Irving Berlin: Some songs about dancing

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They Call It Dancing introduced in Irving Berlin’s first Music Box Revue (1921)

Years ago when I was just a wee little thing
A man never squeezed a girl till she got the ring
They were both engaged before the boy took a chance
But now all he has to do is ask her to dance

They call it dancing, you see them cuddled up tight
They’re only dancing so ev’rything is all right
Until the midnight cabaret closes
You can see he and she rubbing noses
She calls him “Mister” They’re only friends it appears
And then he’ll twist her like they’ve been married for years

A man can squeeze all the shes
With his arms and his knees
And they call it dancing, that’s all

They call it dancing, you see them cuddled up tight
They’re only dancing so ev’rything is all right
Until the midnight cabaret closes
You can see he and she rubbing noses
If it’s a ballroom she doesn’t mind his embrace
But in a hallroom she’d slap him right in the face
A man can grab someone’s wife
Have the time of his life
And they call it dancing, that’s all

Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra — an instrumental recorded on 6 January 1922, and issued on Victor 18856, as the B-side of “Dear Old Southland”

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Cheek to Cheek was introduced in the 1935 RKO musical film Top Hat, the fourth of ten films pairing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, where it features prominently. It is sung by Astaire, and danced by the pair.

Astaire Rogers-35-cheek-to-cheek-5Heaven, 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

Heaven, I’m in Heaven
And the cares that hang around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek

Oh! I love to climb a mountain and to reach the highest peak
But it doesn’t thrill me half as much as dancing cheek to cheek
Oh! I love to go out fishing in a river or a creek
But I don’t enjoy it half as much as dancing cheek to cheek

Dance with me
I want my arm about you
The charm about you
Will carry me through to

Heaven, 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

Video to be replaced

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Astaire and Rogers-Follow the Fleet-Let's Face the Music-2a

Astaire and Rogers-Follow the Fleet-Let's Face the Music-1a

Astaire and Rogers-Follow the Fleet-Let's Face the Music-4a

Let’s Face The Music And Dance

Astaire and Rogers-Follow the Fleet-Let's Face the Music-3aThere may be trouble ahead
But while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance

Before the fiddlers have fled
Before they ask us to pay the bill
And while we still have the chance
Let’s face the music and dance

Soon
We’ll be without the moon
Humming a diff’rent tune
And then

There may be teardrops to shed
So while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance, dance
Let’s face the music and dance

Let’s Face the Music and Dance was introduced in the musical film Follow the Fleet (1936) in a production number in which the song  is sung by Fred Astaire (Bake Baker) to Ginger Rogers (Sherry Martin), followed by a dance sequence by the pair.

full number (almost)

.

from the beginning of the vocal sequence — mirror image (to be replaced)

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Astaire and Rogers-Carefree (1938)-1

Change Partners

“Change Partners” was introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the 1938 RKO musical Carefree, after having been registered for copyright as an unpublished song in late 1937.

Excerpts from The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, edited by Robert Kimball and Linda Emmet (2001), p. 317:

On July 5, 1938, Dave Dreyer [head of RKO’s music department] wrote Berlin about this song and others in the [Carefree] score:

I thought you would be interested to know that we recorded the vocal on “Change Partners” Saturday. When Fred and Mark [Sandrich] heard the orchestra play it the first time, they jumped up and hugged each other. I never saw them show so much enthusiasm about a number before. You will probably receive a wire or a call from Mark about it. They both seemed to think it is even better than “Cheek to Cheek.”

Must you dance every dance
With the same fortunate man
You have danced with him since the music began
Won’t you change partners and dance with me

Must you dance quite so close
With your lips touching his face
Can’t you see I’m longing to be in his place
Won’t you change partners and dance with me

Ask him to sit this one out and while you’re alone
I’ll tell the waiter to tell him he’s wanted on the telephone

You’ve been locked in his arms ever since heaven knows when
Won’t you change partners and then
You may never want to change partners again

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in Carefree (1938) — Astaire vocal

.

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You’re Easy To Dance With was introduced in a dance number in the 1942 film musical Holiday Inn, sung by Fred Astaire and a vocal ensemble, and danced by Astaire and Virginia Dale., and with a dance reprise by Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds.

I could dance nightly just holding you tightly, my sweet
I could keep right on because you’re so light on your feet
You’re easy to dance with

There is no doubt in the way we stand out in the crowd
Though it’s called dancing to me it’s romancing out loud
You’re easy to dance with

Loving you the way I do
Makes you easy to dance with
That is why I’m always right on the beat
All those charms in one man’s arms
Makes you easy to dance with
I can hardly keep my mind on my feet

Let’s dance forever – Come on, say we’ll never be through
It’s so easy to dance with you

(Video to be replaced)

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From the movie Blue Skies (1946) starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Joan Caulfield.

A Couple Of Song And Dance Men (1946)

[As sung in film by Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire:]

[Both:] In us you see a couple of song and dance men
[Bing:] I’m the song
[Fred:]I’m the dance

[Both:] For laughter, joy and happiness, we’re advance men
[Bing:] With a song
[Fred:]And a dance

[Bing:] I sing for my supper
[Fred:] I dance for my lunch
[Bing:] I croon when the landlord comes around

[Both:]For miles around the women and children pass out cold
[Bing:] When my voice hits the air
[Fred:] And my feet hit the ground

[Bing:] Last night
[Fred:]Out in the moonlight
[Bing:] I came to serenade
[Fred:] A very pretty maid
[Bing:] I sang her to sleep with “Asleep in the Deep”
[Fred:] That always makes them collapse
[Bing:]I saw her eyes close, then she started to doze
[Fred:]But she arose when I sounded taps

[Both:] Which goes to show what women will do when we’re around
[Bing:]And my voice hits the air
[Fred:] And my feet hit the ground

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It Only Happens When I Dance With You — From the movie Easter Parade (1948). Introduced by Fred Astaire. Danced by Astaire and Ann Miller. Judy Garland sang a reprise.

It only happens when I dance with you
That trip to Heaven till the dance is through
With no one else do the Heavens seem quite so near
Why does it happen, dear, only with you?
Two cheeks together can be so divine
But only when those cheeks are yours and mine
I’ve danced with dozens of others the whole night through
But the thrill that comes with Spring
When anything could happen
That only happens with you

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From the movie White Christmas, 1954. Introduced by Danny Kaye and ensemble, danced by Kaye and Vera-Ellen

The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing

The best things happen while you’re dancing
Things that you would not do at home come nat’rally on the floor
For dancing soon becomes romancing
When you hold a girl in your arms that you’ve never held before

Even guys with two left feet
Come out all right if the girl is sweet
If by chance their cheeks should meet
While dancing
Proving that the best things happen while you dance

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swing-time-36-02aI wanna dance
With the girl in my arms–
I wanna hold her
And feel all her charms

I wanna hold a dancing Venus
With just a postage stamp between us,
Instead of twisting
Rock-and-rolling miles apart,
I wanna dance
Cheek to cheek and heart to heart

The above is the chorus from an Irving Berlin typed lyric sheet, dated January 19, 1966, titled I Wanna Dance with the Girl in My Arms.

One of my treasured possessions is The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin. According the description accompanying the lyric on page 485, it was intended for Fred Astaire who “at one time was being considered for Say It With Music,” an unproduced MGM film for which Berlin wrote the score, working on project intermittently from 1963 to 1969. The article also indicates that no music is known to survive. The lyric was registered for copyright in 2001 by the Berlin Estate.

On the lyric sheet, Berlin preceded the words with this note (p. 485):

Possible song for Astaire in Say It With Music to introduce some of the songs I had in the movies I wrote for him and his dancing partners — “Cheek to Cheek,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,” “Change Partners,” “Let Yourself Go,” “It Only Happens When I Dance with You,” etc.

Astaire is in a discotheque where a lot of teenagers are doing the latest dance — The Frug, The Watusi, The Mashed Potato, etc.

cropped-astaire-rogers-35-top-hat-cheek-to-cheek-hdr-1a-c1-p1121.jpg

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. viva creativa
    May 10, 2010 @ 22:33:40

    Yes! White Christmas! One of my all-time favorites! With one of my all-time favorite actors: Danny Kaye. Not to mention Vera-Ellen of the 17-inch waist and the most amazing Rosemary Clooney. I ♥ them all!

    But my favorite dance scene ever is when Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed dance the Charleston in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

    Reply

  2. doc
    May 11, 2010 @ 03:32:15

    Danny Kaye kills me. The best. I have to get more Danny Kaye on the site and Jimmy Stewart too. The only thing I’ve done with Stewart is his introduction of the Cole Porter standard Easy to Love in the film Born to Dance. And last Christmas I had a special feature on It’s a Wonderful Life, including a condensed version of the whole film.

    Reply

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