Great Songs and the Artists Who Created Them: "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"

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Lorenz Hart's lyrics raised the standard for Broadway songwriting.
Author: 
by Mark R. Gould

 

From "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered":

After one whole quart of brandy
Like a daisy, I'm awake
With no Bromo-Seltzer handy
I don't even shake

Men are not a new sensation
I've done pretty well I think
But this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink

I'm wild again, beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I

 

The songs of the sophisticated Lorenz Hart (1895-1943) rise to the top when thinking about the American Songbook.

"Isn’t it Romantic?," " Blue Moon," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Mountain Greenery," "Where or When,"  "My Funny Valentine", and, of course, "Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered" are among the most popular songs of all time, covered by artists from all different segments of the recording industry. Some unforgettable covers of his songs include Miles Davis’ "My Funny Valentine" and Ella Fitzgerald’s" Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" still thrill music lovers.

 

Couldn't sleep and wouldn't sleep
When love came and told me, I shouldn't sleep
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I

Lost my heart, but what of it
He is cold I agree
He can laugh, but I love it
Although the laugh's on me

I'll sing to him, each spring to him
And long, for the day when I'll cling to him
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I

 

 

Rodgers and HartRodgers,left,  and Hart met in college, and collaborated on Broadway shows until they moved to Hollywood in the early 1930s.

Many of their popular stage musicals from the late 1930s were made into films, such as "On Your Toes" (1936) and "Babes in Arms" (1937)  and, perhaps their greatest, "Pal Joey" (1940).Photo above from the movie version of "Pal Joey" 1957. From left, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, and Kim Novak.

 

He's a fool and don't I know it
But a fool can have his charms
I'm in love and don't I show it
Like a babe in arms

Love's the same old sad sensation
Lately I've not slept a wink
Since this half-pint imitation
Put me on the blink

I've sinned a lot, I'm mean a lot
But I'm like sweet seventeen a lot
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I

 

Time Magazine wrote at the time, “As Rodgers and Hart see it, what was killing musi-comedy [sic] was its sameness, its tameness, its eternal rhyming of June with moon."

 

I'll sing to him, each spring to him
And worship the trousers that cling to him
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I

When he talks, he is seeking
Words to get off his chest
Horizontally speaking, he's at his very best

Vexed again, perplexed again
Thank God, I can be oversexed again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I

 

Historians say Hart's lyrics raised the standard for Broadway songwriting. He “single-handedly changed the craft of lyric writing, transforming the commercial song lyric from one of tired clichés and cloying sentimentality to one with unexpected phrases …that would touch the heart.” He was “a true genius,” according to The New York Times Book Review.

Their shows belong to the era when musicals were revue-like and librettos were not much more than excuses for comic turns and music cues. Still, just as their songs were a cut above, so did the team try to raise the standard of the musical form in general. Thus, "A Connecticut Yankee" (1927) was based on Mark Twain's novel, and "The Boys from Syracuse" (1938) on William Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors." "They had always considered the integration of story and music a crucial factor in a successful show." They used dance significantly in their work, using the ballets of George Balanchine.

 

Wise at last, my eyes at last,
Are cutting you down to your size at last
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - no more

Burned a lot, but learned a lot
And now you are broke, so you earned a lot
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - no more

Couldn't eat, was dyspeptic
Life was so hard to bear
Now my heart's antiseptic
Since you moved out of there

Romance, finis.
Your chance, finis.
Those ants that invaded my pants, finis.

 

Richard Corliss in Time magazine wrote,

“Read the words to those tunes — ideally, in "The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart," currently out of print but well worth tracking down. Listen to the songs — ideally, on the 1956 double-album, "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Song Book," the most magnificent of Ella's eight Verve song books, with sensitive charts by Buddy Bregman. Or you could just punch the buttons on your mental juke box, and ascend to rapture.

“Written 60 to 80 years ago, mostly for forgotten shows and movies, these bouncy, brittle, worldly and world-weary tunes — "Manhattan," "Blue Moon," " My Funny Valentine," " Where or When," " he Lady Is a Tramp," " Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," dozens more — sound both today and timeless. They sing (with confident wit) and speak (with confidential despair) about tough hearts ready to break, melt or explode. Rodgers' melodies get you humming, then dreaming, but the subject and style of these songs, their matter and meter, come straight from Hart's heart.”

 

Contact your local library for these materials about Lorenz Hart:


Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway

by Nolan, Frederick, (1995).

The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia
by Thomas Hischak, (2007).

Thou Swell, Thou Witty: The Life and Lyrics of Lorenz Hart
by Dorothy Hart, 1976.

Rodgers & Hart: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bedeviled: An Anecdotal Account,
by Samuel Marx and Jan Clayton, (1976).

The Hart of the Matter: A Celebration of Lorenz Hart
by Friends of the USC Libraries, (1973).

 

Online Resources

Lorenzo Hart Biography at the Songwriters Hall of Fame.


"Television Review: Thou Rodgers, Thou Hart, So Fizzy, So Smart"

Stephen Holden, The New York Times, January 6, 1999.

"Pop View: Just a Sap For Sugar, Love And Sorrow"
Stephen Holden,The New York Times, April 30, 1995.

 

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