I remember growing up in the small college town of Elkins, West Virginia. Every year, over the first weekend in October, there was a thing called the Forest Festival celebrating the fall colors that usually hadn’t arrived yet.
But one year, at the height of the fall colors, we went to the tailor who made suits for Dad. It was about a 45-minute drive to get there. I remember this year, Dad wanted a sportscoat with the fall colors on it in wool tweed. The tailor brought out books and books of swatches. Even as a kid, I loved the feel of the different fabrics. But nothing was what Dad wanted. It was like he and the tailor were speaking different languages.
Finally, Dad pulled the tailor out of the shop and pointed to the nearby hills. “That’s what I want.” Excited now, the tailor just about ran back into his shop and pulled a swatch out that was exactly what Dad wanted. Fall is the one time of year that I get a little homesick for West Virginia.
I love living in New Mexico, but we don’t get Fall. At my house, we call it Thud. We have a lovely mulberry tree in the yard. Every year, most of the leaves stay on it, not changing color, until, in the course of a couple of hours, all the leaves just fall off and are all over the yard. It’s ridiculous!
Wikipedia says that autumn leaves are: a phenomenon that affects the normally green leaves of many deciduous trees and shrubs by which they take on, during a few weeks in the autumn season, various shades of red, yellow, purple, black, orange, pink, magenta, blue and brown.
There is also a movie from 1956 called Autumn Leaves starring Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson. It does have Nat King Cole singing the song Autumn Leaves over the title credits. Apparently, Joan Crawford’s character likes the song, although it is never referred to.
The song that I’m talking about began life as a French song entitled: Les feuilles mortes, which translates to The Leaves Dead. (In French, the grammar rules are different, and the descriptive comes after the noun.) The words are a bit different, but the idea is the same. (Unlike Love is Blue where blue is a happy color and the whole tone of the song changes from French to English. But, that’ll be another blog.)
Autumn Leaves is a jazz standard. The format of the chords makes improvisation easy. The lyrics are melancholy but not too depressing. It inevitably reminds me of If Ever I Would Leave You from Camelot. I even found a version sung by Robert Goulet in French. (Robert Goulet originated the role of Sir Lancelot in Camelot, which is where If Ever I Would Leave You comes from.) It turns out that he was of French-Canadian descent. Who knew?
The lyrics of last week’s September Song were about aging and not the season. This song, I think, is about the season, and not aging. To me, this is a song about the season reminding the singer about lost love. There is no anger, just a feeling of melancholy:
The falling leaves
Drift by the window
The autumn leaves
Of red and gold
I see your lips
The summer kisses
The sunburned hands
I used to hold
Since you went away
The days grow long
And soon I'll hear
Old winter's song
But I miss you most of all
When autumn leaves
Start to fall
I’ll be posting some versions of this song every day on my Minnich Music Facebook, so visit my page to hear them! If you have any stories about Autumn Leaves or favorite versions, let me know in the comments section—I’d love to hear from you!
I’ll be posting roughly once a week with a new song. I’m trying to make the songs seasonal, but I can make exceptions. So, if there’s a song that you’d like some background on or questions about what it means, let me know.
Thanks for reading! Until next time!