Today’s post is a tribute to June Foray, and her extraordinary eight decade career in radio, television and film. Ms. Foray passed away this week at the age of ninety-nine. She is best known around our house as the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel and his villainous adversary Natasha Fatale on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, but its worth noting that she won an Emmy five years ago for a character on The Garfield Show. She is the oldest person to be given one of the awards. In today’s New York Times obituary, Ms. Foray is quoted comparing voice acting for animation to performing in radio drama, where she began her work at the age of twelve. She was truly a connection to the roots of animated film.
Coincidentally, yesterday we were listening to this 1957 Folkways collection of ‘modern’ composition, which has a song reminiscent of early animation music.
The album opens with the song you hear today. The composer and performer were unknown, and presumably remain unknown today as neither is listed on the Smithsonian Folkways website (here), but the recording dates from mid-20s Germany. Its amusing style draws from American jazz and European burlesque, and the album’s liner notes comment that it continues to delight fans of cartoons today.
Before you titter at its title, “Bahnfahrt” translates to “train ride,” and the song cheerfully captures the sounds and rhythms, as well as the excitement of such an experience. This Folkways album points out the unknown German composer was working in this style long before Spike Jones. “Bahnfahrt” also predates the music of Raymond Scott, such as the imitable “Powerhouse” often heard in the classic Warner Brothers cartoons of Chuck Jones and others, for which Ms. Foray often provided voices.