This most interesting list of songs Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim wishes he wrote himself (at least in part), originally appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 2000 and was a fascinating sidebar to a Frank Rich piece honoring the composer on his 70th birthday. I only wish that Sondheim had elaborated and expressed why he made these choices. In some cases, it is fairly obvious as these song selections reflect—to use Mr. Rich’s word,”Sondheimesque” qualities. To drill down further, why does the mystery-loving maestro’s specifically make the cryptic reference “at least in part,” without getting specific as to which part of the song he wishes he wrote. With Sondheim it is always puzzles and games.
In the spirit of both encouraging the American Popular Songbook to continue to flourish and with an interest in illuminating the artistry of inarguably our greatest living musical theater composer, I decided to expand upon Mr. Sondheim’s ideas. The embedded recordings are Stargayzing additions. All of the commentary is mine; only the song choices themselves come from the venerable Mr. Sondheim. I learned many new songs I had never heard from researching this piece.
I hope you will too, and please be sure to let me know which version of these songs is your favorite (in many cases, there were so many great recordings).
SONGS I WISH I’D WRITTEN
(AT LEAST IN PART)
By Stephen Sondheim
Sondheim compiled this list, organized by composer, of art songs, Hollywood standards and show tunes for a Library of Congress concert in his honor on May 22. Among the particularly Sondheimesque choices are those from Kelly, We Take the Town and The Yearling, all big-time theatrical fiascoes.
“Hard Hearted Hannah, the Vamp of Savannah” (1924)
lyrics by Jack Yellen, Bob Bigelow, Charles Bates.
This is Patti Austin’s recording from her 2002 Ella Fitzgerald tribute CD For Ella.
[the rest of Mr. Sondhiem's list after the jump] (more…)