An American Odyssey in Song: Rhode Island – “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey

Welcome to this occasional series where I am attempting a virtual journey around the 50 States of America in song. For anyone new to this place, I have a continuous route map where I enter and leave each state only once. Suggestions for the next leg always welcome!

Last time we visited Massachusetts (tricky to spell but that’s probably the last time I’ll have to do it) so we are now heading west towards New York, first passing through Rhode Island. This tiny state, only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long is made up of islands, inlets and peninsulas but also what appears to be chunks of mainland America plucked from Connecticut and Massachusetts (drat had to spell it again). The name came about because the Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano thought that the large pear-shaped island sitting in Narragansett Bay looked like the Greek island of Rhodes. The official name is actually the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the plantations part being an archaic name for “colony”.

Rhode Island

And now for the part I am coming to enjoy most about this series – The random fact element. Rhode Island is also called the Ocean State and due to its geography has a long history of sailing. The America’s Cup, offered up as a prize by the British Royal Yacht Squadron in 1851, was first won by a boat called America which is how it got its name. The cup has spent much of its time in Newport, Rhode Island ever since and poor Britain has never won it back. The MGM musical High Society was set in one of the many fully staffed mansions that littered the state back then and one of the most memorable scenes was when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly took a trip on the True Love which in turn inspired the song for the movie. I do remember being troubled by their age difference when first watching it as a child – Having just looked it up, Bing was 53 and Grace 27 when the film was shot, but not unusual amongst wealthy Rhode Islanders back then I suppose. In fact the mansions, or “cottages” as they were called, were originally built by rich plantation owners in order to escape the heat of the Southern summer. Later on rich Northern families started to do the same as the Gilded Age of Vanderbilts and Astors reached its staggeringly opulent zenith. Never had so much money, been made so fast, by so few, and much of this wealth was reflected in the Cliff Walk properties of Newport, RI.

But hey, as usual I am being side-tracked, for this is supposed to be a music blog. Not many obvious contenders for this state but last time both CC and Rol came up with the suggestion Sweet Rhode Island Red by Ike and Tina Turner. A good one but not my featured song for this post as although most of us who are not even au fait with the world of poultry farming have heard of the Rhode Island Red hen (the state bird), the song is not about the hen or even set in the state. Also, although I really enjoyed Tina’s output during her reincarnation of the 1980s, I’m not so fond of the songs she recorded with Ike (or Ike), especially Nutbush City Limits, but we’ll come to the reason for that another day.

ike and tina

But not everyone in Rhode Island lives in mansions and owns yachts. Some of you will know of the animated sitcom Family Guy created by Seth MacFarlane. The series centres on the Griffins family who have an anthropomorphic pet dog called Brian. Seth MacFarlane is not only a talented actor, writer, singer, film-maker but is also (I think) extremely good-looking and it turns out he is even descended from one of the original passengers from The Mayflower (grrr…). He studied animation at the Rhode Island School of Design so not unusual to have set the show in the fictional city of Quahog, RI. I give you the Road To Rhode Island by Brian and Stewie!

All this talk of the Gilded Age and opulent mansions however has made me look into it a bit more and has inspired my choice of featured song for this post. One of the largest “cottages” was Hammersmith Farm owned by the stepfather of Jacqueline Bouvier, Hugh D. Auchincloss. She of course went on to marry John F Kennedy and their wedding reception was held there. The property was also used as the setting for the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I have a feeling that Grace Kelly may well have also “graced” the terraces of Hammersmith Farm at some point, perhaps not in High Society as that appeared to be a film set, but perhaps in her role as Princess Grace of Monaco.

Some of you will know that Baz Luhrmann also made a dazzling version of The Great Gatsby back in 2013 and the song Young and Beautiful was specially written and recorded for it by Lana Del Rey. It was perfect for the film as she has a deep, sultry voice and a look that is evocative of a much earlier time. Also, a song about “the young and the beautiful” was totally appropriate for the tale of The Great Gatsby. All of the people mentioned in the paragraph above were rich, young and beautiful but whether characters in fiction or real people, they all died prematurely or experienced tragedy in their lives. Again a very tenuous link to this state, and again from a film, but just reinforces the knowledge we all have that a life of wealth and privilege does not necessarily bring happiness.

Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey:

Having done a bit of research, it seems that Lana Del Rey adopted her exotic sounding Latin name and look after spending time with friends in Miami. She is however originally from New York and has a Scottish heritage. Her real name is Lizzy Grant which I find amusing as where I come from in the North-East of Scotland there are many older ladies called Lizzy Grant – Absolutely none of them look like Lana Del Rey!

So, a longish post about the smallest state. Heading into Connecticut next and drawing a blank myself for that state at the moment, so again, any suggestions more than welcome. I can think of a couple of siblings who came from there and whose songs I have featured in this place recently, so may well go down that route. We’ll see, but in the meantime, I think I’ll have another listen to the haunting and sombre sound of Young and Beautiful.

Until next time….

