If maple syrup could sing, it would sound like Johnny Mathis. His voice has a soothing, liquid quality that I find in no other singer. And think of all of his songs that have become standards—a few of the best are below.
Mathis started out as an athlete, and had to choose between singing and track. Fortunately for us, he chose music. And the guy is a trouper: he’s still giving concerts at age 75.
I’ve chosen three songs, two of them from live performances. The first is my favorite: “A Certain Smile,” which first appeared in the eponymous 1958 movie, itself based on a novel by Françoise Sagan. I’m putting up the recorded version, but you can also see the movie version here.
“Misty,” written by jazz pianist Erroll Garner, might be Mathis’s most famous song, and the most famous part is when his voice blends imperceptibly with the oboe at the end. It’s most striking in the recorded version, but you can also hear the big high note in this live version, taped in 1973:
You might remember the Clint Eastwood movie, “Play Misty for Me,” in which a deranged fan repeatedly calls Eastwood, a disc jockey, requesting that he play the song.
The last selection features a young and shockingly skinny Mathis singing “It’s Not for Me to Say.” The YouTube notes claim it’s his first performance on the Ed Sullivan show. He looks plenty nervous! (This version is truncated; the full recorded version is here.)