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It Was Always, Always You

My 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

Love is the Reason, with grammatical advice, from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I once saw a British TV spot for Hamlet Cigars which featured an oddball posing in a photo booth, but so endearingly. For years on, when asked to smile, I affected his toothy grimace, thinking my rendition channeled but transcended his comically unbecoming turn. I channeled nothing of it, each time, I can confirm.   Now I've traced my abuse of adverbs, not to this song, but to the spirit in which Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields used THREE to frame the verses of Love is the Reason from the musical version of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In this song showstopping comic Shirley Booth advises her younger sister on love, ornamenting her insight with the authority-robbing qualifiers, meant to be irrelevant. Aspire as I might to stop, HANDILY I am my parody. Love is the Reason Each line is echoed by the chorus (Parentheses indicate where reply varies) Spoken: Suppose your mother never stood in a dark vestibule with your father, they might never have had to get married. Why do you suppose they did it? It was love.   Love is the reason you was born,   Love was the gleam in Papa's eye.   People suddenly meet, People suddenly fit,   People suddenly hit, And brother, that's it! PERSONALLY Love is a kick right in the pants, Love is the aspirin you buy. If you're flappin' your fins, If you're climbin' a wall, There must be a reason for it all. (What is the reason for it?) Love is the reason for it all!   Love is a night you can't recall,   Love is that extra drink you drank.   Love's a shot in the arm, Love's a poke in the ribs,   Buyin' bottles and bibs, And fillin' up cribs. OBVIOUSLY Love is an old established trap, Ten million suckers walk the plank. If you land on your tail, Ev'ry time that you fall, There must be a reason for it all. (Who needs a reason for it?) Love is the reason for it all!   Love is a toothache in your heart,   Love is a gentlemanly pinch.   Love is stubbin' your toe, Mashed potatoes with lumps,   Wearin' very tight pumps, Or catchin' the mumps. GENERALLY Love is a blow below the belt, Love is a holdin' in a clinch. If you shut your big mouth When his relatives call, There must be a reason for it all. (Who needs a reason for it?) Always the teasin' in the hall; (Hallways are lovely for a call;) Call it the season, I say, love is the reason for it all.

Li’l Abner on the debt ceiling panic

When the satiric cartoon Li'l Abner was made a musical on Broadway, robber baron General Bullmoose sang Bring back the good old days, lamenting the regulation of capitalism, pondering: "How can you break the market?             How? The SEC will not allow             ...one little panic." Today with graft unregulated and un-policed, the American public is made to panic for every swindle, to extort from them bank bailouts, tax breaks for the rich, and now cuts to "entitlements" such as poverty class pensions and medical care. The Li'l Abner strip may not have had the legacy of Pogo, or longevity of Gasoline Alley, but it was the Doonesbury of the 30s and up to the 70s. In the introduction to From Dogpatch to Slobbovia, a little compendium of Abner scenarios, cartoonist Al Capp said this about his artistic intentions: "to create suspicion of, and disrespect for, the perfection of all established institutions. That's what I think education is. Anybody who gets out of college having had his confidence in the perfection of existing institutions affirmed has not been educated. Just suffocated." Avid fans included Queen Elizabeth, Charlie Chaplin and John Steinbeck who wrote: Capp is probably the greatest contemporary writer and my suggestion is that if the Nobel Prize committee is at all alert, they should seriously consider him." As a side note, the Broadway cast of Li'l Abner included the character Stupefyin' Jones, played by Julie Newmar aka Catwoman, and Appassionata Von Climax, played by Tina Louise, Ginger of Gilligan's Island --if you always wondered how the character Ginger could not have failed to be a real "movie star." Tina Louise began her career on Broadway in the 50s and was age thirty-something when the TV series aired. Imagine green-lighting an actress of that age today to play a sex symbol, yet Louise became as yet TV's most enduring sex symbol.

