Pianist, singer, archivist
Collected Records, Met Ira Gershwin
Began Performing, Made First Album
Show music aficionado Michael Feinstein is acclaimed as one of today’s brightest young cabaret artists. A popular pianist and singer at cabaret spots across the country, Feinstein, who has also had successful one-man Broadway shows and record albums, specializes in vintage songs of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s—works by artists such as George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harry Warren, and Irving Berlin. Feinstein sings in a pleasant and clear baritone voice, interspersing his act with entertaining bits of song nostalgia gleaned from his many years as a disciple of old music. A musical “purist,” Feinstein is noted for his interpretations of old material, performing both standards and not-so-familiar songs with deference to lyrics, mood, and music. “Some singers get in the way of the song,” he told Gerald Clarke in Time. “I never want to be more important than what I’m singing. I’m simply the instrumentthrough which that song is sung.”
Collected Records, Met Ira Gershwin
As a young boy growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Feinstein preferred the music his parents—both amateur performers—listened to and became an avid collector of old recordings. A self-taught pianist, he heard his first recording of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue when he was eleven, and as he told Debra Wise in Gentieman’s Quarterly, “it created a connection that I’d never felt with music before.” Feinstein became an avid Gershwin buff and after moving with his family to California in 1976, had the opportunity to meet Ira Gershwin, his idol’s lyricist-brother. The aging Gershwin was immediately impressed with Feinstein’s vast knowledge of Gershwin music and hired him as a musical archivist. For the next six years, Feinstein became Gershwin’s assistant, cataloging the lyricist’s enormous collection of recordings, sheet music, scores, and unpublished manuscripts, and the two forged a close relationship. “He used to call me ‘my boy,’” Feinstein told Wise. “He had always wanted children but his wife hadn’t, so I really became the son he never had.”
Began Performing, Made First Album
Gershwin also encouraged Feinstein in his performing career and introduced him to other songwriters of the period, including Harry Warren, whom Feinstein later worked for as an assistant. Feinstein began performing his beloved old songs at swank Hollywood parties and became a favorite of many celebrities, including Liza Minnelli, who asked him to be her accompanist on an appearance on The Tonight Show. Feinstein soon received a seventh-month engagement at West Hollywood’s
For the Record…
Born Michael Jay Feinstein, September 7, 1956, in Columbus, OH; son of Edward (a sales executive for a sausage company) and Florence “Mazie” (Cohen) Feinstein.
Singer and pianist, 1974—. Performed in restaurant bars in Columbus area, 1974-76; personal archivist to lyricist Ira Gershwin, Los Angeles, CA, 1977-83; assistant to composer Harry Warren, Los Angeles, 1979-81; accompanist to performers, including Liza Minnelli, Rosemary Clooney, and Rose Marie, 1980-84; singer and pianist, Le Mondrian Hotel, West Hollywood, CA, 1984-85 and 1987; York Hotel, San Francisco, CA, 1985-87; Algonquin Hotel, New York City, beginning in 1986; Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Washington, DC, 1987. Concert performer.
Has performed numerous concerts, including the Broadway production and tour of Michael Feinstein in Concert: Isn’t It Romantic, 1988-89, and Broadway production of Michael Feinstein in Concent: Piano and Voice, 1990. Has made numerous television appearances and appeared in the film Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, Cinecom, 1989. Editor, Ira Gershwin Songbook. Contributor to the Washington Post.
Addresses: Home —Los Angeles, CA. Office —c/o Winston Simone Management, 1780 Broadway, Ste. 1201, New York, NY 10019.
Le Mondrian Hotel, followed by an engagement at the Plush Room in San Francisco’s York Hotel, and received acclaim as an accomplished interpreter of old material. Music reviewer Gerald Nachman of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Feinstein was “better than anyone I’ve heard in years” and noted that he “sings the songs straight, yet with enormous style, charm, energy, understanding—and humor.” Feinstein went on to record his first album in 1985, Pure Gershwin, which sold over 40,000 copies on the independent label Parnassus Records.
