Hum along while Mark Steyn explains the origins of the only secular Easter song I know…
Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” has its beginnings in a very obscure chin-up song from the Great War written in 1917. In this audio special, Mark traces its origins as a First World War morale booster to its re-emergence a generation later as the American Songbook’s only Easter standard. Along the way, we’ll also explore the long languished tradition of Easter parades, the meaning of the word “rotogravure”, and whether anyone actually could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet.
There are lots of old versions out there; this one is the earliest I could find. Notice that it keeps the original foxtrot cadence:
So were you ever curious about that word “rotogravure”? I was…
And as it turns out, so was Kathy Shaidle according to her comment left on Mark Steyn:
When we were learning this song in grade school, the teacher stumbled over the word “rotogravure” and said something like, “Whatever that means.” So I told her. I was THAT kid…
Yeah, I knew it, too; but then so did my 5th-grade teacher. I was motivated to look up the word because Irving Berlin’s ability to make that internal rhyme in the song struck me as wickedly creative. Who else could manage to mate “you’re” and “rotogravure”? A genius, I tell you. I’d love to have spent a few minutes in his brain when he was composing.
It took way too long to find a version of the lyrics which included the introductory verse:
Never saw you look quite so pretty before
Never saw you dressed quite so lovely, what’s more
I could hardly wait to keep our date this lovely Easter morning
And my heart beat fast as I came through the door.
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.
Happy Easter, everybody — and happy Palm Sunday to the Orthodox Christians.