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Jerry Lewis, Count Basie, “Blazing Saddles” and Seth MacFarlane

My good friend MC Antil, who was nice enough to let me repost some of his insightful music commentary (here and here), this week posted a great appreciation of Jerry Lewis.

The bottom line is that Antil considers Lewis a genius but guessed that he was anything but a happy man:

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Jerry Lewis and Count Basie

My sense is Jerry Lewis was like most people you meet in life, a complex and sometimes confounding mix of emotions, neuroses and personality tics. The scene above, for example, like so much of the guy’s comedy (and, for that matter, even his work as ringmaster for the Muscular Dystrophy telethons he produced and starred in every Labor Day) seemed to indicate that just beneath the surface the man hid a palpable but very real (and perhaps very deep) sense of anger.

The scene to which MC refers is from “The Errand Boy,” which is top of this post as well as MC’s. It’s a famous and obviously brilliant.

The music is “Blues in Hoss’ Flat” by Count Basie. Lewis used Basie music several occasions. There is a symmetry here: Lewis died on Sunday and Basie would have turned 113 on Monday (my dad would have turned 97). The two men, Antil told me, were friendly. I did some surfing and found that they socialized but found no evidence of a deep relationship.

In an appreciation of Lewis that appeared the day after he died, LA Times Randy Lewis discussed his namesake’s use of music. The columnist cites the opening of “Cinderfella,” in which Lewis enters to “the greatest swing music intro imaginable” which, of course, was played by Basie and his orchestra. Later in “Cinderfella,” Lewis pantomines the instruments as the Basie tune “Cute” plays on the radio.

Mel Brooks, Lewis writes, copied the idea – again, using Basie – in “Blazing Saddles.” Seth MacFarlane, who cares deeply about music and the history of show business, paid homage in “Family Guy,” according to Lewis. (A little more about MacFarlane, who seems to be a pretty complicated guy himself, is at Maclean’s.)

This, in a roundabout way, is a belated birthday post for Count Basie. The Daily Music Break has covered him previously. Here he performs “Whirly Bird” with his orchestra.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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