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Discussing the lyric writing team of Comden and Green, William Zinsser writes:
On the Town was the show that got it all started--a skyrocket exploding over sober wartime Broadway in 1944. Comden and Green took the idea for their musical from a ballet, Fancy Free, that two young friends of theirs, the composer Leonard Bernstein and the choreographer Jerome Robbins, had created for Ballet Theatre. . . . Bernstein was signed to write the music and Robbins to stage the dances. Thus four brilliant careers were born on one night.
Characterizing his earliest collaborations on musicals as less than fully realized, Stephen Sondheim says his work on West Side Story (1957) was different:
Collaboration with Bernstein, Laurents and Robbins was another matter entirely. To begin with not only was I for the first time writing lyrics to someone else's music, the someone else was a legend verging on myth, whose score for On the Town, from the moment I'd heard it sizzling out of the orchestra pit when I was fourteen, had given me that rush of excitement you rarely get from musicals: a fresh individual and complex sound, a new kind of music.
Thomas Hampson and the Metropole Orkest conducted by Eric Stern at the
Concertgebouw Amsterdam February 1998,
performing "Lonely Town,"
from Bernstein's On the Town
Leonard Bernstein An American Life
Music from the Radio Documentary
(including the four Bernstein songs from On the Town
in the Cafe Songbook Catalog.
Various performers with Bernstein
conducting various orchestras)
On the Town (the movie) with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller, Jules Munchen,
Betty Garrett (on the DVD The Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly Collection (also including Anchors Aweigh and Take Me out to the Ball Game)
"This lecture traces Bernstein's composer-activism back to "On the Town" of 1944, which was his first Broadway show and grew out of a fruitful collaboration with Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jerome Robbins. Produced with a racially integrated cast during WWII, On the Town crossed race lines boldly, and it did so in an era when racial segregation held firm yet faced increasing resistance. In the historical literature about Broadway, the show's racial advances have been ignored. Fusing musical and cultural history, this lecture draws upon manuscripts for "On the Town" in the Bernstein Collection to explore political activism embedded in the show, as well as to consider Bernstein's early fascination with the blues." (A Library of Congress presentation)
Carol J. Oja is William Powell Mason Professor of Music at Harvard (lecture includes performed material).
Tyne Daly sings "I Can Cook, Too" from On the Town over a montage of photos of Bernstein.
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Master List of Great American Songbook Songwriters
Names of songwriters who have written at least one song included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook are listed below.
Names of songwriters with two or more song credits in the catalog (with rare exceptions) are linked to their own Cafe Songbook pages, e.g. Fields, Dorothy.
Names of songwriters with only one song credit in the catalog are linked to the Cafe Songbook page for that song, on which may be found information about the songwriter or a link to an information source for him or her.
Please note: Cafe Songbook pages for songwriters are currently in various stages of development.