When an artist has so much raw talent sometimes the skill and hard work are overlooked. Recently I watched the American Masters documentary about Janis Joplin and it really brought home just how intentional her work was. She knew exactly what she was doing and her idols were Nina Simone and the other great blues singers.
Her version of the great Rodgers and Hart song takes it into a different stratosphere.
The “bench scene” from Carousel, “If I Loved You,” with the original Broadway cast, John Raitt (father of Bonnie) and Jan Clayton. In my opinion, the best love scene and music that Rodgers and Hammerstein ever wrote. And stay until the end to catch the amazing Jan Clayton in the final clinch.
Who knew then that this was a Richard Rodgers song? Not me. In those days, my musical taste and judgments were simple: there were only two kinds of songs—fast ones, and slow ones. I liked the fast ones.
Monday morning gets you looking out your window high above.
The composer Richard Rodgers was lucky enough to work with two of the greatest Broadway lyricists who ever lived: Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. Likewise, those two lyricists were lucky enough to work with Rodgers.
But to my mind, the most beautiful piece of music that Rodgers ever wrote was not the product of a collaboration with either of those two men. It was the glorious “Carousel Waltz,” written as the prologue for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. More than an overture, it set the tone for the entire play. In my favorite incarnation of the play, the 1994 revival, directed by Nick Hytner and designed by Bob Crowley, it was the backdrop for a pantomime showing the tough lives of the New England mill factory girls. As the final work bell sounded, they were set free from their enforced factory drudgery to explore the wonders of the Carousel, even as it was being built piece by piece onstage by actors playing carny roustabouts. Truly a stunning theatrical moment.
The recording above is the New York Philharmonic conducted by Richard Rodgers himself. It’s thrilling to hear with a full orchestra. So get out of bed this Monday morning and catch a ride on the carousel. Click on the grey triangle above to hear.