He turns eighty tomorrow, so there’ll be some quoting of favourite lyrics, and some brows furrowing over – you know – that comparative lack of commercial success, those unhummable tunes.
Here, then, in the order I thought of them, are ten Sondheim melodies I love, and have always found memorable. In fact, I think only the terminally cloth-eared would have difficulty with these.
1. There Is No Other Way from Pacific Overtures
From around 5:45
The bird sings, the wind sighs,
The air stirs, the bird shies.
A storm approaches.
2. Finishing the Hat from Sunday In the Park With George
From around 1:05, “And how you’re always turning back too late from the grass or the stick …”
3. Johanna (Quartet) from Sweeney Todd
1:54 “Goodbye, Johanna, you’re gone and yet you’re mine …”
4. The Ballad of Booth from Assassins
“How the country is not what it was, where there’s blood in the clover …”
5. No, Mary-Ann
Say it’s all pink, say it’s all gray
That’s too easy to think and too easy to say …
Designed as a parody of overly popular showtunes, for a film version of William Goldman’s The Thing Of It Is, which never eventuated. So catchy.
6. Johanna from Sweeney Todd
Just the whole damn thing.
7. The Right Girl from Follies
Hey, Margie, I’m back, babe.
Come help me unpack, babe.
Hey, Margie, hey, bright girl,
8. I Remember from Evening Primrose
2:20 “But as years go by, they’re a sort of haze …”
The prettiest song ever written for someone hiding out in a department store.
9. All Things Bright and Beautiful, cut from Follies
The song was cut but the melody served, thanks to Michael Bennett, as underscoring for the show’s opening.
10. Salon at The Claridge #2, from the score of Stavisky
Mmmm, that’s good pastiche.
I could, if you like, come up with another ten, starting with Not a Day Goes By, Your Eyes Are Blue, So Many People …