Wine. Women. And Song.
This famous hendiatris (humor me. I rarely get to use obscure rhetorical terms for figures of speech, and I literally live for this sort of thing) for a hedonistic lifestyle might seem quaint to the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” generation, but there is something eternal about it. We will focus on the first and second thirds of the figure, however.
The fact is, there are a ton of references to wine in song (even from some of the sex, drugs, and rock and roll set). More than we could list in a short blog post. So we will restrict ourselves to 10. A good, round, metric number. One that we can count on our fingers. We will present this round of wine songs in no particular order.
- “Red, Red Wine.” By UB40. Yes, we know. Neil Diamond wrote this song. However, even Neil Diamond admits that he prefers the UB40 version. Interestingly, UB40 had never heard the Neil Diamond version, thinking that the version by Jamaican reggae singer Tony Tribe was the original. They even misunderstood the songwriting attribution. As UB40’s Astro said, “Even when we saw the writing credit which said ‘N Diamond,’ we thought it was a Jamaican artist called Negus Diamond.” Astro’s ad-libbed toasting on the UB40 version, ‘Red red wine, you make me feel so fine. You keep me rockin’ all of the time” stands out as a memorable part of the song. Neil Diamond’s version peaked at #62 on the charts, but UB40’s version hit number one in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.
- “Kisses Sweeter than Wine” by The Weavers. This is another song that was performed and recorded by more musicians than you can shake a stick at. The origin of this song is an old Irish ballad called “”An droimfhionn donn dilís”, about a farmer and his dead cow. It was heard by the African American folk legend Leadbelly, who gave it its rhythmic structure and changed it to “If it wasn’t for Dicky”, retaining the farmer and cow theme. Pete Seeger and Lee Hays wrote new lyrics and a new title for their folk band The Weavers recorded it as “Sweeter than Wine” in 1951. It was a staple of Pete Seeger’s repertoire for decades, and was also performed and recorded by Jimmie Rodgers, Waylon Jennings, Andy Williams, Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, among many others.
- “Wine Colored Roses” by George Jones. George Jones had one of the best, most powerful voices in country music. “Wine Colored Roses” is one of his best songs. It is, however, a cautionary tale. At Hill Family Estate we recommend the consumption of wine in moderation. One could enjoy the beauty of this song while moderately consuming a glass or two of fine Napa Valley wine! Listen to George. Don’t be like George. George would probably have told you the same.
- “Yesterday’s Wine” by Willie Nelson. When it comes down to it, one would be hard-pressed to find a better songwriter than Willie Nelson. “Yesterday’s Wine” was the title track of Willie’s 1971 album, and is widely considered one of his best songs. It was recorded as a duet with George Jones and Merle Haggard in 1982, also an excellent recording.
- ‘Intanto, amici, qua…Viva il vino spumeggiante’ from Cavalleria Rusticana – Pietro Mascagni. This ode to sparkling wine depicts a lovely party setting in Mascagni’s verismo opera. Ah. Did I say “verismo”? While the party was a blast, lovers of opera will recognize that verismo operas never end on a happy note! However, just from the perspective of a tribute to sparkling wine, this aria is fantastic!
- “Days of Wine and Roses” by Henry Mancini. Well, Mancini wrote the original song for the soundtrack to the film of the same title, but the list of the artists who recorded this song reads like a who’s who of great American music. Frank Sinatra, Bill Evans, Julie London, Wes Montgomery, just to name a few. It is a great song and provides a solid structure for musical inventiveness. If we have to pick one recording, it would be hard to beat the 1986 Pablo Records release by Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass.
- “Gimme That Wine” by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. This 1959 recording helped set the standard for vocal ensemble jazz. With witty lyrics written by Jon Hendricks and the vocal gymnastics of this talented trio, “Gimme That Wine” is sure to resonate with music loving oenophiles. A great sing-along for your next wine party.
- “Tiny Bubbles” by Don Ho. This was the Hawaiian legend Don Ho’s signature song, a tribute to sparkling wine (and, as we know, tiny bubbles are the result of the methode champenoise, the way the Hill Family Estate’s Brut Sparkling Wine is made). Interestingly enough, Don Ho’s musical career began when he was stationed at Travis Air Force Base, in Fairfield, not far from the Napa Valley!
- “Summer Wine” by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood. Another cautionary tale of letting one’s guard down when consuming too much wine. Silver spurs and money are involved. They both go missing by the end of the song. A woman is to blame, but too much wine plays a part as well. This haunting melody has been sung by an international cast of musicians, translated into Flemish, Icelandic, French, and German.
- “Trinklied D 888 – Bacchus, feister Fürst des Weins.” (Drinking Song – Bacchus, Plump Prince of Wine) by Franz Schubert.We could not finish this list without at least one rambunctious 19th century drinking song. The lyrics are from Antony and Cleopatraby William Shakespeare, and the song staggers along to its merry conclusion, preferably sung with a glass of wine in hand!