The song of the day for Tuesday, July 12, 2016 is “Love, Look Away.”
About This Song
“Love Look Away” is from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song. While the score is quite beautiful, Flower Drum Song is seldom performed today due to concerns regarding Asian-American stereotypes.
About This Version
Tony Bennett recorded “Love, Look Away,” several times, but my favorite is from his legendary 1962 Carnegie Hall concert, released as Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall.
“Love, Look Away,” as well as Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall, is available from iTunes.
Today we celebrate the 121st anniversary of Oscar Hammerstein II, who was born into a major theatrical family in New York on July 12, 1895.
Though his family wanted him to not put his career hopes in the theater, Hammerstein was unable to stay away. His early collaborators included Otto Harbach. However, his first major hit was written with Jerome Kern and the still-popular 1927 musical Show Boat.
One of my favorite theater stories rises about from Show Boat. Hammerstein’s wife Dorothy bristled when she heard a remark that Jerome Kern had written “Ol’ Man River.” “Indeed not,” she retorted. “Jerome Kern wrote ‘dum, dum, dum-dum.’ My husband wrote ‘Ol’ Man River.’
Hammerstein continued his collaboration with Kern as well as other composers including Vincent Youmans , Rudolf Friml and Sigmund Romberg.
In the early 1940s, Richard Rodgers had bought the rights to a play called Green Grow The Lilacs, which he planned to write with Larry Hart. Hart hated the material and his problems with alcohol were becoming more and more serious and resulted in the famed pair ending their professional relationship. Rodgers picked Hammerstein to complete the musical, resulting in the 1943 Oklahoma!, one of the most successful musicals ever written. Hammerstein and Rodgers broke new ground with Oklahoma!, where the songs, lyrics and book were completely integrated and the songs themselves further developed the characters. While this may seem commonplace in modern musical theater, Oklahoma! and Show Boat were instrumental in creating the musical as we know it today.
Rodgers and Hammerstein turned out an extraordinary string of hits: Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, and their last production The Sound of Music.
Hammerstein was also a mentor to a friend of one Hammerstein’s children: Stephen Sondheim, whose parents had just divorced. Oscar became a surrogate father to Sondheim and mentored him in his dream to write scores for Broadway. Sondheim recalled being taken, at the age of fifteen, to the opening night performance of Carousel, and was sitting next to Hammerstein’s wife, Dorothy. The young Sondheim was so moved by the production that he wept copiously on Dorothy’s shoulder, who was wearing a full fur coat that was permanently ruined by those tears.
Oscar Hammerstein died in 1960 from cancer. His music will be with us forever and the production he did with Richard Rodger are produced constantly all over the world.