“Singin’ in the Rain” performed by Gene Kelly (1952)

9 04 2009

What’s not to like about this song? It’s got a great melody with a jaunty, swingin’ rhythm, and it’s all about being happy. And Mr. Kelly’s performance is just stellar. Watching this performance never fails to lift my spirits, no small feat considering the tonnage of said spirits at times.

I have deep respect and admiration for Gene Kelly. A dancer, singer, actor, writer, director, choreographer, labor leader (with the Writer’s Guild of America), and political activist, he was a giant in Hollywood. But most of all he gave a lot of joy to a lot of people on this planet through his works.

I hope you get a chance to see and appreciate his movies, such as this one and, definitely, “An American in Paris.”

And don’t forget to go play out in the rain once in a while!


“Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (2007)

3 04 2009

This is a stunningly beautiful song, full of emotion and yearning. It won an Academy Award for best original song for its use in the terrific indie film “Once.”

It’s the centerpiece of an amazing scene between the main characters, played by Hansard and Irglova, where they sit down and play music together for the first time. They do a fantastic job portraying what is to me an almost mystical connection between musicians when they’re really “in sync” with each other. Sometimes when you play with other musicians everything just clicks. Everybody seems to be in the same moment, in the same groove. When that happens, it’s really magical.

I hope you get to experience that many times in your life.

Flight of the Conchords

4 03 2009

Flight of the Conchords is basically two guys from New Zealand, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, who create and perform absolutely hilarious parodies of popular music.  Actually, I think their songs are more like tributes.  They have a show on HBO, and I’m guessing we will have the DVD’s in our library soon.  Their show has some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen on TV, but I may be biased since I like music so much.

They can nail just about any style of music, and their lyrics are clever, silly, and/or outrageous.  But they’re always funny.  And that is not easy to do.  A lot of musical comedy falls flat.  Flight of the Conchords (and their writers/musicians/arrangers/film crew) are incredibly talented.  Here are a few examples:

Bowie’s in Space.”  Hopefully you’ve come to know David Bowie’s music.  If you have, you my dig this as much as I do:

Sugalumps.”  A campy R&B romp, funnier still if you know how normally reserved the guys are in character:

Foux de Fa Fa.”  Ah, oui, French pop c’est magnifique!

Bret’s Angry Dance.”  The ’80’s were a simpler time, a time when people danced away their rage.  Cracks me up every time.

“Save Me” by Aimee Mann (1999)

12 09 2008

I think Aimee Mann is a national treasure.  Her songwriting is outstanding, all the way back to her days fronting ‘Til Tuesday (I highly recommend “Coming Up Close” from their second album).  Her music can be subtle and understated, which is deceptive, as she often sings about very harsh or emotionally draining things.  Like this song:

“You look like a perfect fit
For a girl in need of a tourniquet”

This and a few of her other songs are integral to the movie “Magnolia,” an epic and thought-provoking film, which I also highly recommend.

Aimee Mann seems like the really cool middle sister you never had.  The one who let you try your first beer, or who would actually answer your questions without dumbing anything down for you.  The one who had your parents worried because she just didn’t “fit in” at school.  But you knew all along that she was just much smarter than and years ahead of everyone else.

So, let me introduce to you the cool sister we never had:  Aimee Mann

“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python (1979)

8 09 2008

You and I have spent lots of time watching bits and pieces from Monty Python, laughing like crazy at the silliness of it all.  But I want you to know how much I adore these guys.  Just past the silliness is some of the best social satire and writing around.  Some yanks are turned off by the “Britishness” of it all, turning off their brains when they hear the accents, or just dismissing it as weird.  That’s a shame, really.

This song is from one of my favorite movies of all time, “Life of Brian.”  The movie skewers everything, especially organized religion (all religion, not just Christianity).  As a result, a lot of people tried to ban the movie in the U.S.  Can you imagine that?  People are still trying to ban things?  And I’m afraid it’s only getting worse in this country.

To some this kind of thing seems blasphemous, but I don’t know.  Somehow I suspect that Jesus himself thinks “Life of Brian” is hilarious.

This is from the very end of the movie.  Eric Idle, the Python singing the song, also wrote it.  And it’s wonderful.  Who else but Monty Python could answer the eternal question:  When you’re hanging up in the desert, facing a slow, painful, lonely death, what are you going to do?

Why, sing a pleasant little ditty, of course!

(Thanks to the fine folks in Monty Python [MontyPython] for creating their own YouTube channel to share their extensive work.  See?  I told you these guys are awesome!)