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Bloomer Girl, a musical comedy with a political point-of-view, opened on Broadway as World War II was raging abroad. The show focused on heroic themes of the nation's present as will as its past, including The Civil War, slavery and women's rights. Yip Harburg, the show's liberal-minded lyricist was and still is well known as a songwriter deeply committed to progressive political causes. Evalina Applegate, the musical's heroine, shares his views and is created in the mold of her aunt Dolly (Amelia) Bloomer after whom is named the garment she invented to help women liberate themselves from Victorian restraints. Jeff Calhoun is the southern gentleman Evalina's father picks out for her but whom she refuses until he supports her political views and comes over to the Union side.
"Right as the Rain," the only love ballad in the score, was introduced in the original 1944 production of Bloomer Girl as a duet sung by David Brooks and Celeste Holm playing Jeff Calhoun and Evalina respectively. (Listen in Record/Video Cabinet at left).
Barbara Cook and Keith Andes sing two courtship songs from the February 28, 1956, NBC Producer's Showcase TV production of Bloomer Girl. First comes "Evalina" (a song from the show not currently included in the Cafe Songbook
Catalog of The Great American Songbook) and then "Right as the Rain."
Harold Meyerson and Ernie Harburg, Yip Harburg's biographers, write that Yip's approach to love songs was an attempt to include emotion while excluding banality. The songwriter himself wrote that like Ira Gershwin he eschewed "mushy love songs."
Mine may be a bit more emotional than his (Ira's--with whom he grew up] but still avoid the clichéd metaphor. . . . I needed a love song in Bloomer Girl, so I wrote "Right as the Rain." I didn't want to say, "Oh I love you forever. You are the spring and the blossoms." I said it more poetically: "Right as the rain that falls from above. . . ." It's a good, mature evaluation of a love situation not an attempt to compare feelings associated with love to a clichéd notion of romance . . . .
It didn't say it's a miracle, sent by God, only something between us two. . . . It's a feeling on a plane of person to person, not riddled with myths or miracles (Myerson and Harburg, p. 201, Hard-bound Ed.).
Edward Jablonski, Arlen's biographer, makes the point that Bloomer Girl was different from more conventional musical comedies of the period and one of those differences was that there were only two ballads in the show and only one was a traditional love song.
"Evalina" (not the love ballad) is a "slightly comic but seductive" song, and true to Arlen's way the music is "witty" and "sophisticated" in its "variations on barber shop harmonies." But it is "Right as the Rain" that fits the more traditional idea of a love ballad even though its form is less than conventional:
Though it has the conventional thirty-two bar length, it divides, not into the usual A-A-B-A sections, but into even halves, each spinning variations on the initial (or "front" phrase) that gives the song its title. The second half introduces a rising sequence that reaches an emotional climax (measure 25) with the return of the initial phrase an octave higher. The chorus is followed by an eight-bar tag in which Evalina and Jeff blend their voices in a lovely closing statement that "this love, this love must go on" (Jablonski, pp. 194-195).
(Both Evalina and "Right as the Rain" can be heard in the video from the 1956 production above.)
Just before returning to the West Coast from New York in 1944, Arlen appeared (from his parents' home in Syracuse, NY), on Andre Kostelanetz' radio show "The Coca-Cola Hour" to introduce a medley from Bloomer Girl, which was followed by Eileen Farrell, before her career at the Metropolitan Opera, singing "a fine rendition" of "Right as the Rain" (Jablonski, pp. 194-195, hard cover edition)."
Alec Wilder is very admiring of "Right as the Rain." He describes it is as "extraordinary" and "a beautiful song," and as reminiscent of Jerome Kern as of Arlen in how "it flows from start to finish in a long and increasingly intense and dramatic fashion" -- while at the same time being "unmistakably Arlen" (Wilder, p. 278).
Commentary on Bloomer Girl, specifically on the February 28, 1956, NBC Producer's Showcase production starring Barbara Cook and Keith Andes can be found in Rebecca Paller's article "Reexamining Bloomer Girl with Barbara Cook," on the website of the Paley Center for Media. Paller highlights the social significance of the show within the time period 1944 to 1956 (from when it was originally written to when the the production cited above was created.)
