Fred Astaire sang this beautiful song to Ginger Rogers in the 1936 movie Swing Time. It won the Oscar that year for Best Original Song. Uploaded by dreamydays.com.
Every so often I have to pay homage to the Great American Songbook, and one of my favorites is “The Way You Look Tonight.” I have it on my iTunes by both Michael Bublé and Tony Bennett, though it was originally sung by Fred Astaire in the movie Swing Time, in which it won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1936.
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Jerome Kern wrote the music, and Dorothy Fields followed up with the lyrics. She said, “The first time Jerry played that melody for me I went out and started to cry. The release absolutely killed me. I couldn’t stop, it was so beautiful.” Which reminds me, it’s time to feature Jerome Kern on this list…
Obviously, the song was released long before the Top 40 era, but it has managed to make the charts. The Lettermen recorded it as their first hit, and it went to number 13 in 1961.
“Someday, when I’m awfully low, when the world is cold, I will feel aglow just thinking of you – and the way you look tonight.” Does it get any more romantic than that?
As a businessman, he co-founded Capitol Records. As a singer, he had a number of hits. But his real strength was songwriting, particularly lyrics, at which he's one of the music industry's all-time best. Uploaded by cdn.mos.musicradar.com.
This Georgia boy brought a Southern sensibility to popular music in the 1930s-1960s, and became a noted singer as well. Primarily he was a lyricist, writing words for such composers as Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Henry Mancini and, occasionally, himself.
Mercer first made his mark among the Tin Pan Alley songwriters of New York, but soon realized the future was writing music for films, causing him to move to Hollywood. His songs were recorded by Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and many other prominent singers of that era.
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A partial list of the songs Mercer contributed to the “Great American Songbook” include:
“Goody Goody” (1936) * “I’m an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande” (1936) * “Hooray for Hollywood” (1937) * “Too Marvelous for Words” (1937) * “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” (1938) * “Jeepers Creepers” (1938) * “And the Angels Sing” (1939) * “Fools Rush In” (1940) * “Blues in the Night” (1941) * “I Remember You” (1941) * “Tangerine” (1941) * “This Time the Dream’s On Me” (1941) * “That Old Black Magic” (1942) * “Skylark” (1942) * “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” (1943) * “Dream” (1943) * “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive” (1944) * “Laura” (1945) * “Come Rain or Come Shine” (1946) * “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” (Academy Award, 1946) * “Autumn Leaves” (1947) * “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” (Academy Award, 1951) * “Glow Worm” (1952) * “Something’s Gotta Give” (1954) * “Moon River” (Academy Award, 1964) * “Days of Wine and Roses” (Academy Award, 1964) * “I Wanna Be Around” (1964) * “Summer Wind” (1965)
As if songwriting weren’t enough, Mercer had a successful recording career, and sang with several big bands. And he was a co-founder of Capitol Records. He was nominated for 19 Academy Awards, and won four. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971, and the organization presents an annual songwriting award in his name.
Copyright 2009-2011, Robin G. Chalkley. All material on these pages, and the listing of items as Great American Things, is copyrighted. The exceptions are the photographs and videos, which remain the property of their respective owners.
Header photo used courtesy of Flickr photographer too melo.