As we left for a long drive the other day, I grabbed a Johnny Mathis CD  to play along the way. Among the songs was “All in the Game,” a favorite of mine and a song with a unique history: It’s the only song with a melody written by a man who both served as vice president of the United States and won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The composer was Charles G. Dawes, who served as vice president in the Calvin Coolidge administration — from 1925 to 1929. Dawes is forgotten today, but he was a prominent man in his time. His great-great grandfather was William “Billy” Dawes, who rode with Paul Revere, but somehow escaped Longfellow’s notice. The latter Dawes was a lawyer, banker, politician, and humanitarian. He was an army officer during World War I, and then President Warren G. Harding appointed him the first director of the Bureau of the Budget. In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge appointed him to the Allied Reparations Commission, and Dawes shared in the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on a plan to stabilize the economy of Germany, which had been devastated by the war and its aftermath.

CALVIN COOLIDGE and CHARLES G. DAWES

Dawes was about the fourth choice to run for vice president with Coolidge, who was elected to a full term of his own after finishing the term of Warren Harding, who had died in office. Dawes was clumsy in the position and alienated Coolidge from the first day of the administration. President Herbert Hoover appointed Dawes ambassador to Great Britain, and Dawes served effectively in that post for three years.

In 1911, Dawes, who played the piano and the flute, wrote a composition called “Melody in A Major.” The sheet music was published without Dawes’ knowledge, and it became an popular violin piece; in fact, the great violinist Fritz Kreisler used it to close his recitals.

In 1951, after Dawes had died, songwriter Carl Sigman modified the melody somewhat and wrote the lyrics that made the song a standard in American popular music: “Many a teardrop will fall , but it’s all in the game. …”

CARL SIGMAN

Sigman, who was a member of the New York Bar and a hero in World War II, compiled quite a track record for writing memorable lyrics. His songs include “Arrivederci, Roma,” “Ebb Tide,” “Shangri-la,” “What Now, My Love,” and the theme from the film Love Story. 

“All in the Game” has been recorded by Dinah Shore, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Andy Williams, Robert Goulet, Johnny Ray, Jackie DeShannon, Cass Elliot, Van Morrison, Neil Sedaka, Merle Haggard, Barry Manilow, and many others.

Tommy Edwards had a major hit with it in 1958, and that recording is ranked No. 38 on Billboard’s Top-100 list. You can hear Tommy Edwards’ recording at THIS LINK.

MACKENZIE PHILLIPS

MACKENZIE PHILLIPS

About 28 or 29 years ago, I went up to what was then Fair Oaks Hospital to visit Mackenzie Phillips when she and her father, John Phillips, and his wife, Genevieve Waite, had completed a chemical therapy program to wean them off of illegal drugs. She looked healthy; she was upbeat. She was frank about the fact that she had grown up in an environment riddled with narcotics, and she talked in some detail about the condition her dad was in before the two of them checked in at Fair Oaks. I asked her if she knew why someone like her, who knew intellectually and had seen in the the flesh the consequences of drug abuse would take a chance on addiction herself. She said she didn’t know, and I believe her; plenty of people who didn’t spend their time with John Phillips, and who knew where drugs could lead them, are unable to answer the same question.

JOHN PHILLIPS

JOHN PHILLIPS

About 20 years ago, we bumped into Mackenzie at the Fairmount Hotel in San Francisco. The intervening years had included relapse and recovery, and she was at the hotel appearing with “The Mamas and the Papas” which her dad had reconstituted with Mackenzie and Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane singing the parts originally assigned to Michelle Phillips and Mama Cass Elliot. Again, Mackenzie looked terrific and had a positive outlook that wasn’t dimmed any by the new baby she was doting over at the time. We went to see the act and thought it was sufficiently evocative of the original to have a future.

Since then, I have talked to Mackenzie on the telephone a couple of times. Always I seemed to find her with her star a-rising and always I have hoped, for her, that it would last.

I have made a point of hearing as little as possible about the news Mackenzie is making this week. I’m a sap. I choose to hope, and pray, that this episode is something she needs to kick the demons away for good.