Monday, March 21, 2005

Short Shrift

The Carlyle's own Bobby Short has reached his final cadence. I see no point in putting in a link here; it must be all over the Web by now, and anyone who can't find a site reporting on it either has no idea how to google or just doesn't give a damn.

And anyone who doesn't give a damn has no business reading this blog, for Mr. Short was crucial in the development of my musical taste. He didn't form it--that was done long before I'd ever heard of the guy--but his albums of Cole Porter and Noel Coward songs, like that crucial last stage in a Saturn rocket, sent me into that Popular Standard orbit whence there is no re-entry, but to the grave. I found the albums just as I was first being introduced to the sheet music, and the combination of the two was explosive.

In the little world in which I grew up, comic songs were a barren archipelago in an ocean of self-conscious, earnest, pretentious, subintellectual rock-and/or-roll. There were Tom Lehrer, Allan Sherman, and Stan Freberg, of course; but the idea that any humorist since W.S. Gilbert had ever broken into mainstream popular song never occurred to me. So Porter and Coward impressed me as profoundly as the Americas must have done the sailors of the Age of Exploration.

I saw from the first that Mr. Short understood the wit in every word they wrote. It was at about this time that the perfectly dreadful At Long Last Love, starring Cybill Shepherd, Burt Reynolds and others was making a splash on the screen, and the contrast between Mr. Short's understanding of Porter's stuff and the movie's cretinous cluelessness was one of my early lessons in artistic discrimination.

I feel a parody in honor of the man coming on. Stay tuned.


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