"Music Makes Me is a bold, engaging, and utterly original take on Fred Astaire's incomparable artistry, his musical legacy, and his stature as a true Hollywood auteur. In this bold, fresh, and endlessly insightful study, Decker takes us inside the creative process, describing how Hollywood provided Astaire with the resources to reinvent the musical genre in his own inimitable style--a jazz-infused, dance-obsessed style that found expression when, and only when, Astaire 'let it swing.'"
--Thomas Schatz, author of The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era
"Decker defines Astaire-the-dancer as a kind of musician--and specifically a jazz musician--attuned to the most recent inflections of American popular music. With perceptive readings of films, songs, and 'routines' informed by an impressive array of archival material, he is able to analyze and describe Astaire's artistry with unprecedented precision across his entire career. This is an outstanding book marking an important and unique intersection of music, dance, film, and race."
--Jeffrey Magee, author of The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz
"Any residual hair-splitting about Fred Astaire's relationship to jazz, as an incomparable dancer and engaging singer, has been deftly and resoundingly settled by Todd Decker. His deep research and authoritative writing aimed at fans of jazz and Astaire as well as musicians and musicologists elucidate the underpinnings of Astaire's bond with jazz over a half-century. Add to the iconic songs Astaire performed (and that his career was song-driven), the perfect timing of his career, ability to adapt in film and later television and Decker's thesis stands on Astaire's magical feet and transcendent feat."
--Tad Hershorn, author of Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice
"Music Makes Me is an important contribution in a much underexplored area, well researched, engagingly written, and insightful. It applies first rate scholarship informed by a warm and well informed (but not uncritical) empathy for its subject. A valuable contribution not only to studies of Fred Astaire and of the musical film, but of jazz and of twentieth-century American musical culture."
--John Mueller, author of Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films
Fred Astaire: one of the great jazz artists of the twentieth century? Astaire is best known for his brilliant dancing in the movie musicals of the 1930s, but in Music Makes Me, Todd Decker argues that Astaire's work as a dancer and choreographer --particularly in the realm of tap dancing--made a significant contribution to the art of jazz. Decker examines the full range of Astaire's work in filmed and recorded media, from a 1926 recording with George Gershwin to his 1970 blues stylings on television, and analyzes Astaire's creative relationships with the greats, including George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and Johnny Mercer. He also highlights Astaire's collaborations with African American musicians and his work with lesser known professionals--arrangers, musicians, dance directors, and performers.