“There's a difference and Astaire is it”

Todd Decker

in Music Makes Me

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780520268883
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950061 | DOI:
“There's a difference and Astaire is it”

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Fred Astaire's path as dancer, singer, movie star, and icon is incomparable. Still, comparisons need to be made, if only to understand exactly how Astaire managed to carve out and sustain a uniquely empowered position as a dancer and dancemaker on film, television, and records, the signature creative media of the twentieth century. This chapter considers Astaire's peers in four categories: dancing leading men, singing leading men, tap dancers, and musicians. The first three situate Astaire in the Hollywood film industry; the fourth inserts him into the realm of popular music, specifically among jazz musicians of the swing era. That Astaire finds a meaningful place in each of these categories testifies to the breadth of his talents. And yet, in the entertainment industry as he knew it, the musical content of these four areas might easily overlap. Astaire's uniqueness lies in his historic ability to be, at once, dancer, singer, tapper, and musician. This context-setting chapter explores large patterns, using synoptic views of the careers of select entertainers as the unit of comparison.

Keywords: Fred Astaire; dancing leading men; singing leading men; tap dancers; musicians; Hollywood; film industry; entertainers; popular music; jazz

Chapter.  13684 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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