Wonderful Tunes Provided By Friends. Wild Tangents Provided By Me.

Posts tagged ‘Childhood’

The Red Shoes and *THE* Red Shoes

“The Red Shoes” was a 1948 British film about a ballet dancer who is forced to choose between the two greatest loves of her life, ballet and suave fellow dancer Jullian Craster. It’s a fantastic film which I highly recommend.

This very nifty short film is based on the ballet “The Red Shoes” that they dance within the movie. If you like this film maker’s work she’s got 125 more fims on You Tube. Here’s a link to her home page.


Wherein I Argue That Red Shoes Get A Bad Rep

Up until puberty I had red hair. That actually made me a bit of a sensation in my all Black neighborhood because natural red heads are extremely rare. Because I was a red head, it was decided pretty early on that I should always wear red… always. Even in black and white pictures of me you can totally tell I’m wearing red. For the first few years of my life, the only articles of clothing I owned that didn’t have any red in them were my shoes.

I had clubbed feet so my shoes were hard, white, orthopedic and horrible! While the other little girls skipped around in Mary Janes and Keds and (heaven bless us) sandals, I plodded through the playground in shoes that had to be bolted on and adjusted with a key. I looked like Frankenstein’s baby!

Right around my 3rd birthday though, the evil shoes had finally done their job. My feet were turned right side down and they faced more or less forward. So at my party, among the dolls and toys and stacks of red-trimmed school clothes were a pair of fire engine red tennis shoes! Unfortunately I don’t have it scanned but there’s a picture of me sitting in a pile of torn wrapping paper holding those shoes and gazing at them with a look of almost perfect adoration. I had to wear them on the wrong feet for corrective purposes but I don’t think any little girl ever felt more beautiful than I did when I was wearing those red shoes! Like the woman in the story I wore the red shoes constantly. My mom had to pry them off me at night. So take that Mr. Hans Christian Andersen with your red shoe symbolizing vice, ruin, and obsession. I’ll take my own red shoe symbolism of freedom, beauty and, well okay obsession too… So what! Red shoes RULE!

Sammy Davis, Connie Francis, and the Childhood Traumas of the Rich and Famous

Sammy’s version of “Blame It On My Youth”  appears on the 1961 album “Wham of Sam.” Unfortunately I can’t find Sammy’s version of that song. So here he is doing another lovely but somber ballad “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me).” It looks like it might have been close to the same time period.

Oscar Levant was quite a prolific composer. A few of his tunes made the hit parade but, as Frank said, only “Blame It On My Youth” became a jazz standard. Oscar was really much better known as a radio and television humorist. He was infamous for his hilariously baudy comments which often aired uncensored on live TV. He was a deeply troubled and insecure man who used his personal struggles in his comedy act. I think his sadness is well reflected in the song as well. Here’s a Connie Francis’ version of “Blame It On My Youth.”

Though the word “Youth” in this song means age and inexperience with the ways of love, I have been thinking of the title a lot as I watch “Ken Burns’ Jazz” documentary. So far it seems that almost all of the greatest legends in jazz music had epically terrible childhoods! I begin to think perhaps genius does not equal madness so much as it equals bad childhood and the madness is just a by product for many. I haven’t studied the bios of many comedians but I’ve heard that they often suffer similar turmoil.When my daughter grows up I think I’ll know I’ve done my job well if I can say “Well at least she’s not a jazz or comic legend!”

Fred Astaire, JATP, And My Shameful Past

“Steppin’ Out: Astaire Sings” From 1945 to 1957 Norman Granz produced a series of concerts called Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP). Fred was their featured artist on one of the 1952 tours and the recordings were taken from those performances. Granz was Oscar Peterson’s manager for most of his professional career but in 1952 they were just at the beginning of their working relationship. Internet music experts agree that the Peterson/Granz collaboration gave Fred an opportunity to really stretch as a vocalist. There are no songs from this album on YouTube that I could find, but here’s a song medley from Fred’s 1958 TV special “An Evening With Fred Astaire.” Almost all the songs in this medley are on the album. I think you can still hear the influence of the JATP experience in Fred’s phrasing here. Oh and there’s an extra bonus number on this clip too!

WARNING: In this section I shall be divulging a shocking and repulsive secret that I have kept hidden for three decades. Look away now if you have weakness in your stomach or heart.

I think Fred Astaire was one of the greatest dancers who ever lived. No, that’s not the shameful part. For several years in my early adolescence though, if you had asked me, I’d have said I preferred Gene Kelly. No shame in that either. Gene was also an amazing talent. My cousin and I had an ongoing Kelly/Astaire debate and I had what I felt was the definitive “Kelly is better” argument:

1. Gene is cuter.
2. He made more color movies than Fred. (I have no idea if that’s true but it seemed right to me.)
3. “Singing In The Rain” was like, totally tubular! (It was the 80’s. We were required by law to talk like that.)

Okay, perhaps it wasn’t the most cogent argument but I did win the debate. More importantly, I won it without having to reveal the horrifying, nauseating truth behind my early 80’s Gene Kelly preference. “Xanadu” yes, the 1980 Olivia Newton John stinkburger “Xanadu.” I tuned in our one and only cable channel one day and recorded it on the Betamax. I played the tape over and over until I wore it out. I loved that movie so much that it caused me to declare that Gene Kelly was the greatest dancer of all time simply because he was in it. If you must judge me gentle reader, pray judge with mercy. After all, hath not a “Xanadu” fan eyes? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you give us satin shorts and skates do we not roller disco?

Mel Torme and Me

Last time I chose a fairly recent clip of “The Christmas Song.” This time I thought I’d post some vintage Mel. Here’s “When Sunny Gets Blue” because it’s one of my mom’s favorite songs.

Child prodigy Mel Torme began performing at age 4. He began composing at age 13 and had written his first hit record at 16. I gave my first performance at 4 too. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and recieved rave reviews from both my grandma AND my mommy!

Young Sammy Davis

I have been watching some amazing tap dance clips on YouTube because I love tap. There’s a great Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell dance number that makes my upper lip sweat with awesome but I couldn’t find it to post. There were so many great moments out there that I was hard pressed to find one replacement. This early Sammy Davis Jr number finally won on strength of cuteness. I’d give my eye teeth to know where it’s from.

I wanted tap dancing lessons as a kid. Tap lessons were surprisingly expensive so Mom signed me up for ballet. I was a fat kid stuffed in a pink leotard and tutu. I looked like a vienna sausage and I was about half as graceful. Mercifully the lessons didn’t last long. I never did get my tap lessons which is probably a good thing. Now I can pretend I would have been great at it without pesky truth interfering with my delusion.

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