In 1986 Feinstein made his New York City debut at the famed Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. New York Times critic Stephen Holden called Feinstein “a natural entertainer whose curatorial experience supplies his act with a wealth of show-business lore that he skillfully incorporates as running patter” and noted his “youthful passion that inspirits vintage show tunes … with a joyous personal immediacy.” Feinstein’s appearances drew large crowds at the Oak Room and launched his second recording, Michael Feinstein Live at the Algonquin, also on Parnassus, which Clarke described as an “enchanting” album. Feinstein’s popularity grew rapidly, and his admirers included President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, who invited Feinstein in 1986 for the first of what would be several White House appearances. He made numerous television appearances on music specials and in 1987 had a cameo appearance as a nightclub singer on the television movie The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. Also in 1987 he had other sold-out engagements at leading hotels, including the Washington, D.C., Ritz-Carlton, and performed with Minnelli on her fall European concert tour.
Style Emphasizes Music, Charm
In 1988 Feinstein adapted his cabaret act to the Broadway stage, opening at the Lyceum Theatre in a one-man show entitled Michael Feinstein in Concert, which showcased songs by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, and Harry Warren. The first act of Feinstein’s show featured a nightclub-type atmosphere, while in the second act he left his piano to explore various aspects of the historic theater as a backdrop to his music. Feinstein expressed to Holden that the most exciting aspect of playing on Broadway was “the fact that many of these songs were written for the musical stage and it puts me closer to them by being able to interpret them in that context.” Mimi Kramer praised the show in the New Yorker: “That Feinstein’s cabaret-style material makes the transition to theatre as gracefully as it does is a tribute to the modesty of his musicianship…. Where other crooners attempt to put their own stamp on a popular song, Feinstein lets the song speak for itself, never upstaging a selection or putting himself forward unless it is to heighten a mood or feeling.” Kramer added that “Feinstein’s knowledge of the genre is exhaustive” and “the program becomes a meeting place to the timeless and the charmingly dated.”
Feinstein later embarked on a successful national tour of Michael Feinstein in Concert, which ran into 1989. In 1990 he returned to Broadway with a second one-man show, Michael Feinstein in Concert: Piano and Voice, which ran for a four-week engagement at the intimate Golden Theatre. Holden, noting that Feinstein’s stage presence had improved since his national tour, found his new show especially appealing. Feinstein’s “romantic fantasy world of old-time show business becomes an irresistible place to visit,” Holden commented, adding that the show, highlighted by Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart waltzes and songs by Burton Lane, has “the feeling of a generous—almost devotional—act of love.” Holden concluded: “Mr. Feinstein has found a confident, entertaining balance between the three sides of his musical personality. One side is a precocious youth showing off for the grown-ups. Another is his impersonation of a debonair male archetype from old-time Hollywood musicals who flashes glittering smiles while indulging in Liberace-like pianistic flourishes. The third, and most valuable, is an obsessive archivist dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of a cherished tradition.”
Pure Gershwin, Parnassus Records, 1985, Elektra, 1987.
Michael Feinstein: Live at the Algonquin, Parnassus Records, 1986.
Remember: Michael Feinstein Sings Irving Berlin, Elektra, 1987.
Isn’t It Romantic?, Elektra, 1988.
Over There: Songs of War and Peace c. 1900-1920, EMI/Angel, 1989.
The M-G-M Album, Elektra, 1989.
Michael Feinstein Sings the Burton Lane Songbook Volume 1, Elektra, 1990.
Gentleman’s Quarterly, November 1988.
New York, April 7, 1986; May 9, 1988; October 19, 1990.
New Yorker, May 9, 1988.
New York Times, January 11, 1986; April 17, 1988.
New York Times Magazine, June 29, 1986.
People, April 14, 1986; May 4, 1987.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 4, 1985.
Stereo Review, December 1988; August 1989.
Time, May 4, 1987.
Vogue, February 1987.
Washington Post, January 26, 1986.
—Michael E. Mueller
Feinstein, Michael 1956-
Feinstein, Michael 1956-
Full name, Michael Jay Feinstein; born September 7, 1956, in Columbus, OH; son of Edward (a sales executive and amateur singer) and Florence Mazie (an amateur tap dancer; maiden name, Cohen) Feinstein. Education: Attended high school in Columbus, OH. Avocational Interests: Reading, swimming, nature, animal rights activities.
