It Was Always, Always You

Sheet music cover to Bob Merrill's IT WAS ALWAYS YOU from CarnivalMy maternal grandparents had a favorite song, their song, Irving Berlin’s sentimental Always. With “always” capping every line and recurring as a chorus echo, the verbal chime quickly packed a saccharine wallop if it wasn’t you celebrating your 50th or 60th anniversary. I’ve chanced upon another lyric of the stage era that may have Berlin beat by ardor and iteration: Bob Merrill’s “It Was Always You” (also known as “Always Always You”) from the 1961 musical Carnival.
I could find scant trace online, so I’ll transcribe the song here. Weighed by syllable, it’s 25% alwayses:

It was always, always you,
Always, always you.
Though my eyes may wander
To and fro and yonder,
Still my heart’s affection
Always beats in your direction.

Every beat for you, My Sweet,
All the love my beating heart can brew.
It shocks me so, you didn’t know
That it was always you.
Always, always, always,
Always, always you.

Her reprise:

It was always, always you,
Always, always you.
You would cheat your mother,
In your heart a thief, Dear.
Still I want no other
Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, Dear.

Life is strange, a man can change,
Though years could find me basking in the sun.
But all the same, I’ll dress for rain…
(melody carries line unspoken)
Always, always, always,
Always, always you.

Though CARNIVAL may have sunk into obscurity, its theme song became the pop standard “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” –not such a surprise if you consider that Merrill also penned “How Much is That Doggy in the Window.”

You’d also recognize “[Everywhere I Look I Can See] Her Face” now a lounge classic. In performance, this is where the bitter puppeteer Paul realizes he loves the orphan Lili. This number was also reprised in duet where angst is given foil with Lili’s “I Hate Him” sung in obbligato.

If I’m giving CARNIVAL its due now, there’s an entire ode I’d like to write about the spot-on “A Very Nice Man” where Lili’s unguarded extemporaneous praise of the traveling bric-a-brac shop cannot conceal its shabbiness. Sample lyric:

What a very nice pitcher, though the handle is off,
But who says that a pitcher needs a handle?

And so I’m compelled to accord CARNIVAL its proper context, therefore I have to confess that ALWAYS ALWAYS belongs to the secondary romantic plot, between Marco the philandering magician and his forgiving assistant Rose, the semi-comic relief to the show’s center ring. CARNIVAL reconciled its main characters’ darker problems, which would probably not confound today’s Codependent No More audiences.

With audiences wised-up, and CARNIVAL’s stage melodies like “She’s My Love” fading to obscurity, it feels like Paul’s nearly lost love, a fiction except in our hearts, slips through his fingers minus the happy/unhappy ever after, when the curtain comes down forever.

She is soft, she is fair, she’s my love.
She is song, she is prayer, she’s my love.
Though I reach, though I try, she is braver than I
And is far less of earth than she is of sky.

She is moon to my night, she’s my love.
She is sight, sound and light, she’s my love.
Still the one heart I own hungers lost and alone
For My Love’s never known she’s my love.

Still the one heart I own hungers lost and alone
For My Love’s never known she’s my love.

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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