Friday, September 20, 2013

Kay Starr -- "The Best Things in Life Are Free" (1948)

The moon belongs to everyone
The best things in life are free

A few weeks ago, I told you about Freegal, a free and legal (hence the name) music download service that is offered by many public libraries.

Freegal allows you to download three songs a week without charge.  That's roughly one album per month, which ain't a lot of music.

The Freegal logo
But I run a wildly successful blog, and the petty rules and regulations that apply to you and the other little people of the world do not apply to me.

Read the rest of this post carefully -- you may learn something.

I live in Montgomery County, Maryland -- so I've had a library card from the Montgomery County library for years.  That enables me to three free songs a week from Freegal.

The MLK Jr. library in Washington, DC
I work in Washington, DC, which issues library cards to those who work in the city.  The DC library also offers Freegal, so that's another three free songs a week for me -- or a total of six free songs per week.

My wife, one of my sons, and one of my daughters have Montgomery County library cards, and they have chosen to give me their free allowance of music.  That's three times three on top of the six I already have -- for a total of 15 free songs per week.

There are a number of Virginia public libraries which have reciprocity arrangements with DC and/or the county where I live.  So I'm eligible for free library privileges from Arlington County, Fairfax County, and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.  Unfortunately, only Falls Church offers Freegal.  

Fortunately, Falls Church allows patrons to register for a temporary library card online rather than demanding that you go to the library in person.

The Falls Church, VA library -- I've
never actually been there
So speaking hypothetically, I could register online for Falls Church library cards for not only just myself, but also for my wife and each of my four children.  You have to enter a street address and an e-mail address and a PIN number, but if I were hypothetically willing to invest a little time, I could control up to six Falls Church library cards, which would translate to 18 more free songs a week.  So -- hypothetically, of course -- I'm now up to 33 free songs a week.

Actually -- still speaking hypothetically -- there's nothing to prevent me from signing up any number of hypothetical people and giving hypothetical addresses for them if I was willing to spend the time required to do that.  (Are you beginning to understand why we Republicans want voters to have to do a little more than just show up at a polling place in order to get a ballot?)

It turns out that a resident of one of Maryland's 24 counties (actually, 23 counties and the city of Baltimore, which is not part of a county) can get a library card from any of the other counties.  Some of those other counties don't offer Freegal, but several do -- including our immediate neighbor to the west, Frederick County.

As was the case with Falls Church, Frederick County's thoroughly modern library also allows online registration.  If I signed up myself and all of my family members for Frederick County library accounts, that's another 18 free songs per week -- or a total of 51 free songs per week.

The main Frederick County (MD) library --
I've never been there neither
Now you may think it's a pain in the rear to have to type in a name, street address, e-mail address, etc., to open a new account just for three free songs a week.  And you would be right.

But I discovered a little hypothetical shortcut.

Frederick County issues six-digit temporary library card account numbers.  To access Freegal, all you do is type in that six-digit login.  

Let's say (hypothetically, bien sûr) that your Frederick County account number is 976227.  There's nothing to stop you from typing in 976226 or 976228 or any other adjacent six-digit number, which has probably been issued to a library patron who is clueless about Freegal, and who doesn't take advantage of his or her allowance of three free songs a week. 

So how many free songs a week are we up to now -- hypothetically?  Let's see . . . start with 51 . . . then add the product of three times many thousands (or tens of thousands) and you have . . . infinity (more or less).

Dennis Memorial Library (MA) --
I have been there many times
Oops -- I almost forgot.  Our family has a library card for the public library in the town on Cape Cod where we have a house.  So that means you could hypothetically download around infinity plus three free songs a week.

Not bad, eh?

There is one small problem with this sweet little hypothetical scam:  you have to find that many songs worth downloading.

That can take time because there is a lot of music that's not available through Freegal.  Freegal claims to offer millions of songs (many of them crap that no one in his or her right mind would pay cash money for), but Freegal doesn't offer songs by a lot of pop music's biggest names -- the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Kanye West, etc., etc.  (I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I'm just sayin'.)

If you enter names like those in the Freegal search engine, you will get a number of hits.  But don't get all excited and soil your drawers.  On closer inspection, you will find out that those matches are for tribute albums ("The Nagodoches Strings Play Led Zeppelin's Greatest Hits") or karaoke albums or other filler.  

Given that, it can take a l-o-n-g time to use your allotted quota of free downloads, especially when you will have to log out of one account and log back in to a different account every three songs. 

The Apples in Stereo
But eventually you'll find stuff worth having.  For example, Freegal offers six albums and a couple of EPs by the Apples in Stereo -- one of my favorite indie groups.  (That's a total of 65 songs.)  It's got a bunch of music from the Archers of Loaf and Matthew Sweet and the Muffs and Mission of Burma and other lesser-known but worthwhile groups.

And there are a fair number of old favorites of mine.  Freegal has the first three Blue Öyster Cult albums, the first three Spirit albums, a great "Greatest Hits" compilation with all the Guess Who's singles, some choice Mott the Hoople and Moby Grape stuff, and so on.

(Mine . . . all mine . . . and for free!)
Finally, it does have a pretty good sampling of current pop hits -- Justin Timberlake, One Direction, Miley Cyrus, Daft Punk, and the like.

But it takes a fair amount of time to identify and download 51 (hypothetical) songs each week.  You may search for five groups and strike out on the first four totally, while the fifth group is represented by a couple of albums that aren't exactly Pet Sounds or Abbey Road when it comes to quality.  

So you pull a song from that album, two songs from some other album (after five or six more fruitless searches) -- and since you only get three per account per week, it's then necessary to log out and log back in with a different account number to get your next three free songs.  (You now know why I'm starting to fall behind schedule when it comes to generating new content for 2 or 3 lines.) 

"The Best Things in Life Are Free" was written for the very successful Broadway musical, Good News, which opened September 6, 1927, and closed on January 5, 1929, after 557 performances.  

The song has been recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Kate Smith to Dinah Shore to the Ink Spots to the Muppets.  

But we're featuring the recording of the song by Kay Starr, a very successful jazz, pop, and country singer who had over a dozen top ten hits in the fifties.

Kay Starr was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma in 1922.  (Her father was a full-blooded Iroquois.)  After the family moved to Dallas, she won a talent competition on a local radio station when she was seven, and had her own radio show by the time she was ten -- she was paid $3 a night, which wasn't bad for the Depression.

Kay Starr
At age 15, she was touring with the Joe Venuti Orchestra.  Her parents insisted on a midnight curfew for their daughter.

Kay Starr was married six times.  She is 91 years old, and still performs.

Here's "The Best Things in Life Are Free":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon: 

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