The other day, my friend Mark Evanier posted a video here of Kander & Ebb performing their song, "Ring Them Bells." Unmentioned is that the performance comes from a TV series in the 1980s called The Songwriters, where legendary Broadway composers and lyricists each put on a concert of their work from week to week. I've posted clips from it in the past, but the series in on DVD and is available too on Netflix. The shows are inconsistent, dependent on the songwriters' works and their performing ability, but it's all fun regardless. The two best are this one with Kander and Ebba, and the one with Sheldon Harnick -- both helped by the quality of the songs and (importantly) the performing singles of the songwriters.
(Though the show with E.Y. "Yip" Harburg -- a mentor of Harnick -- isn't my favorite, it includes perhaps my favorite moment in the series. To be clear, the show doesn't falter from the quality of the songs which are tremendous, but rather than Harbug -- not being much of a vocalist -- relies on a group of singers to do the performances, and that diminishes the fun of the series. However, he opens the show singing himself, performing his most famous song, and for all his limitations this might be the greatest version of "Over the Rainbow" I've heard. I wrote about it here and embedded the video.)
Here's another from Kander and Ebb, their rendition of their classic "New York, New York." How great it must be to write a song where the audience breaks into applause just from here the few-note vamp before the song even begins. It's also worth noting that when Fred Ebbs sings here -- and in the video of "Ring Them Bells" -- he is clearly channeling Liza Minnelli, who originally performed them both. For all I know, though, it was Ebb who came up with some of the choreography. (Or not.)
I mentioned here in that past that my childhood friend John Kander II, back from our days at Camp Nebagamon, and now out here in Los Angeles, is the nephew of the the songwriter and his namesake. A couple years ago he told me about his nephew, Jason Kander, who's therefore the great-nephew of Uncle John. (Follow the bouncing family tree...) He said that Jason was running for Secretary of State in Missouri, an uphill challenge since he was so young -- I believe 31 at the time -- and also since he's a Democrat in a state that has lately tended to be conservative. But Jason Kander won, and is now Missouri's Secretary of State. (Among his other credentials is that he was a captain in the U.S. Army, and served in millitary intelligence officer in Afghanistan.)
All this came to mind a couple weeks ago when I was watching The Rachel Maddow Show, and she was talking about how Jason Kander had announced he was running for the U.S. Senate against current senator Roy Blunt.
It's an uphill battle against an incumbent in a Red State, being young and a Democrat. But though his opponent has been in Washington a long time, he's only been in the Senate for one term, and this is will be a presidential year, which tends to bring more Democrats to the poll. Also, he's an impressive guy, with a serious future in Democratic politics, whatever happens in 2016, since he's so young -- but most especially if he wins
For those interested, here's his announcement video. And no, there is no music vamping from his great-uncle.