August 21, 2007

"The Way You Look Tonight"

Apart from "Wave," my other favorite Sinatra recording would have to be "The Way You Look Tonight," which he did for the Frank Sinatra Sings Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River and Other Academy Award Winners album in 1964. The vocal on it is one of the best examples of the more swinging, jazzy style indicative of his 1960s Reprise Records period. One way to describe it is Sinatra would sing just ahead of or slightly behind the beat. Comedian Tim Conway described Sinatra's style by using "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat" as an example. Whereas most people would simply sing "row, row, row, your boat...," Sinatra would do "row, (pause) row, row your boat," or some variation of that.

Sinatra took this technique to its extreme on "The Way You Look Tonight," leaving out entire words, such as on the last verse, wherein instead of "Yes you're lovely," he simply sings "Love-ly." A jazz trumpeter named Zeke Zarchy said: "Once while I was driving I heard an old record by Frank and Nelson (Nelson Riddle), and I had to get out of the car and call the radio station...It was 'The Way You Look Tonight,' the greatest thing I ever heard! I defy any instrumentalist to swing like he does with his voice on that record." (p. 20 of Sinatra! the Song is You: A Singer's Art by Will Friedwald). No matter how he did it, no one else before or since could make a smile seem so warm or a cheek so soft.

by bridgebolt

Sinatra's first chance to record "The Way You Look Tonight" was as a ballad on a V-Disc recording from a Songs by Sinatra (his 1940s radio program) dress rehearsal in November 1943. The song was introduced to my generation in this beer commercial from 1986:

The commercial apparently caused a resurgence in the song's popularity. One of the results was many letters from fans asking Sinatra to perform it in concert. Also, people were said to have requested it from the audience at his live shows. Sinatra added it to his rehearsal schedule, but he never performed it live.

"The Way You Look Tonight" Wikipedia entry:

"The Way You Look Tonight" is a song featured in the film Swing Time, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936. It was written by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Fields later remarked that the melody, upon first hearing it, moved her to tears and she was thrilled to provide the lyrics: "The first time Jerry played that melody for me I had to leave the room because I started to cry. The release absolutely killed me. I couldn't stop, it was so beautiful."
The song was sung by John "Lucky" Garnett (played by Fred Astaire) while sitting at the piano. Penelope "Penny" Carroll (played by Ginger Rogers) was busy washing her hair in an adjacent room, and feeling anything but beautiful at the time.

Yeah, Sinatra made it swing (with Nelson Riddle's assistance!).


Anonymous said...


Chris said...

Hey, thanks! I agree, Sinatra was/is fascinating.