Thursday, January 10, 2013

David Frye's Richard Nixon albums

David Frye in 1972, posed in
front of his "Richard Nixon
Superstar" album
Without a doubt, the best and funniest mimic of 37th President Richard M. Nixon was the manic and intense comic David Frye (born David Shapiro in Brooklyn). Frye created the definitive Nixon and was really on fire in the late sixties/early seventies, perfecting his devastating Nixon imitation in nightclubs (my father took my brothers and I twice to see Frye perform live in NYC, at Jimmy's Supper Club and Dangerfields), on television (as a semi-regular on "Copycats"), and especially in a series of popular comedy albums. Frye's Nixon impersonation became so good in fact, that by 1973 it sounded like (to me) Richard Nixon himself was performing the material. He perfected his impression by matching Nixon's vocal tones and modulations, and by adapting some of his catch phrases, such as "Let me make this perfectly clear" and creating some of his own, including "I am the President, make no mistake about that",and practicing in the mirror every day. Frye was also served well by some first rate comedy writing, helping to create some truly sharp-edged, timely political satire.

When Nixon resigned in 1974, Frye's career inevitably took a nosedive and despite several comeback attempts including a Bill Clinton album,  he never quite rebounded. He died in early 2011 in Las Vegas.

Frye also did a perfect Nixon facial imitation
 His great legacy remains his four Nixon albums, also special to me because of the artists who were hired to illustrate the covers, some of the best caricaturists of the time.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/29/arts/29frye.html

David Frye's first album from 1969, cover art by Edward Sorel

                  "Richard Nixon Get's High", along with the great Chuck McCann

back cover

Frank Gorshin and David Frye (doing LBJ) on "Copycats", 1971
Frye's second album from 1971, cover art by the one and only Jack Davis
back cover
From 1972, narrated by Frye as Billy Graham, cover art by Sandy Huffaker
Frye's forth and final Nixon album, from 1973. Gabe Kaplan was one of the writers and performers. I'm unsure who made the Nixon puppet

From "Richard Nixon: A Fantasy"

Listen to the entire album here:
http://archive.org/details/david_frye_richard_nixon_a_fantasy

performing as Nixon on the Ed Sullivan show, 1971
the CD reissue of "Richard Nixon: A Fantasy", with newly added material
"I Am the President" became Frye's popular catch phrase
David Frye on the Smothers Brothers show

3 comments:

  1. Despite the success of the albums, it was Frye's ability to make himself LOOK like his subjects that was most amazing to me. Still photos hardly do justice to these incredible transformations.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As a young kid I had memorized "Richard Nixon: A Fantasy", and as an adult today I wonder where talent like David Frye and Rich Little have gone. A classic style of impressionism with persistent and golden themes that all Americans can relate to. No, today's youth cannot relate to Richard Millhouse Nixon, Henry Kissenger, or the like. But the spirit of political impressionism should live on in more than spot comedy. David Frye was an example for all to follow. We will miss him forever. Make it a Great Day :).

    ReplyDelete
  3. As a young kid I had memorized "Richard Nixon: A Fantasy", and as an adult today I wonder where talent like David Frye and Rich Little have gone. A classic style of impressionism with persistent and golden themes that all Americans can relate to. No, today's youth cannot relate to Richard Millhouse Nixon, Henry Kissenger, or the like. But the spirit of political impressionism should live on in more than spot comedy. David Frye was an example for all to follow. We will miss him forever. Make it a Great Day :).

    ReplyDelete