Lex Neon on Chico Marx (The Marx Brothers)

Inspiration can be found in many different places. Lex remembers one of his favorite pianists Chico Marx, born on March 22, 1887. Happy birthday, Chico!

On weekends away from the elementary school, I was a loner. My hours were spent on early morning cartoons, American Bandstand, Soul Train, and classic black and white comedies. There was something strangely fascinating about the Marx Brothers; I didn’t understand a lot of the dialogue, but I loved the music that popped up in their films.

If my memory serves me well, I think the first Marx Brothers film that really caught my attention was Horse Feathers. Each brother gets to perform a variation on a song called “Everyone Says I Love You.” My favorite variation was performed by Chico, who performs the song on the piano in the company of the late and lovely Thelma Todd.

With his trademark Italian accent, he sings the song while playing the piano. After the song ends, he plays an upbeat untitled piano instrumental that fired my imagination. His fingerwork on the keys made playing piano look really easy. As part of the act he would play passages with his thumb up and index finger straight — like a gun. When I was a few years older, I would attempt his “shooting” the keys of the piano. I would also get in trouble with my professors for “shooting” the keys while practicing.

Did you know that singer Mel Tormé began his professional career singing with the Chico Marx Orchestra. That’s right; Chico helped to introduce “The Velvet Fog” to mainstream audiences.

Tonight I watched Horse Feathers for the first time in about a year laughed myself silly. Chico’s knack for delivering some of the best “worst” puns, along with the songs and comic back-and-forth with his brothers, makes him more than just “the one with the Italian accent.” It makes Chico something more that a lot of so-called contemporary entertainers; it makes him entertaining!

Happy birthday, Chico. Thanks for making me laugh, thanks for giving me a “hot” button to piss off my piano instructors, and thanks for living life to the fullest. I know “everyone says I love you,” but I do. Cheers.

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com/)

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~ by Poppermost on September 6, 2008.

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