For people who hate opera

The trouble with introductory collections like "Opera for People Who Hate Opera" is of course that it's still OPERA. I'm inclined to believe the gateway acquired-taste for American pop music ears is --why not-- American Musical Theater. But before I get to the particular show I have in mind THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, for a teaser, get thee to Tevye's dream of Fiddler On The Roof. Find the original Broadway stage recording (These girls found it: The Dream) where Zero Mostel pretends to be visited by two ghosts, blending three melodies --with dances-- to a whirlwind intensity. Discordant, shrill, phenomenal, pure opera. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF: THE DREAM Really, you cannot but love the energy and drama of that piece. And it meets the lower brow halfway: it's in English, mostly, it's sung in the registers to which we are more accustomed today, and the cacophony is corralled at a driving dervish pace, also most contemporary. A Broadway convention of the golden age of musicals was the Dream Ballet scene. In Fiddler it was an opera and a ballet, but instead of a dream or a character's hallucination, this was Tevye's pretense of a nightmare, conjured to convince his wife to assent to let their oldest daughter marry the boy she loved, instead of the old man to whom she was promised. The Dream features three motifs: Grandma Tzeitel represented by the Mazel Tov refrain, with the rejoinder of Tevye and his wife Golde, overtaken by the crescendo of the butcher's deceased wife Fruma-Sarah, clearly borrowing the menace of the Wicked Witch of Oz. That's it -- you can like opera! Don't think yourself less sophisticated because lyrics in a foreign language bore you, or because sopranos or tenors strain your ears. You probably wouldn't favor centuries-ago gruel either. THE MOST HAPPY FELLA Just as maturing musical taste builds inevitably toward Jazz, I have a theory that Broadway fans eventually seek for melodies a little less pat. After not so long, the tunes you can easily whistle up the aisle begin to sound the same. Fresh ones don't solve anything. Trust me, the unsung Broadway shows which didn't recoup their production costs don't sound any better now. Great as were all the Rogers & Hammerstein hits, you have heard only half their shows and yet you've heard them all. Ironically, R&H tried their hand at an opera-like show, called ALLEGRO, I don't favor it, and neither did anyone else. What I do know is that I love THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, a comparatively obscure musical which had the misfortune of opening in the shadow of MY FAIR LADY, you remember that one in your sleep. TMHF is the acknowledged masterpiece of Frank Loesser, who had no need to prove himself after composing GUYS AND DOLLS. Great as it is, how many times can you listen to Luck Be a Lady? Being labeled an opera has meant ruin for Broadway musicals which stray from the basic musical review format. Musical Theater traditionally meant catchy tunes

Composer Jason Robert Brown wants to protect his unintellectual rights

As a musician and fan of stage musicals, I must proffer this disclaimer about American theater composer Jason Robert Brown: he's terrible. Brown is a poster child for the music industry's common mediocrity, of commerce's habitual triumph over art. Now Brown has appointed himself defender of intellectual property rights, holding that teens should not use the internet to pirate his sheet music. Of course, I can only wish him foolproof success. American musical theater saw a golden age in the 1940s, with notable glimmers of resurgence since then, in ever infrequent cycles. I don't think anyone would argue that in-between was constant dreck --to which "show tunes" owe their stigma. Defenders of Andrew Lloyd Webber will find themselves similarly unrestrained enthusiasts for popular music, popular fiction and television. To each his own slop. I have particular antipathy for contemporary composers of awfulness because they drive the inartistic music publishing industry where it does irreparable harm. School bands and theater departments are influenced to pay royalties for the performance pieces whose rights are most profitably leveraged, at the expense of older works of renown. Instead of seeding young repertoires with melodies and lyrics to enrich their memories, teachers pollute their students with forgettable claptrap, courtesy of bards like Brown. I have the same prejudice with regard to literature. Why aren't today's students reading Stevenson or Poe instead of Blume or Rowling? Of course, composer JR Brown is more on par with author RL Stine, he's that horrible. But don't take my word for it, have a listen. That said, here's Jason Robert Brown championing not just the exclusive right to sell online what his publishers hawk through their network of scholastic pushers, but he wants the same markup. If ever a commodity could change hands for its true worth, Brown's entire catalog should be ventilated for free through file sharing. Instead he's personally joining various trading websites and then emailing each and every member who appears to be trading in his goods. To paraphrase: Hello, I'm Jason Robert Brown, yes, The Jason Robert Brown, and I'd appreciate it if you stopped illegally sharing my music, since it deprives me of my rightful royalties. Brown has posted some of the ensuing email exchanges on his blog, without any mention of offering remuneration for their contributions. Most laughable, but consistent with the weakness of his music work, Brown has engaged chiefly teens in his discussion of intellectual rights. He lists one discussion in which he compares his stolen sheet music to a loaned screwdriver, a Xerox'd book, and a copied CD. Mr. Brown, might I direct you to the innumerable organizations which argue that intellectual property rights are not inalienable. They are restraints to trade, impediments to idea sharing, and diametric to elevating community wealth. You have every right to contrive a product and sell it by whatever connivance, but your monopoly ends there. Whoever were your customers should have the right to do with their purchases what they will. What right have you to tax the use of your

Singing a song of angry men

Do you hear the people sing, singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes. If you search online for Les Miserables lyrics, strangely you find only the first stanza of DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING, repeated three times. The other refrains are in the Finale. Have a read. Have Gandhi or Mandela or MLK or His Holiness the Dalai Lama, delivered anyone yet from impoverished misery, persecution, or captive servitude to the idle rich? When you want to put your fate into your own hands, maybe it's going to take guts. Do you hear the people sing, singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes! Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free! Do you hear the people sing, singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes! Will you give all you can give so that our banner may advance? Some will fall and some will live, will you stand up and take your chance? The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France! Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night? It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light. Oer the wretched of the Earth there is a flame than never dies. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord. They will walk behind the plowshare, they will put away the sword. The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward. Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Do you hear the people sing? Say do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes.

