by Beverly Adam (author of Two Lovers; the love story of Carole Lombard and Russ Columbo).
Russ Columbo was an extremely gifted musician and composer. He was a noted violin virtuoso and had conducted his own orchestra in the early 1930’s. When he performed at the Brooklyn Paramount his five shows a day performances were sold out. He went to Hollywood to work for Paramount Studios and starred in Broadway Thru A Keyhole and Wake Up And Dream, where he performed songs which he had co-written. He wrote wonderful unforgettable music that inspired generations of singers and orchestras decades after his death in 1934.
Lena Horne and Teddy Wilson Orchestra recorded September 16, 1941.
What is most interesting is the wide variety of musicians and singers who transposed his music into various popular genres. Almost every kind of music from champagne dancing music to soulful heartfelt R &B has performed his compositions. It is absolutely amazing what talented singers , musicians, and orchestras have recorded and performed with his music. It is literally a Who’s Who of the Music Billboard Chart.
Prisoner of Love by Russ Columbo was originally written in 1931. The music was composed by Russ Columbo and the lyrics were by Leo Robin and Clarence Gaskill. Leo Robin was a talented songwriter who came from a steel mill town in Pennsylvania where he promised his boss he would “make good in six months in Hollywood, or work for the rest of my life in Blow Knox Steel Co”. He made good. The other lyricist was fellow Pennsylvanian Clarence Gaskill. He had served in the military with honor, fighting in the Battle of Verdun as a gunner where he was wounded and earned a purple heart. After the war, Clarence Gaskill appeared in Vaudeville and continued to write songs such as Minnie The Moocher and Prisoner of Love, which is probably one of his most famous.
The Prisoner of Love went number #1 on the Billboard Chart.
Perry Como admitted that he admired Russ Columbo and that he was his idol, as he himself was a first generation Italian-American. Perry Como had met Russ Columbo in Chicago in 1933 at the Golden Pheasant and had taken an immediate liking to him. Como openly admitted to copying Russ’s style and with his wonderful voice and romantic look became immensely popular. Perry Como’s rendition of Prisoner of Love was charted number #1 on the Billboard Chart in 1946.
Perry Como: click to hear his interpretation.
Billy Eckstine had bought the rights to the last two songs Russ Columbo composed before his death: Yours To Command and Until Eternity, which Russ did not have an opportunity to record. Eckstine made millions from Russ’s music.
Eckstine recorded Prisoner of Love in 1945. Duke Ellington played on the piano and Art Blakey on drums. The recording became a multi-million dollar bestseller and was charted #10 on the Billboard Chart that year.
Billy Eckstine.Billy Eckstine
Decades later, James Brown went on the Billboard Charts #6 for R &B with his version of Prisoner of Love in 1963, and at the same time it went to #18 on the Pop-Chart.
To hear his version: James Brown
Then there were others who dedicated entire albums to Russ Columbo and the music he had made famous.
1958, Rudy Vale released an album of Russ Columbo’s music. Paul Bruno did the same, in 1960, where according to Billboard Chart, Bruno “warbled tunes associated with Russ Columbo,” and the album cover featured several pictures of Russ Columbo.
Jerry Vale: click here to hear his recording
The fact of the matter was that if you lived through the 1950’s the chances were pretty good your favorite artist had recorded Russ Columbo’s music and that included just about everybody.
Well, here’s old blue eyes, Frank Sinatra, who recorded it. Click here for: Frank Sinatra’s Prisoner of Love . It was recorded in November 1961.
Click here for The Platters recording. from 1955.
Click here for The Ink Spots Recording from 1946.
And I mustn’t forget the rather unique singer who sang his songs. You know the most famous one Mr. Tip Toe Thru the Tulips himself, the hipster Tiny Tim. He created an album in 1994 dedicated to Russ’s music. You have to admit Russ Columbo’s music was pretty cool.
Tiny Tim’s version: click here.
And before I forget, yes, Bing Crosby sang Prisoner of Love. He put it on an album which he titled “Songs I wish I had sung”.
Bing Crosby’s version of Prisoner of Love: click here.
To learn more about Russ Columbo click here to go to my free blog: Who considered portraying singer Russ Columbo in a biopic movie? Try George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Perry Como, for starters…
Jazz Piano of Russ Columbo’s music, did an excellent interpretation of Prisoner of Love.
To learn more about Russ Columbo and his career you can go for free and read my article: So how rich and famous was Russ Columbo? Very.