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Writing Lyrics with Sammy Cahn

Lyricist Sammy Cahn is one of the last survivors of the Tin Pan Alley tradition. His popular hits include "Bei Mir Bist du Schon," "Come Fly With Me," "Let it Snow," and "Three Coins in a Fountain," among others. Cahn has also worked extensively with Frank Sinatra. He joins the show to discuss his career. (Segment)

17:26

Other segments from the episode on December 31, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 31, 2003: Interview with Margaret Whiting; Interview with Sammy Cahn; Review of a new series of original Broadway cast albums.

Transcript

DATE December 31, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Profile: Recently reissued Broadway cast albums
TERRY GROSS, host:

Not all the best Broadway songs come from the most famous shows. Some
recently reissued Broadway cast albums help explain why some shows didn't
succeed. But classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says that some forgotten
shows have numbers that shouldn't be.

(Soundbite of music)

LLOYD SCHWARTZ reporting:

When I was a kid growing up in New York, I fell in love with Broadway. If a
show looked good on paper, my family would get tickets before it opened.
Every now and then, we'd get stuck with a clinker. One show, "Seventh
Heaven," which was inspired by a famous silent movie, had a pretty score by
Hollywood's Victor Young and a cast that included Gloria DeHaven, Ricardo
Montalban and a remarkable young dancer named Chita Rivera, two years before
"West Side Story" made her a star. But it got such bad reviews, it closed
after only 44 performances. The cast album disappeared almost as quickly.
It's been a collector's item. But it's just been reissued on CD, and there
are some delightful numbers. Here's "Camille, Collette, Fifi," in which three
Parisian hookers explain their philosophy. Guess which one is Chita Rivera.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) Camille.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Collette.

Unidentified Woman #3: (Singing) Fifi.

Group of Women: (Singing) Three ladies of the boulevard are we. Our trade
may be shady, but we do quite well. We have a very happy clientele. So
please come up and see...

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) Camille.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Collette.

Unidentified Woman #3: (Singing) Fifi.

Group of Women: (Singing) For this, we charge a very modest fee.

SCHWARTZ: Another show I saw that seemed to have even greater potential for
success was "Fade Out Fade In." An affectionate satire of Hollywood in the
'30s, it starred Carol Burnett and had music by Jules Styne, with book and
lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, famous for another Hollywood satire,
"Singin' in the Rain." During the run, Burnett was injured in a taxi accident
and started missing performances. Then she signed up for a TV show. "Fade
Out Fade In" actually closed, then reopened when Burnett was legally forced to
return. But it never recovered its lost momentum. The long-out-of-print cast
recording has finally been issued on CD. One song is a gem, "You Mustn't Be
Discouraged," with Burnett and dancer Tiger Haynes imitating a nauseatingly
optimistic number by Shirley Temple and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

Ms. CAROL BURNETT: (Singing) When you think you've hit the bottom and you're
feeling really low, you mustn't be discouraged. There's always one step
further down you can go. When you're lying in the gutter feeling just a bit
unsure, just wait until tomorrow. You may be lying flat-faced down in the
sewer. Don't be afraid of a little raindrop. That don't mean nothing, bud.
Just remember one of those raindrops started the Johnstown flood in
Pennsylvania. When you're living...

SCHWARTZ: Both "Seventh Heaven" and "Fade Out Fade In" are part of Decca's
marvelous series of reissued cast albums. One new disc includes three
musicals from the World War II era. Irving Berlin's "This is the Army" from
1942 features Berlin himself singing a song that he resurrected from a musical
he wrote during World War I.

Mr. IRVING BERLIN: (Singing) ...in the morning. I've been a soldier quite a
while and I would like the state the life is simply wonderful, the Army food
is great. I sleep with 97 others in a wooden hut. I love them all, they all
love me, it's very lovely, but oh, how I hate to get up in the morning. Oh,
how I'd love to remain in bed, for the hardest blow of all is to hear the
bugler call, `You gotta get up, you gotta get up, you gotta get up this
morning.' Someday...

SCHWARTZ: In 1946, Harold Rome wrote a musical about the transition to
civilian life called "Call Me Mister." The number I can't get enough of
features the delectable Betty Garrett lamenting the recent craze for Latin
American dances.

Ms. BETTY GARRETT: (Singing) Take back your somba, aye, your conga, aye, your
rumba, aye-yi-yi. I'm dislocatin', aye, my verta, aye, bralumba. Aye-yi-yi.
I've got more bumps here, aye, than on a, aye, cucumber. Aye-yi-yi. Though I
like neighborly relations, all these up and down gyrations try my patience.
Ole! I think it's time to call a truce. I'm telling you's I'm shaking loose
my poor caboose. Ole! All of this goin' and this comin' to this fancy Latin
drummin' numbs my plumbin'. Ole! South America, take it away.

SCHWARTZ: Another Decca album has two shows with lyrics by the great Dorothy
Fields. The highlight is "The Fireman's Bride," a surprisingly naughty number
from up in Central Park with music by Sigmund Romberg. It's sung by Celeste
Holm, who wasn't actually in the original cast, though it seems written
especially for her.

Ms. CELESTE HOLM: (Singing) Fireman John McGee(ph), who married in June,
wants to be free. He bought a handsome love nest, but his high-flying spouse
likes the firehouse. She wears a crimson skirt, a fireman's hat, red flannel
shirt. `Clang' goes the bell and she's off, boys, in a cloud of confusion and
dirt. Oh, the fireman's bride, the fireman's bride won't sit home by her
fireside. From all accounts, she'd rather bounce in the fireman's nest. She
leaps to the engine and clings to the hose. How she hangs on nobody knows.
Out comes the net and then over she goes, high up they throw her while she
hollers, `More!' The fireman's bride...

SCHWARTZ: I really love listening to these old shows. Even the worst of
them, with their combination of show-biz savvy and corny innocence, are a kind
of unconscious history, revealing something about the time they were written.
And then, if we're lucky, there's the one cherishable song that transcends all
the foolishness that surrounds it.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Boston
and is classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix.

I'm Terry Gross. All of us at FRESH AIR wish you a happy New Year. This is
NPR, National Public Radio.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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