Posted by S. Ryan on March 14, 2003
In Reply to: torch song posted by TheFallen on March 14, 2003
: : : I would
like the origin of this expression. I know it's an unrequited love, but why is
it called in that name?
: : : Thank you
: : : miri
: : It probably comes from this expression:
: : TO CARRY THE TORCH FOR ONE - "It is the torch of love that is understood in this modern American term, though sometimes no more than the torch of loyalty, for the 'torchbearer' is one who is loud in his praise of a friend. But the torch has long been an emblem of enlightenment and of burning devotion, and, in 1775, Richard Sheridan used the expression, 'The torch of love,' in his epilog to 'The Rivals.'" From "A Hog on Ice" by Charles Earle Funk (1948, Harper & Row, New York).
: : I am guessing that the expression comes from the time when people actually did carry torches at night.
: In the UK, this is also known as "holding a torch for someone".
: We were just discussing the lost art of "torch singing" and came across this... I hope it helps!
The First Torch
Singers, Volume 3: 1935-1940
Take Two Records (TT424CD), U.S., 1999
Reviewed by Earl L. Dachslager (The Woodlands, Texas)
This is the third and last volume of a trio of CDs devoted to that oft-cited but indefinable vocal genre, torch singing. The dictionary defines "torch song" as "a sentimental love song, typically one in which the singer laments a lost love." Along with being too general, this definition omits what is perhaps the most obvious characteristic of torch songs: They are almost always sung by women. While men can undoubtedly carry a torch, there is no such creature as a male torch singer. The essence of torch singing is a woman lamenting her lost love, i.e., her man. Hence the multitude of classic torch songs with titles such as My Man, Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, The Right Kind of Man, The Man I Love, I Must Have That Man, What I Wouldn't Do for That Man, and He's My Secret Passion, all of which are included in this series.
I would guess that one reason for the demise of torch songs and singers is that the lament has become either passé or relegated to country music (same thing). These days, the female vocalist's lament is more likely to be for a lost life than a lost man.
But in those "simpler" days of the 1920s and 1930s, when having a man was equal to having a life, torch singing was really hot stuff. Indeed, "red-hot momma" was once a popular euphemism for a torch singer. The third volume covers the years 1935-1940 and includes most of the expected names: Ruth Etting, Helen Morgan, Adelaide Hall, Hildegarde, Lee Wiley, Mildred Bailey, Connie Boswell. It also includes some less familiar names: Bebe Daniels, Dixie Lee Crosby, Greta Keller, Gertrude Niesen, and Una Mae Carlisle. The previous two volumes in the series, both still in print, include even more hidden and unknown treasures; only the most intrepid songbird collector will be familiar with the work of Sylvia Froos, Welcome Lewis, Go Go Delyse, Zora Layman, and Eve Taylor, all of whom turn up on Volumes 1 and 2.