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« A Quick Word of Explanation ... | Main | Roberts / Taubes »

January 25, 2008

Jon and The Nicholas Brothers

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Speaking of Tumblr blogs ... Jon Hastings has been having a most excellent time with his new Tumblr blog. The highlights of Jon's Tumblr efforts, as far as I'm concerned, have been links to performances by the Nicholas Brothers: here, here, here.

What's that? You say you don't know the Nicholas Brothers? Can that really be so?

Then it's high time you made the acquaintance of Harold and Fayard Nicholas, a dancing-brothers team who started out as child performers in the vaudeville years, appeared regularly at the Cotton Club, were headliners in movies, and were still creative and active into the 1990s. (Harold died in 2000, Fayard in 2006.) Michael Jackson is one of many younger dancers who learned from the Nicholas Brothers, and Harold and Fayard are gods of the current tapdance-revival scene.

Their work is known not just for its style, its class, and its acrobatic virtuosity -- watch those trademark leaping splits! -- but also for its high spirits, its humor, and its exuberance. It has got to be some of the happy-making-est art ever. The Nicholas Brothers were (as far as I'm concerned) Genuinely Great American Artists, and were certainly in a class with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly -- with the very best popular American dancers ever.

(Jon also linked to a priceless scene of Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse dancing together. Rall is really something, isn't he? A friend of mine studied tapdancing with Rall in college; she tells me that he was a dynamite teacher. And Fosse: Now there's another Great American artist ...)

One of the highlights of my own culture-spectating life was attending a tribute to the Nicholas Brothers around 1990. The brothers themselves appeared in person after an hour's worth of dance clips had left many in the audience sniffling tears of happiness. Seldom have I applauded with such heartfelt enthusiasm as I did when the Brothers stepped before us in the flesh. It's amazing that one act can have given so many people such a great deal of pleasure.

Read more about the Nicholas Brothers here. Here's an especially good-quality version of their legendary number from the 1943 film "Stormy Weather." Speaking of happy-making performers, dig that wonderful Cab Calloway. Has American culture hit many peaks as glorious as the Big Band years?

Hey, I just remembered that I can embed the clip myself. Here we go:

If you're tempted by blogging, do consider signing up for a Tumblr blog. Tumblr-style blogging is an awful lot of fun. I wrote back here and here about some more happy-making art.

Thanks to Jon Hastings.



posted by Michael at January 25, 2008


I was at a backyard party about three-four years ago where one of the guests was one of the Nicholas Brothers (and his wife, who looked to be about 40 or 50 years younger). I kept trying to explain to my wife that that's the guy who played leapfrog with his brother down the staircase leaping over each other's shoulders while wearing tuxedos. But she couldn't begin to imagine what I was talking about.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on January 25, 2008 8:11 PM

Dude, that song is one of my favorites. I have the Joe Jackson version (and others)and never saw Cab do it. For some reason I don't think he needed a diet - if we would all make an effort to move like that the diet industry would die a sudden death.

Posted by: Richard McLaughlin on January 26, 2008 10:54 AM

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