
- Released: June 16, 1998
- Label: Original Cast Record
Personnel: Jack Benny (violin); Cole Porter, Jimmy McHugh, Ralph Rainger, Walter Donaldson, Harold Arlen (piano).
Liner Note Author: Brian Gari.
Recording information: 02/25/1941.
On February 25, 1941, the Greek Relief Fund staged a benefit concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Greece had recently been invaded by Italy, and though the U.S. was still neutral in the Second World War, sympathy for the Allies was already running high. But the show served a second purpose, in addition to raising money for a good cause. ASCAP, which collects and distributes royalty income on songs, was locked in a dispute with the radio networks, and the organization had undertaken something of a public relations campaign. The previous fall, ASCAP had staged concerts in San Francisco and New York to mark its 25th anniversary at which many of its songwriters, who rarely performed their wares in public, turned up onstage along with some singing stars. The San Francisco shows were released as a four-CD set in 1997 as Carousel of American Music. The Greek relief benefit, here issued as a two-CD set, Legends & Songwriters in Concert 1941, repeated much of the same material by many of the same names. Happily, however, the much more movie-oriented Los Angeles concert added some much-needed Hollywood glitz (especially because the avuncular ASCAP president Gene Buck proved one of the least charismatic masters of ceremonies ever). It wasn't exactly slick, though, what with lyricist Joseph McCarthy adding an impromptu, and initially off-mike, vocal to "You Made Me Love You" (after which the whole tune was repeated) and Jimmy McHugh rattling Dinah Shore by changing the arrangement of "South American Way." But such gaffes merely confirmed the unusual nature of a show at which many of the performers, as Buck noted, had "never appeared in public" before. They, and the songs themselves, are the draw on a recording that works as a brief history of popular music in the first four decades of the 20th century. ~ William Ruhlmann