I am not a great lover of jazz singers, jazz songs, or songs from “The Great American Songbook”. One exception to this, however, is the song “Every Time we say Goodbye”, by Cole Porter. I first heard it, ages ago, on an old album of songs by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin; the singer was Ella Fitzgerald. On that very first hearing, it moved me to tears. It still does so, to this day. I think it’s the combination of Ella’s immaculate vocal delivery, the lyrics, and the sweeping – almost lush – orchestral arrangement. I first thought the arrangement was by the well-known George Shearing; only to find, after researching into it, that it was by a guy I’d never heard of before, called Buddy Bregman.
That old album was lost, or mislaid, long ago. I never replaced it, and the only time I get to hear the song nowadays is on the rare occasion when it is played on some radio programme like “Desert Island Discs” or “Private Passions”. I’ve written before about the influence of music on poetry; about the death of my mother, and the universality of the mother-son relationship. The poem “Every Time” brings all these themes together.
“Every time we say goodbye, I die a little.
Every time we say goodbye, I wonder why, a little. . . .”*
Every time I hear Ella sing
“Every Time We Say Goodbye”;
such emotional pull on my heartstrings,
I’m transfixed, undone, want to cry.
Only the Buddy Bregman arrangement,
of course, it goes without saying,
wreaks such emotional derangement.
“Play it again! Please!” I am praying.
The inevitable image arises;
is held, fixed, in my mind’s eye.
The so infrequent visits to my mother,
and their ending, with the sad sigh.
“TaTa for now, love”, she would say.
“TaTa. Let’s not say goodbye”.
I’d kiss her; slowly walk away.
Turn my face to the impassive sky.
And that’s why Ella gets to me.
That’s why she makes me want to cry.
Because I really did die, a little,
every time Mum and I said goodbye.
*”Every Time we say Goodbye” by Cole Porter.