Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz

Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz

Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz

Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz

Synopsis

Fred Astaire: one of the great jazz artists of the twentieth century? Astaire is best known for his brilliant dancing in the movie musicals of the 1930s, but in Music Makes Me, Todd Decker argues that Astaire's work as a dancer and choreographer --particularly in the realm of tap dancing--made a significant contribution to the art of jazz. Decker examines the full range of Astaire's work in filmed and recorded media, from a 1926 recording with George Gershwin to his 1970 blues stylings on television, and analyzes Astaire's creative relationships with the greats, including George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and Johnny Mercer. He also highlights Astaire's collaborations with African American musicians and his work with lesser known professionals--arrangers, musicians, dance directors, and performers.

Excerpt

Fred Astaire filmed his first dance solo in a Hollywood musical to the sound of a live jazz jam session. The occasion, a momentous one in hindsight, was by Hollywood standards a genuine jazz encounter. The date was 7 September 1933; the film, Flying Down to Rio; the song, “Music Makes Me (Do the Things I Never Should Do).” The musical and choreographic content of this routine, when put beside archival evidence for how the number was made, provide a foretaste of Astaire’s remarkable four-decade career dancing on screen. “Music Makes Me”—the finished film dance and the process behind its creation—also encapsulates the larger themes of this book, which details how music of a particular kind—for now, call it jazz—lay at the heart of Astaire’s creative life as both dancer and dancemaker on film. Astaire’s first film solo offers a prism for his creative life, a life as much about music as it was about dancing and filmmaking.

Astaire danced two “hot” instrumental choruses of this Vincent Youmans tune. Edward Eliscu and Gus Kahn’s lyrics had been sung in an earlier scene by Ginger Rogers. The chorus describes how popular music might affect a susceptible listener.

I like music old and new,
But music makes me do the things I never should do.
Oh, I like music sweet and blue,
But music makes me do the things I never should do.

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