Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Lyrics On My Mind

The songs going through my head lately are mostly songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, especially their out-of-left-field love songs. No one was better than Hart at writing a love song that didn't sound like the typical gooey ballad; indeed, some of his love songs can be downright dark. Here are some examples:

From On Your Toes:

It's got to be love,
It couldn't be tonsilitis,
It feels like neuritis,
But nevertheless it's love.
Don't tell me the pickles and pie a la mode they served me
Unnerved me
And made my heart a broken-down pump:
It's got to be love,
It isn't the morning after
That makes ev'ry rafter
Go spinning around above.
I'm sure that it's fatal, or why do I get that sinking feeling?
I think that I'm dead,
But nevertheless it's only love.

From Higher and Higher (which also produced the greatest Rodgers and Hart song, "It Never Entered My Mind"), the love duet "I'm Afraid":

I'm afraid of snow and ice,
I'm afraid of rats and mice,
I'm afraid of reading scary tales,
Even of fairy tales.
I'm afraid of rain and fogs,
I'm afraid of touching frogs,
I'm afraid of counting sheep at night,
'Cause sheep can scare me too.
Afraid of cops,
Afraid of crooks,
Afraid of germs,
Afraid of worms
You put on hooks.
I'm afraid of Fu Manchu,
And of tigers in the zoo,
But most of all
I'm afraid I'll fall
For a horrible thing like you.

Or for something less dark, "Morning is Midnight," a love song (with a gorgeous, classical-sounding tune) celebrating shared slackerdom:

Morning is midnight
And the sun's the moon.
My break of day
Doesn't start, let us say,
Until half-past noon.
Later to bed
And later still to rise,
Who cares for health
Just as long as he's wealthy
And wise?
They say that the early
Bird will catch the worm;
I prefer a girlie,
If she doesn't squirm.
Morning will come,
But must it come so soon?
My break of day
Doesn't start, let us say,
Until noon.

Hart's way with a love song was certainly the quirkiest of any popular songwriter; he just seemed to want to find the strangest angle on the subject. When he did write a conventional-sounding love lyric with all the usual love-song phrases, he subverted it by subjecting it to a little pronoun trouble (tm Daffy Duck) in the song "If I Were You":

If I were you,
Here's what I'd do:
I'd tell me that I really loved me.
I wouldn't hide it,
I'd just confide it,
I'd pet me and let me pet you.
I'd be oh so tender
Sitting on my knee,
Then, with sweet surrender
I'd give in to me.
Gosh, you ought to see,
I'd hold me closer,
I'd kiss me too,
I'd do that if I were you.

"Morning is Midnight" and "I'm Afraid" were recorded by Ben Bagley for his "Rodgers and Hart Revisited" series (Dorothy Loudon sang a fine "Morning is Midnight" on the first and best of those albums); "If I Were You" was recorded by Frederica Von Stade for her "My Funny Valentine: A Rodgers and Hart Anthology"; "It's Got to Be Love" is on the 1983 cast recording of On Your Toes.

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