"Just a Little Lovin" ( Early in the Morning)

March 22, 2009

The New York Times



Finding That Song

Back in 1998, I was driving down Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles when I spotted a man lying on his back smack dab in the middle of the street; one leg was splayed onto the westbound lane of Pico, the other onto the eastbound. I got out of my car, and as I approached I saw he was bleeding from his lower left side. I rushed to him, and before I could say anything, he said to me, “How you doin’?”

“How am I doin’?” I asked the man. “How you doin’?”

“I just got shot.”

By then, other people were there, trying to help. Someone put a towel under his head. Someone called 911. I heard the sirens nearing. I’d seen my share of gunshot wounds, and I knew this wasn’t life-threatening, so I went on my way.

It was nearly noon, and since I was nearby, I decided to go to Langer’s Delicatessen, renowned for its pastrami sandwich. I was about to turn off my car when a song came on the radio that grabbed me. I recognized the lyrics: “Just a little lovin’, early in the morning.” I’d heard the famous Dusty Springfield version of the song, “Just a Little Lovin’,” written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, many times before and liked it. But this was not Dusty’s version. It was smoky and jazzy and extraordinarily uplifting.

So I sat and listened to the whole song, to relish it and find out who was singing. The D.J. came on and said it was Sarah Vaughan. Especially after seeing a man wounded in the street, I felt my spirits raised by the song. I went to Langer’s and had a No. 10, pastrami and Swiss with Russian dressing. Then afterward I called the radio station, but the person I talked to said he didn’t know what album it was on. Maybe a week later, I went to Tower Records on Sunset. It had several Sarah albums, but none of them had that song.

Years passed. I kind of forgot about it. But every now and then I would pass a record store and take a look. Never found it. More years went by. In 2006, I went online and found some Sarah Vaughan sites. Nothing. Amazon had hundreds of her recordings but not the one I was looking for. I posted a message on some online jazz board. I got a few responses from people saying they couldn’t find it, either. Some people made suggestions, but they didn’t pan out. And that was the last I thought about it.

Until a few weeks ago, when I found a small padded package in my mailbox. Inside was a CD with the recording of Sarah Vaughan singing “Just a Little Lovin’.” It was wrapped in a sheet of paper with some typed production info. The song is from the 1972 album “Feelin’ Good” (which, it turns out, became available online a couple of years ago). And there was a handwritten note from a man named Jerry in Amherst, Mass., that said, “Enjoy!”

I was flabbergasted. Immediately, I loaded it into the CD player in my bedroom. I was actually a little nervous. Would it sound as good as I remembered? It had been more than 10 years, and maybe I had built it up to legendary status when it was merely excellent. After all, discovery is usually a greater thrill than confirmation. I pushed play.

Oh, sweet Sarah. From the very opening notes of the piano and her first vocals, the song was just as I remembered it. I played it five times, slowly dancing around my room. I couldn’t wait to thank this guy Jerry, so I got his number from 411. “I’m glad you got it,” he said.

Then, five days after that, I got an e-mail message from someone going by EAllen4787: I hope this e-mail address is still operative for you. This address was taken from a [2006] post. I, too, have been searching for a copy of Sarah Vaughan’s version of “Just a Little Lovin’.” I used to hear it from an album that we played in graduate school at Purdue that was owned by a fellow student in 1974-1976.

I wrote back right away and told him the story — that I’d just gotten the recording in the mail out of the blue — and that I’d send him a copy. He wrote back: Thank you so much. Thank God for this Internet. This is the best find by far I have ever made on the Internet. So I had my girlfriend’s son, Oliver, burn me a CD, and I sent it out to EAllen4787.

It has been a little while now, and I still play the song every day, usually in the morning. I love the piano and Sarah’s voice. But now it’s more than just a song. It makes me think of the gift I got from a complete stranger, this Jerry guy, and how good it made me feel to reach out to someone else and ask for nothing in return. And it makes me think about that guy who was shot who asked me how I was doing. I hope he’s alive and well, and I wish I could send him the song.

Michael Krikorian has written for The Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly. He last wrote for the magazine about visiting his namesake at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles.