Evergreen ( Paul Williams Barbra Streisand Cover ) 05.07.11
I was a Streisand fan from as far back as I can remember. You either are or you aren’t with Barbra Streisand. I am. My first exposure to her as a child in the 1970s, occurred when the afternoon movie programs on local Detroit television stations—our closest network feed, living 55 miles north across the Canadian border in Point Edward, Ontario—would play Peter Bodanovich‘s masterpiece, What’s Up Doc (1972) and Vincente Minnelli‘s On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)—amongst others—in a somewhat regular rotation. I knew she could sing, but I knew her mainly as an actress until 1976.
Then came A Star Is Born. I was too young to go see the movie in theatres at the time (I was 11), but I vividly remember the poster for the film, the TV trailer promos, and the Barbara Walters interview from the same period. What was up with that perm? Kidding.
Most of all, I remember the song Evergreen. It was all over the radio. It was a huge radio hit, for those of you who weren’t around when the song came out.
I became intimately aware of the song, however, once I started to learn how to play the song, as part of my weekly piano lessons with my favourite piano teacher, Sue Furlotte. It was the last song I worked on before she retired from teaching piano. We never quite finished it. At the time, the dense chord progressions were just out of my reach. I hadn’t digested enough chordal theory at that point, and my sight reading was still developing. It was so hard for me to play.
Paul Williams had by that point written classic songs like We’ve Only Just Begun and You And Me Against The World. I’m not sure how involved he was in composing the chord progressions (on the sheet music, Streisand is listed as “music,” with Williams being credited for “words”), but whoever wrote the chord changes—especially at the dramatic ending of the song—is nothing less than a pop genius. The melody of course is masterful. Barbra hasn’t written a lot of songs—she’s known musically primarily as an interpreter and vocalist—but any composer would be thrilled to have this song in his or her songbook.
I try my best to do justice to both words and music, breaking the song down to its essence, singing it an octave lower to give it more of a conversational feel, but making every effort to showcase those amazing chord progressions.
I was actually an angry 11 year old boy in the spring of 1977, when Joe Brooks‘ You Light Up My Life shared the Grammy with Evergreen for Song Of The Year. Debby Boone nailed the performance, even live on the Grammys, but I knew Evergreen was a superior song, in terms of pure pop songcraft. In my humble opinion of course. Why I was angry at the time I can only attribute to my intense personal feelings for the song itself, having tried so hard to play it as a child, and not quite getting it. My latent inner diva—or Il Divo? Devo??—rearing its embryonic head perhaps?
In the mid-90s, I had the good fortune of working at Sony Music as a website designer for artists like Céline Dion, Leonard Cohen, and Glenn Gould. Our department had a great experience launching the Dion/Streisand duet single “Tell Him” globally online in 1997.
Anyway, flash forward 35 years from 1976. I decided to finish learning one of my favourite songs from childhood and give it a go on YouTube. Here it is, ageless and evergreen.