Feinstein was born to Jewish-American parents Edward, a former singer and sales executive for the Sara Lee Corporation, and mother Maizie, a semi-professional tap dancer, in Columbus, Ohio. At the age of five, he studied piano for a couple of months until his teacher became angered that he wasn't reading the sheet music she gave him, since he was more comfortable playing by ear. As his mother saw no problem with her son's method, she took him out of lessons and allowed him to enjoy music his own way.
After graduating from high school, he worked in local piano bars for two years, moving to Los Angeles when he was 20. Through the widow of legendary concert pianist-actor Oscar Levant, he was introduced to Ira Gershwin, who hired him to catalogue his extensive collection of phonograph records. The assignment led to a six-year musical excavation of Gershwin's home on Beverly Hills' Roxbury Drive, preserving the legacy of not just Ira but his composer brother George, who had died four decades earlier, as well. Feinstein's extended tenure enabled him to get to know next-door neighbor Rosemary Clooney, with whom he formed an intensely close friendship lasting until Clooney's death. He later would serve as musical consultant for My One and Only, a Broadway musical pastiche of Gershwin tunes.
In 1986, he recorded his first CD, Pure Gershwin, a collection of music by George and Ira Gershwin. He followed this in quick succession with Live at the Algonquin (1986); Remember, featuring the music of Irving Berlin; Isn't It Romantic, a collection of standards which featured the first time Feinstein was backed by an orchestra; and Over There, featuring the music of America and Europe during the First World War. Feinstein then embarked on an ambitious songbook project wherein he would perform the music of a featured composer, accompanied by the composer. These included collaborations with Burton Lane (two volumes), Jule Styne, Jerry Herman, Hugh Martin, Jimmy Webb and Jay Livingston/Ray Evans. Feinstein returned to record two other albums of Gershwin music: "Nice Work if You Can Get It" and "Michael and George."
Feinstein recorded his only children's album in 1992, "Pure Imagination". He has also recorded several albums of standards: "Forever", "Such Sweet Sorrow", "Big City Rhythms", "Romance on Film/Romance on Broadway", "Live with the Israel Philharmonic", "Hopeless Romantics" (featuring George Shearing).
Feinstein is the owner of the Manhattan nightclub Feinstein's at the Regency, a showcase for cabaret performers. He himself performs there for a sold-out Christmas holiday stint each year. He was also a part owner of the Speakeasy Supperclub in Chicago (now closed). He has an interest in the Shaw theatre in London, where he will perform in 2008, when it will become Feinstein's at the Shaw.
Feinstein recently completed a six-part Warner Home Video series for television that depicts the history of the American popular song up to 1960.
Click on the title to hear Michael's special treatment of this song.
Visit Michael Feinstein's personal website for more about this amazing entertainer.