Monday, July 28, 2008
WE REMEMBER RODGERS AND HART
Today is the anniversary in 1920 of the professional debut of two amazing songwriters. These of course are Rodgers and Hart and on this day in 1920 they opened their very first Broadway show together called (believe it or not) "Poor Little Ritz Girl" -- now since I used to work for Ritz Camera and these guys pay so damn little to new "associates" everybody new is "poor" working for them. I am still astonished how poorly they treat the people that make their business possible.-- sales people. Nothing happens without "the sale". By the way Larry Hart died in 1943-- a victim of alcohol abuse- very sad.They worked together on about thirty musicals from 1919 until Hart's death in 1943. Their big breakthrough didn't come along until five years n 1925 with The Garrick Gaiety's, which featured the hit song "Manhattan."Their many other hits include "Here In My Arms," "Mountain Greenery," "The Blue Room" "My Heart Stood Still," "You Took Advantage of Me," "Ten Cents a Dance," "Dancing on the Ceiling," "Spring is Here," "Lover," "Mimi," "Isn't It Romantic?" "Blue Moon," "Easy To Remember" "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World," "My Romance," "Little Girl Blue" "There's a Small Hotel," "I Wish I Were in Love Again," "Where Or When," "My Funny Valentine," "Johnny One Note" "The Lady is a Tramp," "Have You Met Miss Jones?," "This Can't Be Love," "Falling In Love With Love," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "I Could Write a Book," and "Wait Till You See Her"So okay, now, how many of those songs do you know? How many have you played on the piano or just sung out loud? Rodgers and Hart songs have long been favorites of cabaret singers and jazz artists. Hart's lyrics, (as opposed to Hammerstein's) were facile, vernacular, dazzling, sometimes playful, sometimes melancholic and they raised the standard for Broadway songwriting. Rodgers wrote the melodies first and Hart crafted the lyrics after: the direct opposite of the Rodgers and Hammerstein method in which Oscar wrote the lyrics first. Rodgers was a creator of melodies and he ranks with Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin. Rodgers and Hart shows belong to the era when musicals were revue-like and librettos weren't much more than excuses for comic turns and music cues. Still, just as the duo's tunes were a cut above, so did the team try to raise the standard of the musical form in general. Thus A Connecticut Yankee (1927) was based on Mark Twain's novel, and The Boys From Syracuse (1938) on William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors.I bet you didn't know that last one! My favorite is Pal Joey (1940), which is often thought their best show, has a book by The New Yorker writer John O'Hara--adapting his own short stories--and features a title character who's a heel. So unflinching was the portrait that critic Brooks Atkinson famously asked in his review "Although it is expertly done, how can you draw sweet water from a foul well?" When the show was revived in 1952, audiences had learned to accept and enjoy darker material on Broadway (thanks in large part to Rodgers' work with Hammerstein) and audiences found it easier to deal with. The new production ran considerably longer than the original. Atkinson, reviewing the revival, said his original judgment had been wrong. Comparisons between Rodgers and Hart and the successor team of Rodgers and Hammerstein are inevitable. Hammerstein's lyrics project warmth, sincere optimism, and occasional corniness. Hart's lyrics showed greater sophistication in subject matter, more use of overt verbal cleverness, and more of a "New York" or "Broadway" sensibility. The archetypal Rodgers and Hart song, "Manhattan," rhymes "The great big city's a wondrous toy/Just made for a girl and boy" in the first stanza, then reprises with "The city's glamor can never spoil/The dreams of a boy and goil" in the last. (oh well) Many of the songs ("Falling in Love with Love", "Little Girl Blue", "My Funny Valentine") are wistful or sad, and are really emotional ambivalence that seems to be perceptible in the background of even the sunnier songs. For example, "You Took Advantage of Me" appears to be an evocation of amorous joy, but the very title suggests some doubt as to whether the relationship is mutual or exploitative. We lost Frank Loesser today in 1959 at the very young age of fifty-nine. What wonderful songs he wrote! My favorite is "Inchworm" and "Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat" John and I had a computer crash, but we were able to save everything. Printer is still out, however and we are trying to figure out why because after backing it all up, we returned the computer to original specs. The error message says that we are lacking a connection device. Now if used this same software to install the printer the first time two years ago, why is that same software suddenly missing a "connection device" Well this for sure: No more HP Printers for me. They are simply a big pain in the ass! Until next time!