WASN’T IT GREAT?

I don’t believe that a writer does something wonderful spontaneously. I believe it’s the result of years of living, of study, reading, his very personality and temperament. At one particular moment all these things come together and the artist ‘expresses’ himself. –Richard Rodgers

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Of all the songs Richard Rodgers wrote, first with Lorenz Hart and then Oscar Hammerstein II, few are more obscure than one of Rodgers & Hart’s earliest, Wasn’t It Great? Yet, as I surveyed the list of their far better known titles: Manhattan, My Heart Stood Still, Thou Swell, Blue Moon (their only one published as a popular song, not for a Broadway show or movie score) and hundreds more, no title seemed more fitting to remember his 113th birthday (June 28, 1902) than Wasn’t It Great?.

Richard Rodgers wasn’t just another songwriter coming of age in that dynamic era of social, cultural and artistic change known as the “Roaring Twenties.” When composer Rodgers and lyricist Hart first teamed up in 1919, American popular music was mostly “a thing of trite phrase and cliché, of cloying Victorian sentiment, a tired and hackneyed commodity” (to quote biographer Frederick Nolan). “Moreover,” as Hart said in a 1928 interview, “the old love song….of the then popular waltz was usually a quiet exemplification of innocent amatory music; but today the barbaric quality of jazz dance music demands expressions of love that are much more dynamic and physical.”

Over the evolving years, Rodgers composed songs for 42 Broadway musicals, of which 19 film versions were made. Even a partial list of shows is beyond impressive: THE GARRICK GAIETIES, SPRING IS HERE, LOVE ME TONIGHT, BABES IN ARMS, PAL JOEY, OKLAHOMA!, SOUTH PACIFIC, CAROUSEL, THE KING AND I, STATE FAIR (which included the 1946 Oscar-winning song It Might As Well Be Spring). As much as any composer from the 1920s to 1960s, Richard Rodgers WAS the Sound of Music.

It is especially worth noting that Rodgers accomplished all this despite the completely different styles and personalities of his two principal collaborators. Of Lorenz Hart (who died in 1943), Rodgers said, “Larry was much gayer and lighter than Oscar. He was inclined to be cynical, where Oscar never was. Oscar was more sentimental and so the music had to be more sentimental. It wouldn’t have been natural for Larry to write ‘Oklahoma!’ any more than it would have been natural for Oscar to write ‘Pal Joey’.”

And so I close with a Richard Rodgers song written with each collaborator (the first with lyrics by Hart):

 

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16 comments on “WASN’T IT GREAT?

  1. mistermuse, I tried to watch and listen to Frank and Ella sing the Lady is a Tramp. I must tell you it was a strange video since it seemed to have an echo of the same song while they performed. I do not think it was my computer but then who knows. I will attempt to view and hear the second video link right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, this is odd. I could hear what I think is Ella is singing the “scat” versoin of a song. Then Frank Sinatra was on singing another song. Not June is Bustin’ Out All Over although I could see the orchestra and the members playing. Maybe Youtube was playing a true “mix” of Frank and Ella’s songs. Now I can hear Ella singing solo with an orchestra behind her. I know it is not April fools Day but I am a little confused.

      I enjoyed reading the stories behind the composers of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II and Lorenz Hart. I had no knowledge of Frederick Nolan before but I think his opinion of music of that time period is very accurate. Now I hear the song about the Yellow Basket which is the one song my Daddy sang to me while I sat on his lap at a tender age. One of my favorite songs since the memory of that experience is still with me after many years. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. mistermuse says:

    I just listened to both videos again and noticed nothing wrong, so I assume any problems are at your end, Michaeline. You might try getting your hubby to listen to the videos – as they say down Mexico way, two heads are better than Juan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. arekhill1 says:

    Barbaric quality of jazz…how quaint.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mistermuse says:

    If the strange new music called jazz sounded barbaric to 1920s ears, one can only imagine what hip hop and rap would have sounded like. They might have thought jazz wasn’t so barbaric after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe you are correct in saying it is my computer that did not work correctly. But I did get to hear both of the songs and I enjoy them. Did you happen to read my second comment? I wrote to thank you for all the information about the duo of Rogers and Hammerstein. I learned about Frederick Nolan and Lorenzo Hart.. Maybe my demon computer did not let you read my second reply. It has been a strange week of lost or misplaced items. I gave my husband two cards to mail. However, after putting them both in the car he came upstairs to check with me. Apparently my brother’s birthday card had vanished. After looking everywhere, including the car, our apartment and the parking lot, it seemed to have vanished.. Finally he gave up and went on to the store. Next to disappear was my new little flashlight. Again we searched every drawer and underneath all of our furniture and in the corners. No flashlight! Same thing had happened with small kitchen items that were nowhere to be found.
      did anyone write a song about missing stuff?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. mistermuse says:

    I don’t know of a song about missing items, but I wrote a poem titled THE CASE OF THE MISSING SOCK which I posted on May 9. As for missing stuff in general, I think the older we get, the more we tend to forget where we leave things, which probably accounts for 99% of “vanished” items. You’ll get used to it by the time you’re my age, Michaeline.

    As for Frederick Nolan, I got his quote from his book titled simply LORENZ HART, a biography which I’m sure you can buy online, if interested.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse thank you for reminding me that I am getting older. How old can you be? I think there are not many years between your birthday and mine.Are you claiming to be the descendant of Methusalah? Hee! Hee! Hee!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well thumbs up for my computer! I tried to watch the videos again and this time it worked. Yes, indeed, and I enjoyed Ella and Frank singing THE LADY IS A TRAMP… I also listened to Tony Bennett and Marianna do a lively version of the tramp song. June is Bustin’ Out All Over was stupendous. I recognized the women sopranos and one of the tenors from the British opera company based in London. Yes, I like opera and do not fall asleep while attending these magnificent events. Thank you again, mistermuse for your wonderful contributions to our musical library. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Don Frankel says:

    Interesting point is how Rodgers changed his music to fit his lyricist. I never would have thought anyone ever did that or could.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mistermuse says:

    That’s something Cole Porter never had to deal with because he wrote both the music and lyrics. Of course, Irving Berlin did the same, but Porter’s lyrics were wittier, like Hart’s, whereas Berlin’s lyrics were more sentimental, like Hammerstein’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. BroadBlogs says:

    Interesting to get more background on these great talents.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. mistermuse says:

    I applaud you for being interested in the music (and its makers) of a time which has been left in the dust of our own times, but has not been diminished by circumstances beyond its control.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. scifihammy says:

    I enjoyed reading this about Rodgers – lots I didn’t know. 🙂 Songs were just so much more musical back then!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. As I have a moment (or need to take one), I will be back to troll your archives. Please don’t make it mean anything other than competing to-dos if I “like” but do not comment. ALL of your stuff is wonderful.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mistermuse says:

    Thank you, and no problem with “like” but not comment. I often have to do the same, as there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything.

    Like

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