We know that instrumentals were very popular in the Fifties and extended into the Sixties as well. Today, we seldom see an instrumental on the charts. This song by the famous orchestra leader, Nelson Riddle, was written by three Portuguese songwriters back in 1937. The original name was “Lisboa Antigua,” which in Portuguese, means “In Old Lisbon.” The song does have lyrics, but they are in Portuguese, which might explain why this is an instrumental. To be fair, the lyrics have been translated into English and used in other versions of the song.
I was surprised to learn that the piano heard in the song is being played by Nelson Riddle himself. Riddle had been around for years as of 1956. He started in the Big Band Era of the Forties, playing with the Charlie Spivak and Bob Crosby bands. In the late Forties, he became an arranger for Nat “King” Cole and provided many songs for him, including “Mona Lisa” and “Too Young,” both huge hits for Cole.
Nelson Riddle went on to arrange for Frank Sinatra and Linda Ronstadt. He scored films and television shows. He did all the music for the television show, Route 66 and for the film The Great Gatsby among others.
“Lisbon Antigua” hit number one in February of 1956 and remained there for four weeks, cementing Nelson Riddle’s place in music history.
Next: “The Poor People of Paris” – Les Baxter