Sunday, November 28, 2021

By Stephen Sondheim

 I have pretty much grown up with his music. His glorious music. Stephen Sondheim died at age 91. He leaves a large and stunning body of work for us to enjoy. When I was a youngster in South Central L.A., thanks to FM radio in Los Angeles and record albums in my elementary school classrooms, I heard WEST SIDE STORY with its lyrics by Sondheim. I heard the original Broadway cast album and the 1961 movie soundtrack. My serious devotion to Sondheim music started when I heard the new original Broadway cast album of his new musical, COMPANY. That aired on an FM station in Los Angeles one Sunday afternoon. I listened to it in my room and said, "Wow. I've got to go to New York." That Broadway score was so modern, so original, so different from the traditional Broadway cast recordings I'd heard. I knew actor Dean Jones from TV sitcom work and Walt Disney moves. I didn't know he could sing. "Being Alive" had a beauty and a raw honesty that made me feel pleasantly disturbed. I did get to New York and I did see Stephen Sondheim musicals onstage.

For millions of us, Stephen Sondheim was not just a highly innovative, intelligent and imaginative lyricist and composer whose work revolutionized the Broadway musical, he was a religion. After I saw Angela Lansbury in Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD, I walked out of the theater as if I was leaving a mass on Easter Sunday. My soul had been illuminated.

I'm going to post a couple of videos with Stephen Sondheim songs very dear to my heart. Here is one of my favorite renditions and arrangements of a classic song -- with Sondheim lyrics -- from WEST SIDE STORY. Here is Tom Waits with "Somewhere."


Barbara Cook was a Broadway musical veteran with a voice that truly was Heaven-sent. Here she is doing two songs with music and lyrics by Sondheim. One is "Not a Day Goes By" from his MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and the other is "Losing My Mind" from Stephen Sondheim's FOLLIES.


Stephen Sondheim was an American genius who elevated Broadway musicals to a new level. I hope you enjoyed the music.

2 comments:

  1. When I shared Dean Jones singing Being Alive with my daughter, she had chills and tears. (Another check in the good parenting column.)

    It was Sunday afternoon radio programming in the Niagara region (Ontario) that opened my eyes and ears to the wonders of Broadway and of Sondheim. Thank you to all those who pass on such a legacy.

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  2. my big sis brought home the WWS movie soundtrack 1961. it certainly sounded completely different from rogers/hammerstein, lerner/loewe that we had. he was a gem, revolutionary, fox.

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