Fred Astaire (1899-1987)

The most ardent superlatives are insufficient to describe the talents of Fred Astaire. Even in his lifetime, he was universally acknowledged not only as film’s greatest dancer but also one of its greatest singing actors. Born in Omaha and initially partnered with his older sister Adele, the young duo attained a glamorous stardom on both the London and New York stages that continued thru Adele’s retirement in 1931. Solo for the first time, young Astaire starred once on Broadway, then went on to carve his incomparable niche in Hollywood history over the next 30+ years.

The catalogue of memorable songs written for Astaire the Dancer and/or Astaire the Singer is irrefutable evidence of the inspiration he provided for nearly every great songwriter of the day: Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” Vincent Youmans’ “The Carioca,” “Flying Down To Rio”[the title song of the landmark 1933 film that first introduced the team of Astaire and his most celebrated dance partner Ginger Rogers]; Jerome Kern’s “I Won’t Dance,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “A Fine Romance,” “Never Gonna Dance;” Irving Berlin’s “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails,” “Isn’t It A Lovely Day?,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “We Saw The Sea,” “Let’s Face The Music and Dance,” “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket,” “Change Partners,” “A Couple of Swells,” “Stepping Out With My Baby;” the Gershwins’ “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Shall We Dance?,” “They All Laughed, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “A Foggy Day,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It;” Kern and Johnny Mercer’s “You Were Never Lovelier,” “Dearly Beloved,” “I’m Old Fashioned;” Mercer and Harold Arlen’s “My Shining Hour,” “One For My Baby;” Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane’s “You’re All The World To Me,” “How Could You Believe Me?”; Harry Warren’s “This Heart of Mine,” “My One & Only Highland Fling;” Arthur Schwartz’s “That’s Entertainment;” Mercer’s “Something’s Gotta Give.”

The aforementioned songs, all included in Fred Miller’s Lecture, represent only Astaire’s movie career and not his pre-Hollywood years on the stage with his sister Adele. Few if any other singers can be linked to such a remarkable treasury of songs. But then again, no one else was Fred Astaire, the Compleat [sic] Performing Artist and one of the artistic giants of the twentieth century.

If you would like to engage Fred Miller for one of his Lectures-in-Song, please contact him directly at any time. For a full listing of all Lectures, click here.

Fred Miller’s Lectures-In-Song comprise a series of solo programs, each an historical, anecdotal and musical profile of some great personality or important aspect of American Popular Song. These Lectures are delivered by singer/pianist/narrator Miller at the piano, and each reflects his lifetime passion and appreciation for great music. He studied classical piano in his hometown of Albuquerque from ages 7-15 but early on gave up any notion of music as a profession. At that time, Fred assumed a musical career was either one devoted to the rigid discipline of classical music or being a freewheeling rock star, and he accurately decided he had no aptitude for either. However, at age 22, upon hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter, he found his calling and life’s mission.

Through the Seventies and Eighties, Miller studied and absorbed in minute detail the life and times and songs of nearly all the great American composers and lyricists who thrived during Broadway & Hollywood’s Golden Age between the two World Wars. In 1987, he founded Silver Dollar Productions in order to produce operettas, dramas, musicals and small cabarets. Silver Dollar Productions required ensemble casts, props, costumes and, most significantly, the challenges of publicity and selling tickets, and for a dozen busy years, the company presented an unbroken string of varied and highly lauded performances.

In 1999, Miller was simultaneously underwritten by both his local Hunterdon County Library and the Art Alliance of Philadelphia to present a series of six solo Lectures-In-Song, each devoted to one of the premiere Broadway/Hollywood songwriters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen.

In presenting history, biography and psychology while sitting at a piano singing the superlative songs of his heroes, Miller has found a single performing medium that utilizes most of his intellectual and musical passions.The list of Lectures-In-Song that began with six in 1999 is now more than seventy(and growing!), a joyful tribute to the boundlessly rich field of American Popular Song.