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Fred and Ginger


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#31 dirac

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 02:08 PM

Fred Astaire was a wonderful singer -- a sensitive stylist who was absolutely the greatest interpreter of Irving Berlin ever. I would not have described Bing Crosby as a "powerhouse" singer, but he was terrific too.


As Croce points out in the article, Astaire was highly regarded as a singer, and had more songs written expressly for him than any other musical comedy star save Merman. There were a few dissenters, notably the Gershwins.

#32 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 09:09 PM

As Croce points out in the article, Astaire was highly regarded as a singer, and had more songs written expressly for him than any other musical comedy star save Merman.

Maybe somebody here with more knowledge of this subject can set me straight, but I've sometimes wondered if Astaire isn't possibly the all-time champ in terms of the number of songs he introduced that went on to become standards. What other singers first brought us so many great songs? (I don't mean that rhetorically, but as a real question.)

#33 sidwich

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 03:25 PM

Maybe somebody here with more knowledge of this subject can set me straight, but I've sometimes wondered if Astaire isn't possibly the all-time champ in terms of the number of songs he introduced that went on to become standards. What other singers first brought us so many great songs? (I don't mean that rhetorically, but as a real question.)


I can't remember where I'd heard it, but I have heard the stat that Astaire introduced more #1 hit standards than anyone. Which if you think about it makes sense, considering his career as a leading star extended from 1925 to 1958. Besides his impeccable interpretation of songs, he also just outlasted everyone else.

Speaking of, I had never heard that quote by the Gershwin before. The Gershwins wrote so much for both Astaire and his sister (Lady Be Good! really launched all of their careers in many ways) and Astaire as a solo artist... it's very surprising.

#34 dirac

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 03:43 PM

The Gershwins had a troubled time on "Shall We Dance" and George remarked that the amount of singing one could take from Astaire and Rogers was limited. Could be he was just having a bad day, but he also had a point. Astaire's singing was musical but it was also odd and limited, and he became a star as a dancer, not because he was such a great singer (and because his long career took place in the era during which musical comedy songs were still an important part of the hit parade, as you note, sidwich).

#35 Anthony_NYC

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 07:17 AM

(Sorry everybody! I realize now that the article by Croce, which I wasn't able to get to at the time dirac posted the link and so only just now read, actually addressed the very subject of the songs introduced by Astaire.)

While it's true that his dancing was what made Astaire a star, I think Gershwin must have recognized him as possibly the ideal vessel for his songs. Astaire could sing presentably (certainly better than Rogers) and moreover was one of those rare performers who could deliver a song straight up and as naturally as if he were speaking--a definitive statement, as it were; but then he could elaborate on that, highlight the jazzy sophistication of the music alone, by dancing it and turning it into everybody's fantasy of glamour and wit and romance. Given that kind of treatment, is it any wonder that so many of the songs Astaire introduced did go on to become standards? And could be that given the unadorned way Astaire sang the songs, it left the door open for more cultivated singers to re-record them in their own unique style.

#36 dirac

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Posted 22 March 2012 - 10:09 AM

No one is denying Astaire's musicality, taste, and skill in presenting a song. Berlin said he would rather have Astaire introduce his songs than any other performer. Certainly, as Croce observes in the article, the Gershwins worked very closely with the Astaires in the theater. But it doesn't look as if Gershwin felt quite the same way as Berlin did, or didn't feel that way all the time.

#37 sidwich

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 08:58 PM

Most of Gershwin's Hollywood output was written for Astaire, including a lot of his best-loved songs ("Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "A Foggy Day," "They Can't Take That Away from Me," etc.), but it's pretty well-known that George Gershwin did not like living in Los Angeles (unlike Ira who lived in Beverly Hills for most of the rest of his life). By 1937 when most of those songs were written, Gershwin was already starting to suffer the symptoms of the brain tumor that would claim his life. Perhaps that had something to do with it.

#38 dirac

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 08:59 AM

I guess I don't really see any contradiction, sidwich. I can understand how Gershwin could work with Astaire and write great songs for him and still not be totally satisfied with his singing voice. Not sure that George's health problems necessarily enter into it, although they could have affected the Gershwins' experience with "Shall We Dance" generally.


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