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‘Stranger on the Shore’ a clarinet classic [UPDATED]

Published 8:16am Monday, April 16, 2012 Updated 10:17am Monday, April 16, 2012

The clarinet musical record, “Stranger on the Shore,” gave me goosebumps 50 years ago, as a kid. A half century later, it’s still one of my favorites.

There’s no singing, but only the outstanding playing of the clarinet. This classic was written by Acker Bilk, clarinetist in Great Britain, for his young daughter and originally named “Jenny” in 1962.

Bernard Stanley “Acker” Bilk, born in 1929, was approached by a British television serial series for permission to use that melody. The title was changed to “Stranger on the Shore.”

Bilk went on to record this musical piece as the title track of a new album. The sound of his clarinet was backed by the Leon Young String Chorale. Together, the musical sounds are fabulous.

The single record was not only a big hit in the United Kingdom, where it stayed on the charts for 55 weeks, but later became a hit in the United States.

“Stranger on the Shore” shot to the top of the American charts at a time when the American pop charts and radio playlists were open to any style of music.

The track, performed by Bilk and as noted on his website, had the backing by the Leon Young String Chorale.

The record was released as a single on Columbia Records in October 1961, with the label of the single openly proclaiming, “Theme from the BBC TV Series.” The B-side was “Take My Lips.”

The hit tune became a phenomenal success.

It was the United Kingdom’s biggest-selling single of 1962 and the biggest-selling instrumental single of all time.

On May 26, 1962, “Stranger on the Shore” became the first British recording to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 where it was issued by Atlantic Records on the Atco label.

The Beatles, with their first Capitol Records single “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” also came onto the music scene in the early 1960s.

Even with the Fab Four receiving rave reviews in the United States, “Stranger on the Shore” was Billboard’s Number 1 single of 1962.

The clarinet classic spent seven weeks atop the “Easy Listening” chart, which later became known as the “Adult Contemporary” chart.

The tune became the second of three one-hit wonders, named pop single of the year by Billboard. The others were “Volare,” written by Domenico Modugno and recorded in 1958, and “Bad Day,” in 2006, performed by singer-songwriter Daniel Powter.

In May 1969, the crew of Apollo 10 took “Stranger on the Shore” on their mission to the moon. Gene Cernan, a member of the crew, included the tune on a cassette tape used in the command module of the Apollo spacecraft.

The composition has been covered by many other artists, most prominently a vocal version by Andy Williams, a group vocal version by The Drifters and a soprano sax smooth jazz adaptation by Kenny G.

“Stranger on the Shore” was also featured in the soundtrack to the movie, “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” as well as in the 1988 film, “Red Heat,” the 1998 romantic comedy “There’s Something About Mary” and the 2001 movie, “The Majestic.”

This classic tune is used as the theme tune to BBC Radio 4 sketch show, “That Mitchell and Webb Sound.”

It was also played by Karl Pilkington, a British radio producer, on his phone while riding a camel across the desert and on his MP3 player.

If you want to hear this classic music on the Internet, do a search of “Stranger on the Shore” video. You won’t be disappointed.

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