Whispering Jack Smith, (born Jacob Schmidt in the Bronx at the end of the 19th century) didn’t really whisper. He spoke-sung with a gentle, quiet, breathy cadence that he blamed on inhaling poison gas during his heroic WWI service on the battlefields of France. Good story! Actually, he was totally capable of belting, but he did really serve in the Great War, and who doesn’t love a good story and a memorable nickname? Whispering Jack’s soft, airy, talky-sing-y vibe was probably more a tribute to the development of the microphone in 1925 than to any need to whisper; it also helped distinguish him from the loud, raucous, vaudeville pack. His big hits were “Baby Face,” “Gimme a Little Kiss, Will Ya, Huh?” and “Me and My Shadow.” He also appeared in an early Hollywood musical, 1930’s Cheer Up and Smile.
But we are here to talk about “Are You Sorry?” his popular apology number. And oh, Jack, no!
The relevant lyrics:
Dude, no. First of all, if you want to get back together, you do not ask your former paramour if they’re sorry! You apologize to them! And leading with guilt (“I can’t forget the way you made me cry”) is a real warning that a person is going to just keep guilting you as long as you’re in a relationship. Then there’s lots of noodge-y, wheedling questions, and, reality check, anyone who says “it doesn’t matter who was to blame” is the one who is to blame. Whispering Jack’s own apology doesn’t come until the very end of the chorus, 11 sentences in! Feh!
If it helps any, the manipulative, demanding, winsome creepiness is even worse in “Gimme A Little Kiss.”
YOU IN DANGER, GIRL. Everybody just stop debating whether that Christmas song is rapey or not, because we just found the anthem of the #metoo movement! The guy just keeps pressuring the female listener; he flatly refuses to take no for an answer. It’s her fault that he’s blue! Why won’t she understand that she has nothing to lose! Oh, run like the wind, female listener! The song even uses the phrase”in a rage” when she won’t deliver.
Also, my teenage daughter walked in as I was listening to “Baby Face” and said, “Ew. Freak.”
Let’s stick to a different Whispering Jack hit, “I’m Afraid of You.” Better!