Today’s featured song on the GMC Special Feature known as Fantastic Foursome is another with a strong connection to Fred Astaire. For a guy who always comes to mind first and foremost as a dancer, he had quite an impact in many other ways during his long career. In this case, he not only introduced the song in a memorable movie but also had a #1 hit record with it.
Irving Berlin wrote “Cheek to Cheek” for 1935’s Top Hat, one of Fred and Ginger’s best-known films. The song was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost the Oscar to “Lullaby of Broadway.” However, Astaire’s record of “Cheek To Cheek” climbed to the top of the music charts and stayed at the #1 spot for five weeks, and — in spite of missing out on the Oscar — would eventually land at the #15 spot on the AFI list of most memorable movie songs. And just for good measure, it would also eventually be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Of course, as the years passed the song was recorded by just about everybody, and some of the best are below. You can listen to each and then — if you like — vote for your favorite in the poll below the video.
Billie Holiday – Eydie & Steve – Frank Sinatra – Vic Damone
I have a little problem with this edition of Fantastic Foursome. I usually try to include a video of the definitive version of a song, then offer four different renditions that you can listen to and vote on. The only problem with today’s song — “I Concentrate On You” — is that I’m not sure that there is such a thing as a definitive version. But this isn’t the first time that has happened, so let’s see what we can do about it.
It’s a Cole Porter song that was introduced in the musical film Broadway Melody of 1940, but even though that movie starred Fred Astaire he only danced to the song. The singing was handled by the ill-fated baritone Douglas McPhail (the subject of a future post) but I haven’t been able to find a recording of it, so I decided to go in a whole different direction. The video below is a more modern recording of the song, and it should please the many fans of Johnny Mathis.
In the years since its introduction the song has been recorded by lots of performers, many of them more than once. In some cases the singer went in a completely different direction in later recordings, like Frank Sinatra did with his 1967 version, working with Antonio Carlos Jobim for a Brazilian sound. Other good records include those by ladies like Ella Fitzgerald and Rosie Clooney, instrumentals by Stan Kenton and Oscar Peterson, and smooth traditional crooners like these.
Perry Como — Johnny Hartman — Frank Sinatra — Mel Torme
Along the lines of our recent Christmas post, I’m combining the New Year’s post with another one of our Special Features, in this case Fantastic Foursome. You might remember that it’s the one that offers up four different versions of the same song and then allows you to vote for your favorite.
This isn’t the first time that “Auld Lang Syne” has shown up on the GMC so I won’t go into a lot of detail about it, but if you want to know more about the history of the song you can always go back and look at this earlier piece.
On the other hand, this is certainly the first time we’ve posted four different versions of the song for you to hear. They range from the traditional to the modern and from slow to fast and jazzy. You can vote for your favorite below the video, which is a little bit of added nostalgia.
Duke Ellington – Guy Lombardo – The Platters – Rod Stewart
It’s been several months since our last Fantastic Foursome, so I’ll remind everyone that it’s the Special Feature that presents a classic song in its definitive version and then gives you four different variations. You can listen to them and – if you’d like – vote for your favorite.
We seem to be featuring music from World War II quite a bit lately and we’re doing more of the same today, with a song written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon (based on a poem by a young war bride). “You’ll Never Know” actually made its debut in the 1943 movie Hello, Frisco, Hello, where it was performed by Alice Faye. It won the Oscar for best song and she sang it again the following year in Four Jills in a Jeep, but even though it was considered by some to be her signature song, she didn’t make a record of it at the time.
That left an opening for crooners Dick Haymes and Frank Sinatra to cut records, although both had to do so with only a chorus behind them because musicians were on strike at the time. As an interesting side note, Sinatra’s chorus — the Bobby Tucker Singers — was sort of anonymous at the time, but Haymes was backed by the Song Spinners and the group made it on the label with him. Of course, “Coming In on a Wing and a Prayer” had hit #1 for the combo just before that, so that might have had something to do with it.
In any case, both versions did well but Haymes ended up with a #1 record so let’s say his is the gold standard. Other notable versions have included those by the Harry James band with a vocal by Rosemary Clooney, along with British songstress Vera Lynn, Doris Day, and even – much later – Alice Faye. In later years the song has been covered by everybody from a 13-year-old Barbra Streisand to Rod Stewart.
Here’s a video of “You’ll Never Know” by Dick Haymes, which I’ve nominated as the definitive version. Below that are four variations for you to enjoy, and you can then vote for your favorite.
Rosemary Clooney (w/ H. James) – Vera Lynn – Frank Sinatra – Rod Stewart
We’re way overdue for a new edition of Fantastic Foursome, the special feature that presents four different takes on a song (plus a video of the definitive version) and lets you decide which you like best. Of course, voting in the poll is completely voluntary but it’s quick, easy, and anonymous.
Most of us will remember “Friendly Persuasion” as performed by Pat Boone, and you might also recall that he sang it on the soundtrack of the 1956 film of the same name. The movie featured a peace-loving Quaker family coping with the Civil War, and the title was a play on the other name used by Quakers, the Society of Friends.
The song itself was composed by movie music maestro Dimitri Tiomkin with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, and it became one of Tiomkin’s many Oscar-nominated pieces. (Although not one of his three winners — it was beaten out for the award by Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera” from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.)
Pat Boone’s version was by far the most popular record of the song, but other notable renditions included those by the Four Aces, the Lettermen, Ray Coniff, Johnny Mathis, Matt Monro, and Aretha Franklin. Even jazz pianist George Shearing got into the act, recording one of a number of instrumental versions.
Below are four you can try:
Four Aces — Frank Chacksfield Orch — George Shearing — Johnny Mathis
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