The title could also be ‘two’!
I have seen some wonderful musicals over the years, either on stage or portrayed in celluloid. When it comes to lyrics, ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ from Richard Rogers’ film ‘South Pacific’ often enters my consciousness. In theory it’s sung by the actor Rossano Brazzi, but the Oscar Hammerstein lyrics were actually dubbed by Giorgio Tozzi.
In the story Emile de Bacque falls in love with a naïve American navy nurse Nellie Forbush and expresses his feelings for her on the beach. “Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger …. across a crowded room …. and somehow you know …. you’ll see her again and again.” Decades have passed since I saw the film and I YouTube’d it. God! It’s become dated, someone singing their heart out to a woman who looks completely disinterested, like some cardboard cut-out! …… but the tune and lyrics stay with me!
I saw Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘The Phantom of The Opera’ twice and remain mesmerised by one song, The Music of The Night; the way it’s sung and its lyrics. To remind you: ‘Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation, darkness stirs and wakes imagination; silently the senses abandon their defences. Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendour, grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender, turn your face away from the garish light of day, turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light, and listen to the music of the night.’ Just brilliant!
Some artists own a certain song and no other attempt can match it. If you hear the first few bars and words of ‘I want to dance with somebody’ the late great Whitney Houston immediately comes to mind. As does Jennifer Rush singing the song The Power of Love. “The whispers in the morning of lovers sleeping tight …… and the reprise ‘cause I am your lady, and you are my man, whenever you reach for me, I’ll do all that I can.” And of course the late Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing “Now I’ve had the time of my life, No, I never felt like this before, Yes I swear it’s the truth, and I owe it all to you.” No sure anyone can separate the song from the dance sequence in the feel-good film; I certainly can’t!
I mentioned the use of Nessun Dorma by the broadcasters of the football World Cup in PC 283 Lyrics. Another song of the same genre that resonates is Caruso, a song written in 1986 by Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla who dedicated it to Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873 – 1921).
The recording by Luciano Pavarotti has sold over 9 million copies. The song tells of the evening a couple of days before 48 year old Caruso dies of throat cancer, when he’s giving his last singing lesson to a girl with beautiful green eyes with whom he’s fallen madly in love. He brings a piano out onto his terrace overlooking the harbour of Sorrento and serenades her and the local fishermen. He sets the scene: “Qui dove il mare luccia, E tira forte il vento. Su una vecchia terrazza, Davntiot al golfo di Surriento.” And the chorus is: “Te voglio bene assaje, Ma tanto tanto bene sai, E una catena ormai, Che scioglie il sangue rint’ ‘e ‘vvene sai.” You can Goggle-Translate it if you want but listen to the Italian lyrics, Pavarotii’s majestic voice and the music all together and I guarantee a shiver will work its way down anyone’s romantic spine!
I don’t imagine writing lyrics is any different from other creative activities; sometimes they flow, sometimes the inability to express oneself seems frozen in time. One glaring exception was George Frideric Handel’s Messiah. The whole 259 page oratorio was written over just 24 days in 1741, at a rate of 15 notes per minute for 10 hours; some suggest he had some divine assistance! It was first performed in Dublin the following year.
And how about this as a plea for someone to stay: “If you go away, on a summer’s day, then you might as well take the sun away, all the birds that flew in the summer sky, when our love was new and our hearts were high ……. But if you stay, I’ll make you a day, like no day has been or will be again, we’ll sail on the sun, we’ll ride on the rain …..” Simply love Neil Diamond’s version of this song written by Jacques Brie and Rod McKuen.
Often singers don’t get the credit they deserve. The other day we heard that Loren Allred had produced a demo recording of the song ‘Never Enough’ for the 2017 film The Greatest Showman. Having heard it, the actress Rebecca Ferguson decided to mime the words; who knew?!
You recall from my first postcard about lyrics that I thought ‘nights in white satin’ referred to medieval knights with silk tights? When I hear Stephen Sondheim’s song ‘Send in the clowns’, the clowns being the fools that should flood a stage if the production is not going well, I hear clouds! I have no explanation; just the way I heard it once and now they’re stuck!
Large numbers of musical groups have come and gone without me really knowing too much about them apart from their hit singles. When the lead singer of Meat Loaf, Michael Lee Aday, died in January this year I just about remembered the hit “I’d do anything for love”. The Streets of Philadelphia was a song about the awful impact of AIDS in the 1980s. I knew a few individuals
who didn’t make it and Bruce Springsteen’s 1993 song brings back the memories. “….Saw my reflection in a window, and didn’t know my own face, Oh! brother, are you gonna leave me wastin’ away, on the streets of Philadelphia.”
More than one person told Marilyn Bergman that they had been married to her “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”, broke up to “Where Do you start?” and divorced to “The Way We Were.” ‘That’s a great responsibility, being the soundtrack for people’s lives’ she remarked in a rather syrupy way!
Maybe a way to wind up these scribbles is to read the last two lines of ‘The Way We Were’:
‘So it’s the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember the way we were.’
Richard 3rd June 2022