I’ve been listening to two diametrically opposed songs about being “old fashioned,” so I have thought I would share these two songs and ask people which one they most identify with? You can even say both or none!
“I’m Old Fashioned” was composed by Jerome Kern, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer for the movie You Were Never Lovelier, starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. Rita Hayworth’s character sings the song, but her voice was dubbed by Nan Wynn. The song is then followed by a lovely, romantic dance between Astaire and Hayworth. Simply gorgeous.
I absolutely cannot resist this next song. “Just an Old Fashioned Girl” was written by Marve A. Fisher and is most associated with Eartha Kitt. Younger generations might know her for providing the voice of Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove, She also played Catwoman in the TV series Batman in 1967. This song is utterly, wickedly delightful.
So, which kind of an “old fashioned” person are you? I confess that I probably am more old fashioned in the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer fashion, but secretly wish to be old fashioned like Eartha Kitt.
“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.
I like to sing to my cat. I’m not sure she appreciates it; she usually just stares at me with her big eyes. But I keep singing, because I can’t help it. I have this urge to sing to someone and only my cat is relatively receptive to this. The sad truth is that, unlike in movies, people are not willing to sit still while you serenade them for a few minutes…even if you do sound like Dorothy Lamour, Doris Day or Ella Fitzerald (which I do not, alas).
But still, I defiantly sing on!
The latest song I have had in my head is “You Couldn’t be Cuter.” The music was written by Jerome Kern (of Show Boatfame) and the lyrics by Dorothy Fields (who wrote the lyrics for Kern’s songs in Swing Time). It was written for Irene Dunne to sing in the comedy The Joy OfLiving. She plays a Broadway singer who evidently doesn’t know how to enjoy life until Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. come along. Has anyone seen it? I never have, but I usually enjoy Irene Dunne, so I am curious to check it out sometime.
Irene Dunne seems to have appeared in a number of Jerome Kern musicals: Roberta (with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), High, Wide and Handsome, Show Boat, Sweet Adeline. Since Jerome Kern represents a transitional figure between European Operetta and American popular music, perhaps it isn’t surprising that her voice turned out to be well suited for his music. He wrote some of the loveliest melodies of all the great American composers. Can you imagine Irene Dunne singing George Gershwin? Not as well…though I’m sure she must have at some point or other.
Anyway, Irene Dunne was not generally a recording artist and so when “You Couldn’t Be Cuter” was first heard on radio, it was performed by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra and it became a hit.
And where would we be without Ella Fitzgerald. She sang this song as part of her Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Songbook.
I am not sure who the vocalist is, but this version is done by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra.