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Pianist and singer Michael Feinstein

His repertoire is American popular song. Early in his career he was an assistant to Ira Gershwin. He's also a collector of vintage recordings and musical memorabilia — especially that of the 1920s [through] the 1940s. Recently Rhino Records released an anthology of Feinstein's recordings. This interview first aired July 29, 2002.

28:05

Other segments from the episode on December 25, 2002

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 25, 2002: Interview with Charles Granata and Didier Deutsch; Interview with Michael Feinstein ;

Transcript

DATE December 25, 2002 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Charles Granata and Didier Deutsch discuss the new CD
box set they co-produced titled "Frank Sinatra in Hollywood"
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of "Frank Sinatra in Hollywood")

Mr. FRANK SINATRA (Musician): Hi, folks. This is Frank Sinatra speaking to
you from a projection room at Universal International Studio out here in
Hollywood. We've just screened my new picture, "Meet Danny Wilson," and
the gang out here has been kidding me that this is the story of my own life.
Actually, I wished my life was as exciting as Danny Wilson's. However,
there
is one real-life parallel in the picture. It's in the music.

I'd like to sing you one of the songs to give you an idea of what I mean.

(Singing) You're a sweetheart, if there ever was one.

GROSS: That promotional spot and song from the 1952 movie "Meet Danny
Wilson"
are included in a six-CD box set called "Frank Sinatra in Hollywood
(1940-1964)." It collects the songs from such films as "On the Town,"
"Young
at Heart," "Guys and Dolls," "The Tender Trap" and "Robin & the Seven
Hoods,"
as well as more obscure films. Only 10 percent of the 160 tracks have ever
been previously issued in any audio format. In the movies, many of these
songs were in scenes where dialogue or sound effects obscured the music.
The
box set has the complete performances that were recorded before the other
sounds were added.

We're going to listen to and talk about some of the music with the producers
of the box set, Charles Granata and Didier Deutsch. Granata is the author
of
the book "Sessions with Sinatra: Frank Sinatra and the Art of Recording."
Deutsch is a veteran record producer.

Our interview was recorded in July when the box set was released. This
interview kicks off our holiday week series Encores, featuring our favorite
music interviews of 2002.

Charles Granata, Didier Deutsch, welcome to FRESH AIR. Why don't we listen
to
a couple of the recordings on here and compare them. And this is from the
film "The Tender Trap." I don't think this is a great film, and I never
really used to think this was a great record until I saw the film and
watched
Sinatra sing the song. And it just--the rhythm of it is so contagious. So
I've actually come to like the song. I thought we could hear two versions.
The first version is the title sequence version, the version that's sung
over
the titles. Is this the same version that was the hit version that was
released on Capitol Records?

Mr. DIDIER DEUTSCH (Music Producer; Historian): No. This is the film
version. The version that you heard on the Capitol recording was a
re-recording that was an industry deal for Capitol at the time the film was
released. So this is really the screen version.

Mr. CHARLES GRANATA (Historian; Author): And it does differ because for the
commercial Capitol recording Frank Sinatra used a Nelson Riddle arrangement.
And you hear a big difference in instrumentation and orchestration. And
there's a different energy to the Capitol recording when you compare it to
the
film recording, and there's a different jauntiness that I feel comes across
in
the film recording. It's just a little more spontaneous.

GROSS: And I thought we can compare that back-to-back with just a piano
vocal
version that he does in the body of the film. And this is--if I'm
remembering
the film correctly, Debbie Reynolds is singing this song. I think maybe
she's
rehearsing it for an audition. And he's saying, `No, no, no. You've got it
wrong. Try it this way.' And he shows her how it should be done.

Mr. GRANATA: Right.

Mr. DEUTSCH: That's right. Yes.

Mr. GRANATA: And, of course, this piano vocal version places the
performance
and the song in a completely different context because rather than having
this
big band with this energetic Nelson Riddle chart, we have just have Frank
Sinatra and Bill Miller on piano, which gives it a whole different feel.

GROSS: So here they are, back to back, the title sequence of "Tender Trap"
and a duet from the body of the film.

(Soundbite of "Tender Trap" title sequence)

Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) You see a pair of laughing eyes, and suddenly you're
sighing sighs. You're thinking nothing's wrong. You string along, boy.
Then
snap. Those eyes, those sighs, they're part of the tender trap.

You're hand in hand beneath the trees, and soon there's music in the breeze.
You're acting kind of smart until your heart just goes whap. Those trees,
that breeze, they're part of the tender trap.

Some starry night when her kisses make you tingle, she'll hold you tight and
you'll hate yourself for being single. And all at once it seems so nice.
The
folks are throwing shoes and rice.

(Soundbite of "Tender Trap" duet)

Mr. SINATRA: You see a pair of laughing eyes and suddenly you're sighing
sighs. You're thinking nothing's wrong. You string along, boy. Then snap.
Those eyes, those sighs, they're part of the tender trap.

(Speaking) You see what I mean? You've just got to let it settle a little
bit.

(Singing) You're hand in hand beneath the trees, and soon there's music in
the
breeze. You're acting kind of smart until your heart just goes whap. Those
trees, that breeze, they're part of the tender trap.

Some starry night when her kisses make you tingle, she'll hold you tight and
you'll hate yourself for being single. And all at once it seems so nice.
The
folks are throwing shoes and rice.

You hurry to a spot that's just a dot on the map. You wonder how it all
came
about. It's too late now. There's no getting out. You fell in love, and
love is a tender trap.

Some starry night when her kisses make you tingle, she'll hold you tight and
you'll hate yourself for being single. And all at once it seems so nice.
The
folks are throwing shoes and rice.

You hurry to a spot that's just a dot on the map. Boom, boom, boom, boom.
You wonder how it all came about. It's too late now. There's no getting
out.
You fell in love, and love is a tender trap.

GROSS: That's two versions of "The Tender Trap" from the film of the same
name on the new box set "Frank Sinatra in Hollywood." My guests are the box
set's co-producers, Charles Granata and Didier Deutsch.

Now one of the things Sinatra had to do, which I guess all performers had to
do in the movies at the time, was to lip-synch to their songs. How did it
work? The songs were prerecorded and then you lip-synched to it on film?

Mr. DEUTSCH: Well, usually, yes. They went into the studio, laid down the
tracks, performed the song. Then when they started shooting, the song was
played on the playback equipment so that they could lip-synch and emote at
the
same time. So there was no huffing and puffing as they were acting; they
were
simply lip-synching. And that's why it comes so naturally on the screen.

GROSS: Now, Charles Granata, you say in your liner notes that Sinatra hated
lip-synching in the movies. Why did he hate it so much?

Mr. GRANATA: You know, Frank Sinatra had a very interesting way of
approaching his commercial recording sessions. He would prepare endlessly,
and when he went into the studio, he would spend an inordinate amount of
time
working to accomplish what he felt was the perfect recording. On the film
sound stage as an actor, he had a completely different philosophy. He would
want to do one or two takes, because he felt doing more than that robbed his
performance of its freshness.

And I think the lip-synching aspect of making films in Hollywood was a big
part of that for Frank Sinatra. He felt that if he couldn't stand before
the
camera and perform and sing live, as it were--in this case, live to film--it
didn't have the vitality that he was looking for, that he felt was necessary
to emote as an actor.

Mr. DEUTSCH: Well, in his performances normally, was there a rehearsed
spontaneity in which in the films he was robbed, he could not have that
rehearsed spontaneity?

Mr. GRANATA: Well, when you listen to Frank Sinatra's commercial recording
sessions in toto, in other words, if you listen to him breaking down and
doing
take after take after take, he's obviously building the vocal style for that
particular song. And you're right. In many instances, he alters things
from
take to take. And when he had to lip-synch, he felt that he was not free to
let loose and bend the lyric according to how he was feeling at that very
moment.

GROSS: My guests are Charles Granata and Didier Deutsch, co-producers of
the
new box set "Frank Sinatra in Hollywood." We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guests are Charles Granata and Didier Deutsch, the producers of a
new Frank Sinatra box set called "Frank Sinatra in Hollywood."

Well, a Sinatra film I particularly love is represented on here. It's
called
"Young at Heart," and Sinatra plays a piano player, like a barroom piano
player, who thinks that he's cursed with lifelong bad luck, so he's
constantly
depressed. And he kind of wanders into the life of Doris Day, who's this
real, kind of, sunshiny character and kind of tries so hard to help him out
of
this slump. And it's a wonderful film. They even get to sing a duet
together
at the end. You have a few songs from this film represented in the box set.
One of them is "Someone to Watch Over Me." What's the story behind the
version you've used on this box set? Charles?

Mr. GRANATA: With "Someone to Watch Over Me," when we arrived in the studio
in Los Angeles, we knew that we were going to find the vocal and piano
performance, which is what is heard in the film. What we were surprised to
find, as we ran through the various session tapes, is this bit of orchestral
sweetening. And at first, we were a little perplexed because it wasn't
heard

that way in the film. We didn't know that it existed, and we spent a couple
hours matching it up. And our biggest accomplishment on that particular day
was being able to create a brand-new mix with Frank Sinatra and the
orchestra
married to this piano version of "Someone to Watch Over Me," which I think
is
the most incredible Gershwin tune, you know, in their whole catalog.

Mr. DEUTSCH: And the sweetening does something that did not exist in the
movie which is very interesting. The orchestral sweetening was not
entirely--they didn't use it, I think, because it was not entirely
successful.
There was a bridge in which the orchestra was fighting with the vocal. So
what we did when that came in, we dropped the orchestra so there is simply
the
vocal singing the bridge. And then, we brought up the orchestra again for
the
refrain, and it works beautifully. I think that it's one of the songs in
that
box set that I like very much as a result of the work we did on it.

Mr. GRANATA: It really brings a tenderness to the performance.

Mr. DEUTSCH: Yes.

GROSS: So here's Frank Sinatra, Bill Miller at the piano, from the movie
"Young at Heart" as featured on the new box set "Frank Sinatra in
Hollywood."

(Soundbite of "Someone to Watch Over Me")

Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) There's a somebody I'm longing to see. I hope that
she turns out to be someone who'll watch over me. I'm a little lamb who's
lost in the woods. I know I could, could always be good to one who'll watch
over me.

Although I may not be the man some girls think of as handsome, but to her
heart, I'll carry the key. Won't you tell her, please, to put on some
speed,
follow my lead. I want someone to watch over me.

GROSS: That's "Someone to Watch Over Me," remixed for the new box set
"Frank
Sinatra in Hollywood." It's from the film "Young at Heart." My guests are
Charles Granata and Didier Deutsch, the co-producers of this new box set.

Now you talk in the liner notes about the differences between Sinatra's
approach to filmmaking and to making studio recordings. You actually have a
rehearsal session featured on this box tape from "Robin & the Seven Hoods."
And it's Sinatra, Dean Martin and...

Mr. DEUTSCH: Sammy Davis.

GROSS: ...Sammy Davis Jr. doing the rehearsal for a song called "Don't Be a
Do-Badder." Actually, I think they're trying to do the final take. They're
not trying to rehearse it, but it keeps not happening for them. Charles,
tell
us a little bit about this session and why you wanted to include it on the
box.

Mr. GRANATA: Well, this is one of those golden moments that you unearth as
you do work that Didier and I are doing. And you're scouring the vaults and
searching for unusual and rare material. And the first day we were in Los
Angeles and working at the film transfer studio, we got a call from the
Warner
Bros. archivist who said he had found these unmixed session tapes from
"Robin
& the Seven Hoods." And as you listen to the session tape, you need to
remember that this is the Rat Pack. These are these three famous guys who
are
at the top of their game, at the top of their world in 1963, unedited and
uncensored. They weren't mugging for a camera; they weren't standing and,
you
know, going through a rehearsed routine for an audience. This was how these
guys really were as friends. And I think that real spirit of camaraderie
and
real love and genuine affection for each other just comes through so
beautifully here.

Mr. DEUTSCH: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GRANATA: And obviously, you know, this is a great chance to study how
Frank Sinatra and these guys worked in the studio.

GROSS: Well, the other thing that comes through is that Frank Sinatra wants
to get out. He wants to stop doing takes, he wants to finish it and leave.

Mr. GRANATA: Absolutely...

Mr. DEUTSCH: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GRANATA: ...as was his wont many times. You know, as I mentioned
earlier, and I mentioned in my liner notes, Frank Sinatra really was a very
restless individual. And, you know, it didn't matter whether it was in the
recording studio, in front of a television camera, speaking to an
interviewer,
on the film sound stage; when he wanted to go, he wanted to go. That was
it.
Nothing was standing in his way, and he was always a little bit impatient
and
restless. He wanted to do his work and move on.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear "Don't Be a Do-Badder" from "Robin & the
Seven
Hoods," with Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

(Soundbite of "Don't Be a Do-Badder")

Mr. SINATRA and SAMMY DAVIS Jr.: (Singing) Ah, take it from me, don't...

Mr. DEAN MARTIN: Sort of cutelike, you know. Watch Frank's foot. He's
closest to you.

(Soundbite of bells ringing)

Mr. SINATRA, MARTIN and DAVIS: (Singing) Ah, take it from me.

Mr. SINATRA: Once more. Once more. Hold it.

(Soundbite of bells ringing)

Mr. SINATRA: Once more. Once more. All right. You want to come in with
the bells. All right?

Mr. DAVIS: Or should you...

Mr. MARTIN: Whenever you go like that...

Mr. DAVIS: ...should you start the `Ah,' baby...

Mr. MARTIN: No. No.

Mr. DAVIS: ...and then all of us come in?

Mr. MARTIN: No. No. We'll go...

Mr. SINATRA: No. When you come in, it's--(singing) one, two, three...

Mr. MARTIN, SINATRA and DAVIS: (Singing) Ah, take it from me...

Mr. SINATRA: That's where you're going to be.

Mr. DAVIS: OK.

Mr. SINATRA: And if this ain't it, I'm goin' home.

Mr. DAVIS: Come on. Let's go.

Mr. SINATRA: To New Jersey.

(Soundbite of laughter; bells ringing)

Mr. SINATRA, DAVIS and MARTIN: (Singing) Ah, take it from me. Don't be a
do-badder-a, do-badder-a, do-badder. Just climb aboard that stepladder and
climb the other way.

Mr. SINATRA: That's the way the note ends. I think your bells are flat.
No, then it's us if it's not in there.

Mr. MARTIN: What?

Unidentified Man: We're still rolling. Want to try it?

Mr. SINATRA: Let's try one more. This is going to be it.

Mr. MARTIN: All right.

Mr. SINATRA: I never waited as much time with the "Soliloquy."

Mr. MARTIN: I'm getting it up there. Let's go.

GROSS: That's an outtake from "Robin & the Seven Hoods," with Frank
Sinatra,
Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. It's featured on the new box set "Frank
Sinatra in Hollywood." My guests are the box set's co-producers, Charles
Granata and Didier Deutsch.

Listening to the session, it strikes me maybe one of the reasons why Sinatra
wants to get out so badly and end the session is because it's such a crummy
song. It's so unworthy of his gifts as a singer. Now particularly singing
this trio, it's not really, like, a Sinatra recording. It's not Sinatra the
singer. It's just like a novelty tune.

Mr. GRANATA: Well, that's the interesting thing about Frank Sinatra and his
films, and I think this was another part of his philosophy. Frank Sinatra
always viewed his recordings--for Capitol, Reprise, Columbia--as being
permanent and the films as being fun. And obviously with "Robin & the Seven
Hoods," he's mugging for the camera...

Mr. DEUTSCH: Yeah.

Mr. GRANATA: ...it's a fun film, it's the Rat Pack and the music reflects
that.

GROSS: Charles Granata and Didier Deutsch are the producers of the box sex,
"Frank Sinatra in Hollywood." Our interview was recorded in July when the
box
was released.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Michael Feinstein talks about his time as assistant to
Ira Gershwin and other aspects of his career as pianist and singer
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is the first day of our holiday week series Encore featuring our
favorite
music interviews of 2002.

Michael Feinstein is one of the best-known performers of American popular
song. During the last few years of Ira Gershwin's life, Feinstein was
Gershwin's assistant. Feinstein couldn't have asked for a better break. At
the time, he was a young performer and ardent music fan. Through his
association with Gershwin, he learned the stories behind many songs and was
introduced to many songwriters. Over the years, he's put together an
incredible collection of rare recordings that he found in songwriters'
homes,
Hollywood studio vaults and Hollywood-area flea markets. He's going to play
some of those recordings for us.

Now over the years, you've gotten to know several great composers who are
still alive, or were still alive, when you were younger, and you have some
rare home recordings that some of them have made, and you've brought a
couple
of those with you today. Well, one of the things that you brought with you
is
a recording that you got, you say, from Ira Gershwin's closet...

Mr. MICHAEL FEINSTEIN (Pianist; Singer): Yes.

GROSS: ...back when you were working with Ira Gershwin, and this is a
recording of Harold Arlen singing at a party. Tell us about this recording.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, this is very interesting, Terry, because when I first
started working for Ira Gershwin, he actually hired me to catalog his
phonograph records, and he used to call me his `demon discographer,' and I
found a number of these home recordings that were not labeled, that were in
Ira's closet, and these were things that had been made on the machine that
he
once had, and there was a whole set of recordings from a party he had around
1938, that included Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg, Milton Ager, who wrote "Happy
Days Are Here Again," Doc McGonigle(ph), who wrote comedy sketches for
Beatrice Lillie, Harold's wife, Anya Arlen, who was a `Goldwyn Girl,'
Leonore
Gershwin.

And I found this one recording which was all beat up, but still playable, of
a
song sung by Harold, but it's a song I had never heard of, and it wasn't
documented anywhere. When I saw Yip Harburg a couple months after
discovering
it, I said, `Yip, did you write this song?' And I sang him a couple lines.
He said, `No, no, that had to be written by Ted Koehler. Those rhymes,' he
said, `Oh, those awful rhymes--"Don't know which way to lean, betwixt and
between"--that had to be Ted Koehler.' He was very pejorative.
Nevertheless,
I think it's a delightful song.

GROSS: And who's singing the Fats Waller-ish kind of backup vocal here?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Oh, you mean that sort of `Who got you sit...'

GROSS: Exactly.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: That's Doc McGonigle, and then you'll hear Yip Harburg, who
says, `Take that bridge back out of your mouth, boy,' and Ira's the one who
saying, `What's all this talk about a wall and talk about a fence?' So
they're all just hanging around, just having a good time, and nettling
Harold,
who barely manages to get through this song.

GROSS: So this is Harold Arlen singing a song he wrote the music for, and
he's at the piano, too?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Yes.

GROSS: OK. And this is--What year is this?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: 1938.

GROSS: OK.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. HAROLD ARLEN: (Singing) You've got me sitting on the fence, don't know
which way to lean. But, Doc, you got me sitting on the fence, I'm betwixt
and
between. Like Humpty Dumpty, I'll soon be slipping off that wall, and if I
got to go, before I go, I want to know which way to fall. The little things
you do, you do because you know my hands are tied. Now that I'm running
after
you, I hope you're satisfied. Why do you keep me in suspense? How would
you
like to be in love with someone and be sitting on a fence like me? You got
me
sitting on the fence.

Mr. DOC McGONIGLE: Who's got you sitting on that fence?

Mr. ARLEN: (Singing) Don't know which way to lean.

Mr. McGONIGLE: Oh, you know which way to lean, all right, you rascal.

Unidentified Man #1: Lean that way.

Mr. ARLEN: (Singing) You got me sitting on the fence.

Unidentified Man #1: What fence?

Mr. ARLEN: (Singing) I'm betwixt and between.

Mr. McGONIGLE: You're between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Unidentified Man #1: ...(Unintelligible).

Mr. McGONIGLE: What's that you say?

Mr. ARLEN: (Singing) ...be slipping off the wall.

Mr. IRA GERSHWIN: Wait, what's all this talk about a wall, all this talk
about a fence? ...(Unintelligible).

Mr. ARLEN: (Singing) If I got to go, before I go I want to know...

GROSS: That's Harold Arlen singing and at the piano, as recorded in 1938,
on
a home recording. My guest is Michael Feinstein, who found this recording
in
Ira Gershwin's closet. Feinstein worked with Ira Gershwin for many years.
And Feinstein has a new recording himself. This one is called "Michael
Feinstein with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra."

Michael Feinstein, how did you start working with lyricist Ira Gershwin?
What
a terribly lucky break to have.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: It was wonderful to work with Ira, because I had idolized
his
work for so long. I met him through June Levant less than a year after I
moved to Los Angeles. June...

GROSS: This is Oscar Levant's wife?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Exactly. She was Oscar's widow, and I met her after I found
a
series of recordings that were home recordings of Oscar Levant's in a used
record shop in Hollywood. I got June Levant's phone number through a lady I
was working with at a piano store. And June and I became friends. I met
her
because of these recordings, and she was very, very sweet, because she
recognized something in me that was unusual for a kid of 20 years old, and
that was an enthusiasm and a great knowledge of not only Oscar Levant's
music
but the Gershwins and all the other contemporary songwriters of that time.

And so she created an introduction to Ira, and so in July of 1977, there I
was, sitting in Ira Gershwin's living room, and he asked me to start working
for him, taking care of his memorabilia.

GROSS: What did that mean? What exactly were your responsibilities?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: My first responsibility was cataloging the records in the
phonograph room. Ira was in a deep depression, because his closest friend,
Eddie Carter, had just died. Eddie was Raymond Chandler's literary agent,
and
when he retired, he started working with Ira as a secretary just for fun,
just
to hang around with Ira. And Eddie died of cancer and Ira was just in this
funk, and his wife, Leonore, was trying to find some way to bring Ira out of
it, and when they met me, Mrs. Gershwin realized that I was somebody who
would
probably bring new blood and new life to Ira, and she pulled me aside and
said, `I want you to do whatever you want in this house.' She said, `I'm
going to open up every closet and drawer, and you can find whatever you
want,
create your own duties. But most of all,' she said, `I want you to keep Ira
happy.'

And so I was doing this cataloging work, but I was doing it alongside Ira,
so
I could engage him, and so if I'd play an old record he'd respond to it, or
I'd find an lyric sheet or find a manuscript of an unpublished Gershwin song
to show to him, and it really brought him back, and it was the most
extraordinary experience, because I was actually being paid to spend time
with
this person who was one of my idols.

GROSS: How old was he when you started working with him?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: He was 80 years old, and he was very reclusive. He was
housebound at that time and eventually he became bedroom bound. He got out
of
bed but he never left the bedroom. And he was alert and sharp and bright
and
funny and very much a father or a grandfather figure to me. He was very,
very
sweet, very shy. He was so shy that he rarely went to parties. He
absolutely
retreated into this little shell. And after his brother, George, died in
1937
at the age of 38, he never quite recovered from that.

GROSS: You obviously wanted to hear all of his more obscure songs and
obscure
home recordings. Did he want to hear that, too?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: He did because he loved the memories that they brought back
to
him. Some of his favorite songs were not necessarily songs that were hits.
For example, "Loved Walked In" is a song that he didn't like very much. "My
Cousin In Milwaukee" is a song that he loved, and that's a song that was
hardly recorded at all.

GROSS: You want to recite a little or sing a little of the lyric for that?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: (Singing) I've got a cousin in Milwaukee, she's got a voice
so
squawky that makes your heart get kind of gawky nine times out of 10.
(Speaking) Now let's see, the bridge. (Singing) When she sings hot, you
can't
be solemn, sends the shivers up and down your spinal column. When she sings
blue, the men shout what stuff, that baby is hot stuff.

(Speaking) So the bridge, the whole idea of the bridge is that when she
sings
hot, people had the reaction of hearing the blues, and when she'd sing the
blues, it sounded like a hot song. So that's why she was all mixed up.

GROSS: So what do you think of the song? Did you share his enthusiasm for
it?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: I think it's an adorable song. I like it musically. It's a
bit of an antique lyrically because it's a certain kind of song that was
written for a Polish comedienne named Lyda Roberti, and the reason Ira used
the word `hot' is because she was famous for saying the word `hot' as
`khot.'
So she'd sing, (Singing) `I've got a cousin in Milwaukee, when he sing khot,
they'--so the whole thing was putting the `kh' sound. So it was really
written for a specific performer. But Ira loved it, so there we are.

GROSS: Now when you talked to Ira Gershwin about songs, would he give you
little lessons in lyric writing?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Oh, yes. Yes. He not only would instruct me as to
different
sorts of rhymes, as to what was appropriate and what was not, but also how
to
interpret a song, as he did with "Someone To Watch Over Me," as it nettled
him
that most singers would sing in the bridge of "Someone To Watch Over Me,"
(Singing) `Although he may not be the man some girls think of as handsome,
to
my heart he carries the key,' (speaking) and the rhyme is `he may not be the
mansome girls think of handsome,' and he was always teaching me to look for
those inner rhymes and those little special twists that sometimes singers
miss.

GROSS: My guest is singer Michael Feinstein. We'll hear more recordings
from
his personal collection after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with singer Michael Feinstein. He's
brought some rare recordings from his personal collection.

I want to get to another recording that you've brought with you. This is
another home recording. It's a home recording of a very obscure Ira
Gershwin
song, a song I think you helped rediscover, called "Ask Me Again." What's
the
story behind this song?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Oh, well, this was one of Ira's favorite unpublished
Gershwin
songs. There was a cache of unknown Gershwin songs that Ira had been
holding
back all those years since his brother had died in 1937, and he didn't know
what to do with them. They were like little diamonds, and he wanted to
release them to the public, but he wanted them to be released in a way that
they would get attention, that they would mean something, because he knew
that
if he just published them, that they would fall by the wayside. So he was
always hoping to find a project to put these songs into, something that
would
make them important. And he never found the project that did that. So in
1983, the year of his death, I had taken this one song, "Ask Me Again,"
which
was originally written around 1930 for "Girl Crazy," and asked Rosemary
Clooney if she would sing it while I recorded it because I was hoping that
if
Ira heard Rosemary sing it, then he would agree to allow us to perform it
and
to release it to the public.

I recorded Rosemary doing it. She did a marvelous, marvelous interpretation
of it just off the cuff. And Ira listened to it and he said, `My God, it
sounds like I wrote that song 50 years ago just waiting for Rosemary to sing
it.' And I said, `Can she sing it?' He said, `Oh, yes,' and he allowed it
to
be introduced for the first time a couple of months after that home
recording
was made.

GROSS: Well, let's listen to this 1983 home recording that you made with
you
at the piano, Rosemary Clooney singing, the recording you made to convince
Ira
Gershwin to let you introduce the song. Here it is.

(Soundbite of home recording)

(Soundbite of piano music)

Ms. ROSEMARY CLOONEY: (Singing) Ask me again who's the one I've begun to
adore. Ask me again who's the partner my heart clamors for, who is the who
has me tied in a bow knot so that I know not just where I'm at. Who is it
makes my friends all find that I've a one-track heart and mind? Oh, ask me
again, let me tell how I fell from the stars. One look and then couldn't
govern the love in my heart. Who is it I looked high and low for, whom will
I
go for my whole life through? Please ask me again, let me shout to the
world
it's you.

GROSS: That's Rosemary Clooney with my guest, Michael Feinstein, at the
piano, a home recording made in 1983, a song by George and Ira Gershwin. A
really beautiful song, and how wonderful to hear Rosemary Clooney. You must
be so sorry about losing her. I know you were very close.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: She was like my second mother. She called me her sixth
child,
and I've been waking up every day thinking of her. I just loved her so
much,
and when I hear her voice, it just takes me into a special place in my
heart.
There was something so special, she was so gifted. And we're so lucky that
she was around in our time.

GROSS: Did you get to know her through Ira Gershwin? Because if I remember
correctly, she was Ira Gershwin's next-door neighbor, and then ended up
moving
into his house after he died? Do I have that right?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Close. She was Ira's next-door neighbor, yes. She
actually,
in 1953, with her then-husband Jose Ferrer, bought a house that had been
occupied by Ira and George in 1936 and 1937. When George Gershwin died, Ira
moved out of the house that Rosemary later bought, and in 1940, he bought
the
house that was next door to the house he had originally occupied. So Ira
bought a house in 1940 at 1021 Roxbury, and in 1953, Rosemary and Joe Ferrer
bought the house at 1019 Roxbury.

GROSS: And is that how you got to know her?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Yes. We actually met through kitty cats, because Rosemary
had some cats and Lee and Ira had one cat that they had actually stolen from
Polly Bergen, who lived another two doors down. It's a long story. And
Polly--when I mentioned that, Polly said, `Yeah, that bitch. She stole my
cat,' referring to Leonore. But in any event, Lee was very concerned that
Rosemary wasn't taking proper care of her cat because the cat would always
come to the Gershwin house to eat the shrimp that Leonore left out. Now
what
cat is going to go home and eat its own food when Mrs. Gershwin was leaving
shrimp? But in any event, I went next door and it was because of their cat
that I met Rosemary. And she invited me in and I stayed for a long time.

GROSS: Well, one of the rare recordings you've brought with you is an
outtake
of Rosemary Clooney on Bob Hope's radio show recorded in April of 1954.
Well,
say something about this before we hear it. Introduce it for us.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, 1954 was a year when magnetic tape recording had
become
standard usage for radio. Before 1950, everything was done live, or most
thing were done live. And by that period in the 1950s, everybody was
recording the shows and then editing later, which I guess lost some
spontaneity but also allowed good stuff to be captured. In this instance,
Bob
was asking Rosemary about her husband, Jose Ferrer, and asking about the
relationship. They'd only been married about a year. And Rosemary gave a
response that, in those days, was not appropriate to use on the airwaves.

GROSS: A little naughty for the time.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Quite.

GROSS: Let's hear it, and this is Bob Hope asking Rosemary Clooney about
her
husband, Jose Ferrer.

(Soundbite from "Bob Hope Radio Show")

Mr. BOB HOPE: Rosemary, you are one of the world's greatest exponents of
low-brow, bebop and jazz. Joe is one of the world's finest Shakespearean
actors and is considered very high-brow. How do you two get along
intellectually?

Ms. CLOONEY: Intellectually.

Mr. HOPE: Yeah.

Ms. CLOONEY: We meet somewhere around the middle.

(Soundbite of laughter; applause)

Ms. CLOONEY: I mean, we're both kind of middle-brow...

Mr. HOPE: Yeah, I know.

Ms. CLOONEY: ...you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOPE: That's mighty fine country through there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOPE: Oh, I love that.

Ms. CLOONEY: Oh, what sheers on this show, huh?

Mr. HOPE: Oh, I love that.

Ms. CLOONEY: My goodness. Oh.

Mr. HOPE: Oh, I wish we could use that, too.

GROSS: That's Rosemary Clooney, an outtake from her appearance on the "Bob
Hope Radio Show" in 1954.

We'll hear more recordings from Michael Feinstein's collection after a
break.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with singer Michael Feinstein. He's
brought some rare recordings from his personal collection.

