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chapter 4 “Good Morning, Heartache” Sound, Script, and Improvisation in Paule Marshall’s The Fisher King and Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal In the Alianza Hotel, Langston Hughes’s Harlem Victrola spins jazz as an improvised palliative against the traumata of history. But a palliative it is: Afropolitan jazz can remind us of our common humanity, a humanity that transcends cultural and national citizenship, but it cannot divert Falangist artillery shells or evade Toyota Land Cruisers converted to technicals. Hans Janowitz’s hope that the kinetically jazzy sounds flooding the Weimar Republic would lead to a “United States of Europe” proved illusory: it took another world war and another genocide before his dream would be revived. And even when it was, jazz could not stop the cargo truck that killed eighty-six flâneurs and flâneuses on the beachfront Promenade des Anglais in Nice on July 14, 2016, a terrorist attack that in turn caused the venerable jazz festival, dating back to 1948 and France’s oldest, to be canceled.1 This, then, is also why I Wonder as I Wander resists closure and ends in wonderment. Despite the very different musical aesthetic (and emotional depth) that propels High Fidelity, Rob wonders exactly the same: “What came first—the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery 102 chapter four and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”2 The fact that Langston Hughes’s music consists of much more improvisation than Rob Fleming’s does not mitigate either one’s doubt. And if there is one jazz icon who embodies Rob’s heartbreak and pain, it has to be Billie Holiday. Among the songs Lady Day recorded at her fourth session for the Decca label on January 22, 1946, was a ballad expressly written for her entitled “Good Morning Heartache.” When Holiday signed with Decca, her manager, Milt Gabler, had a specific vision for the singer’s public image: “Every time I had listened to Billie, she was either with Teddy Wilson’s band or one of the great bands that John (Hammond) put together. But I felt Billie a different way—as a pop singer. To me, when you went into a club and listened to Billie, she’d lovingly sing these slow ballads. She would sing for losers and really really read a lyric. So I wanted torch songs for Billie.”3 “Good Morning Heartache” is, in many ways, representative of the shift these sides amplified: the score modulates between minor and major keys, and the arrangement leaves no room for improvised solos, save for a few bars of Joe Guy’s muted trumpet fills and Joe Springer’s cocktail-piano stylings, pitting Holiday’s by now slightly raspy voice against a small string section. The lyrics, too, are penned to fit Lady Day’s new image and echo, quite fittingly, the standard blues stanza: Good morning, heartache, you old, gloomy sight. Good morning, heartache—thought we said goodbye last night. I turned and tossed until it seems you have gone, But here you are with the dawn. [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] Now every day I start by saying to you, “Good morning, heartache, what’s new?”4 This ode to lingering trauma is exemplary of Holiday’s image, gelling in the early 1940s, as the iconic embodiment of l’artiste maudite, “as a martyr to an uncaring world and to her own bad judgment,” in the words of Francis Davis; ever after she recorded the sensational “Strange Fruit,” Lady Day had “become an all-purpose Our Lady of Sorrows—embraced by many of her black listeners (and by many women and gay men) not just as a favorite performer but as a kind of patron saint. She touches such fans where they hurt, soothing their rage even while delivering a reminder of past humiliations, and the potential for more.”5 Or, as clarinetist Tony Scott explained it, “A singer like Good Morning, Heartache 103 Ella [Fitzgerald] says, ‘My man’s left me’ and you think the guy went down the street for a loaf of bread or something. But when Lady says, ‘My man’s gone’ or ‘My man’s left me,’ man, you can see the guy going...


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