Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What's your favorite Sondheim song?

It's his 80th, so the toasts and tributes keep on coming, and we fans are happy to merrily roll along. Here, pop-music legend Paul Simon takes an admiring look at Sondheim's celebrated lyrics and lyric-making. Here, Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty catches the Broadway god at his wistful, self-deprecating best (“There's an up- and downside to being venerated. You start to believe your own notices, and that's very dangerous. At the same time, it does feel like it's gold-watch time. It's 'thanks so much for coming to the party.' They're nails in the coffin, is what they are.”) And here, NYTimes business writer Joe Nocera writes of his own “midlife obsession” with the man Leonard Bernstein once called “the most important force in American musical theater.”


So what's your favorite Sondheim song? Mine has always been Losing My Mind, from Follies. Searing loneliness, aching ambiguity, all-out love--in lyrics rinsed of the slightest sentimental bunkum.

I dim the lights and think about you
Spend sleepless nights to think about you
You said you loved me
Or were you just being kind?
Or am I losing my mind?


Michael Ball's version of it, from the Hey Mr. Producer concert:



And Broadway titan Barbara Cook's take, from a stupendous concert production of Follies in 1985. In the final line, Cook pours all her character's anguish into one long, lonely note--Or am I looooo-sing my mind?--and rends the audience to bits. Still kills me now.



There's also Old Friends from Merrily We Roll Along. In his Broadway-tribute album Showstoppers, Barry Manilow--of all people--slowed the piece down from its more upbeat pace and made it more ruminative, autumnal, a version that gets me looking at my friends with greater affection each time. And why not, with lyrics like these?

Most friends fade,
Or they don't make the grade
New ones are quickly made
And in a pinch--sure, they'll do
But us, old friends
What's to discuss, old friends?
Here's to us!
Who's like us?
Damn few.


Enough of my choices. What's yours?

20 comments:

joelmcvie said...

I admit I don't know all of Sondheim's songs. In fact, the first time I heard "Losing My Mind" it was sung by Liza Minelli in an electro-dance arrangement by The Pet Shop Boys. (I mean, how gay is THAT?!)

So I would have to say my favorite is still his (I suppose?) most popular one, "Send In The Clowns." Embarrassing, but true.

Joaquin Valdes said...

Where to begin????

It's like making me choose my favorite movie.
I put on Sondheim at my most stressed moments...

usually

Being Alive (Company)
No One is Alone (Into The Woods)
Giants in the sky (Into the Woods)
Everyday A little death (Little Night)
A Little Priest (Sweeney)

gibbs cadiz said...

yes, MCVIE, that pet shop boys arrangement! :) but this reminds me--i have to burn you ALNM and other sondheim recordings i have. :)

JOAQUIN, giants in the sky, of course! i can still hear you singing it. :)

the barefoot baklesa said...

i have two, actually...

from Into the Woods:
CHILDREN WILL LISTEN
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey
But children will listen

then another torch song from Merrily We Roll Along [i think]:

NOT A DAY GOES BY
[it's so weiird this is the third time in 24 hours i'm posting something about this song]

Not a day goes by
Not a single day
But you're still somehow part of my life
and i wish that you'd stay

Oliver Oliveros said...

Favorite Sondheim song is "Sunday" from "Sunday In the Park with George" =)

Anonymous said...

gibbs recent interview ng npr
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124907187

- joey

Anonymous said...

Agree. Choose one? Can't.

Finishing the Hat (Sunday in the Park)
No More (Into the Woods)
Someone in a Tree (Pacific Overtures)
The Glamorous Life (ALNM - movie version)
Pretty Women (Sweeney Todd)

Crystal said...

i admit i'm not much of a sondheim fan, so i'll stick to the immortal "send in the clowns."

didinskee said...

"Good Thing Going" from "Merrily We Roll Along" tears me up everytime. It's those songs that end bitterly that last.

Jedd said...

My favorite Sondheim is "Passion", and the song "I Read" by Donna Murphy. Begins at the 1:50 mark http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=by3TblfgPuc

TheBachelorGirl said...

Agony from Into the Woods -- I even mimic the voices of Princes Charming. Haha! :D

Anonymous said...

Its definitely Send in the Clowns from a little night music. I fell in love with it the first time i heard it sang by .... dame judi dench! Second would be Being Alive as sung by Patti Lupone in the Soundheim Concert at Carnegie Hall. :-)

Mike S

Anonymous said...

Its definitely Send in the Clowns from a little night music. I fell in love with it the first time i heard it sang by .... dame judi dench! Second would be Being Alive as sung by Patti Lupone in the Soundheim Concert at Carnegie Hall. :-)

Mike S

Anonymous said...

depends on the show.

(1) anyone can whistle
(2) Bowler hat
(3) chrysanthemum tea
(4) unworthy of your love
(5) loving you
(6) last midnight
(7) children and art
(9) move on
(10) not a day goes by
(11) weekend in the country

Sondheim rules!

Anonymous said...

i thought you a more of an andrew lloyd weber fan

Gej said...

Finishing the Hat
Being Alive
Pretty Women
Children will Listen
Marry Me a Little
Johanna
Barcelona
There are Giants in the Sky

ethan h said...

Too many songs to choose from. Top of mind:

Being Alive
Not While I'm Around
Sooner or Later (not from a Broadway show but the movie Dick Tracy, and sung by no less than Madonna):

Sooner or Later
You're gonna be mine
Baby it's time that you faced it
I always get my man

It's also one of my favorite movie moments, and Oscar moments too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zOiBl6pgNE

Anonymous said...

No More (Into the Woods)
It Takes Two (Into the Woods)
Moments in the Woods (Into the Woods)
Every Day a Little Death (Night
Music)
Later (Night Music)
Finishing the Hat (Sunday)
Losing My Mind (Follies)

ROSS BOLANO said...

you might want to watch the version of KUH LEDESMA singing NOT WHILE IM AROUND...
1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDNN0LGaX08 ( the shorter version )
2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S9oLtwVR8I ( the full version )
this is my favorite song among his compositions.

Anonymous said...

I prefer his compositions for Queen of Pop Madonna: Sooner or Later, More and What Can You Lose (duet with Mandy Patinkin) from Im Breathless: Music From and Inspired by Dick Tracy.

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