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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:

count_basie_jerry_lewis
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 “Slow Blues” with Oscar Peterson and “Whirly Bird” with his orchestra.

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Carl

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