Friday, 9 May 2008

Cristina - Is that all there is?

I have been watching a documentary about Peggy Lee and they have been extolling her rendition of this song - mainly because it was not Peggy's normal style and she went against the studio bosses to record it. BUT to my mind Peggy's version cannot match this one by Cristina for power and cynicism. This, to me, is the definitive version .

Is That All There Is? is a song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and recorded by Peggy Lee in 1969.

It was a popular single, reaching number 11 on the U.S. pop singles chart and doing even better on the adult contemporary scene. It won Lee the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and then later was named to the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The lyrics of this existentialist song are written from the point of view of a person who is disillusioned with events in life that are supposed unique experiences. The singer tells the story of when she saw her family's house on fire when she was a little girl, when she saw the circus and when she fell in love for the first time. After each story, she expresses her disappointment in each experience. She suggests that we "break out the booze and have a ball — if that's all — there is", instead of worrying about life. She also explains that she'll never kill herself either because she knows that death will be a disappointment as well.

The song was inspired by the story "Disillusionment" by Thomas Mann, written in 1896. The narrator in Mann's story tells the same stories of when he was a child.

One difference between the story and the song is that the narrator in Mann's story finally has a sensation to feel free when he sees the sea for the first time and laments for a sea without a horizon. Most of the lyrics of the chorus are actually spoken in the story.

This song has been covered by assorted artists, including Chaka Khan, Bette Midler, Sandra Bernhard, P.J. Harvey, Alan Price and Firewater. An altered version by No Wave singer Cristina in 1980 offended Leiber and Stoller, who sued and were able to get it suppressed for some time. wikipedia

Cristina Monet-Palaci