Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz

By Todd Decker | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Jazz records had a meaningful place in Astaire’s musical life. More than just a means to play drums with a big band at home or a shortcut to collaboration with his television guest stars, jazz records could goad Astaire on as a dance creator, as shown by his oft-told story of why he came out of retirement in 1948. Astaire announced his retirement in 1946, symbolically ending his career with a solo dance to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in Blue Skies. But after a year spent traveling, watching his racehorse Triplicate rack up wins, and launching the Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Astaire was ready to return to creative life making dance routines on film. At that time and later, he repeated the same music-centered story to explain why he was heading back to work. At the center of this tale was a jazz record that posed rhythmic challenges Astaire found irresistible. Columnist Hedda Hopper quoted Astaire in 1948, around the time Easter Parade was released: “One morning while loafing about the house I played one of Lionel Hampton’s records, ‘Jack the Bell Boy [sic].’ The music began to send me. I jumped to my feet and started dancing. So when Gene Kelly broke his ankle and I was asked to take over Easter Parade I didn’t hesitate. You might say I went back to work to get a rest.”1 In his 1959 autobiography Astaire repeated the story, again using the verb to send: “Home in Beverly Hills a few months later, I was playing a record of Lionel Hampton’s ‘Jack the Bell Boy [sic]’ one day and it ‘sent’ me right through the ceiling. I thought to myself, ‘I might as well be doing this someplace where it counts.’ The urge and

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Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part One - Astaire among Others 19
  • Chapter 1 - "There’s a Difference and Astaire Is It" 21
  • Chapter 2 - "I Am a Creator" 53
  • Part Two - Astaire at the Studios 97
  • Chapter 3 - "I Play with the Very Best Bands" 99
  • Chapter 4 - "Tell Them to Let It Swing" 115
  • Chapter 5 - "Fixing Up" Tunes 128
  • Part Three - Astaire in Jazz and Popular Music 167
  • Chapter 6 - "Keep Time with the Time and with the Times" 169
  • Chapter 7 - "Jazz Means the Blues" 217
  • Chapter 8 - "Something That’Ll Send Me" 246
  • Chapter 9 - "You Play and I’Ll Dance" 271
  • Conclusion 311
  • Notes 327
  • References 347
  • Acknowledgments 357
  • Permissions 361
  • Index 363
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