Dancing In The Dark…

I have long loved the song “Dancing In The Dark.”

It was originally written for a 1931 revue called The Band Wagon — which was notable for being one of the last times that Fred Astaire and his sister Adele performed together on Broadway.

The lyrics feel like an existential poem to me.

Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz

They were written by Howard Dietz — who also co-wrote the script for The Band Wagon with George S. Kaufman — plus music by Arthur Schwartz.

Dietz went on to become the head of public relations at MGM movie studios.

He is reputed to have chosen their lion logo as well as their motto: Ars Gratia Artis (art for art’s sake).

While based in MGM’s New York office, he wrote co-wrote songs for decades with Arthur Schwartz, including “That’s Entertainment” for MGM’s film version of The Band Wagon in 1953 — which again featured Fred Astaire, who performed with Cyd Charisse while…”Dancing In The Dark.”

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse

The message of the song seems particularly appropriate in the days leading up to a very important national election here in the USA.

I have been limiting my exposure to radio and TV because most of the news is simply very high-octane speculation.

However, I was happy to learn that early voter turnout is very high.

People are engaged with the political process!

But I am also concerned that gun/ammunition sales are very high (although I have been told this often happens when gun-using folks in the USA fear a Democratic victory which might lead to future firearm regulations…)

The state of our democracy can seem very dark these days — with our president repeatedly saying that he may not honor the results of our upcoming election while simultaneously casting seeds of doubt about the voting process itself.

And he continues to hold large public rallies during a health pandemic — after one of which his ally (and former presidential candidate) Herman Cain died from COVID-19.

All the while hospitals in cities around the United States fill up to capacity…

And nurses, EMTs, and doctors — who are working 12 hour shifts day in and day out to save the lives of their fellow citizens — continue to plead with us to wear our face masks, wash our hands, and maintain our social distancing…

I am truly amazed by our health care workers’ dedication, selflessness, and love for their fellow human beings.

I am amazed that they show up for work — day after day and night after night — while putting their own lives AND the lives of their loved ones at risk for catching this virus.

I am amazed that they treat the folks who deny the threat of Covid-19 and refuse to wear a mask with as much compassion as they treat the folks who wore a mask and still got sick.

What they are doing is astounding.

I don’t have adjectives to describe how I feel about the virus-deniers.

Or at least adjectives that I want to put into print.

I do sometimes wonder if the extreme dysfunction unfolding in our country is a symptom of mother nature getting serious about reducing the number of human beings who now live on (and some might say over-run and infest) planet earth…

Denying the science of how a virus spreads and multiplies — exponentially! — is a form of madness which has already killed hundreds of thousands of people here in the USA…

I see it as being very similar to denying the science of climate change.

One can deny it all one wants…

Yet the scientific processes — such as the fact that a virus can spread exponentially if unchecked and will swiftly overwhelm the staff of your local hospital — will continue to unfold whether one denies the scientific realities or not.

The fact that our earth’s atmosphere is changing due to our human (mis)use of fossil fuels since the start of the industrial era is also undeniable.

In fact I recently saw a reprint of an article from the early 20th century in which scientists described and predicted how our increasing use of fossil fuels would alter the earth’s atmosphere.

Some people have been aware of this challenge for generations!

The fact that climate change is increasing the severity of storms, increasing the frequency of forest fires, and changing the patterns of how ecosystems around the planet do (or don’t) stay in balance is undeniable.

It’s all over the news in the USA.

It’s what hundreds if not thousands of scientists have been warning about for decades.

Will we as a species continue to deny it is happening?

Will we continue to live our lives as if nothing huge and profound is changing?

Continue to drive our SUVs and pickup trucks as many miles as we (or our credit cards) can afford?

Continue to travel as much as our budgets (or credit cards) will allow?

Continue to refuse to put solar arrays on our roofs?

Continue to consume more resources than can be sustainably grown/harvested/produced here on planet earth?

Fundamental patterns and cycles here on planet earth will continue to tip out of balance regardless of what our leaders may or may not be saying.

There are scientific processes and realities at work which can’t be denied or spun or ignored until they go away.

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

It is indeed an extraordinary time to be alive…

I hope and trust that we will persevere.

That enough people will wake up to the realities of science.

