music: Fred Astaire swings his sing

Everybody reveres Fred Astaire’s dancing, but he’s an underrated singer despite his light thin voice. The way he swings and syncopates “Let the rain pit-ter pat-ter but it really doesn’t matter if the skies are gray” in “Isn’t it a Lovely Day” by Irving Berlin is sheer delight. This recording (can’t embed it) is a spectacularly good version with Johnny Green’s “tea-dance orchestra” bouncing along on the balls of its own feet.

Here is the song with dancing from the movie Top Hat, not quite as delicious:

Let’s Kiss and have the fire squad mop up the incinerated remains

I watched “Funny Girl”, an OK satire on the fashion business and left-wing philosophizing with an unconvincing romance between a bookish younger woman (Audrey Hepburn) and the world-wise older man. The Paris scenes are nice. But in the middle of it Fred takes “Let’s Kiss and Make Up” by George and Ira Berlin, turns the knobs up to 11, swings SO F***ING HARD and torches the movie set. Here are the opening lyrics:

I didn’t mean to
start any scene to,
Make you sigh
hope to die.

It’s most immoral
for us to quarrel.
Why can we both agree?

Don’t you know Ben Franklin wrote about this thing at length?
On the proposition that in union there is strength?

Why raise a storm up
if we’ll just warm up?
We’ll be much stronger
and live much longer.

You can hear the syncopation begging for someone with superb rhythm to NAIL IT TO THE F***ING WALL, and Fred does. Listen for the onomatopoeic (probably not, some other Greek term for poetic adjustment) pun where “at length” goes long is so great, then Fred jumps all over the long lines like he’s dancing up a giant-sized keyboard. And of course “much longer” runs subtly long. Then on “Let’s kiss — and make ——up, Come-on Let’s —break ——up” he’ so far behind the beat the VOLTAGE GOES INTO OVERLOAD. And of course on the couplet “No use to break up When we can work in harmony” he goes for divine musical joke #4 in 50 seconds by detuning “harmony” like a METAL GUITARIST WARPING HER WHAMMY BAR. And he dances pretty well, too. 🎤😙🕺🏻❣️

This entry was posted in music. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.