Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lyrics Worth Remembering

Broadway lyricists are in a bit of a slump. It has been years since they produced a breakout hit. As entertaining a show as The Drowsy Chaperone is, the only memorable song is a gag number spoofing shows like the King & I. One show that did not have that problem was To Live Another Summer, To Pass Another Winter, an Israeli musical that played on Broadway in 1971, featuring lyrics by the Polish born Hayim Hefer who “founded the Chizbatron, the first Israeli Army entertainment troupe,” according to the cast album notes. His words are indeed memorable:

The Boy With The Fiddle
“I Can Remember A German Captain Called To Me,
Get Over Here, My Darling, Our Pretty Little Boy
You Played Bach and Beethoven While You Were Free
And Now You Join Our Little Orchestra of Joy.

I Remember the Long Striped Shirt He Made Me Wear
The Others Had Them Too as the Trains Rolled By
He Made Us Play This Tune, This heinous Little Air
We Played As Our People Went to Die . . .”

To Live Another Summer, To Pass Another Winter
“We Were Content to Give Our Youth,
To Pawn Our Years Like Golden Chain,
For Words Like ‘Freedom,’ or Like ‘Truth’
Days Clear and Free From Bloody Rain,
And Only One Wish Remained.

To Live Another Summer, To Pass Another Winter
To Watch the Trees Turn Green from Ashes and from Cinder
To Cross A Quiet Street, Alone Secure from Trouble
To See the Flowers Bloom, Away from Graves and Rubble”

Sorry We Won It
“Oh Please World, Excuse Us
We’re Asking You For Forgiveness
We’re Awfully Sorry
We’re Sorry We Won the War”

It would be interesting to see To Live revived, or at least have the cast album reissued on CD. It was actually the final recording project for the great jazz arranger-composer-vibraphonist Gary McFarland, who was credited on it as the Musical Supervisor. Shortly after the session, McFarland visited a bar with a musician friend, consuming a drink mysteriously laced with liquid methadone. According to reports he died immediately of a massive heart attack. (I’ve actually played an excerpt of To Live when discussing McFarland in class, and got some looks like I had three heads.) It is a memorable work though, historically significant for many reasons.