Happy Stephen Sondheim’s 90th Birthday Everybody!!

Some of my favorite Sondheims – so much NOT a complete list – divided by category.

Heartbreak songs.

  • Losing My Mind. “Losing My Mind” bored me a bit the first time I heard “Follies.” Over the years its grown and grown on me, and now I have no idea what I was thinking back then.
  • Not A Day Goes By
  • Send In The Clowns. “Send In The Clowns” has been covered by of vocalists with magnificent, huge voices (most famously Barbra Streisand). But it was written for a less-than-magnificent voice, and somehow it works best that way.

Incredibly eloquent songs, usually with a strong side of resentment, where the vocalist starts out being calm and above it all but is all but screaming by the end.

  • Could I Leave You?
  • Ladies Who Lunch
  • Franklin Shepard, Inc. Although arguably Franklin Shepard Inc belongs on the list of heartbreak songs.
  • I’m Still Here. “Then you career from career to career.” Elaine Stritch, long past the point where she was vocally able to perform “I’m Still Here,” did a cover of it that’s actually pretty awesome.
  • Sunday In The Park With George. Actually, although that link is to the beginning of the song “Sunday In The Park With George,” the video contains the entire musical “Sunday In The Park With George,” with the original cast. Very well worth watching. (Star Trek fans, watch for Brent Spiner).

Epic songs for multiple characters that are almost miniplays themselves.

  • Someone In A Tree. Ya gotta love a song about epistemology! (“Korra” and “Airbender” fans, the narrator here voiced Uncle Iroh.)
  • Please Hello To quote Mark Horowitz’s article about this song:

    Among its attributes: it’s a musicalized scene; it’s a history lesson; it’s funny; it’s theatrical – with six primary participants, each with distinct characters and agendas; it shows off Sondheim’s unequaled facility at rhyme and lyric wit; and, for a composer who has been accused of being unmelodic, the number conservatively includes 10 primary melodic ideas (including verses and choruses), each of which is tuneful and contagious. And at one point, six of the themes are sung simultaneously.

  • Putting It Together. I suspect that this is one of Sondheim’s most autobiographical songs.
  • A Weekend In The Country. The line “such elegant writing / So chic you hardly can read it!” cracks me up.
  • Opening Doors. The original 1981 cast performs it, in a film so blurry that it’s hard to make out anyone’s face at all (but it’s still interesting to see the staging). A couple minutes into the song a young Jason Alexander appears. And here’s the same cast performing the song, 21 years later.
  • Waiting For The Girls Upstairs
  • Now/Soon/Later
  • Your Fault/Last Midnight
    “You’re so nice. You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice.”
  • How I Saved Roosevelt
  • Quintet. This video, by the way, is from my high school’s startlingly good production of “West Side Story” (but long after I graduated).
  • Addison’s Trip

I Can Neither Fit This Into A Category Nor Leave It Off The List

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3 Responses to Happy Stephen Sondheim’s 90th Birthday Everybody!!

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    Looking at the cartoon – the chorus I belong to was going to do an all-Beethoven concert the end of April with the feature piece being his Mass in C. 100 singers, 30 piece orchestra. 4 soloists. It’s cancelled. It was going to be the final concert under the baton of our director of the last 31 years. All gone now. Perhaps a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but still – a loss.

  2. 2
    Ben David says:

    Just one song from Sweeney Todd?

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Well, we can certainly add “God That’s Good!” to the list of epic songs! And the Johanna quintet should be on the list, that’s true.

    And “Not While I’m Around” can certainly go in the heartbreak column.

    And actually, maybe I’ll just go listen to Sweeney Todd.

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