That enough people will realize that wearing a mask and continuing to practice social distancing is in fact a very loving and respectful thing to do for one’s self, for one’s family, for one’s co-workers, for one’s neighborhood, and for all the folks who risk their lives working at one’s local hospital.

And that we can continue to dance through this period of darkness, keeping a sense of love and light and fairness and respect burning in our hearts as we cast our ballots.

Thank you to Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz for writing this song during another very challenging era in our country’s history…

Thank you to pianist Doug Hammer for making music and recording music with me for the past 20+ years AND then for fixing and mixing songs with me from his home studio via Zoom in recent months.

Thank you to all the photographers at Pixabay for these glorious images.

And thank YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts!

I truly treasure our community of WordPress bloggers and readers and commenters…

46 thoughts on “Dancing In The Dark…

  1. Very appropriate song choice Will. Thanks for your thoughtful and caring musings on the current state of our world. Sometimes I get frustrated by the challenges and abuses of mother nature, but then I remember that she is a living system that will adapt and survive even if that means we don’t. We have important choices to make. On a fun note, another blogger shared a video of Paul Anka singing Times of Your Life reminding me of your voice. I wonder if you have ever sung that song? I know I would enjoy that! Happy Haunting! 🎃

    • As you and I have discussed via comments on each other’s blog, I share your perspective that life will go on evolving on this planet with or without us. Changing our behavior and attitudes is all about saving the web(s) of ife which support human activities. Not about “saving the planet.” The planet has gone through all sorts of ice ages and waves of extinction and continues, blessedly to spin around the sun. Thank you, as always, for making time to listen and read and comment!!! Let’s keep dancing in the dark… ps: Now I will go and look up Paul Anka and “Times Of Your Life” on YouTube.

  2. HI Nice post, Is that you playing the piano in the Sound clip? I find the song impressive on every level. Great Job, Nice selection for these times. Thanks for all that you do! Ksenia

    On Sat, Oct 31, 2020 at 8:07 AM amusicalifeonplanetearth wrote:

    > willedare posted: ” I have long loved the song “Dancing In The Dark.” It > was originally written for a 1931 revue called The Band Wagon — which was > notable for being one of the last times that Fred Astaire and his sister > Adele performed together on Broadway. Th” >

    • Hi, Ksenia!!! You are very welcome. Thank YOU for finding/making time to listen and read and comment! The pianist is the somewhat extraordinary Doug Hammer, who is not only a GREAT accompanist but is also VERY skillful at recording/editing/mixing/mastering. And on top of that he has built a career as a solo pianist/composer with many CDs and even some national touring… He is an inspiration in many different ways and a blessed collaborator.

  3. As someone who loves to dance, I enjoyed your informative post. 💃🏼

    I can relate to your quote-“I have been limiting my exposure to radio and TV because most of the news is simply very high-octane speculation.” I barely turn my tv on anymore. There are too many other creative and inspiring options to choose from. 😊

  4. Yes, let’s continue to dance through this period of darkness. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this version of Dancing in the Dark. The piano accompaniment was superb!

    • Thank you, Magarisa! Doug Hammer is a sublime pianist. you can find lots of his solo compositions on YouTube, Spotify, etc. Thank you, too, for reading and listening and commenting!

    • You are most welcome, Audrey. I listened to the radio this morning while washing the dishes and copping vegetables for soup. Many hospitals around the US are again reaching capacity and at least one is saying that they may start turning away COVID-19 patients because their capacity to treat people is maxed out. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Thank YOU for listening to and reading and commenting on another one of my blog posts!

  5. Yes, it’s dark. I’m sheltering from news for the moment as well. While Dancing in the Dark isn’t a blues tune, it’s got a similar spirit. It’s dark, but we can do this; it won’t get us down. It’s been years since I heard it. Very nice to be reminded and to read your thoughts–they are similar to my own. Fingers crossed for election day!

    • Yes. I like your summary/distillation: “we can do this; it won’t get us down.” The song I mentioned in a previous blog post, “Let Me Be Strong” by a fellow songwriter named Barbara Baig, is now available on Spotify and hopefully a bunch of other digital music platforms (which I haven’t yet double-checked…) Barbara’s lyric says, “Let me be strong and moving through fear/When the truth is blinding, let me see it clear/And when love comes, let me not hide/Let my heart be open — Let love inside.” That’s my motto for the next three days…and beyond! THANK YOU for reading and listening to and leaving a comment about yet another of my blog posts. My fingers — and toes — remain crossed.

