Tuesday, May 10, 2011

's wonderful: happy birthday fred astaire

I am uncertain about the man, but I feel, in spite of his enormous ears and bad chin line, that his charm is so tremendous that it comes through even on this wretched test.
David O. Selznick on signing Fred Astaire to RKO in 1932

As much as I love watching Fred Astaire dance - and how could you not?  Listening to him sing is one of my great joys.  No perfect smooth crooning here, he was actually very humble about his self-perceived lack of singing talent.  But the great composers of the American songbook felt differently.  Irving Berlin ranked him with Sinatra and Crosby not necessarily for his voice but for his unique interpretation of the songs.  Jerome Kern considered Astaire the supreme interpreter of his songs - and once you've heard Astaire's version of "The Way You Look Tonight" it's hard to disagree.  His singing introduced a conversational phrasing and spontaneity that made every lyric seem like a fresh thought.  And it could probably be argued that his style was a greater influence on subsequent generations of pop music than his crooning companions.  In any case, he was just an awfully swell fellow...

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