Harry M. Woods wrote an astonishing number of catchy, wholesome, sentimental and reassuring popular songs. Born without any fingers on his left hand, he nevertheless became a professional pianist and soon began composing irresistible ditties like "Paddlin' Madelin' Home" (1925) and "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along" (1926). Living Era's Harry Woods tribute album is chock-full of toothsome, tuneful treats; twenty historical recordings made between 1926 and 1945 by some of the most popular and endearing entertainers in the U.S. and the U.K. "Side by Side" turned out to be one of Paul Whiteman's most interesting novelties thanks to a cheerfully eccentric band arrangement and tidy vocals by the Rhythm Boys (Al Rinker, Harry Barris and Bing Crosby). Other pleasant singers include Connee Boswell, Cliff Edwards, Al Jolson, Annette Hanshaw, Rube Bloom, Frank Sinatra, Parker Gibbs (backed by the eternally gratifying Ted Weems Orchestra), and guitarist Nick Lucas who manages to sing all of the verses to "I'm Looking over a Four Leaf Clover." Paul Robeson's handling of "River Stay Away from My Door" is sobering, and Billie Holiday makes "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" sound like it was written especially for her. Fats Waller's unforgettably heartwarming rendition of "When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful" (a love song which was in fact composed with him in mind) is one of the very best records that he ever made. All of these pleasantries contrast dramatically with the life and temperament of the composer, who was an unhappy and dangerously volatile alcoholic. Legend has it that one evening, after consuming large quantities of hard liquor while performing at a popular nightclub, Woods got into a heated argument with a member of the audience. Tempers flared, blows were exchanged and soon the tussle had escalated into a vicious brawl. When the police got to the scene Woods had his adversary pinned to the floor and was throttling him with his right hand while bashing him in the face with the stump of his left. Bloody and disheveled, he was dragged off of his victim and was in the process of being handcuffed when a woman entered the club, looked him up and down and exclaimed, "Who is that horrible man?" Still seated at the bar, a friend of the composer proudly announced, "That's Harry Woods. He wrote 'Try a Little Tenderness.'"
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