Agent—Linda Chester Literary Agency, 2341 Shattuck Ave., Suite 506, Berkeley, CA 94704; William Morris Agency, One William Morris Pl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Singer, pianist, actor, composer, and producer. Personal archivist for Ira Gershwin, Los Angeles, CA, 1977-83; assistant to Harry Warren, Los Angeles, 1979-81; accompanist to Liza Minelli, Rosemary Clooney, John Bubbles, Rose Marie, Jessie Matthews, Estelle Reiner, and Leona Mitchell, 1980-84; performer at hotels, nightclubs, and festivals, and with symphony orchestras; appeared in concert at Walt Whitman Theatre, Brooklyn, NY and Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, NJ, both 2000; and with Betty Buckley at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ, 2001; music consultant for the Broadway play My One and Only. Owner, Feinstein's at The Regency (supper club), New York City, 1999—. National Sound Recording Advisory Board, member.
American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Musicians, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), Players Club, Actor's Equity Association.
Golden Laurel Award, San Francisco Council on Entertainment, 1985, 1987, and 1988; New York City Seal of Recognition, 1987; Drama Desk Special Award, 1988, for "celebrating American musical theatre songs"; Outer Critics Circle Award, 1988; Grammy Award nomination, 1993; MAC Award, major male vocalist, Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs, 2001.
Himself, Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, Cinecom, 1989.
Himself, Get Bruce!, Miramax, 1999.
Himself, An Unreasonable Man, First Take, 2006.
Television Appearances; Series:
The New Hollywood Squares, 1986-87.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Pianist, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, NBC, 1987.
The piano player, This Can't Be Love, 1994.
Michael, For Love Alone: The Ivana Trump Story (also known as Ivana Trump's "For Love Alone"), CBS, 1996.
Television Appearances; Specials:
A Musical Toast: The Stars Shine for Public Television, PBS, 1986.
An All-Star Party for Joan Collins, 1987.
Irving Berlin's 100th Birthday Celebration, CBS, 1988.
A Grand Night: The Performing Arts Salute Public Television, PBS, 1988.
Royal Command Performance, BBC, 1988.
The Classical Music Awards, Arts and Entertainment, 1988.
Command Performance: An All-Star Salute to the President (also known as An All-Star Salute to Ford's Theatre), ABC, 1989.
Michael Feinstein in Concert, BBC, 1989.
Night of 100 Stars III, NBC, 1990.
The Ice Capade's Fiftieth Anniversary Special, ABC, 1990.
Host, Michael Feinstein and Friends, PBS, 1991.
Wolf Trap 20th Anniversary Concert, PBS, 1991.
Memory and Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress, PBS, 1992.
The Magic of Bing Crosby, PBS, 1992.
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, NBC, 1992.
Bob Hope's America: Red, White, and Beautiful—The Swimsuit Edition, NBC, 1992.
Broadway at the Hollywood Bowl (also known as Jerry Herman's "Broadway at the Hollywood Bowl"), 1994.
Himself, In a New Light '94, 1994.
Wolf Trap Presents a Gift of Music, 1994.
Judge, The Miss America Pageant, NBC, 1994.
Golden Anniversary (also known as Rosemary Clooney's "Demi-Centennial" and Rosemary Clooney's "Golden Anniversary"), 1995.
The Hollywood Soundtrack Story, 1995.
Host, Michael Feinstein: Sing a Song of Hollywood, 1995.
National Memorial Day Concert, 1996.
Ira Gershwin at 100: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall, PBS, 1997.
Oscar Levant: Brilliant Shadow, 1997.
A Capitol Fourth, 1998.
Yours for a Song: The Women of Tin Pan Alley (documentary), PBS, 1999.
Diana Krall and Michael Feinstein, PBS, 2000.
Conde Nast Traveler All-Star Special, Travel Channel, 2000.
Rosemary Clooney: Girl Singer, Arts and Entertainment, PBS, and KOCE, 2001.
Popular Song: Soundtrack of the Century, Bravo, 2001.
Playboy's 50th Anniversary Celebration, Arts and Entertainment, 2003.
Evening at Pops: Keith Lockhart's 10th Anniversary Special, PBS, 2004.
AFI's 100 Years, 100 Songs (also known as AFI's "100 Years 100 Songs: America's Greatest Music in the Movies"), CBS, 2004.
Host, Soundies: A Musical History Hosted by Michael Feinstein, PBS, 2007.
Judge, The 2007 Miss America Pageant, 2007.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
"George Gershwin Remembered," American Masters, PBS, 1987.
"Celebrating Gershwin" (also known as "The Jazz Age" and "Wonderful"), Great Performances, PBS, 1987.
Himself, "But Not for Me (AKA Saturday Night)," thirty-something, ABC, 1987.
