Fred Astaire: The Screen Legend's Lesser-Known Gift for Songwriting

Published January 15, 2024

Fred Astaire, celebrated as a formidable talent in singing and dancing, also had a lesser-known gift: songwriting. This multifaceted entertainer made a seamless transition from Broadway to film along with his sister Adele in the early 20th century and quickly became one of Hollywood's first all-rounders. Following his film debut in Dancing Lady in 1933, he continued to charm audiences with his moves and melodies in various other movies.

Honoring Astaire's Music: The Singer's Album Releases

In 1952, Astaire released his first album titled The Astaire Story, going on to produce more albums later in his career including notable works such as A Couple of Song and Dance Men and They Can't Take These Away from Me. His contributions to music earned him a Grammy Hall of Fame Award posthumously.

Astaire's Legacy in Songwriting

Despite being renown for his performances, Astaire harbored a deep affection for songwriting. He worked with legends like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin but also penned tracks himself, some of which revealed his aspirations to be acknowledged as a composer. His autobiography Steps in Time reflects on his songwriting journey.

Astaire's Original Songs

Throughout his career, Astaire wrote a number of original songs. Here we delve into four particularly notable tracks that showcase his songwriting talent:

1. "I'm Building Up to An Awful Letdown" (1935)

Written alongside Johnny Mercer, this song featured on Astaire's 1952 album and was his only self-penned track to make it onto the 'Hit Parade' chart in the 1930s.

2. "It's Just Like Taking Candy from a Baby" (1940)

This track showcases Astaire's wistful desire to be taken seriously as a composer and features Benny Goodman.

3. "If Swing Goes, I Go Too" (1944)

Originally intended for the film Ziegfeld Follies, this song was cut after the war but remains a testament to Astaire's passion for swing music.

4. "Life is Beautiful" (1976)

One of the two songs written with Tommy Wolf, this optimistic tune was later adopted as the closing theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and covered by Tony Bennett.

Fred, Astaire, songwriting