Out of sheer and total respect

When I was young, Sammy Davis Jr. was a guy who appeared on all the variety shows and of whom other entertainers all did impressions. (See, for example, Jim Carrey’s routine from his younger, stand-up days.)

So I was pleased to discover this old clip of Sammy Davis Jr. doing impressions of a number of notable singers.

The thing about an impression, though, is that it works only if the audience recognizes the person being imitated. I suspect that fewer and fewer people know the men whose styles Sammy is mimicking. I consider myself a fan of swing and of lounge, and I didn’t know a few of them myself.

So in the interest of cultural education (and to make it easy for you, Gentle Reader), here are links to videos of the singers Sammy references:

Fred Astaire
Nat “King” Cole
Billy Eckstine
Vaughn Monroe
Tony Bennett
Mel Tormé (his nickname was “The Velvet Fog” by the way)
Frankie Laine
Louis Armstrong
Dean Martin (also see this clip, which is rather less polished)
Jerry Lewis (“beans beans beans beans beans” … suspiciously similar to “spam spam spam spam spam”)

It’s interesting that one singer Sammy doesn’t take on is Frank Sinatra, who made “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)” one of his classics. I’ll guess that Frank was not the kind of man who enjoyed impressions of himself. Here’s Frank’s version.

2 replies on “Out of sheer and total respect”

  1. What a talent that man was.

    Those are a couple of great impressions, mostly because they were out of the norm. Every hack tried to do Jerry Lewis. Who the heck ever imitated Nat King Cole?

    But Davis nails the voice; I closed my eyes and it sounded like Cole.

    And when he does Dean Martin, his whole body changes — he actually looks like Dino for a second.

    His Torme was also very good (the Tony Bennett was a little over the top).

    Thanks for the video, Cindy!

Comments are closed.