In a nearby music school, young and old students between classes look at a video one of them has downloaded. You figure this’ll be pretty avant-garde stuff. It’s anything but…
The song was written in 1923 by a Russian-born New Yorker, and recorded in 2014 by a Texan in a cowboy hat. You gotta love the surprisingly varied tastes enjoyed by folks around here.
And you gotta love the song playing on a North Shore I-pad in 2016. An old standard, newly imagined, called “What’ll I do…” A musical and visual arrangement that defies being “dated.”
Irving Berlin wrote it. Willie Nelson sings it. About lost love, with a melody and words that get under your skin. Irving’s song is over ninety years old, and Willie is over eighty. But together their video is timelessly cool.
Nelson, bearded, long-haired, and as craggy as his antique guitar, gives us this song as a gentle gift from the past to the present. His video, alternating between black & white and muted color, is full of surprises. Wild horses reel through a deserted town. There’s a teepee on a lonely mountaintop. A rattling pick-up. Photogenic folks in a cowboy roadhouse. Serene musicians in a down-home sound studio.
Nelson and Berlin are American treasures who at different times in their long lives put heart and soul into a tune worth knowing. Cowboy country meets The Lower East Side. Willie meets Irving.
So, remember the song title and the question it asks: “What’ll I do?” Your answer is simple. Find the free video online. Watch, listen and enjoy.