Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You're Going My Way: Bobby Darin: "Lazy River"

And now, some glamour; some snazziness; some swingin' goodness. But since this is the 60s, there is a ticking clock in the background, one that in this case ticks rather loudly. Bobby Darin (as is known now, but wasn't known in '61) knew he didn't have the best health and was determined to make as much of his life as he could. This condition might drive some to despair, but Darin took it the opposite direction to a kind of rabid joy which must have been incandescent in person.

The vitality here comes from Darin himself, of course, but also from the equally snazzy duo of Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler at Atlantic, who produced the song and no doubt gave Darin the freedom to start quietly and take this song (by Hoagy Carmichael) - grab it more, really - to the point where he can exclaim "From the halfway mark YEAH!" near the end and make it sound like the 50s are well over and done, that his lion's way of 'rrRROOORRing' his words (like a thick smear of jam on toast) is going to cast off any chains that are left over from the previous decade. This is a man who paid attention to James Brown and Ray Charles, and these influences show, as much as the Catskills swagger he learned when younger. This is young, fresh America, smiling and confident, taking pleasure when and wherever it can...but elsewhere...a young woman - she is still in her teens at this point - must have heard this and admired Darin's freedom to roam over a standard at will, anchored as she was to Mitch Miller's style of singing dutifully and moderately (a style which followed a bouncing ball, just as many tv viewers also did), dimming and shading any signs of ecstatic or erotic experience. She was still stuck, against her will, in the 50s, as so many were at this time, toiling away in jazz standards, having some success but not enough to satisfy her ambition. I mention her to show what Darin accomplished in such a short time was a yardstick for others, a sunny beacon to black and white singers alike.

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