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Betsy, an extravaganza of a show, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld with a score by Rodgers and Hart and a book by Irving Caesar, starred Belle Baker. It opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater on December 28, 1926 and closed on January 29, 1927, running for only thirty-nine performances. Berlin wrote "Blue Skies," according to Kimball and Emmet "on or about December 16, 1926," which would have been just before the show's Washington D.C. previews (Dec. 20-25, 1926). Quite a few versions of a story about how this Berlin song got into a Rodgers and Hart musical have been told. The most common version is that Belle Baker complained to Ziegfeld that she didn't have a star quality song to sing and she wanted one and that Ziegfeld went ot Berlin to get her one. Another is that Ziegfeld approached Berlin because he felt the show would fail unless it had a show stopper. In any case, Ziegfeld bought "Blue Skies" from Berlin and unknown to Rodgers and Hart interpolated it into Betsy. The songwriting team found about it, much to their surprise and chagrin, only on opening night in New York when Baker sang it to a great ovation. To add insult to injury, when Baker was taking her bows, Ziegfeld had a spotlight shine on Berlin seated in the first row--and he took a bow. Richard Rodgers in his autobiography Musical Stages shares his reaction:
It really didn't take a trained ear to appreciate that the Berlin's contribution [to Betsy], "Blue Skies," was a great piece of songwriting easily superior to anything Larry and I had written for the production, but at the time I was crushed by having someone else's work interpolated into our score. . . . A few words in advance might have eased our wounded pride, but Ziegfeld could never be accused of having the human touch . . . . No, Ziegfeld was not a nice man" (Richard Rodgers, Musical Stages, p. 96, hard bound ed.).
The second verse returns the tension to the song that seemed to have disappeared with the gray skies of the first verse. The singer comes full circle. Doubt clouds her resolve expressed so unequivocally at the end of the refrain: "Nothing but blue skies / From now on," a resolve deriving from the idea that "when you're in love" only good things happen. The second verse brings her back to that earlier point (in the first verse) when it wasn't the skies that were blue, it was she. In fact, most of the second verse has the singer listing possibilities that could make her blue again--make her care," fret" or "mind." Apparently she is experiencing reality creep. Finally, however, she returns to the earlier optimism of the refrain by doing her best to put a smiling face on things, to make herself resemble a smiling blue sky and not someone who has the blues: "I should smile-- / That's exactly what I do."
The complete, authoritative lyrics for "Blue Skies'" can be found in:
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