October 17, 2011
When Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was growing up, his parents exposed him to Broadway, movie musicals and the Great American Songbook. Meanwhile, his cousin Shep introduced him to Woody Allen.
“I instantly became a huge fan of his movies,” MacFarlane says. “When Radio Days came out, I bought the soundtrack and got to know all of the songs. … Radio Days was full of [old songs from the 40s]. So I went to my grandfather and [asked] for more stuff, and he gave me a bunch of his old record albums, and I really became acquainted with Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller and that era of music.”
MacFarlane’s new album, Music Is Better Than Words, is a collection of songs sung in the big-band style and taken from the Great American Songbook. Many of the tracks were tunes originally recorded by some of the great singers of the ’40s and ’50s.
“This kind of music is what I’ve always been drawn to,” MacFarlane tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “[I think] the Great American Songbook, and particularly the early- to late-’50s era of orchestration, was the peak of high musicality as far as what singers and orchestrators were doing with relatively old songs from the ’20s and ’30s. [They were] just breathing new life and energy into them as they discovered what they really could do with an orchestra in popular music.”