Pick Yourself Up
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Then, after she says disgustedly, "I can't teach you anything", Astaire goes into a machine-gun rat-a-tat-tat and sweeps her up and across the floor. This is one of Ginger's best numbers: watch the way she's initially bewildered and tentative over Fred's sudden display of virtuoso terpsichore and then surrenders to the pure joy of the moment. And that's where it might have stayed. Except that "Pick Yourself Up" was so good that, year by year, bands and soloists and singers kept picking it up and dusting it off, again and again.
Kern's melody slyly evokes a Bohemian motif you may recognize from Smetana and others, but the Fields lyric is clever, too. When you watch the movie, it's a song about dancing; when you hear it on the radio, it's a song about staying the course, hanging in there, sticking to it — a universal sentiment, as even presidents have now recognized.
Most folks take it at a peppy tempo, but by the early Sixties the best interpreters were giving some thought as to what else might be done with the song. Within a few months, Ella Fitzgerald had recorded a version with Nelson Riddle, and Nat "King" Cole with George Shearing, the latter combination slowing Kern and Fields way down and turning the number into romantic advice for someone temporarily buffeted by the vicissitudes of love.
How To Trust The Universe And Pick Yourself Up
It was in this context that Sinatra embarked on his own version of the song, at his brand new record company and with a brand new arranger. Neal Hefti was never exactly a household name, but he insinuated his way into the brain of just about everybody on the planet who switched on a TV in the Sixties and Seventies. That's to say, he wrote the supergroovy theme for the film and sitcom spin-off The Odd Couple , and he wrote the ingenious theme for the Batman TV show - the one that spawned a thousand jokes: "How does Alfred call Batman in for dinner?
That would be more than enough glory for one lifetime, but Hefti was a multi-talent who did a bunch of other stuff brilliantly, too. He was a marvelous film composer and a terrific arranger who played a critical role in the sound of the Count Basie band in the Fifties and Sixties. The latter is maybe the jazziest album Frank ever made, right from Hefti's jumpin' chart for the all-time great revenge gloatfest number "Goody Goody" through the dissonant brass blast that opens a freewheeling two-chorus "Tangerine" to the ebullient countermelody on "Love Is Just Around The Corner".
Sinatra And Swingin' Brass is, however, a wee bit misleading as a title: The album isn't any more swingin' than the harder stuff Frank did with Billy May and Nelson Riddle, and the brass is only one element; the reeds are just as prominent, and as striking.
But Hefti was a Basie arranger, and the colors and chord substitutions he put underneath Frank's voice are quite different from May and Riddle and give even some of the most familiar material on the set a new and exhilarating sound. As I mentioned a few days ago, Sinatra arrived as Hefti was rehearsing the band and was so jazzed by what he heard he jumped in and started singing along.
But it was trickier than it sounds, and this arrangement especially. Hefti constructed a chart that comes in swinging on the vocal sections and then makes like the baroque guys in the fugue-esque orchestral breaks.
Pick Oneself Up | Definition of Pick Oneself Up by Merriam-Webster
Frank begins with a big wailing "now":. Lyricists go to great lengths to avoid the word "now", only to have singers throw it in as their standard grace note anyway: Now I get a kick out of you Now that's why the lady is a tramp But it seems to work here, signaling a man entirely at ease with Hefti's hip reinvention of the song. It wasn't that way in the studio.
Kern's modulation in the release can be tricky, and Hefti's backgrounds are so sophisticated that it's easy for even the greatest singer to be thrown off by something deep in the orchestration. Throughout his recording career, even when he blew a take, Sinatra would be breezy and confident, shrugging it off with a quip for the musicians and the pallies in the control room. On this session, it was different. On the sixth take, on the reprise of "Will you remember the famous men?
He stopped, and Hefti silenced the band, and there was a strange very unFrankish still in the room. And then Sinatra said:. But, like the song says, nothing's impossible: when your chin is on the ground, just pick yourself up. So he did and the seventh take was a killer. What do you do for an encore? In the case of Frank and Neal Hefti, nothing.
So he quit vocal arranging and, despite innumerable offers from all the best singers right up to his death six years ago, never returned to it. At any rate, that's the way he told it. According to others, he quit because Sinatra wouldn't give him equal billing on the Swingin' Brass album. HuffPost is part of Verizon Media. Verizon Media and our partners need your consent to access your device and use your data including location to understand your interests, and provide and measure personalised ads.
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