Young And Beautiful Lyrics
(Song by Lana Del Ray/Rick Nowels)

I’ve seen the world
Done it all
Had my cake now
Diamonds, brilliant
And Bel Air now
Hot summer nights, mid July
When you and I were forever wild
The crazy days, city lights
The way you’d play with me like a child

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

I’ve seen the world, lit it up
As my stage now
Channelling angels in the new age now
Hot summer days, rock ‘n’ roll
The way you play for me at your show
And all the ways I got to know
Your pretty face and electric soul

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?

Dear lord, when I get to heaven
Please let me bring my man
When he comes tell me that you’ll let him in
Father tell me if you can
Oh that grace, oh that body
Oh that face makes me wanna party
He’s my sun, he makes me shine like diamonds

Will you still love me
When I’m no longer young and beautiful?
Will you still love me
When I got nothing but my aching soul?
I know you will, I know you will
I know that you will
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m no longer beautiful?
Will you still love me when I’m not young and beautiful

Postscript:

Because I mentioned the film High Society a fair few times above, I feel I should share this excellent clip of the inimitable Mr Louis “Satchel Mouth” Armstrong giving us a potted version of what is to come. Yes, this was high society Rhode Island-style, back in 1956. Enjoy.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

14 thoughts on “An American Odyssey in Song: Rhode Island – “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey”

    1. Yes, it’s the weekend so picked up the trip again. Had a bit of a strop yesterday and flounced out of the workplace so as it turns out I may have lots of time for blogging depending on whether I return or not!

      Yes these New England states tricky but looking at what is to come going to be impossible to choose from some states. NYC is also a tricky one as just so many songs about that great city.

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    1. Hi Neil – Yes I’ve already passed through Vermont and the song of choice was indeed Moonlight in Vermont which was a suggestion from the previous post. Decided in the end to go with the really lovely Willie Nelson version rather than Frank’s however as saving him for another state (plus I kind of fell in love with that simple pared down version by Willie).

      As you will have noticed from this post my song choice for the state is not always because it is mentioned in the lyrics or even that the singer is from the state, can be a tenuous link via a movie which has happened twice now!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh, you are so right – Don’t remember ever having heard that one before, simply called Connecticut. When I first read your comment I was immediately reminded of that film he was in called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Yes old Bing went back in time in that one to Camelot. Bing I’m afraid was just a bit too laid back for me what with the crooning and the pipe and the cardigan, I was always drawn more to the dancers like Fred and Gene or Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.

      Thanks for dropping by – Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

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  1. Another fascinating stop-off, and we didn’t even have to repack our bags! Great choice with Lana Del Rey – had not heard this one before as far as I can remember, but I love her smouldering voice and the darkness of mood in many of her songs. No idea about Connecticut! I had a quick online search out of interest but couldn’t find very much, although there is a rather sweet piano-based song with narrative lyrics (couldn’t help thinking of Rol!) called Kylie From Connecticut by Ben Folds.

    Saw in your reply to CC above about your work strop – oh dear, sounds like it really is no fun at the moment – I just hope they’ll take your point (sounds like someone need to make one!) and all works out however is best for you…

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    1. Yes I actually spent much of yesterday on this post as it was a wet indoorsy Saturday, so quite relaxing – Love my home office and am going to see if I can work from there for some of the time – cross-fingers.

      I like Lana Del Rey and funnily enough, Jez at Dubious Taste has just pointed out she was purported to be the “gangster Nancy Sinatra” and has recorded Summer Wine (not with Lee but with another moustachioed deep voiced fella!). I love Nancy and we both love Lee I know so explains a lot. I see we’ve both jumped in with comments on his SMCD thread and am now looking forward to seeing what he comes up with for a future SMCD.

      Connecticut a tricky one but there is always a tenuous link somewhere – I also found a few songs with Connecticut in the lyrics (yes Rol is definitely the man for that job) but difficult to write about songs you have never heard before or can’t find inspiration for a story from. Have a few thoughts of my own however so lets see how it goes.

      Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

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  2. Sorry, late to the party again. Thanks for the Lana Del Rey – I liked her first two albums, but despite having seen the Leo version of Gatsby, I don’t remember this song at all. Liked it though.

    Being a huge Ben Folds fan, Kyle From Connecticut would have been my obvious choice, yes. Apart from that…

    Carly Simon – The Wives Are In Connecticut

    (Loads of Connecticut towns named-checked in that).

    I’m sure you’ll come up with something better though…

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    1. Just as well you dropped by as made me realise I’d spelt Lana Del Rey as a Del Ray all the way through this post even though it was emblazoned all over the image and clip – oh well fixed now.

      Her song was possibly used for the end credits and for the publicity trailer as I remember buying it straight after seeing the film. On the radio a lot at the time as well – maybe it just struck a cord with me. Still love it.

      Thanks for the suggestions as ever – I may sometimes go down a different route but nice to include other songs for variety and have definitely featured two of your picks to date. Oh well, 5 down, 45 to go!

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  3. I like Lana Del Rey’s music, sadly her albums seem to be getting weaker with each new release. Young and Beautiful is among her most timeless, and as you say her voice and the lyrics fit so well with the story. There really aren’t enough great new movie songs around at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I especially liked this and had to buy it straight after seeing the film. As for current year movie songs – I did buy City of Stars from La La Land and of course there is also GOTG 2 which is full of great tracks, most of which I already have!

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