I had a request for this song today. It’s the birthday of one of our most faithful readers, Aida, from the Russian Tony Bennett Fan Club. Here’s a link to their site, if you’re interested. “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” is one of Aida’s favorite songs, and one of mine as well. I’m more than happy to fulfill the request to talk about this song.
It was written in 1982 by Michel Legrand, with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, for the film Best Friends, which starred Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn. I love the music of Michel Legrand and absolutely adore the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. (Ten seconds into “The Way We Were” sung by Barbara Streisand and I’m crying my eyes out. It’s a Pavlovian response at this point).
The first recording of this song was a duet by James Ingram and Patti Austin.
Tony Bennett first recorded “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” in 1986 for his album The Art of Excellence.
But how did Tony come to record this song in the first place? He tells the story in his autobiography The Good Life, while discussing the album The Art of Excellence:
I included a song on that album called “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, which I had first heard Sinatra sing. One night I went to see Frank perform at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.I know no idea he knew I was there, but right after he finished singing the song, he said to me, in full view of thousands of people, ‘Tony! You should sing this song!’ How could I refuse?
I’ve heard him sing this song in concert and it completely blew me away. But the performance that really blew me away was the duet he did with Aretha Franklin for Duets II. Sheer, wonderful perfection.
I dare you to see that tear in Bennett’s eye at the end of the song, followed by his glorious smile, and not be moved.
Happy Birthday, Aida!