Raise your hand if you love Dean Martin… I knew it! Everyone loves Dean Martin except College Girl – she thinks Frank Sinatra is better. But even she likes Dean Martin.
Well, I most decidedly love Dean Martin, but I do have to say that Frank Sinatra is the greatest singer of what I guess is called American Popular Song. Besides the better voice, Sinatra’s articulation has a much wider expressive range. But Dean Martin I think is vastly underrated, and that’s what this blog is about, appreciating Dino.
What strikes me about Dean Martin is that he projects a nice guy in his voice. He’s not the star quarterback type say like Elvis where girls just throw themselves toward him. He’s the type whom girls feel comfortable with, and are most definitely attracted to, but fathers would prefer their daughters marry someone else. Why? Well, I can’t help feeling this, but he projects someone who doesn’t work very hard and ultimately will be a failure in life. He’s so laid back, so relaxed in his tone, that the pleasure of a glass of wine or two or three are more important than getting to work. There’s a passivity to his voice—he doesn’t sound like he’s out to grab the world by the throat—and the songs where he excels are those where the lyrics accentuate the passivity in his tone. Take “That’s Amore.”
When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie, that's amore
When the world seems to shine
Like you've had too much wine, that's amore
“When the moon hits your eye” is a passive event, an outside object effecting the person. It’s not like the singer went out to find love, it found him, possibly while crossing a restaurant with a glass of wine and some pretty girl stumbles into you and spills the wine across your jacket. It’s like low and behold, what just happened? Here’s this marvelous song.
Also notice how the humor and, even more so, the lack of seriousness adds to the sense of a lack of ambition. Love is compared to a big pizza pie hitting you in the eye! LOL! That’s not very deep. There have been great philosophers who have pondered love, but Dino aint going anywhere near them. But that’s Dean. I love the way there’s a sort of chuckle in his articulation on those silly lines. He knows he’s not serious, but why should it be serious? And notice how he embellishes “Vita bella” at the 45 second mark as if that is all that’s important in life.
Now I have no idea whether Dean Martin's personal life was so laid back, unserious, and sensualist, but that's the singing persona I pick up. He certainly was no personal failure.Here’s another great song, perhaps his best in the way phrases lines.
Again, the passivity—luck just found him and love kicked him—but I think what he does so great here is that split note of pause between most of the phrases leading up to his life going to be “Beee-uuu-ti-fuuul.” He really sells that beautiful life in the sun-shine.
And then nothing projects failure as “Little Old Wine Drinker Me.” While the song doesn’t actually say it, but one can’t help feel that the drinking was part of the problem. After all, he’s the wine drinker fool in the corner. But it’s a sophisticating drinking. He’s not sucking down beers or whiskey but wine, someone who just likes to enjoy life a bit too much and probably drove his girl to the brink.
Well, there are other great songs. I particularly like “Volare,” “Mambo Italiano,” “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,” “In the Chapel in the Moonlight,” and “Sway.” Which ones do you like?