In June we will be featuring all LGBTQ+ artists in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month
Most people don’t actually know this, but before Richard Rodgers teamed up with Oscar Hammerstein II to have some of his most successful and fruitful years, he partnered with Lorenz Hart to create some of Broadway’s most memorable music.
You can hear the words of an unrequited lover in each of his songs. He was a romantic at heart. However, as an openly gay man, he was at war with himself, and you can see in his writing the turmoil he must have been in, in a time when he could still be legally killed for being gay. His lyrics often said the words he wished he could say openly to other men, and just often they exposed the painful underbelly of love that goes unspoken.
Some of his more famous lyrics include "Blue Moon," "Mountain Greenery," "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Manhattan," "Where or When," "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," "Falling in Love with Love," "Have You Met Miss Jones?," "My Funny Valentine," "I Could Write a Book", "This Can't Be Love", "With a Song in My Heart", "It Never Entered My Mind", and "Isn't It Romantic?".
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were introduced in 1919, when both attended Columbia University, when asked to write an amateur club show. After writing together for several years, they produced their first successful Broadway musical, The Garrick Gaieties, in 1925, which introduced their hit song, "Manhattan" and led to a series of successful musicals and films. They quickly became among the most popular songwriters in America, and from 1925 to 1931 had fifteen scores featured on Broadway. In the early 1930s they moved to Hollywood, where they created several popular songs for film, such as "Isn't It Romantic?" and "Lover", before returning to Broadway in 1935 with Billy Rose's Jumbo. From 1935 to Hart's death in 1943, they wrote a string of highly regarded Broadway musicals, most of which were hits.
Many of their stage musicals from the late 1930s were made into films, such as On Your Toes (1936) and Babes in Arms (1937), though rarely with their scores intact. Pal Joey (1940), termed their "masterpiece", has a book by The New Yorker writer John O'Hara. O'Hara adapted his own short stories for the show, which featured a title character who is 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 darker material (thanks in large part to Rodgers' work with Oscar Hammerstein II). The new production had a considerably longer run than the original and was now considered a classic by critics. Atkinson, reviewing the revival, wrote that "it renews confidence in the professionalism of the theatre."
Rodgers and Hart subsequently wrote the music and lyrics for 26 Broadway musicals during a more-than-20-year partnership that ended shortly before Hart's early death. Their "big four" were Babes in Arms, The Boys From Syracuse, Pal Joey, and On Your Toes. The Rodgers and Hart songs have been described as intimate and destined for long lives outside the theater. Many of their songs are standard repertoire for singers and jazz instrumentalists. Notable singers who have performed and recorded their songs have included Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, and Carly Simon. Hart has been called "the expressive bard of the urban generation which matured during the interwar years." But the "encomiums suggest(ing) that Larry Hart was a poet" caused his friend and fellow writer Henry Myers to state otherwise. "Larry in particular was primarily a showman. If you can manage to examine his songs technically, and for the moment elude their spell, you will see that they are all meant to be acted, that they are part of a play. Larry was a playwright."
So today’s two songs showcase both the sweet and the sour of Lorenz “Larry” Hart’s romantic life. The idea that love was foolish, and nothing to be romantic about, only to be entranced by someone new and given over to all those intoxicating feelings again. His was a beautiful but difficult life, and yet somehow he still left us with an incredible amount of music to hold on to.
So today, with hope and cynicism in equal measure, I choose Lorenz Hart (& Richard Rodgers)’ "Falling In Love w/ Love" & "Bewitched, Bothered, & Bewildered" as my, play the fool, with eyes unable to see, don’t let it fall out with me, songs for a, what a fool and don’t I know it, but a fool can have his charms, lost my heart - but what of it, Friday.
I’m so sorry there’s so many videos … I simply couldn’t choose a “best” version!