Saturday, September 5, 2009

#68: Cheek to Cheek

I'm in heaven
And my heart beats so
That I can hardly speak
And I seem to find
The happiness I seek
When we're out together
Dancing cheek to cheek

Written specifically for danceman Fred Astaire and first performed in the Depression Era upper, Top Hat, I've heard Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek" everywhere from the score of The English Patient to a recent ringing of the town bells in Black Hawk, Colorado. This song's got a soothing, swaying melody as it climbs and descends the scale, with a dramatic minor C section -- "dance with me / I want my arms about you / the charms about you / will carry me through"-- before returning to the familiar floating "A" section. Because I'm not sure that a gambler wants his lucky streak to vanish the same way you might want your cares that hung around you through the week to do so, I think the unconventional 72-bar music takes first place to the lyrics here. My one beef is that the B section ("oh, I'd love to climb a mountain") comes across as a little sing-songy for my taste, but I defer to Berlin here.

Nothing beats the original Fred and Ginger dancing cheek to cheek in 1935, but here's actor Kenneth Branagh trying in a fanciful version from the 2000 film Love's Labour's Lost. For a recent, more standard nightclub rendition, try the lovely Jane Monheit.

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