By 1967, pop and rock acts dominated the nation’s record charts, but so-called middle-of-the-road stars still broke through from time to time. Frank Sinatra would have a great year in 1967, with the #1 hit “Somethin’ Stupid,” which followed on the #1 hit “Strangers in the Night” the year before. Although Petula Clark rode in with the rockers on the British Invasion wave, her 1967 hits “Color My World” (sitars notwithstanding) and “This Is My Song” were pure MOR. The Jones boys, Tom and Jack, were reliable hitmakers in that year as well. And in 1967, Ed Ames hit the singles chart, too.
If you know Ed Ames at all, it’s probably for his famous tomahawk-throwing appearance on The Tonight Show back in 1965. He was playing Mingo on Daniel Boone at the time, and what happened that night became a classic clip that ran over and over on Johnny Carson’s anniversary shows for the next 25 years. Ames was also a singer, with the Ames Brothers in the 50s, under his own name in the 60s, and as a Broadway star.
“My Cup Runneth Over” was from the Broadway musical “I Do, I Do,” which was nominated in all the major categories of the Tony Awards for 1967. But Ames’ recording was never going to survive the 60s and make it onto your local good times/great oldies radio station. It’s too old-fashioned, in lots of ways. The title phrase is archaic, even more now that the King James Version of the Bible is out of favor and fewer people would recognize it as a bit of the 23rd Psalm. Its string flourishes mark it as something of an alien time, and Ames’ straight-up delivery, deep and resonant, seems way too square. People hear it now and think, yup, this is old and out of date and why should anybody under the age of 80 care about it today?
But don’t listen so much to how he’s singing as to what he’s singing. He’s telling his beloved: I lie beside you and watch you sleep. I watch you when you’re not looking. I make sure I remember every little moment of our lives because every one of them is important. And in those moments, I understand that I have all I need in the world, and then some. In other words, “my cup runneth over with love.”
Forty-five years ago this week, “My Cup Runneth Over” was #1 on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart, and it was also climbing the Hot 100. On March 25, 1967, amongst a top-10 that reads like the hot rotation at every oldies station in the world, alongside “Happy Together” and “Penny Lane” and “For What It’s Worth” and “Ruby Tuesday,” “My Cup Runneth Over” peaked at #8.
I happened to hear “My Cup Runneth Over” the other day, and the last verse knocked me sideways:
In only a moment we both will be old
We won’t even notice the world turning cold
And so in this moment with sunlight above
My cup runneth over with love
“In only a moment, we both will be old.” We do not easily believe this when we are young. We ignore the truth that the cold and the dark will claim each one of us, all we love and all we are. And that is why the moments with sunlight above are so important. Terribly, beautifully important.