You Gotta Have (Lorenz) Hart!

The hardworking staff freely admits that we don’t read books so much as book reviews.

Regardless, we loved this Wall Street Journal review of A Ship Without a Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart:

Very Glad to Be Unhappy

Tender and comic, cynical and sensitive, Lorenz Hart’s lyrics were silver clouds with dark linings.

The 1948 biopic “Words and Music” dramatized the Rodgers and Hart collaboration and showcased some of their biggest hits, from “Manhattan” to “Blue Moon” to “The Lady Is a Tramp.” Mickey Rooney—almost the definition of a heterosexual popinjay—was cast as the melancholic, homosexual, alcoholic lyricist Lorenz Hart. At least Mr. Rooney wasshort, though not as short at Hart, whose elevator shoes brought him up to just 5 feet. Whatever it was—being dwarfish or drunk or queer or sad—it must have worked. But then, he wasn’t great because of any of these factors. He was great because, despite all of them, he wrote the best song lyrics anyone ever did.

The review quotes part of “My Funny Valentine” and “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” the latter of which deserves to be quoted in full:

The sleepless nights,
the daily fights
the qick toboggan when you reach the heights
I miss the kisses and I miss the bites
I wish I were in love again!

The broken dates,
the endless waits,
the lovely loving and the hateful hates,
the conversations with the flying plates
I wish I were in love again!

No more pain
no more strain
now I’m sane but …
I would rather be gaga!
The pulled-out fur
of cat and cur
the fine mismating of a him and her
I’ve learned my lesson, but I wish I were
in love again!

The furtive sight
the blackened eye,
the words “I’ll love you till the day I day”
the self-deception the belives the lie
I wish I were in love again!

When love congeals
it soon reveals
the faint aroma of performing seals
the double-crossing of a pair of heels.
I wish I were in love again!

No more care
no despair
I’m all there now
But I’d rather be punch-drunk!
Belive me sir
I much prefer
the classic battle of a him and her.
I don’t like quiet and
I wish I were in love again!

Bobby Darin’s 1967 Live in London version:

(Who knows how great Darin could have become if he hadn’t died at the age of 37. He might have been the real Frank Sinatra, Jr.)

But back to Lorenz Hart. He and Richard Rogers “worked together for 25 years, produced 28 shows and wrote—for revues, movies, occasions and individual singers—some 800 songs . . . Rodgers was the greatest melodist America ever produced. With an admiring drop of acid, Noël Coward once complimented him by saying Rodgers could pee melody.”

Hart-breaking quote:

Because we have more innuendo than facts, it’s impossible to know Hart’s deepest feelings and needs. That he was homosexual, though not gay, is a given; how he lived with that fact remains a mystery.

But this book, apparently, does a good job of exploring that mystery.

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8 Responses to You Gotta Have (Lorenz) Hart!

  1. Curmudgeon says:

    I’m reminded of another Rooney’s comment about the lyrics of Jackson’s “Bad”
    Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, etc.

  2. “The hardworking staff freely admits that we don’t read books so much as book reviews.”

    That’s how I got through college. Well, Cliff Notes.

  3. Laurence Glavin says:

    Last week, the Noo Yawk Times ran an article describing how today’s pop stars churn out their stuff. Although people described as “songwriters” are mentioned, and even the word “melody” appears, most of this crap could have been concocted by IBM’s Watson computer. Here’s the article, for as long as it lasts: File it under stuff you suspected all along.

    • Nothing on the list servers about Auto-tune, Larry?

      • Laurence Glavin says:

        If it weren’t for auto-tune, some of these “songs” would have no intervals at all. A recent study found that some pop records make their listeners slightly “sad”. Could it be from auto-tunes introducing some half-tones that make the “song” seem to be in a minor key (described as a half-step between the first interval up from a note and a half-step between IT and the next note, or minor third)?

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