US smash-hit musical western Calamity Jane was first released in November 1953. Loosely based on the life of the title character and her alleged romance with notorious folk hero “Wild Bill” Hickok, it starred Doris Day and Howard Keel in the central roles. Doris Day was one of the most well-known singers and actresses of the era. Originally she wanted to be a dancer, but an accident forced her out of action and she discovered a talent for singing. The sugary timbre of her voice and film-star looks soon captivated radio, film and television audiences, right from her first hit, Sentimental Journey, back in 1945.
On 16 April, 1954, UK singles buyers saw sense and decided that a song from the film, Secret Love, was more deserving of the number one spot than the execrable I See the Moon by the Stargazers. The ballad was written by composer Sammy Fain, with Paul Francis Webster providing the lyrics. With lyrics describing the joy of finally being able to tell the world of a love kept under wraps, Day was visibly moved when Fain visited her to play it for the first time. The day of the recording, she warmed-up her voice, cycled to the studio and announced to musical director Ray Heindorf that she would only perform one take of her vocal. Despite understandable misgivings, Heindorf was ecstatic after the take, agreeing that she could never outdo herself.
It would seem this song had special meaning for Day, she clearly loved it and it shows in that one-take performance. A cut above other songs of this ilk, her authentic vocal turns from typically sweet to barely-contained delight at times. The stirring strings replicate the chorus and add to its hit factor. Secret Love gave Day her fourth US number one, and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song on 25 March. However she caused controversy by refusing to perform it at the ceremony. The subsequent bad press saw Day housebound with depression for some time afterwards. Nonetheless, a few weeks later it became her first UK number 1.
In a clear display of how mad our record-buying public can often be, I See the Moon returned to the top after only a week. Not for long though, and on 8 May, Secret Love toppled Johnnie Ray’s Such a Night, beginning eight weeks as best-selling single. Day soon came out of the doldrums and continued to entertain for decades to come. In fact, she’s one of the few stars from this era still with us.
Written by: Sammy Fain (music) & Paul Francis Webster (lyrics)
Weeks at number 1: 9 (16-22 April, 8 May-1 July) *BEST-SELLING SINGLE OF THE YEAR*
Footballer Trevor Francis – 19 April
Entertainer Gary Wilmot – 8 May
Mathematician Alan Turing – 7 June