We have fed you all for a thousand years

  Here's an old labor anthem, addressed to the idle rich who claim the fruit of other men's labor. To whom belongs the wealth generated by work? We have fed you all for a thousand years We have fed you all for a thousand years And you hail us still unfed, Though there's never a dollar of all your wealth But marks the workers' dead. We have yielded our best to give you rest And you lie on crimson wool. Then if blood be the price of all your wealth, Good God! We have paid it in full! There is never a mine blown skyward now But we're buried alive for you. There's never a wreck drifts shoreward now But we are its ghastly crew. Go reckon our dead by the forges red And the factories where we spin. If blood be the price of your cursed wealth, Good God! We have paid it in! We have fed you all a thousand years- For that was our doom, you know, From the days when you chained us in your fields To the strike a week ago. You have taken our lives, and our babies and wives, And we're told it's your legal share, But if blood be the price of your lawful wealth, Good God! We bought it fair! And for good measure, from Finian's Rainbow: When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich When the idle poor become the idle rich. You'll never know just who is who, or who is which. Won't it be rich? When everyone's poor relative becomes a 'Rockefellative', And palms no longer itch. What a switch! When we all wear ermine and plastic teeth How will we determine who's who underneath? And when all your neighbors are upper class, You won't know your 'Joneses' from your 'Ass-tors' Let's toast the day The day we drink that drinky up, but with a little pinkie up. The day on which the idle poor become the idle rich When a rich man doesn't want to work He's a bon vivant. Yes, he's a bon vivant. But when a poor man doesn't want to work, He's a loafer, he's a lounger, He's a lazy good for nothing, he's a jerk! When a rich man loses on a horse Isn't he a sport, oh isn't he a sport? When a poor man looses on a horse He's a gambler, he's a spender, He's a low life, he's a reason for divorce! When a rich man chases after dames He's a man about town, a man about town. But when a poor man chases after dames He's a bounder, he's a rounder, He's a rotter, and a lot of dirty names! When the idle poor become the idle rich You'll never know just who is who or who is which. No one will see the Irish or the Slav in you 'Cause when you're on Park Avenue, Cornelius and Mike, look alike When poor Tweedle Dum is rich Tweedle Dee This discrimination will no longer be. When we're in the dough and off of the nut You won't know your banker from your but...ler. Let's make the switch. With just a few annuities, we'll hide these incongruities With clothes from Abercrombie-Fitch When the idle poor become the idle rich!

Counterpoint duets in American musicals

A now Christmas classic has breathed new life into Frank Loesser's "Baby it's cold outside / I really must go." After burning out the household listening to all available recordings, I yearned for other counterpoint duets. Neither Broadway, nor the internet was very forthcoming, hence this post. For a duet with a similar whimsical wolf vs. mouse dynamic, there's "Small Talk" from Frank Loesser's Pajama Game. (Preferred duo Doris Day and John Raitt). "An old fashion wedding" from the 1966 revival of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. (Ethel Merman and Bruce Yarnell). "I wonder why / You're just in love" from Irving Berlin's 1950 musical Call Me Madam. (Ethel Merman and Russel Nype or Donald O'Connor). Irving Berlin's earlier "Pack up your sins and go to the Devil" features syncopation on both parts. There's the "Will I Ever Tell You" counterpoint to "Lida Rose" in Meredith Wilson's The Music Man. And the combo of "Goodnight my someone" with "Seventy-six trombones" (Shirley Jones and Robert Preston). There's the infamous "Tonight Quintet" from West Side Story. (Best remake: South Park). The 1959 musical Little Mary Sunshine lampoons counterpoint with three parts: Playing Croquet, Swinging, and How Do You Do? Stephen Soundheim repeated the feat in A Little Night Music with "Now," "Later" and "Soon." Less romantic counterpoint could include "All for the best" from Godspell. Can you think of any other? (The best pairing for "Baby it's cold outside"? Physical performance: Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, best repartee: Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer, best contemporary match: Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone.)

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