The Glory of Love original
The Glory of Love original was a jazz standard
American songwriter, violinist and pianist Billy Hill wrote “The Glory of Love” in 1936. I’m most familiar with the song from 12-year-old Mayim Bialik’s performance in the 1988 film Beaches. I was surprised to learn that Bialik didn’t actually perform vocals, just the dance routine in her bright pink flapper dress. Melissa Garcia sang vocals. In 1951, a version by doo-wop group the Five Keys hit number one on the R&B charts for four non-consecutive weeks. However, back in 1936 Benny Goodman and his orchestra recorded “The Glory of Love” original, with vocals by Helen Ward.
Note: this article looks at “The Glory of Love” jazz standard, not Peter Cetera’s 1986 soft-rock hit of the same name.
Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman (1909 – 1986) was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinettist and bandleader. The son of Russian immigrants, he started taking clarinet lessons at his synagogue at the age of ten. Somewhat of a child prodigy, Goodman made his professional debut at 12 and dropped out of school at 14 to focus on music. He began recording in 1928 and signed to Columbia Records in 1934. That same year he performed for the first time with his orchestra.
Goodman had a string of top ten hits in the mid-30s. His 1936 chart-toppers, with vocals sung by Ward, included “It’s Been So Long”, “Goody-Goody”, “These Foolish Things Remind Me of You”, “You Turned the Tables on Me” and “The Glory of Love” original. Goodman became the most celebrated bandleader of the swing era, earning the title the King of Swing. He performed until his death fifty years later.
Ward (1913 – 1998) learnt piano from her father. She appeared on radio broadcasts with New York stations WOR and WNYC, and worked as a staff musician at WNYC.
The Glory of Love original recording
Victor recorded and released “The Glory of Love” original as a 78rpm record. The song went to number one on the 1936 hit parade. It’s a song with a big band sound, thanks to the full orchestra. This allows for a more boisterous tune than the piano-accompanied Beaches version. Ward comes in after about a minute of music. Her voice is breezy and effortless. I find “The Glory of Love” original fun and uplifting, especially the clarinet which comes in towards the end.
History of the Five Keys
Originally called the Sentimental Four, the Five Keys formed in Virginia in the late 1940s. The original lineup consisted of two sets of teenage brothers who grew up near each other and sang gospel at church and school. The band went through several personnel changes over the years, but the lineup for “The Glory of Love” was Rudy West singing lead vocal tenor, Bernie West singing bass, Ripley Ingram singing high tenor, Raphael Ingram and Maryland Pierce singing first tenor and Dickie Smith singing baritone.
The Five Keys were the first doo-wop group to use five-part harmonies. They won several talent contests and in 1950 Aladdin Records signed them. In 1957, the group became the first black act to appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and were one of the first black groups to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The glory of the Five Keys version
Rudy and Bernie remembered a ragtime-sounding tune their father used to sing. The song was the “The Glory of Love” and the band decided to record a version.
The Five Keys’ “The Glory of Love” came out as a 78rpm single in 1951, selling around 1.5 million copies. Sadly the Five Keys didn’t receive royalties and had no control over where their song was played.
Discrimination in the 1950s music industry
The band worked hard, working the “chitlin’ circuit”, a loop of clubs in large Northern US cities where black artists could perform. In 1955 they toured for 120 days straight.
Because we were black, we couldn’t stay in hotels or eat in restaurants. Sometimes we’d find flop joints to sleep in or greasy diners to go to. But mostly, it was sleeping on the bus. And we ate more cheese than Mickey Mouse. Bologna and cheese sandwiches were a big part of our diets. And sardines.”Rudy West
The Five Keys worked with musicians like Count Basie, Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, Clyde McPhatter, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, LaVerne Baker and Joe Turner, The Moonglows and The Clovers. However, they received limited recognition in the mainstream and grew frustrated with their lack of crossover hits.
In retrospect, I wish we had better management and exposure. You had a few black performers, like Nat King Cole and Louie Armstrong, crossing over. We were still considered black artists, like most of our peers. It trapped us.”Rudy West
The Five Keys finally received recognition in 1991, with a Rhythm & Blues Foundation pioneer award for their artistry and lifelong contributions to R&B music.
Other versions and the flawless Five Keys
Other artists who covered “The Glory of Love” included Otis Redding, Dean Martin, Jimmy Durante and Paul McCartney.
The Five Keys’ “The Glory of Love” is a stunning-sounding song. The band members’ beautiful voices sing acapella with flawless harmonies. I think “The Glory of Love” original is more fun, but this is the nicest-sounding version.
The Beaches soundtrack
“The Glory of Love” appears on the Beaches soundtrack and features twice in the film. At the start of the film we hear a fast and lively version performed by Bialik (and sung by Garcia), then at the end Bette Midler sings a slower and sadder reprise.
Mayim Bialik & Melissa Garcia
As a child, Bialik was presented in auditions as a young Midler or Barbra Streisand. As well as acting and dancing, she could sing, but Midler wanted a voice that sounded more like her own voice as a child. So Garcia was selected to perform vocals for “The Glory of Love”. In later years Garcia became a successful dancer and choreographer with her own studio.
Bialik’s performance of “The Glory of Love” is my favourite Beaches scene. Especially when the 12-year-old says to the pianist, “Hit it, toots!” Maybe it resonates so much because when the film came out I was the same age as Bialik. I was in awe of her confident performance. I never realised it was actually Garcia singing. She had a powerful voice for someone so young.
Midler sings a sadder, sort of slow-jazz refrain. Of course her voice is excellent, but I prefer the more joyful versions of “The Glory of Love”. However, it’s fascinating to see how many ways this jazz standard can be interpreted.
My favourite version
All up, I reckon my favourite “The Glory of Love” version is the one by the Five Keys. That band had beautiful voices and are doo-wop legends. If you like your doo-wop, check out these unknown originals.
And there are plenty more 80s songs with unknown originals here.
References The Five Keys The Glory of Love “The Glory of Love” – Bette Midler (from the “Beaches” soundtrack) Helen Ward Lyrics.com - The Glory of Love Mayim Bialik Remembers Beaches That's the Glory of the Five Keys Wikipedia - Beaches soundtrack Wikipedia - The Glory of Love YouTube - The Five Keys - "The Glory of Love" (1951)