"Broadway Sings: The Music of Jule Styne," Great Performances, PBS, 1987.
Himself, Santa Barbara, 1988.
The Pat Sajak Show, 1989.
Coast to Coast, 1989.
"Mike Fright," It's a Living, 1989.
"You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story," American Masters, PBS, 1990.
The Tonight Show, NBC, 1991, 1993.
Guest host, Talk-Live, CNBC, 1992.
The Tonight Show, NBC, 1992.
Himself, "My Funny Valentine," Herman's Head, Fox, 1993.
Himself, Cybill, 1995.
Himself, "Isn't It Romantic?," Coach, ABC, 1996.
Himself, "Caroline and Richard and Julia," Caroline in the City (also known as Caroline), NBC, 1997.
Harry, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," The Closer, 1998.
Himself, "Lexi Gets Stiffed," Melrose Place, Fox, 1999.
"Yours for a Song: The Women of Tin Pan Alley," American Masters, PBS, 1999.
At Home With …, 1999.
Himself, "From Russia with Love," Walk On By: The Story of Popular Song (also known as Popular Song: Soundtrack of the Century and The Story of Pop), BBC and ABC, 2001.
Hollywood Unleashed, Animal Planet, 2001.
Himself, "The Great American Songbook," Great Performances, PBS, 2003.
Breakfast, BBC, 2004.
Larry King Live, CNN, 2005.
The Tony Danza Show, syndicated, 2005.
The View, ABC, 2006.
Mr. Feinstein, "The Magic of Gershwin," 7th Heaven (also known as Seventh Heaven), The WB, 2006.
Television Work; Specials:
Pianist, Night of 100 Stars III, 1990.
Executive producer, Michael Feinstein and Friends, PBS, 1991.
Pianist, Diana Krall and Michael Feinstein, PBS, 2000.
Creative consultant, Soundies: A Musical History Hosted by Michael Feinstein, PBS, 2007.
Television Work; Episodic:
Pianist, "Yours for a Song: The Women of Tin Pan Alley," American Masters, PBS, 1999.
Executive producer, "The Great American Songbook," Great Performances, PBS, 2003.
"The Sophisticated Sound of a Steinway," Quintessence Series, Cleveland Playhouse, Cleveland, OH, 1987-88.
(Broadway debut) Michael Feinstein in Concert: Isn't It Romantic, Lyceum Theatre, 1988.
Michael Feinstein in Concert: Piano and Voice, Golden Theatre, New York City, 1990.
Title role, Hans Christian Andersen, 1991.
Michael Feinstein in Concert: Isn't It Romantic, U.S. cities, 1988-89.
Pure Gershwin, Parnassus, 1985, reissued, Elektra, 1987.
Michael Feinstein Live at the Algonquin, Parnassus, 1986, reissued, Elektra, 1987.
Remember: Michael Feinstein Sings Irving Berlin, Elektra, 1987.
Isn't It Romantic, Elektra, 1988.
The MGM Album, Elektra, 1989.
Over There: Songs of War and Peace, c. 1900-1920, EMI Angel, 1989.
Michael Feinstein Sings the Burton Lane Songbook, Elektra/Nonesuch, Volume One, 1990, Volume Two, 1992.
(With Jule Styne) Michael Feinstein Sings the Jule Styne Songbook, Elektra/Nonesuch, 1991.
Pure Imagination, Elektra, 1992.
Forever, Elektra, 1993.
Big City Rhythms, Concord Jazz, 1999.
Michael Feinstein, Volume One: Romance on Film, 2001.
Michael Feinstein, Volume Two: Romance on Broadway, 2001.
The Michael Feinstein Anthology, Rhino/Elektra, 2002.
Michael Feinstein with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, c. 2003.
Only One Life—The Songs of Jimmy Webb, c. 2004.
Also recorded Hopeless Romantics, Concord Records.
Song "Wouldn't It Be Wonderful," The Lady in Red, 1979.
The Wonderful World of Jonathan Winters, 1986.
Score and title song, Get Bruce!, Miramax, 1999.
Television Title Songs; Movies:
For Love Alone: The Ivana Trump Story (also known as Ivana Trump's "For Love Alone"), CBS, 1996.
Television Theme Songs; Series:
In the Life, 1992.
Editor of The Ira Gershwin Songbook; contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 6, Gale Research, 1991.
Forbes, December 27, 1999, p. 307.
