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More Beautiful Songs

In the second half of Filichia's column on the most beautiful melodies and lyrics ever heard on Broadway, songs by Irving Berlin et al. are singled out by readers. logo

Irving Berlin
Picking up where we left off alphabetically on Monday, here are the rest of the communications I got in response to my column of December 19, wherein I provided a list of songs that were judged to be the most beautiful ever heard on Broadway by my Thursday night group at J.R.'s and asked you all to make your own selections.


Howard Marren: "Boy, you sure know how to make a guy think. One song you didn't mention, one of my favorites of all time, is 'Long Before I Knew You' (Bells Are Ringing). And while we're on Jule Styne, what about 'Who Are You Now?' (Funny Girl or 'How Do You Describe a Face?' (Subways Are for Sleeping)? Which reminds me of Comden and Green: 'Lonely Town' and 'Lucky To Be Me' (On the Town) and 'A Quiet Girl' (Wonderful Town). Then there's Irving Berlin: 'I Got Lost in His Arms'-- breathtaking in its beauty and simplicity--and 'The Best Thing For You' (Call Me Madam) and 'Suppertime' (As Thousands Cheer). Bock and Harnick: 'My Gentle Young Johnny' (Tenderloin) and everything from She Loves Me. Some more Rodgers: 'Will You Marry Me?' and 'All At Once You Love Her.' (I know, Pipe Dream, but I just can't help it.) What about 'Come Home' (which always makes me cry) and 'A Fella Needs a Girl,' both from Allegro, and 'Take the Moment' and 'Moon in My Window,' both from Do I Hear a Waltz?. I tell you, there's no end. The problem is, I change my mind almost every day."

Tom McCarthy: "The Secret Garden has some of the most beautiful music to grace the stage, so I would suggest 'Come to My Garden.' How about Sondheim's 'Johanna'? P.S. This is my first time ever e-mailing anyone from the Internet." (To which I say: Tom, I'm honored to be your first!)

Joe Meagor: "I'd definitely also include 'She's My Love' (Carnival!), 'My Funny Valentine' (Babes in Arms), 'Come Rain or Come Shine (St. Louis Woman), and 'New Music,' 'Everybody's Got a Home But Me,' 'Almost Like Being in Love' (especially the verse), 'Embraceable You,' and 'Do It Again.' Good grief, if I list any more, I'll be at 50 without even trying."

Betsy Miller: To get Rodgers and Hart on board, I will nominate 'My Romance' from Jumbo."

Murphy27A: "'Bill'"

Allen Neuner: "You mentioned 'Once Upon a Time' (All-American), the most beautiful song of longing for the past I've ever heard, and 'She Wasn't You' (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever), the most beautiful song of exhilaration when you find the one love of your life. But you omitted 'Windflowers,' the most beautiful song celebrating not only past love but also the expectation of future love. After my first lover died, the line 'And I know there'll be no growin' old, not for me and him' brought me to tears. It still does."

Brooke E. Newborn: "'I Got Lost In His Arms' was the first song to pop into my head as the most beautiful love song ever written. I was surprised that someone suggested 'Love Changes Everything' but I agree that something from Aspects of Love should be on the list because it is by far Lloyd Webber's most melodious score: Much better are 'Chanson d'enfance,' 'Leading Lady,' 'Other Pleasures,' 'There Is More To Love,' or 'Anything But Lonely.' And while we're on ALW, 'Nothing Like You've Ever Known' and 'Tell Me On a Sunday' from Song and Dance merit inclusion, too. I was also surprised that no one mentioned anything from Camelot, especially 'How To Handle A Woman' and 'If Ever I Would Leave You'; if pressed, I would choose the knight's number over the king's. From City of Angels, the best score that no one remembers, there's 'With Every Breath I Take,' which just floors me. So does its reprise. No composer writes showstoppers like Cy Coleman. Okay, 'Being Alive' (Company) is not a classically beautiful number, but I always feel more optimistic, more joyful, and, well, more alive after I hear it. Other Sondheim choices: 'Losing My Mind,' 'Not a Day Goes By,' 'Children Will Listen,' 'No One Is Alone,' 'Not While I'm Around,' and, of course, 'Send in the Clowns.' (How many songs can break your heart in four notes?) I would have expected that 'Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man' would be the number from Show Boat automatically suggested, and I also love 'I Won't Send Roses.' Finally, kudos to you for being willing to admit in public that you like a song from Cats."

Kimberly Ziev Niehaus: "I was originally going to say 'Try to Remember' but then realized that the question was limited to Broadway musicals. I have always had a soft spot for 'Lily's Eyes' from The Secret Garden. That's my vote! When you mentioned "Come to Me" from Les Miz, did you mean 'Bring Him Home'? That is a beautiful song." (Uh, no, Kimberly; I meant "Come to Me," which I think is more beautiful.)

