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Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz Paperback – June 24, 2011


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Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz + Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire + Steps in Time: An Autobiography
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520268903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520268906
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Mr. Decker digs deeply into Astaire's creative process, anatomizing what went into each production. . . . Illuminating, richly detailed analysis.”
(Wall Street Journal 2011-07-09)

“Delving into production schedules, credit sheets, cast lists, and other studio paraphernalia, Decker gives us a good look at Astaire-related activity behind the scenes.”
(New York Review Of Books 2012-03-19)

“Fascinating. . . . Much in Decker’s account of Astaire’s musicianship and the range of this talents in Music Makes Me may come as a surprise.”
(Times Literary Supplement (TLS) 2011-12-09)

“A worthy addition to the books that have been inspired by the genius of Fred Astaire.”
(Reelzchannel Maltin On Movies 2011-08-04)

“A worthy resource. . . . Highly Recommended.”
(C. Wadsworth Walker Choice 2011-12-01)

“Illuminating. . . . There is something of an unabashed joy in watching and hearing Astaire’s routines, and Decker’s book reflects that joy.”
(Sarah Caissie Provost Clark University Notes (Music Library Assoc) 2012-12-01)

“Decker offers . . . fascinating observations to underscore the idea of Astaire as ardent listener and lover of all things ‘jazz.’”
(Jennifer R. Jenkins Film & History 2012-11-23)

From the Inside Flap

Music Makes Me is a bold, engaging, and utterly original take on Fred Astaire’s incomparable artistry, his musical legacy, and his stature as a true Hollywood auteur. In this bold, fresh, and endlessly insightful study, Decker takes us inside the creative process, describing how Hollywood provided Astaire with the resources to reinvent the musical genre in his own inimitable style—a jazz-infused, dance-obsessed style that found expression when, and only when, Astaire ‘let it swing.’”

—Thomas Schatz, author of The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era



“Decker defines Astaire-the-dancer as a kind of musician—and specifically a jazz musician—attuned to the most recent inflections of American popular music. With perceptive readings of films, songs, and ‘routines’ informed by an impressive array of archival material, he is able to analyze and describe Astaire’s artistry with unprecedented precision across his entire career. This is an outstanding book marking an important and unique intersection of music, dance, film, and race.”

—Jeffrey Magee, author of The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz



“Any residual hair-splitting about Fred Astaire’s relationship to jazz, as an incomparable dancer and engaging singer, has been deftly and resoundingly settled by Todd Decker. His deep research and authoritative writing aimed at fans of jazz and Astaire as well as musicians and musicologists elucidate the underpinnings of Astaire’s bond with jazz over a half-century. Add to the iconic songs Astaire performed (and that his career was song-driven), the perfect timing of his career, ability to adapt in film and later television and Decker’s thesis stands on Astaire’s magical feet and transcendent feat.”

—Tad Hershorn, author of Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice



Music Makes Me is an important contribution in a much underexplored area, well researched, engagingly written, and insightful. It applies first rate scholarship informed by a warm and well informed (but not uncritical) empathy for its subject. A valuable contribution not only to studies of Fred Astaire and of the musical film, but of jazz and of twentieth-century American musical culture.”

—John Mueller, author of Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films



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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Wilbourg on February 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Perhaps the few of us who feel that Late Astaire is the Greatest Astaire can push the rock away from our holes, come up and sun a bit. Astaire and Duke Wayne, arguably the greatest self-creations in all of the cinema, are blessed with auras that continue to fascinate scholars and just plain, old movie fans alike. And they should. The Duke may have had a limited range but who, in all Hollywood, was ever deeper? In fact he was the only Hollywood creation who could contain the weight of the whole world in his eyes when he rubs down his horse in that staggering masterpiece "The Searchers," and looks out over the horizon knowing that all he loves is being pillaged and murdered and that he is powerless to save them.

Astaire, the second great Hollywood creation, was not handsome, was not gifted with a chest that stood out like a cliff, nor did her have the radiant eyes that wooed you just by opening them. Instead he danced. Boy did he ever! The greatest ever! But did you also know that he was superb jazz-man?

There is the electrifying scene near the end of "The Sky is The Limit," that sly, under-appreciated master-work, where Fred, who feels that he has just lost the love of his life but can do nothing about it, does his greatest solo dance (and arguably the greatest solo dance put on film) and tries to dance his way out of his love's life and dance into the uncertain future of looming combat. This dance, to the tune of the towering Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer tune "One For My Baby," has thrilled fans for years and is often captured on anthologies on dance or on Fred's career.

But the breakdown of this dance, this music, this moment, has never been captured with such-behind-the-scenes mastery as Todd Decker reveals here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By vivila on November 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another delightful person to read about. His dancing was wonderful, and I enjoyed seeing all the musicals that he made in the early years...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BLUNT ELBOWS on October 19, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a life long Astaire fanatic I thought I knew a lot about him. This book dispels that notion. I'm sure this will be overly detailed for the some, but I loved it.
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More About the Author

Todd Decker is Associate Professor of Music at Washington University in St Louis, where he teaches courses on popular music and film. His current project is a book on music and sound in Hollywood combat films from APOCALYPSE NOW to LONE SURVIVOR.

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Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz
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