New York Times, June 29, 1986.
People, May 4, 1987, p. 126.
Michael Feinstein Website,http://www.michaelfeinstein.com, August 17, 2007.
Born: Columbus, Ohio, 7 September 1956
Best-selling album since 1990: Romance on Film, Romance on Broadway (2000)
Michael Feinstein was a pioneer among a younger generation of interpreters who have devoted themselves to preserving and proliferating the art of the classic American popular song. With his boyish good looks, warm smile, and gentle personality, Feinstein helped launch a resurgence of interest during the late 1980s and early 1990s in what many had considered a dying art form. Feinstein's extraordinary success has not only inspired many others of his generation to become successful torch singers, but it also did much to rekindle the fading careers of singing stars who had originally been popular during the era of standards. Even contemporary pop stars no longer able to sustain audience interest with their own material now routinely boost sagging careers by turning to American classic popular songs.
The only child of a tap-dancing mother and a barbershop-quartet-singing father, Feinstein began playing piano by ear at the age of five. As a boy he spent hours at a time singing and playing standards he picked up off old 78-rpm records. While his peers were being weaned on the rock and roll of the British Invasion of the 1960s, the Feinstein home was filled with the music of the great American songwriters of yesteryear such as the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and Jerome Kern.
When the family moved to the Los Angeles suburb of Canoga Park in the mid-1970s, Feinstein sought out June Levant, the widow of the great Gershwin pianist Oscar Levant, and in 1977 she introduced him to Ira Gershwin himself. For the next six years, until the legendary lyricist's death in 1983, Feinstein immersed himself in the world of the composer/brother songwriting team that he had always idolized: George and Ira Gershwin. While cataloging Gershwin records, music, and memorabilia, and also acting as Ira's surrogate in matters pertaining to the publication and/or performance of Gershwin works, Feinstein nurtured his calling to preserve the legacy of the Gershwins and their songwriting contemporaries.
Taking his first job as a cabaret pianist in a lounge, Feinstein immediately clashed with the owner about modernizing his repertoire. Gently but firmly sticking to his guns, Feinstein asked for one week for the word to get out about his performances of the classic standards. Word did spread, and a big break came when Feinstein was invited to play at a party hosted by Liza Minnelli. That success led to a triumphant 1986 New York debut at the Algonquin Hotel, which paved the way for Feinstein's one-man Broadway show Isn't It Romantic? (1988).
Along with Feinstein's own best-selling recordings and a string of television appearances as both performer and actor, his most valuable contribution to preserving the art of the American popular song has been his series of recorded songbooks, which feature legendary song composers accompanying him at the piano in performances of their own music.
The Gershwin centennial saw Feinstein releasing his third all-Gershwin disc, Michael & George: Feinstein Sings Gershwin (1998), which includes a performance of a "lost" number from Porgy and Bess (1935), the lullaby "Lonely Boy," discarded before the show's opening. It also afforded Feinstein the opportunity to perform Gershwin's biggest hit, "Swanee" (1919), to the accompaniment of Gershwin himself via piano roll. The September 26, 1998, centennial was the occasion of Feinstein's all-Gershwin concert with a fifty-piece symphony orchestra at the Chicago Theatre, a favorite Gershwin venue before his untimely, sudden death at the age of thirty-eight from a brain hemorrhage during surgery in 1937.
Feinstein's longtime ambition to co-own his own intimate New York City nightclub was realized with the opening of his At the Regency in 1999, a 130-seat Park Avenue showcase for himself and other performers who share Feinstein's devotion to the American standard.
Neither Feinstein's piano technique nor his vocalizing ability is particularly memorable; some find his interpretations banal. Others defend his unadorned approach, his classic repertoire to speak for itself without artistic excess. Yet through his enthusiasm and anecdotes, Feinstein has an uncanny ability to make even an arena audience feel as if he is singing personally to each member in his or her own living room.
The appeal and acceptance of Michael Feinstein remains now what it was from the beginning of his career. Older listeners are blissfully reminded of that musically fertile era of America's cultural past when the nation's best songwriters wrote for the nation's best singers. Likewise, younger listeners, weaned on performers who are expected to be simultaneously singers and songwriters, receive a first taste of an elegant, bygone era where each role was clearly and magnificently delineated, affording each a unique degree of perfection.
