October 21, 2006

"I Can't Get Started"

This video from YouTuber (groan) garyhopkins is great on so many levels: for one thing, it's an "old" (1989) Late Night with David Letterman, and mainly because it features perhaps the last live TV appearance of Sammy Davis Jr. Accompanied by The World's Most Dangerous Band, Sammy performs an old standard for Letterman's young TV audience, "I Can't Get Started" (words & music by Ira Gershwin & Vernon Duke). This is the very kind of thing I would have had absolutely no interest in back in those days. It's funny how things change.

I couldn't help but break out in a big ol' grin when he changes the lyrics of verse two from "A - round the golf course, I'm under par, And all the movies want me to star" to "A - round the golf course, I'm under par, And Eddie Murphy has asked me to star" (Sinatra changed it to "Metro-Goldwyn asks me to star"). Here is the video description:

Probably Sammy Davis, Jr.'s last TV performance. He died of lung cancer about a year later. At the end, he tells Paul Shaffer "No rehearsal. See--better!" This explains the very light touch by the band until the tempo changes--they've never played with this man before, and he's a legend among legends! But when they hit the groove, they all swing. All in all, a very tasty performance. (Imagine being able to just walk onto live TV and pull this off effortlessly! It's mind-boggling....) Sammy's one of my heroes, and while his shtick was sometimes hard to take, there's no debating his prodigious talent, even in that last year of his life.

He died the next year (from smoking-related cancer), in May 1990, so it's amazing to see him holding a smoldering cigarette. I have no doubt he had been smoking it before this performance.

Sorry, Sammy, but it goes without saying that I prefer Sinatra's version (with lyrics customized for Sinatra by Sammy Cahn).


  • Ocean's 11 title sequence
  • EEE-O Eleven

    Cheryl said...

    Sammy had an incredible voice and it was as good as Sinatra's in every way with the exception of emotion. (IMHO)Sammy was a huge talent and he left this world way too early.
    He always put on a good show and was great to watch.

    Chris said...

    He was a huge talent, no doubt. He could play drums like nobody's business, for example. I agree with your comparison of his and Sinatra's voice. You do know though that he modeled his style after Frank? But Sinatra had that rare talent to make the listener believe he had actually experienced everything he sang about, and perhaps he did! Also, he was singing to you, and only you. That's Frank!