  6. Bandwagon was on the TV here yesterday and the songs were great – the rest of the film pretty rubbish. As for the rest of your post – I think it summed things up very well. It does make one wonder if nature isn’t directing things. Human beings are probably doing more harm to the planet than any previous activity, weather or animal directed.We don’t know what wiped out previous creatures but it looks certain that we will be wiped out by plagues or war. One has to believe that love is stronger than hate but at the moment it is difficult. I fear for the next generation.

    • Yes. One does want to continue to believe that love is stronger than hate! I share your fears for the next generation(s). Deep breath in. Deep breath out. My main response has been to cut way back on my environmental footprint (no car just bike and walk), to give lots of tiny amounts of money to various political candidates and organizations, and to make/share music (which includes leading Music Together classes three times per week). THANK YOU for reading and listening and leaving a comment. As I have said in more than one blog post, I have grown to cherish the community which develops among WordPress bloggers and readers. Now I am going to see what I can find regarding the movie version of The Band Wagon on YouTube…

  7. We are living in very dark times–thank you for the reminder that there is also dancing and for your lovely version of the song. I had to go back and rewatch Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire dance. It’s one of my favorite movie dance scenes–so beautiful. At one point we had recorded the movie on VHS. 😏

    • Yes. Mr. Astaire left us quite a legacy of dancing and singing with a variety of partners. Let us dance — if we can muster the energy/fortitude — even in the dark.

  8. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed your music, memorabilia, and musings—though this post was appropriately darker in tone than I think is customary for you.

    It appears that the recklessness of those who deny and openly defy science is unwittingly Malthusian, but so many of the Covid victims are healthcare workers and support staffers—including many disproportionately Black and Latino people who have no choice.

    We must hope for a big win for those who believe in science, are serious about climate change, and care about human beings and other living things.

  9. Beautiful post, Will! I love how you tie-in music to, well, everything. That’s important, as music is the universal language of mankind. Add dance, and it’s even better. Super pics!

  10. Thanks for this post and the song. I found this a brilliant interweaving of thoughts and imagery. While uncertainty and darkness may be all around us, there is still our beautiful intimate connection to our own center and to others. That’s what I felt from this.

    • You are very welcome, Paula! I usually start with a song + an idea or two which somehow relate(s) to the song. Then I go to Pixabay for possible imagery. Then I start writing and often the images begin to inform what I am writing in surprising ways. Maybe that’s what contributes to the sense of interweaving that you mention in your comment. Thank YOU for reading and listening to another one of my blog posts!!!

  11. By strange coincidence I watched The Band Wagon film on television last night – correctly guessing ir would be excellent escapism. You can’t beat a classic musical great tunes and dancing and plenty of humour.

  12. So many of your words echo my thoughts, Will…It is us who won’t survive if we don’t act Mother nature will be the winner as always…Good choice of music and images so that it all flows harmoniously…Enjoy the weekend 🙂

  13. Not only did Howard Dietz design the MGM Leo the Lion logo (including the Ars Gratia Artis motto which appears in the circle surrounding the roaring lion’s head), but in his autobiography, he stated that he wrote the famous MGM slogan “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven.” The title of his autobio, btw, is (as you might expect) “Dancing in the Dark” — a VERY interesting read (as you also might expect). It was published in 1974 and is available from Amazon and elsewhere online, if interested.

    • THANK YOU for your nomination. Right now I have too much going on (deaths of friends, designing new website, family drama) to participate in this lovely ritual — so I will respectfully decline.

      • I am well aware that I am not alone in experiencing lots of losses in recent months… Lots of grieving/mourning for those of us who are alive to do in honor of those who have died. And now more weather-related catastrophes in the USA… Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

      • Although this latest round of trouble hasn’t touched me as personally, it hasn’t been that long since I lost several loved ones in close succession. We just have to keep moving along on our own journey and try to remember the good times, and eventually it gets a bit easier. Keep breathing. Take good care. Sending a virtual hug from a virtual friend.

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