Michael Feinstein Live at the Algonquin (Elektra, 1987); Michael Feinstein Sings Irving Berlin (Elektra, 1987); Isn't It Romantic? (Elektra, 1988); The MGM Album (Elektra, 1989); Michael Feinstein Sings the Burton Lane Songbook, Vol. I (Nonesuch, 1990); Michael Feinstein Sings the Jule Styne Songbook (Nonesuch, 1991); Michael Feinstein Sings the Burton Lane Songbook, Vol. II (Nonesuch, 1993); Michael Feinstein Sings the Hugh Martin Songbook (Nonesuch, 1995); Nice Work If You Can Get It: Songs from the Gershwins (None-such, 1996); George & Michael: Feinstein Sings Gershwin (Concord, 1998); Big City Rhythms, with the Maynard Ferguson Big Band (Concord, 1999); The Michael Feinstein Anthology (2 discs, Rhino, 2002); Michael Feinstein with the Israel Philharmonic (Concord, 2002); Livingston & Evans Songbook (Nonesuch, 2002).
M. Feinstein, Nice Work if You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme (New York, 1995).
Feinstein, Michael, archivist and avatar of the American standard popular song, b. Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 7, 1956. As a child, Michael Feinstein didn’t like what the other kids liked. When they were busy listening to the Beatles and the Stones, he was more apt to be listening to the Gershwins and Cole Porter. He came by this honestly enough; his mother was a professional tap dancer, and his father—a salesman for Sara Lee—had a marked fondness for show music and other light classics. By the time he was five, Feinstein was playing the piano by ear. During his teen years, he collected old 78s (he had over 6,000 of them), show albums, and sheet music. He learned not only the standards, but also more obscure tunes from the standards era.
When his parents moved to the Los Angeles area, he followed them and got a job selling pianos. He continued haunting old record stores in search of old tunes. While trying to find an old recording by Oscar Levant, he stumbled onto some rare Levant acetates. He bought them and called Levant’s widow about them. She asked him over to her home, where he captivated her, not only with the recordings but by his ability to sit at her piano and play her husband’s compositions; renowned for playing Gershwin’s music, Levant’s own songs suffered by comparison. Mrs. Levant became the first of Feinstein’s sponsors, making Ira Gershwin aware of this young man who knew all the old songs.
Gershwin hired Feinstein to work as his archivist. From 1977 until just after Gershwin’s death in 1983, Feinstein sifted through the piles of manuscripts generated by the Gershwin brothers and their collaborators. During this time, he accompanied Gershwin to Holly-wood parties, and when the hired pianist took a break, Feinstein would play. At one party, he stumbled over the lyrics to “Lorelei” and a woman in the audience fed them to him. That woman, Liza Minelli, became his next sponsor, helping him put together a cabaret act after Gershwin’s passing.
While Feinstein does not have the range of a Mandy Patinkin, his purist interpretations of the songs in his pleasantly nasal voice went over well with fans of cabaret and standards. He also presented the songs with background information about the composers that ap-pealed strongly to the music’s fans. He earned months-long engagements at the Mondrian in L.A., The Plush Room in San Francisco, and the Oak Room in N.Y. He started recording, first for companies that specialized in cabaret performers and later for more mainstream labels.
By the time he transcended the cabaret rooms and was opening on Broadway in 1988, Feinstein had signed to Elektra records. As a performer, his archivist tendencies often come through—he is apt to include verses of songs that never made the “hit version” and fell by the wayside of history. His version of “Lydia the Tattooed Lady,” for example, includes a verse Yip Harburg wrote referring to Hitler that Groucho Marx would sing in concert but didn’t make it to the movie At the Circus. His album of Burton Lane songs featured the composer on the piano. He frequently brought his interpretations to the TV talk shows and his own PBS specials.
Live at the Algonquin (1986); Pure Gershwin (1987); Remember: M. F. Sings Irving… (1987); Isn’t It Romantic (1988); The M.G.M. Album (1989); M. F. Sings the Burton Lane… (1990); M. F. Sings thejule Styne… (1991); M. F. Sings the Burton Lane… (1992); Pure Imagination (1992); Forever (1993); The M. F. Sings the Jerry Herman… (1993); Such Sweet Sorrow (1995); The M. F. Sings the Hugh Martin… (1995); Nice Work If You Can Get It (1996); Michael & George: Feinstein Sings Gershwin (1998); Nobody But You (1998).
Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme (N.Y, 1996).