Softly Softly, by Ruby Murray (her 1st and only #1)
3 weeks, from 18th Feb to 11th Mar 1955
That wasn’t a cry of anguish you just heard; more an exhalation of boredom. Or an extended pause while I tried to think of something to stop this from being my shortest post yet.
But maybe it should be a short post. Ruby Murray, claiming the twenty-ninth UK #1 with a perfectly forgettable song. It’s basically an amalgamation of what’s gone before: the string intro to ‘Secret Love’, Mantovani’s violins, Eddie Fisher’s ethereal backing singers, plus a sprinkle of Kitty Kallen and a half-teaspoonful of Kay Starr… Almost as if someone was using an algorithm specifically designed to write a mid-1950s chart hit. However they did it; it worked – ‘Softly Softly’ logged a very respectable three weeks at the top.
Softly, softly, Miss Murray purrs, come to me, touch my lips, so tenderly… The lyrics are all about kissing and caressing, about her lover taking his time to open up her heart. But it’s not a sexy song at all. It’s a bit nursery ryhme-ish, and a bit dull after ‘Mambo Italiano’.
Murray has a nice enough voice and, notably, this is the second example, after Dickie Valentine, of a British singer trying to sound like an American. She breathes and tickles the lines in a way that Vera Lynn most certainly would not have approved of. Actually, Ruby Murray was from Belfast and, by my reckoning, this makes her the first in a very long line of Irish crooners to have topped the UK Singles Chart.
Ruby Murray is also (and this is the only thing that I knew about her prior to writing this post) cockney rhyming slang for curry. As in: It’s Friday night, we’re off dahn the Taj Mahal for a cheeky little Ruby Murray, innit. She is therefore the second chart topping artist so far, after Mantovani, to have remained enshrined in the public consciousness less for her music and more for the way her surname sounds. But her music was very popular. Though this was her sole #1, she recorded eight further Top 10 hits between 1954-59. Only two of her releases failed to make the Top 10, actually. I guess it’s a bit of a shame that she’s now remembered solely for having a name that rhymes with curry.
I’m pretty sure I could go out on a limb and declare that I’m the only person in the world who has listened to a Ruby Murray song today. ‘Softly Softly’ is by far her most listened to song on Spotify, at 104,676 plays. A quick bit of maths, dividing that number by the 70 million total users on Spotify, gives you 0.00014 plays of ‘Softly Softly’ per user. And that’s after I’ve played it five times in the past half hour.
Still – it is pretty amazing that every single one of these prehistoric chart toppers is available nowadays at the click of a button. Had I tried to do this blog a decade or so earlier I would have had to rely on wading through weird re-recordings on YouTube, or to opening my laptop up to all sorts of viruses on Pirate Bay. Had I attempted this twenty or thirty years ago (before blogging existed, I know, but bear with me) I’d have had to spend a fortune in ‘Sounds of the 50s’ compilations. These are enlightened times in which we live. And there, that wasn’t such a short post after all.