More Than Music - Dean Martin: A Journey to Love

I remember watching a movie with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis when I was about 10 years old. After that, I did everything in my power to avoid Dean Martin, his movies, and his music. Even at 10 years old, I had formed a very strong opinion of dislike for Dean Martin. It would be years before circumstances would dictate our meeting again, met with disdain on my part. But that was only the beginning of what turned out to be a surprising journey that opened my eyes to what is possible when looking at something from a different point of view.

This is my story, my journey from appreciation to admiration of Dean Martin as I took a step back to get know the man behind the music.

This is the second post in my new series "More Than Music."

In today's post, I use the story of my acquired love for Dean Martin

as a followup example to my introductory post in this series.

If you haven't read that post yet, you can read it here.

By the age of 12, or so, most who knew me knew that I loved old movies. By the time I was 14 or 15, my love for the classic movies began to expand into the music of the same era. There weren't many artists from the 30s-50s that I didn't like. By age 16, that music was pretty much all I listened to, except for one artist: Dean Martin. I was very confident in voicing my opinion of dislike for Dean Martin. I was sorry to those who admired his music, but I couldn't help it. There was something about him that I didn't understand. At the time, I mistook that misunderstanding for dislike, not realizing that it was really my own lack of knowledge that led to that conclusion.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis

Looking back to my earliest encounters with Dean Martin as a child, I believe I allowed myself to confuse Dean Martin as a person with the characters he portrayed in his movies. This is a classic mistake I know others are guilty of making. While this was not necessarily the heart of my issue with Dean Martin, I do believe it played a part, early on.

As my love for the old music grew, it became harder and harder to avoid the music by Dean Martin. In my search for certain songs, I was constantly confronted with his music until it became increasingly difficult to not, at least, listen to a bit of a song just to hear what his arrangement sounded like. But each time I did, I was reminded of the strange sound of his music and voice. It was not pleasant to my ears. My judgment of Dean Martin's music at that time was based solely on sound, but all that started to change when I was put in a situation of visual confrontation.

I mentioned previously that, as a child, I had watched only a couple of Dean Martin movies, and I was far from impressed. I did a fair job of avoiding his movies for the following 8 years, until, within a matter of months, I watched him in a movie and a tv show. This post and this series is strictly about music and artists, but this story is a great example of just how important visual elements are when listening to music. Watching the tv show and movie with Dean Martin had a profound impact on my opinion of Dean's music. Here's why:

While watching Dean as a guest on the tv show, "The Lucy Show", in which he played himself, it opened my eyes to the kind of person he was. He played an exaggerated version of himself, yes, but his smile, his laugh, the way he talked, and the way he walked were authentic. I began hearing and recognizing, in that show, little things of his personality that I had also heard in his music but not understood. For instance, I recognized the tone of his voice when he smiled as he talked as being the same sound that I had considered to be strange or weird when I listened to his recordings.

Yes, one of the "weird" sounds of his voice was really him smiling as he sang. It turns out, when I knew that sound was connected to him smiling, it didn't sound weird anymore. In fact, it made me smile, too!
Dean Martin in Rio Bravo

While watching Dean in the movie, "Rio Bravo", around the same time that I watched "The Lucy Show", I got the chance to see a different side of Dean's singing. At the time of watching this movie, I was still very judgmental of Dean Martin. This just goes to show you what a difference a well-made movie, well-written song, and a wonderful performance can do in changing a person's mind about the performer themselves. Even though Dean's character had nothing to do with who he was in real life, by the end of the movie, my heart was much softer towards Dean Martin than it had been when the movie began. A certain song in the movie caught my attention, and this is where things really started to change in my opinion towards Dean Martin.

I fell in love with the song "My Rifle, My Pony, and Me" from the movie, "Rio Bravo". I wanted to listen to in on repeat! The only catch was, the only recording of the song I could find was of Dean Martin singing it. (Which makes sense, obviously, since he was the one who sang it in the movie.) I was thus "forced" to listen to Dean Martin. The timing of all these things was impeccable. This song, recorded only by Dean Martin, tugged at my heart strings at the same time that my heart was being softened towards Dean Martin as a person. This is where the visual aspect I mentioned played such a big part.

Because I had seen Dean sing the song in the movie, I could visualize him singing it as I listened to the recording. As I gained confidence in him, I started to listen to more of his music. Having watched him in the movie and tv show, I now had a mental image in my mind of what his expressions looked like. The visual and the audio connected in my mind. Now, as I listened to his recordings, I could visualize him singing, smiling, laughing, etc. Instead of his music being solely a thing of sound, it was now a complete package.

Dean Martin Album Cover

From here on, it was a fast journey to Dean becoming one of my top artists. If I estimate correctly, he is my second most-listened-to artist, now. The more I listened to his music, the more I got to know him. The more I got to know him, the more I wanted to watch him in movies and tv shows. The more I watched him in movies and tv shows, the more I wanted to watch interviews with him. The more I watched interviews with him, the better I got to know him. The better I got to know him, the more I appreciated and admired him and his work.

It's funny how that works!

Appreciation to admiration truly is a journey, an adventure. It certainly brings to light the fact that everything isn't always black and white. The simple like and dislike of styles of music and artists can be far more complicated than first thought.

Perhaps, by bringing the subconscious goings on to a conscious level (something that can actually be attained and tested), our ears and minds can be opened to new appreciation that we never thought possible.

This is my story, my journey to loving Dean Martin's music. It is not so extraordinary or uncommon. Perhaps you have encountered a similar experience with an artist. Perhaps you have even been in this situation with a relationship in your own life. Perhaps it happened to you, but you never realized why it happened. I hope that this has opened your eyes or stirred your mind just a little. Next time you are confronted with an artist that has a strange voice, consider implementing the visual stimulation to connect what you are hearing with what is actually going on, to connect it with the person themselves instead of judging solely based on what you are hearing. Who knows, you might end up with a new favorite artist!

Dean Martin in the Studio

Thank you, once again, for joining me and reading my musings.

I do sincerely hope you will return for my next post where I will be

discussing another fascinating reason for enjoying an artist beyond

that of their music. Subscribe to the blog so you don't miss out

on the next "More Than Music" post,

"Al Jolson: The Nostalgia Factor".

Author: Emily E. Finke

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