Christopher Pazdernik: "'All the Wasted Time (Parade), 'By My Side' and 'Long Live God' (Godspell), 'Easy to Be Hard' (Hair), 'Fathers and Sons' (Working), 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' (Dreamgirls--though not what you'd typically call beautiful, you cant deny it's a work of art),'When I Look at You' (The Scarlet Pimpernel), 'I Still Believe' (Miss Saigon), 'Home' (The Wiz), 'Suddenly Seymour' (Little Shop of Horrors), 'I Don't Know How to Love Him' (Jesus Christ Superstar), 'If I Can't Love Her' (Beauty and the Beast). And 'Bring Him Home,' 'I'll Cover You (Reprise),' 'You'll Never Walk Alone,' 'What I Did for Love,' 'Children Will Listen,' 'Johanna,' 'Sunday,' and 'To Each His Dulcinea.' But my choice for the most beautiful song ever written for/performed in a Broadway show is 'Somewhere.'"

Howard Rogut: "Anything sung or made famous by Mary Martin, the First Lady of the American Musical Theater, was beautiful."

Nancy Rosati: "My favorite is 'Prayer' (The Scarlet Pimpernel). It never failed to grab me, and I saw five different Percys sing it--numerous times! The recording's a bit of a disappointment because they added the high note at the end for SP2 and, after I heard that, I never wanted o go back to the original. But I used to hold my breath as soon as I heard the first few notes played by the orchestra because it was so gorgeous."

Troy Segal: "'September Song' (Knickerbocker Holiday) and 'More I Cannot Wish You'" (Guys and Dolls).

Nick ShouldWork: "I suspect that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, I'd go with either 'Children and Art' or 'Move On' or 'Lesson #8.' But I just can't decide among them now."

Marty Silverberg: "'Words Without Music' (Ziegfeld Follies of 1936) as well as 'I Got Lost In His Arms,' 'Unlikely Lovers,' 'Our Private World,' and 'Somewhere,' which would actually be my first choice."

Frank Soldo: "First off, every love song ever written by Richard Rodgers. There are too many to list and I know everyone else will list the ones he wrote with Hart (e.g., 'My Funny Valentine'), Hammerstein (e.g., 'Some Enchanted Evening'), or others (e.g., 'I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You'). The man's melodies and even his own words expressed love better than anyone. But the top of my tree would have to be 'If I Loved You'--and I would include the entire 'bench' sequence here. It's simply the most beautiful melody married to romantic lyrics, giving the entire song a perfect scene of falling in love. It's nothing short of perfection."

Stuart Soloway: "'Far From the Home I Love' (Fiddler on the Roof), 'Back to Before' (Ragtime), 'Simple,' and 'Moon in My Window.'

Pam Spitzner: "'Unlikely Lovers' and 'Move On.'"

Tari Stratton: "Thank you for triggering memories in my mind of all the beautiful songs I've heard over the years. I want to mention a few that move me almost every time I hear them: 'It's Hard to Speak My Heart' (Parade), 'I Wish That I Could Love You' (Passion), 'What More Can I Say,' 'What Would I Do,' and 'Lily's Eyes.'"

Larry Tatelbaum: "Please include 'Under the Tree' and 'Chain of Love.'"

Andrew Thomas: "'Dear One' (Kiss of the Spider Woman), 'Song of a Summer Night,' 'Moonfall,' 'I Don't Want to Know,' 'Children of the Wind,' and 'Johanna.' As for 'Gifts of Love' (The Bakers Wife), which you mentioned, it always--and I do mean always--makes me cry. It also annoys me because, when I first heard it, I was working on an idea for a show where a number would say exactly what 'Gifts of Love' did. So, after hearing 'Gifts of Love,' I had to abandon the project. All I could do at that point was copy, which I don't do--for I leave that to the other Andrew."

Chris Van Ness: "You had a notable absence of Bock & Harnick. You could probably write that list as well as I, but begin with 'Till Tomorrow' (Fiorello!) and go on from there. Shame on you for excluding American operettas, and even more shame for including those French hacks on your list. How can you possibly ignore The New Moon, The Desert Song, or The Student Prince and then reward Les Miz? I have found that my students think the entire scope of Broadway musicals is defined by Phantom and Miss Saigon. I am trying desperately to push a 'History of the Broadway Musical' addition to the curriculum. That'll teach 'em."

Frances Yasprica: "One that comes to mind because I'm writing this on December 21: 'The Shortest Day of the Year' (The Boys from Syracuse). I usually remember to sing it through at least once every December 21. What also came to mind was 'Marianne' (The Grand Tour), one of those lyrics that make you simultaneously think 'That's gorgeous' and 'What the heck does that mean, anyway?' Oh--and 'Lily's Eyes' and 'How Could I Ever Know?'"

Raymond Yucis: "Oh, Lord...where does one start? I'd add 'Song of the Sand' (La Cage aux Folles) and 'Finishing the Hat.' Your group didn't include any Cole Porter melodies For shame!"

Finally, readers, I'm listing one contribution out of alphabetical order because it made the most impact on me. From Peter Salomon: "Well, it's not a song. Actually the song it's from isn't that great or beautiful, and neither is the show it's from. But if I can subvert the assignment and name a single 'one-of-the-most-beautiful-lyrics' it would be from Jane Eyre: 'My hope of heaven lies inside your precious eyes.' I think that every time I look at my wife." (To which I say: Maybe that's why I don't respond to "Lily's Eyes"--because Lily is the name of my ex-wife!)


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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