Music Du Jour: Brook Benton’s “Hotel Happiness”

Paleo Retiree writes:

From 1965 on Hollywood A Go Go, here’s an elegant, unforced yet sexy, very masculine groove that I really adore. First, check out the suit Brook Benton is wearing, as well as how he wears it. It’s understated yet unquestionably snazzy, with just a hint of decadent boldness in the eloquently chosen tie and the perfectly folded-and-tucked handkerchief. Everything about Brook’s visuals — from haircut to moustache to wristwatch — fits so beautifully in place that I find myself thinking that maybe it sometimes really can be said that the cuffs and the shoes make the man. (A wise woman friend once said to me, “Men will drive five miles out of their way to watch a woman take her clothes off. Women are more interested in how a man wears a suit.”) I love Brook Benton’s huge personality too. It isn’t cartoon-ified and made external in the modern way; in fact, it’s mostly held in check. But watch his easy command as he stands, swings and sings. He may not be the world’s most graceful guy, but there’s zippo that’s awkward, forced or anxious about his presence, and his ability to fill the room with gusts of feeling and sound … his warm, friendly smile promising wicked delights … his expressive genius with his pointing finger … Watching this clip, you’re in no doubt that Brook Benton knows where the best party in town is being thrown, and that, so long as we’re in his company, we’ll all be welcome there.

Fair to say that traditional grownup masculinity isn’t about what most young men seem to specialize in these days, venting and cultivating passive/aggressive self-expression? Instead, it’s about the possession of two things: 1) a juicy inner life and 2) a lot of control over those feelings, desires and energies. OK, maybe also 3) a sense of perspective about life-things and 4) an enormous (but not obnoxious) sense of fun and mischief. Judging from this clip, it seems to me fair to conceive of Brook Benton as Cary Grant reincarnated as an R&B soulman. Bonus attraction: Check out the band’s bass player. He isn’t even pretending to play his instrument; he’s doing some really stylish and snakey dancing instead. He may qualify as the coolest guy in the room.

Micro-rant: Since the ’60s drug culture established trippiness and intensity as dominant entertainment values, popular culture has lost too much touch with an entertainment value that I really adore: Easygoingness, flirtiness, inconsequentiality, suaveness. Hey, world (and especially entertainment-biz execs): Entertainment conceived of as a fun date rather than a mind-altering wipeout may be relatively lowkey but it can convey a whole different, and equally worthwhile, experience of transport.

Note to self: make up a list of entertainments from recent decades that did a good job of foregrounding easygoingness. Any suggestions from co-bloggers and/or visitors?

Related

  • Our interview with Hollywood A Go Go’s chief dancer De De Mollner, the beautiful blonde who’s dancing in front of Brook in this clip, is a treasure, if I do say so myself. Find out from De De what the pop music world of the early and mid ’60s was really like.
  • There’s lots more Hollywood A Go Go (and topflight go-go dancing) to be enjoyed here.
  • Wikipedia’s entry on Brook Benton is very informative. Interesting to learn that, like so many soul and R&B greats, he started out singing in church. (His father was a Methodist minister.) He was a prolific and successful songwriter as well as a performer. Most of Brook’s other tracks on YouTube are slowish romantic ballads — they’re great for what they are but I confess that I like a little more swing in my pop music than Brook generally delivers.
  • So far as casual-yet-grownup entertainments go: I’m a huge fan of such masters of finger-snapping, confident ease as Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Bobby Darin. Look at the relaxed way those guys tease and joke, and stand in FUCKIN’ AWE of the way they wear their suits. George Clooney, eat your heart out.
  • I’m a ferocious partisan of the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” movies too.

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
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2 Responses to Music Du Jour: Brook Benton’s “Hotel Happiness”

  1. Toddy Cat says:

    Nat King Cole was once asked to appear on a TV show along with some British Invasion era rock group. His reply was telegraphic; “Mr. Cole does not Rock and Roll.” A guy that cool, who can blame him? R&R must have seemed the ultimate in immature grandstanding to NKC.

    Like

  2. Harry Connick, Jr. has a very languid, elegant/casual vibe. His modern would-be successor, Michael Bublé, doesn’t have it…he tries too hard.

    Paleo, I think you’re a fan of Chris Isaak…? He’s definitely got the relaxed thing going on.

    Like

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