Said to be one of Michael Jackson‘s favorite songs, and sung lovingly at his memorial a year ago almost exactly by his brother Jermaine, this week’s Mashup Monday goes all the way back to 1936 to famed silent film comedian Charlie Chaplin‘s bittersweet “Smile” as sung sweetly with a jazzy twist by hip-hop/R&B/pop mashup-unto-herself Janelle Monae.
Composed as a theme for a key moment in Chaplin’s classic Great Depression-era movie “Modern Times,” the last of the great silents and a commentary on the pitfalls of fully industrial 20th century life, “Smile” is one of those few songs that became a standard, recorded by everyone from the big-band era well into the age of hip-hop.
“Emotionally, I’ve been connected to this song for quite sometime,” says Bad Boy artist Monae of why she chose to cover this song written nearly a half century before she was born. “It’s one of those classic standards, it’s been sung by a lot of the greats, Stevie Wonder to Nat King Cole to Judy Garland to Frank Sinatra.”
It was Wonder’s version, recorded in 1962, that was her introduction to the song; it made her cry the first time she heard it.
Michael Jackson, of course, also covered the song on his 1995 album “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.” And the song was so important to the King of Pop that it was sung at his memorial.