by Charlene Simpson
English Lyrics by Johnny Mercer and Music by Joseph Kosma
The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
Roger Williams died Oct. 8, 2011 at 87. In 1955 he recorded “Autumn Leaves,” the only piano instrumental to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s popular music chart. It sold more than two million copies and remains the all-time best-selling piano solo record. 1955 was the year I graduated from Oregon State College. The melody is forever etched in my memory.
Listen to Roger Williams’ rendition of “Autumn Leaves” on You Tube. It was performed in 2010 at a celebration of his 86th birthday. It is breathtaking!
The days are getting shorter and the nights are colder. As I write this the autumn leaves that inspired the composer and lyricist are at peak color at Island Lakes. Soon wind and rain will drop the leaves on to our lawns, borders, and driveways. With the change in seasons we’ll begin the annual fall leaf pick up.
Did you ever wonder how and why a fall leaf changes color? In summer leaves are green with chlorophyll. They photosensitize to make food necessary for growth, making pollen and setting seed. In autumn, shorter days, colder and longer nights signal the tree to form a seal at the base of the leaf petiole. Food processing shuts down. The green chlorophyll breaks up giving way to yellow and orange pigments already present. In some trees, like maples, sugars are trapped in leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and cool nights cause the sugars to turn into a red color.