Monday, December 11, 2006

This is driving me crazy..

OK, quick. Have a seat and let me tell you about this. Cause it's driving me crazy and I can't keep it to myself anymore.

Heard this song today. Well, not for the first time, because I've known about the song for some time. But it came on the random shuffle this morning and I've never been able to figure out what the song is totally about and it's DRIVING ME NUTS!

The singer is Johnny Mathis and the song is called "Yellow Roses On Her Gown." Some of you may have heard of Mathis (if you haven't, he was a pop singer who scored his biggest hits from the late 1950s to the late 1970s). I know plenty of Mathis fans, but I've never met another soul who has ever even heard of this song.

I found it in a collection of Mathis CD's I bought eight or nine years ago. I gather the track was never a big hit. It may never have even been released as a single.

But it's a hauntingly beautiful song about a guy who watches as his parents' marriage collapses. That much I know. What I can't figure out is why and what exactly happens to the mother.

The song is a strangely crafted piece of music. There's no chorus, no bridge, no "payoff" at the end. It is, however, a haunting lyric combined with a beautiful piece of music.

I've only come across three references to the song online in 10 years of looking (not counting CD sales of the Mathis album it's on.) One was a review by a Mathis fan who heard him sing it in concert nearly a decade ago. The other is in a review of a new show by a guy named Marcus Simeone, who performs a few Mathis tunes in his New York nightclub act. I've e-mailed Simeone to see if he knows anything about the song.

The final reference is an fan review from a guy who correctly says this song is the apex of the Mathis discography. But even he makes no comment on the song, other than it's a fine piece of music.

In the liner notes to the album, Mathis says he likes the song because of its word pictures about northern California and its sentiment about the mother, which he says expresses a lot of his feelings about his own mother. He says he's never met the writer of the song, who is only listed as "M. Moore."

This is one of those quixotic journeys that only obsessed music lovers will understand, I guess, but it's making me crazy. If anybody has ever heard the song "Yellow Roses On Her Gown" by John Mathis, or otherwise has any idea about the lyrics of this song, drop me a note at

I'm also going to get a couple of friends whose musical expertise I admire to listen to the song to see if they can make heads or tails of what's going on.

Here's to tilting windmills...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Came upon your comment because I was trying to find the real name of my favorite Mathis song (which I call the "Yellow Gown" song when I ask people who say they love Mathis if they remember it. As you say, no one has any recall of such a song). Yellow Roses on Her Gown. It is absolutely haunting.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first heard this song performed by Johnny Mathis on the Carol Burnett show. It immediately resonated with me and has ever since.

I have never read any comments by Mr. Mathis about this song, but my personal take has always been that the mother died, perhaps very prematurely.

Regardless, I agree that it's one of the most haunting songs I've ever heard. The combination of the song, the arrangement and of course, the plaintive sound of Mathis' voice, create a sound picture unlike most anything.

I believe it was only issued once or twice, and only on albums; never as a single.

3:06 AM  

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