Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The 100 Greatest Broadway Songs - Part XV

SONG #15
"Hello, Dolly!"
from Hello, Dolly!
Music & Lyrics by Jerry Herman
sung by Dolly Gallagher Levi & Company
By the mid-1960s, the Rock 'n Roll Era had become so culturally significant that it had shoved Broadway music off the pop charts (Before the mid-1950s, Broadway music is usually what made up most of the hit singles!).  But in 1964, there was one last bastion of hope for Broadway with this song when Louis Armstrong recorded this song (in order to promote the show!) and became a #1 hit in month's following the Musical's opening.  This high-strutting title number skyrocketed songwriter Jerry Herman into Broadway stardom and became the anthem as a "parade" of divas took over for original star Carol Channing (including Martha Raye, Ginger Rogers, Pearl Bailey and Ethel Merman).  It even was beloved by the troops in Vietnam when Mary Martin starred in a special USO production.  It was a perfect example of Broadway's Americana.

SONG #14
"My Funny Valentine"
from Babes In Arms
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
sung by Billie Smith
This is the second of two Rodgers and Hart songs to appear on this list and it is considered their most popular, having been recorded over 1300 times by 600 different artists.  It is from one of their shows that is not well-known, yet the show contains some of their most famous songs (in addition to this one, the show also includes "Johnny One Note," "Where Or When" and "The Lady Is a Tramp").  This sweet romantic jazz standard is also noted for its slightly witty Lorenz Hart lyrics that have now gone down into the compendium of American colloquialisms ("unphotographable," "figure less than Greek," etc.).

SONG #13
"I Dreamed a Dream"
from Les Misérables
Music by Claude-Michel Schonberg
Lyrics by Alain Boublil & Herbert Kretzmer
sung by Fantine
Contrary to popular belief, this song was not written for Susan Boyle to wow Simon Cowell and his fellow judges panel on Britain's Got Talent.  It was first written back in 1980 for the Les Misérables French concept album by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil (titled "J'Avais rêvé d'une autre vie" and sung by French pop singer Rose Laurens).  The single became a hit in France and (being one of the first songs on  the concept album) is pointed as the song that sold Cameron Mackintosh on adapting the show into English for the West End.  When it was performed in the London production (by the fabulous Patti LuPone!), it became an instant hit and became an anthem for the "dreams" within the show.  It's no wonder that the 2012 film version only used the song (sung to Oscar-winning perfection by Anne Hathaway!) in the trailers.

SONG #12
from Funny Girl
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Bob Merrill
sung by Fanny Brice
As soon as Jule Styne began writing songs to fit Barbra Streisand's voice, he immediately wrote this soaring ballad with Bob Merrill that soon became Streisand's signature number...but it was almost cut from the show.  Original director Jerome Robbins, even though he liked the song and the way Streisand sang it, felt that it slowed down the action of the play and wanted it taken out.  Styne refused, and soon Robbins left (over other disagreements with the creative team) to be replaced by Bob Fosse, who also felt that "People" should be cut.  Not wanting to go round for round with Jule Styne, Fosse left about a week after taking the job.  Then came Actors' Studio director Garson Kanin.  He too felt that the song dragged down the play and wanted it cut.  He kept it out-of-town, but promised it would be gone by the New York opening.  Soon, Robbins was brought back to make some final changes and be the overall "production supervisor."  To combat both Kanin and Robbins, Styne got creative.  He pulled Barbra Streisand into a recording studio and recorded it as a single then released the single.  The single became a Top 10 hit immediately.  Kanin and Robbins were painted into a corner and...the rest is history!

SONG #11
"My Favorite Things"
from The Sound of Music
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
sung by Maria Rainer & The Mother Abbess
This song became an instant classic in the original 1959 Broadway production of The Sound of Music.  In the show, it was originally sung by Mary Martin (as Maria) when she was leaving the Abbey to go to the Von Trapps (she sang it with Patricia Neway's Mother Abbess).  A year after the show opened, jazz saxophonist John Coltrane covered the song (in an almost fourteen-minute long version!) and became a huge jazz favorite.  Soon, it also became a favorite of pop and lounge acts for their respective Christmas albums (mainly because the song lists a lot of nice things).  When screenwriter Ernest Lehman was adapting the show for the 1965 film version, he decided to re-position the song for Maria (played by Julie Andrews) to sing to the children during the thunderstorm.  The scene (which was the first scene filmed for the movie!) became a personal favorite of Andrews and the children (who reprise the song later in the film, above).

In the next post, we will jump right into the Top 10 of the 100 Greatest Broadway Songs!


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