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A List of Songs Stephen Sondheim Wishes He Wrote Himself (At Least in Part), Volume 3

A List of Songs Stephen Sondheim Wishes He Wrote Himself (At Least in Part), Volume 3

Fashion, Music, Theater

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. The original list was prepared for Mark Eden Horowitz, Senior Music Specialist at the Library of Congress in conjunction with a concert commemorating the composer’s milestone birthday.

I received an email from Mr. Horowitz who gave me this additional insight into the creation of the list. He said, “Over a period of a few weeks, he (Sondheim) would fax or call me with songs to add to the list.” About fifteen songs from the list were actually performed as part of the concert, which featured Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Nathan Lane, Debra Monk, and Davis Gaines. When Frank Rich learned about it he asked that I send him the complete list to use as a sidebar. During the concert Sondheim spoke briefly as to some of his reasons for the choices. That segment is published in my book Sondheim on Music.”  Subsequently, Barbara Cook used the list to create a concert, CD and video called Mostly Sondheim. Many thanks to Mark for sharing the backstory of this fascinating list.

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. Many thanks to Stargayzing readers who have taken the time to correct my errors, which to my chagrin, were far more numerous than I would have expected.

Volume one was published in Stargayzing a few weeks back; here is volume two. I was gratified recently when Frank Rich himself described this series on twitter as “Outstanding archival work for Sondheim fans in need of a fix.” Please be sure to let me know which version of these songs is your favorite (in many cases, there were so many great recordings).

Volumes one and two were published here a while back. Here is volume three.

Stephen Sondheim old


(AT LEAST IN PART), Volume Three

By Stephen Sondheim


Cole Porter piano
Porter, Cole

“Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” from Seven Lively Arts (1944)

This is Sammy Davis Jr.’s beautiful version from his 1966 album Sammy Davis, Jr. Sings and Laurindo Almeida Plays.



Panama Hattie Broadway“Let’s Be Buddies,” from Panama Hattie (1940)

Here is Doris Day singing with the Les Brown Orchestra.


“Let’s Not Talk About Love,” from Let’s Face It (1941)

Danny Kaye starred in the hit 1941 Broadway version of the show, which featured a book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields.


[The rest of Sondheim’s picks after the jump.]


Rodgers and Hammerstein

Rodgers, Richard

“What’s the Use of Wond’rin’,” from Carousel (1945), lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

This is Barbara Cook’s live 1987 recording:


Sarah Vaughan "in the land of hi-fi"

“Why Can’t I,” from Spring Is Here (1929), lyrics by Lorenz Hart

This is Sarah Vaughan’s 1955 recording from the album In the Land of Hi-Fi.


Roy, William

“Charm,” from Maggie (1953)

Cabaret legend Mabel Mercer proves that she had considerable charm herself in this 1953 recording.


“What Every Woman Knows,” from Maggie (1953)

This is composer William Roy’s own 2001 recording from the album The Saturn Sessions.



"Between the Devil" 1937

Schwartz, Arthur

“By Myself,” from Between the Devil (1937), lyrics by Howard Dietz

This is Johnny Mathis’ 1957 recording from his album Warm.



"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" 1951

“He Had Refinement,” from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1951), lyrics by Dorothy Fields

Dorothy Fields’ own recording of her collaboration with Arthur Schwartz.


“There’s No Holding Me,” from Park Avenue (1946), lyrics by Ira Gershwin

This is Hildegarde’s recording from the 1950s.



"Starting Here, Starting Now"

Shire, David

“Travel,” originally written for Cyrano, known from Starting Here, Starting Now (1977),  lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.

From the Original Cast Album of Starting Here, Starting Now


Jule Styne


Styne, Jule

“When the Weather’s Better,” from Hallelujah, Baby! (1967), lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Cabaret mainstay Sally Mayes recorded a lovely version of this tune.


Yeston, Maury

“New Words,” from History Loves Company (1989)

Brent Barrett from The Maury Yeston Songbook (2003)


You may also enjoy:

Courtesy of The Book of Lists 90s Edition, Steve Allen’s 13 Favorite Songs

Bing Crosby’s 10 Favorite Performers of All Time

Songs That Should Have Been Top-Ten Hits, Vol. 1: or, Has the Beat Killed Melody on American Radio?


  1. John
    July 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Oh what a wonderful series you’ve created. Thank you so much for all the work you put into this blog.

    • David Munk
      July 3, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks John. That means so much to me. David

  2. Barry Rivadue
    July 5, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    That’s Irving Berlin in the last photo.

    • David Munk
      July 5, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      Indeed. Thank you for pointing that out, now corrected. Mea culpa. David

  3. Les
    July 6, 2015 at 12:48 am

    No need for the apology… The last photo is indeed Mr. Stein.

    • Les
      July 6, 2015 at 12:50 am

      STYNE, not STEIN…. Oh, let’s call the whole thing off!

    • David Munk
      July 6, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Technically, you were correct the first time. According to Wiki, he was born “Julius Kerwin Stein”!

  4. normadesmond
    July 6, 2015 at 5:25 am

    yes, a delightful post.

Comments are closed.