Apparently Michael Jackson was reincarnated as an American high school student

It’s a talent show at Pitman High School in Modesto, California (the Central Valley). One skinny white guy got up and proved to everyone that the ghost of Michael Jackson is inhabiting his body. He’s lip syncing the words, but the moves are all Michael. Most impressive:

You can read more about Brett Nichols here.

Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” — a joyous walk through almost a century of music at home and abroad

My recent post about the best flash mob ever reminded me of a post I did in 2009 about Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” a song that lives on and on, around the world. Today seems like a good day to expand upon that post.

Irving Berlin composed “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in 1929. Although he wrote it about blacks in Harlem who dressed up for a night on the town, the American public first saw it in 1930, when Harry Richman sang it with arch “high class” inflections while plump chorines bounced and trotted woodenly behind him:

Fred Astaire also recorded the song in 1930, and his staccato presentation put a lasting imprint on people’s perceptions of the song:

In 1937, Clark Gable, as part of his delightful turn as a two-bit vaudeville player, turned in a wonderfully camp and charming version of the same song. Indeed, this is my favorite version of the song:

By 1946, Fred Astaire once again was “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” this time on film, as opposed to just a sound recording:

Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, the divine Ella Fitzgerald brought her particular brand of music to the song:

In the mid-1970s, Michael Jackson — Michael Jackson! — along with his brothers tackled the song (it starts at about the 1:20 marks):

Also in the 1970s, there was a delightful version of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. Sadly, I can’t track down any video of that segment.

The 1980s saw Taco’s somewhat boring, and very creepy, un-PC version (complete with black-face performers). As I recall, it was a surprise hit.

In addition, in 1988, The Mighty Diamonds did a reggae version:

“Puttin’ on the Ritz” made an appearance in the 1990s, as the theme music for Nintendo’s Super Hunchback:

Rufus Wainwright, a millennial heart-throb did a version sometime after 2000. If only he could carry a tune…. I recommend no more than 10 seconds of this one. I include it just to show how eternal Irving Berlin is:

More recently, Club des Belugas, a cutting edge NuJazz group in Germany, fired up Puttin’ on the Ritz a few years ago with a remix of Fred Astaire’s 1946 version:

The endlessly cool Herb Alpert did a version last year:

2013 was a good year for “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” since Robbie Williams recorded it too, with the original 1929 lyrics:

And then, of course, there’s the “best flash mob ever” version, from Moscow, in 2012, with love:

How does one account for the enduring, world-wide popularity of this 85-year-old song? I think my teenage son put it best. After watching the flash mob, he turned to me and said, “You know, Mom, that’s a really catchy tune.”

The media’s Michael Jackson worship *UPDATED*

Jonah Goldberg expresses beautifully everything that’s wrong with the media’s coverage about Michael Jackson’s death:

Generally speaking, I’m a believer in the rule that we should not speak ill of the dead. Or at least we should wait a decent interval before doing so (if we never spoke ill of the dead, history would be meaningless). But, I must say I find the media’s instinctive rush to sanctify Michael Jackson disgusting.


Everyone likes to invoke Lord Acton’s axiom that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But nearly everyone forgets that he coined this phrase not to indict powerful men, but to instruct the historians who write about them.  Historians tend to forgive the powerful their transgressions. Likewise, journalists (for want of a better word) tend to forgive the famous.

Calling Michael Jackson an icon doesn’t let him off the hook for anything. But to listen to the news anchors you’d think it absolves him of everything.

The only thing that could have made Goldberg’s point more strongly would have been if he had quoted from an LA Times writer who announced that “Michael Jackson is perhaps the most fatally flawed historical icon since Napoleon.”

Michael Jackson’s life made me feel icky.  The media’s post-death coverage makes me feel positively slimed.

UPDATE:  The Anchoress, inspired by Goldberg, took it to the next level, explaining the difference between idols and icons.

Farrah Fawcett, RIP *UPDATED: Michael Jackson, RIP”

I came of age in the 1970s, when Farrah Fawcett was probably the most popular pin-up in America.  Whether running dashingly around on Charlie’s Angels, or smiling brightly, yet provocatively, in her famous red swimsuit picture, she was everywhere.

Those images are so vivid in my mind, it’s hard to believe that this fixture from my youth is dead, but she is, having died this morning from cancer.

My condolences to her family and friends.

UPDATE:  I came in from dragging out mountains of collected junk from around the house, only to discover the news completely taken over with Michael Jackson’s death.  He was an incredibly talented and pathetic human being.  I don’t think he enjoyed life very much. As with Farrah Fawcett, my condolences go to his family and friends.

The one thing I know for certain is that, as I tweeted, Jackson’s death is a welcome relief for reporters who get several days reprieve from having to grapple with such challenging issues as Iran, cap-and-trade, a sagging economy, etc.

As for me, unless I have a larger point to make about society or media, this will be the last I have to say about either of these stories, which are personal tragedies for the families, and marginally interesting news of the minute for the fans.