The lyric for Bloomer girl does not include a
verse, which is not unusual in Arlen songs. Instead it launces directly into the
refrainwhich begins with the title, and like a freshman composition begins with a thesis statement (albeit more poetic than most freshman work):
Right as the Rain
That falls from above
So real, so right is our love
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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet: Selected Recordings of
"Right as the Rain"
(All Record/Video Cabinet entries
include a music-video
of this page's featured song.
The year given is for when the studio
track was originally laid down
or when the live performance was given.)
(*indicates accompanying music-video)
Notes: Original Broadway cast from the 1944 production of Bloomer Girl with a score by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Yip Harburg. The political and social themes were on the subjects of women's rights as well emancipation of the slaves -- the show is set in 1861. Although Harburg consistently wrote with a very liberal point-of-view, the show takes a lighthearted approach, yet serious, apporoach to these subjects. The stars were Celeste Holm, David Brooks, and Joan McCracken snd Dooley Wilson. There is also a DVD of the 1956 TV production of Bloomer Girl
starring Barbara Cook and Keith Andes. (Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)
Notes: Mildred Bailey was at the peak of her powers as a blues and jazz singer during the WW II years when she recorded "Right as the Rain," accompanied by Vaughn Monroe and his Orchestra. The recording was a "V" (for victory) Disc for the troops. The original release, c. 1944, had "Evalina" another song from Bloomer Girl, on the B side. Daryl Sherman does a tribute album to Bailey some fifty years later--and inlcudes "Right as the Rain." (compare the original and the tribute by listening to Sherman below.)
Notes:This 1960 session [remastered in 2011] is arranged and conducted by Glenn Osser who "provides ethereal string settings which lend Bennett's interpretations a somewhat spiritual cast."
Recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studio, New York, New York on August 15, 17-18, 1960 (from CD Universe product description). (Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)
Notes: This CD is composed of piano solos by Hyman which show his love and respect for Harold Arlen at the same time that he pays tribute to Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson and other jazz pianists who came before him.
Notes: Accompanied by Christopher Marlowe on piano, Nancy recorded "Right as the Rain" at Audible Difference Studio, 1994. The CD is a compilation of recordings by Nancy previously unpublished, which Nancy had given to Jonathan Schwartz over a period of time. In response to the requests of his radio listeners, this two disc, 2008 CD was produced. (Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)
Notes: "The talented swing singer Daryl Sherman and vibraphonist John Cocuzzi pay tribute to Mildred Bailey and Red Norvo. . . . Sherman does a superlative job of emulating "The Rockin' Chair Lady" without needing to change her own basic approach much . . . . Cocuzzi (whose sound is somewhere between Norvo and Lionel Hampton) takes some fine solos, but the spectacular trumpeter Randy Sandke (reminding one of both Bunny Berigan and Charlie Shavers) steals the show every time he appears [as he does on "Right as the Rain"]. . . . . But it is Daryl Sherman's wonderful singing that makes this a particularly memorable outing. ~ Scott Yanow at CDUniverse. (Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)
Notes: "Veteran Broadway actress Jessica Molaskey's third CD for PS Classics is a mix of favorites from musicals and standards from the Great American Songbook, though many of these compositions have not been recorded much at all for quite some time. [The singer is] backed by a band that includes husband John Pizzarelli on guitar along with her guitarist father-in-law Bucky Pizzarelli, trombonist John Mosca, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, and a number of superb New York-based musicians . . ." (from iTunes review).
Notes: The CD includes "a trio of rarely recorded Broadway classics: 'Right as the Rain.' 'I Got Lost in His Arms.' and a new take on 'Before the Parade Passes By' that is both winsome and galvanizing and rivals Streisand's version. These are performed with spare arrangements that emphasize melody and lyric, and Ms. Clark does not disappoint" (From Amazon customer reviewer Music Man).