Now another session you've brought with you, one of your finds, is a Judy
Garland outtake from "Annie Get Your Gun." She was cast in the movie before
Betty Hutton got the part. Why didn't she stay with the film?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: As I understand it, she was simply too ill, and that she was
not showing up on time on the set, and they finally had to fire her. She
was
devastated at that, but clearly she was in no condition to work and she was
holding up the production. The budget was going haywire because she had
become so unreliable because she just wasn't well. And it's no secret that
the studio was working her too hard, and they asked her to come back to work
at that point much too soon, and she had begged them to take more time off
before that. And she simply couldn't do it. She did record a set of
soundtracks for the whole film, and she's in varying vocal shape through
those
sessions. On some of them, she sounds terrible; on some of them, she sounds
better.

This thing that I brought is the unedited session where Judy keeps missing a
line. And she sounds like she's in decent shape that day, but she's
supposed
to sing, (singing) `There's no business like show business if you tell me
it's
so,' and she keeps singing, (singing) `Like no business I know.' And she
misses it once, then she laughs and she says to Roger Edens, who did the
layout, and her mentor--she said, `Oh, I'm sorry, Roger.' And finally she
gets it, and from that unedited session that you're going to hear, they did
splice together what was the finished vocal version.

GROSS: OK, well, let's hear it. This is Judy Garland, an outtake from
"Annie
Get Your Gun," the film.

(Soundbite of "Annie Get Your Gun" recording session)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) The opening when your heart beats like a
drum,
the closing when the customers won't come.

Ms. JUDY GARLAND: (Singing) There's no business...

(Speaking) Oh, I'm sorry. Gee, I couldn't see it. All right. Keep the
same
tempo. Keep the same tempo. (Vocalizes melody)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) When the customers won't come.

Ms. GARLAND: (Singing) There's no business like show business, like no
bus...

(Speaking) Oh! I'm sorry!

(Soundbite of Garland and man laughing)

Ms. GARLAND: I'm sorry, Roger.

Unidentified Man #3: Oh, 'cause it's the music.

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) When the customers won't come.

Ms. GARLAND: (Singing) There's no business like show business if you tell
me
it's so.

Group of Men: (Singing) Traveling through the country is so thrilling.
Standing out in front of opening night. Smiling as you watch the benches
filling and see your billing up there in lights.

Ms. GARLAND: (Singing) There's no people like show people. They smile when
they are low.

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Even with the turkey that you know will
fold...

Unidentified Man #4: (Singing) You may be stranded out in the cold.

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) Still you wouldn't change it for a sack of
gold.

Ms. GARLAND and Group of Men: (Singing) Let's go on with the show. Let's
go
on with the show.

GROSS: That was Judy Garland singing with Frank Morgan, Howard Keel and
Keenan Wynn. It's one of the rare recordings that my guest, Michael
Feinstein, has brought with him. Michael Feinstein has a new CD in which he
sings accompanied by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Now, you know, in addition to performing, you're also a song collector, and
the great thing is you put the two together by performing, in addition to
popular songs, some very rare songs. And you have scoured flea markets and
homes and basements and movie studios as well. How have you gotten access
to
movie studios looking for outtakes and forgotten recordings?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: My initial access came because of Ira Gershwin. Ira wrote
me
a letter of introduction that allowed me to get into the RKO studios in the
late '70s. And it was possible because of him, quite frequently, because in
the early days, I was looking for Gershwin materials. But after I became
somewhat known, a lot of studio librarians and archivists would let me in
because they knew that my intentions were pure.

GROSS: Well, Michael Feinstein, I want to thank you so much for talking
with
us. Thank you.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thank you. It was a true pleasure.

GROSS: Michael Feinstein. His latest CDs of his own singing are "Michael
Feinstein and the Israel Philharmonic" and "The Livingston and Evan
Songbook."

Here's Feinstein singing my favorite of all the Christmas songs with the
song's co-composer Hugh Martin at the piano.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. FEINSTEIN: (Singing) Christmas future is far away. Christmas past is
past. Christmas present is here today bringing joy that will last. Have
yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. From now on
the
troubles will be out of sight.

GROSS: We'll close today's show with a 1956 recording of this song,
performed
by the song's composers, Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine. I'm Terry Gross.
Merry Christmas from all of us at FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man #5: (Singing) When the steeple bell sound their A, they
don't play it in tune. But the welcome will ring one day and that day will
be
soon. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light.
Next
year all our troubles will be out of sight. Have yourself a merry little
Christmas. Make the yuletide gay. Next year all our troubles will be miles
away. Once again, as in olden days, happy golden days of yore. Faithful
friends who are dear to us will be near to us once more. Someday soon we
all
will be together if the fates allow. Until then we'll have to muddle
through
somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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