They Write the Songs: Rodgers & Hart

In part 7 of Barry Manilow’s ten-week series, he shares that Lorenz Hart was known for his “urbane and witty rhyming lyrics.” What’s not to love hearing Barry Manilow break down the opening lines of “Mountain Greenery:” Richard Rodgers “responded to that kind of cabaret lyric.” In their twenty years together, Rodgers & Hart lit Broadway with many successful musicals, giving us beautiful songs we all know and love.

In 1925, after five years of hard work and on the brink of giving up, their talents were rewarded with a hit: The Garrick Gaieties. It included a song most have heard and many—especially New Yorkers—love: “Manhattan.”

Hearing Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland in a rare recording of “My Romance” makes me miss and remember why I love these old classics.

You’re sure to recognize their only song to become a hit not associated with a musical or film. Its original lyrics we’ve never heard—that is, until Barry performs them for us today, prior to a beautiful rendition by an icon you might not expect it from: Bob Dylan.

Barry shares his own gorgeous version of “Where or When” from his Showstoppers album. It’s an understatement to say that he and co-arranger/co-producer Eddie Arkin did a magnificent job. I’ve loved this song for a long time, but hearing Barry describe the feeling of flying as the melody climbs higher and higher made it even more poignant. The layering echo of his voice within the music is, as I often say, goosebump-worthy. The hour would be well spent if only to hear this song.

Something we never give much thought to: as a composer, Barry shares how difficult it is to write this style of song that seems so easy to the listener.

On a personal note, a few weeks ago I heard a song playing on muzak I’d never heard before. For some reason I’d been thinking of my ex-husband and found the lyrics haunting. I wondered if it had ever “entered his mind” that his indifference would be our demise. I googled the verse discovering the title, “It Never Entered My Mind,” and found Frank Sinatra’s rendition on YouTube. I loved the song, but couldn’t listen again…until today on They Write the Songs.

Barry states:

Sometimes it makes me so sad that we will never, ever hear songwriting or performing like that ever again. Oh, we songwriters and performers can try, but we’ll always be copies; there’ll never be this kind of art again.

I need to respectfully say, I think you’re wrong!

You forgot a composer extraordinaire, collaborating with some of the finest lyricists to ever put verse to paper, who recently created a unique concept set to music. You forgot a musician who, via presentation of every note meant for millions, has the the unparalleled ability to make the listener feel a gamut of personalized emotions. You forgot the person who’s given the world original music, often overlooked in the mainstream, yet someone who will one day be showcased in a series much like this, because it will live on as an example of perfection. It’s not surprising you didn’t mention yourself, but I and thousands of others can. Perhaps you’ve borrowed bits and pieces from the masters, but you’ve created a sound that is uniquely your own, and not many, if any, in the Great American Songbook had the ability to create and present. 

Never knew the truth behind “My Funny Valentine.” It’ll probably be a surprise to many of you, so listen in to find out. I’ve enjoyed hearing Spencer Day close his Valentine’s Day show at the McCallum with this one for the last two years!

Tony Bennett, Ruth Etting,  Mabel Mercer, Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, Michael Feinstein, Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand, Lena Horne…“Ten Cents a Dance,” “Isn’t It Romantic,” “Lover,” “I’ll Tell the Man on the Street,” “With a Song In My Heart…” Barry’s snippets and knowledge…it all makes the hour fly, as is always the case with the series. It’s just not long enough.

After the death of Lorenz Hart following twenty years of collaboration, Richard Rodgers continued sharing his genius collaborating with Oscar Hammerstein. Next week, Barry will bring us part two of Mr. Rodgers life as he shares the story of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

Posted in They Write the Songs by Helen Holdun

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