“If ever an angel fell, Jezebel, it was you” — Wayne Shanklin
May 26, 2011
Like most people, I suppose, I haven’t been able to get Joplin out of my head for the past few days. It’s hard to get your mind around the kind of destruction that occurred there or to imagine how a city can recover from such widespread loss.
In the midst of the disaster I recalled that Joplin was the birthplace of a talented musician and composer — Wayne Shanklin. I don’t know why I know that he was born in Joplin — maybe the same reason I know that Bix Beiderbecke was born in Davenport, but I thought of it this morning when I heard a brief report on WNYC radio about Anna Calvi. The report mentioned that she had recorded “Jezebel” as a single last year. The title apparently refers to the Phoenician woman described in the first and second books of Kings who became queen of Israel but ran afoul of the prophet Elisha. “Jezebel” was one of Wayne Shaklin’s most successful songs, and you can hear Calvi’s take on it by clicking HERE. The newscaster mentioned that Calvi had been influenced by Edith Piaf’s recording, which you can hear by clicking HERE.
Being of a certain age, I associate this song with Frankie Laine, perhaps the only singer whose career lasted 75 years. His interpretation of “Jezebel” is, of course, entirely different from either Piaf’s or Calvi’s. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart in the U.S. I have it on vinyl. You can hear it by clicking HERE.
Wayne Shanklin, who died in 1970, wrote other hits, including “Primose Lane,” “The Big Hurt,” and “Chanson d’Amour,” which was unusual in that it was introduced in 1958 in two recordings — both of them successful. There were outstanding cover versions after that, and the song was used, more than 40 years after it was written, in the soundtrack of the Stanley Kubrick film “Eyes Wide Shut.”
I see that Langston Hughes also was born in Joplin, as were Robert Cummings, Dennis Weaver, Charles McPherson, and, I’m sure thousands of other folks whose names we don’t know but who did their best in whatever sphere they chose. Their hometown deserved better than this.