Art, Music, & Film: February 2009 Archives

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Judy and Ella: "Get Happy"


On the way home from work today they played Ella Fitzgerald's version of Harold Arlen's magnificent jazzy semi-religious "Get Happy." I couldn't help but reflect on Judy Garland's performance of the same. It was interesting because when I first thought about it, I remembered Judy Garland's version sounding much more desperate, frenzied. Perhaps it was all the very fey get-up about it, with her in stockings and a man's suit top. And that perhaps says more about my memory than about Judy Garland's performance. My memory is colored by what I know of Judy's life, and so I read more into the performance than might have been there.

I am fortunate enough to know nearly nothing about Ella Fitzgerald's life, and I think I intend to keep it that way. Knowing the life of the artist (for me at least) colors how I look at their works. Knowing Tom Hanks's and Alec Baldwin's nearly rabid politics makes me disinclined to partake of their oeuvre. What I know about Judy Garland's life does not make me want to avoid her, but it does cause me to "read into" every performance. From Andy Hardy to Meet Me in Saint Louis. I think of her always in terms of the desperately unhappy, but lovely, Christmastime song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Back to the point. For the first time today, I actually heard "Get Happy." Not that Ella's performance was better, more perfect, or more comprehensible, but that it was divorced from unnecessary back story (provided by the listener). I could hear a peppy little tune that really rocks along. Whether or not it says anything worth saying, I can't say, but it was nice to jog along with it and arrive at the same place rather than the place I get to whenever I see Judy perform it.

Nothing remarkable here, just a comment on how strangely the mind encompasses these things and changes them.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Art, Music, & Film category from February 2009.

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