Wednesday, August 07, 2013
What I learned from Tony Bennett
The trap of course is to not become a clone. How many Tarantino clones are out there? Or Judd Apatow clones?
Same is true in broadcasting. Listen to minor league announcers and you hear a lot of Vin Scully mimics. In basketball, Marv Albert is the one to imitate.
But eventually you have to grow out of that and find your own voice. Take away some lessons but chart your own course.
Tony Bennett was discussing this subject recently in an interview with the Los Angeles Times and said the most fascinating thing. When he was studying singing at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts a professor told him, don’t emulate another singer – emulate an instrument. I thought that was brilliant. You get the emotion and the interpretation without the comparison of another voice. He said jazz pianist Art Tatum was one of his big influences.
Here’s Tony from that interview:
I always loved the jazz pianist Art Tatum, who would build his performance — he would move in and out of the melody — and it would create a very interesting presentation. At the time all the singers — Sinatra, Dick Haymes — would sing what I call a "sweet, straight line," so I established a style where I would change my phrasing or end with a big finish to a song and I was able to create my own style.
God bless him and happy 87th birthday, Tony.
Writers often speak of dialogue as music. There is a rhythm and flow. There are emotions expressed that aren’t in the specific words. The goal is to understand writers, not copy them.
To this day I'll get stuck and think "What would Larry Gelbart do?" Or "What would Jim Brooks do?" I'm not thinking "What would they say?" But how would they attack this problem? They might avoid sentimentality. They might find an unexpected attitude that is still consistent with the character but surprising. They might search for a clever device. But the device itself, and the attitude, and the jokes and dialogue are all mine. The sensibility is mine. The characters are mine. Just the musical score is theirs.
So to sum up: It’s not just pictures -- Maybe notes are also worth a thousand words.
BONUS: From our "Dancin' Homer" episode of THE SIMPSONS