“I’m Old Fashioned” – Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercery

02 Aug
Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth

Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth

“I’m Old Fashioned” was introduced by Rita Hayworth in You Were Never Lovelier (1942). In a manner of speaking.  It was really introduced by Nan Wynn, who dubbed for Rita Hayworth’s singing voice (she dubbed Hayworth’s voice in several films). I’ve always wondered what Rita Hayworth and Cyd Charisse really sounded like when they sang, since they were invariably dubbed. Vera-Ellen was always dubbed, but I heard her sing on the 1944 Broadway Cast Recording of Connecticut Yankee and I can see why they never let her do her own singing (listen for her, here). Her voice could possibly pass as an Ado Annie, but does not match the image created by her dancing.

Jerome Kern has always seemed to me to be one of the most hummable, lyrical and deceptively simple composers of his era. He’s rarely flashy and “I’m Old Fashioned” seems like a quintessential song from him. Gorgeous, gorgeous melody. Fred Astaire did complain during the making of Swing Time that Kern’s music rarely swung (as Duke Ellington put it, “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing”), but for me the beauty of his melodies is high compensation.

As JazzStandards notes, many songwriters loved Fred Astaire as a singer. He introduced more hits than nearly anyone else, by Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin. He didn’t have a voice like Bing Crosby, but, and I wish I could remember in which book I read this (it might have been Puttin’ On the Ritz: Fred Astaire and the Fine Art of Panache, A Biography), he sang a song exactly as the song was written and when one wishes to study the songs of these composers, there’s no better singer to turn to than Fred Astaire. An intelligent interpreter of song.

I used to be rather lukewarm about Rita Hayworth’s dancing. It’s hard to put my finger on why. I don’t feel the same feeling of flow; every move feels a bit like a discrete move rather than one continuous whole. Like it’s not coming easy and she’s very conscious of her dancing. But maybe it’s just me. And I’ve been warming to her dancing. But in any case, it is still a gorgeous, extraordinarily romantic dance. One of Fred Astaire’s most romantic.

The music in the background is provided by Xavier Cugat’s Orchestra.

And now for the lady who has introduced me to nearly all the great songs by the great composers. It would feel incomplete without her.

I’ve not traditionally been as big a fan of the saxophone as an instrument and I’ve been a bit intimidated by John Coltrane. However, I’ve been listening to his ballads recently and have become enchanted. His version of “I’m Old Fashioned” is my favorite so far.

I think what’s been challenging for me is that John Coltrane is not someone I just put on in the background. I have to really listen and hear and when I listen and hear, there is so much depth and richness in his ballads.

Cassandra Wilson is a jazz singer I have only recently become aware of, because she’s a contemporary singer and my knowledge of contemporary performers is lacking. However, I’ve been reading about jazz and trying to become acquainted with the jazz of the present era. Her version of “I’m Old Fashioned” is quite a bit more up-tempo. JazzStandards writes that “Wilson reinvents the song, taking it from melancholy ballad to frenetic love letter.” She shows that even Jerome Kern can be exhilarating.


Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Music


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6 responses to ““I’m Old Fashioned” – Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercery

  1. Vienna

    August 2, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    I love Astaire’s voice. No ifs or buts. And this is a such a great song. Thanks for all the links.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      August 2, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Thanks! I used to not care for Astaire’s voice (perhaps the lack of range), but I’ve come to find his voice so exactly perfect for singing these songs. No one seems to do them better justice…and his musical instincts are so fine…how he isn’t showing off, but really singing the song and telling the story it has to tell…I can listen to him all day now. 🙂


  2. Vienna

    August 2, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Fred had plenty of practice perfecting his singing style, all these years on stage before Hollywood.
    One would be hard pushed to think of another top dancer who was a good singer too. Maybe Ann Miller and that’s about it. So many were dubbed as you indicated – Cyd,Rita,Vera-Ellen,Eleanor Powell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      August 2, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      That’s a good point. Even Gene Kelly – though he can sing perfectly adequately – isn’t as good as Astaire. Judy Garland is kind of the opposite – a singer who could dance quite well.


  3. Andrea Lundgren

    August 3, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Rita Hayworth seems to be a self-conscious person, to begin with, whether she’s just singing or dancing. She looks stiff, to me (from the clip anyways).

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      August 3, 2016 at 10:49 am

      Self-conscious is a good word for it! Perhaps the word we’ve been looking for. She always seems at her best as an actress when she plays vulnerable or broken people, but the studio had an image of her as the “love goddess;” I always thought that must have been so hard for her. But she always said of all the movies she made, her favorites were the ones where she danced with Fred Astaire…which I can understand.



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