I woke up one morning with the tune “Misty” in my head. I was humming it as I fed my pets. The cats looked at me blankly as I crooned “I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree.” After my concert to bored animals, I decided to look up on YouTube the professional singers of this song.
I was aware of only two singers that performed “Misty”: Johnny Mathis and Ray Stevens. I found it fascinating how Johnny Mathis could sing each high falsetto note meticulously. Though I enjoyed listening to him singing this song, it was not my favorite version of this tune. Ray Stevens’ bluegrass interpretation held that honor. I wasn’t quite sure why it was my favorite. I did enjoy the uniqueness of the sound of his voice-- it has a yodeling quality to it. Or maybe it was the lighthearted and bouncy melody that the banjo and fiddle bring.
As I scrolled through YouTube, I was very surprised to see that there were many other artists that performed this particular song. I clicked on the video of Ella Fitzgerald. The piano accompaniment was superfluous— her eloquent and refined voice was a fine tuned instrument all on its own, playing effortlessly with the notes.
I also found some singers I was surprised made covers of this song. Aretha Franklin’s version had a blues feeling to it. As I listened, I felt she was trying to contain her strong, powerful voice at the beginning of the song. Then towards the end, she blasted through the lyrics with a vengeance. I believed her presence was so headstrong that she wouldn’t be “led on” by anyone. I also found the same reaction to Frank Sinatra’s version. Though his distinctive baritone voice and professional orchestra accompanying him were flawless, somehow all of these elements took away from the song’s vulnerability.
As I thought about the song, Ms Fitzgerald’s and Mr. Mathis’ versions carry a melancholy feel—they are both shyly expressing that they are “too misty and too much in love” to be able to think clearly. However, in Mr. Steven’s version, he seems to revel in the fact that he doesn’t know the difference between his “hat from his glove.” The upbeat tone of his version has the notion that being in love has a whimsical and fun feel to it. He’s thoroughly enjoying the ride and not ashamed to crow about it. The more I think about it, I believe I felt that energy as a young girl and that’s the reason why this has always been my favorite version.