How Do You Keep The Music Playing?

“And may the last voice you hear be mine!” — Frank Sinatra

Bob Dylan’s career has been one of continual surprises, not the least of which was his foray into an album of Sinatra covers in early 2015, Shadows in the Night. Or more accurately, songs Sinatra covered, as he himself was a singer, not a songwriter.

Sinatra’s career was built on the vibe of his “golden voice” which had its own distinctive sound. Like all great performers he would abduct the original song to make it his own, a trait that many critics have observed about Bob Dylan’s covers, from Mr. Bojangles to the present.

To be frank, Sinatra was not a performer I listened to much while growing up, except when his hit single “Strangers in the Night” was on the ABC pop playlist. It wasn’t until I discovered L.A. Is My Lady, with arrangements by Quincy Jones, that I owned a Sinatra CD. It became a quick favorite.

One of the many songs that spoke to me from this album was “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” by Michael Legrand with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. It’s a great song that has been covered by numerous performers since it first appeared in the 1982 film Best Friends.

The lyrics ask a series of questions, probing into the cavernous realm where fear resides. Once we’ve got something special happening, perhaps even miraculous, what happens when that magic begins to fade?

It’s the nature of relationships, not only with a lover but also nearly anything else we’re passionate about, whether it be the joy we derive from our children or our careers to the hobbies we embrace. When it’s good, how do we keep it good?

The tune is a melancholy lament, the lyrics reflective. What makes the song especially powerful, at least in the Sinatra version, is the manner in which it ends… with a note of resignation, as if to say, “We’ve gone this far, let’s play it out.”

How Do You Keep The Music Playing?

How do you keep the music playing?
How do you make it last?
How do you keep the song from fading too fast?

How do you lose yourself to someone and never lose your way?
How do you not run out of new things to say?

And since you know we’re always changing
How can it be the same?

And tell me how year after year
You’re sure your heart won’t fall apart
Each time you hear her name?

I know the way I feel for you is now or never
The more I love, the more that I’m afraid
That in your eyes I may not see forever, forever.

If we can be the best of lovers
Yet be the best of friends
If we can try with every day to make it better as it grows
With any luck than I suppose
The music never ends

Here’s a YouTube video of the song as sung by Old Blue Eyes, arranged by the great Quincy Jones. Tell me it isn’t powerful.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store