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Dean Martin's Highly Underrated "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime"
December 2, 2016
Watching Dean Martin sing “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime” today requires a small investment up front, and that is to forget the last few decades of cultural derision for this style of entertaining, now routinely , reflexively derided as “smarmy” and “cheesy”. I spent some time with this song today, and have decided it’s unfairly neglected. It’s a really terrific song even without Deano, and it’s now been so associated with him, and he in turn with Rat Pack, that it takes a little effort to divorce it from that.
Despite Martin’s reputation for smooth phony insouciance, this performance of the song in 1965, a year after it had become a number one hit, shows a remarkable sincerity. Sure it’s hammy, but it was the style then. He isn’t mocking, Bill Murray-style, it’s for real. Once you get past the idea that he’s just kidding, it is easier for the control, and professional persona really comes through.
Let me point out a few spots:
The song starts at 2:10, after a few minutes of banter and chat. It all seems so effortless, but watch the control as he starts. He turns his back to the audience as the intro starts, subtly marking the boundary between the chat and the song. Then when he turns back, he pretends to fiddle with the mic, and looks down for the opening word “Everybody”. It’s tough to start a song in such a low register, and we naturally tilt our heads down to reach them. Try it right now – sing the lowest note you can, and notice how your head automatically tilts down. This helps us to sing the note more fully and naturally, and I suspect this is what Martin is doing, fiddling with the mic cord so it doesn’t look like is trying very hard to hit the note.
Simultaneously – and I think this is really remarkable – he is striking a pose which tells the audience “I’ve sung this song a million times – and we all know it – let’s just enjoy it”. The style nowadays is to make every performance of a song sound as fresh as the first time it was sung, but Martin makes no such pretense. Throughout the whole song, notice how he telegraphs “Yes, I can sing this thing in my sleep by now, but we’re all here to have a good time, so let’s listen together.” After that opening note, when he first lifts his head to face the audience. All smarminess is gone for just a second, and it’s a great moment. His face says “Isn’t this great?”, and “This is real, or at least we’re all going to play along that it is.”
He takes us through the first verse with the silkiness that comes from as many times as he’s sung it, punctuated once by a little hop that delights the audience, and then at 2:38 at the line “This sometime is now”, he does a little thing with his hand emphasizing the lyric. It’s so smooth and subtle, I just love it. There’s something very relaxing watching an entertainer who appears so unbelievably comfortable.
The end of the second verse has a little moment that is actually what inspired me to write about this song. Right at 3:00 the line is “That someplace is here”. Unlike the end of the first verse, now he is telling us he’s not even paying attention to the lyrics. On the words “is here” he pulls back, loses half his smile, and sings the line almost through a closed mouth. Is his mind really a mile away, or does he want us to think that for a second? Strange, but the effect of not-trying-very-hard is also reinforced. It’s a striking and very odd moment.
He jokes through the first bridge, and while it’s not particularly funny, it’s clever how simply changing “power” to “shower” changes the meaning of the bridge lyrics in an amusing way – that is, if you do it just right. He mumbles the second line, supposedly an impromptu moment with the offstage Sinatra, but in reality because it doesn’t serve the joke. At the third line, “Then every minute every hour”, he pops his eyes to tell us “the joke is still going”, we’re still at the shower. At the final line he does the little hop again under the line “Every boy would find what I found in your arms”, giving us permission to laugh at the bawdier interpretation. The second time through, however, he sings the bridge straight. Singing straight first and then jokingly might be perceived that he’s become bored with this performance. Singing it as a joke the first time and straight the second time, however, tells us first “We all know this song by heart” and second, “But isn’t it great?”
And everyone in the audience is dressed up (2:19).