Richard Rodgers was born 101 years ago today, June 28, 2002 in Long Island, New York.
Richard Rodgers may have been the greatest composer of the entire Broadway tradition. He had a heller career with his original lyricist Lorenz Hart. Besides a zillion other hits, they wrote “My Funny Valentine,” which is a career worth of achievement in itself. Oh, yeah, and also from Babes in Arms, a ditty called “The Lady Is a Tramp.”
After he broke up with Hart though, Rodgers really hit the big time. His first collaboration with his new lyricist Oscar Hammerstein was a little thing called Oklahoma! that greatest ever musical blast of optimism, debuting smack in the middle of WWII. Naturally, I particularly favor the pure parodic self-pity of “Poor Judd I Dead,” particularly the Rod Steiger performance in the 1955 movie version. Famously, Rodgers said he wrote “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” in about 15 minutes. Yowsa!
Oh, but of course they were just getting warmed up. Carousel, The King and I, State Fair, South Pacific, and The Sound of Frickin’ Music (uh, emphasis added) were yet to come, including “Do Re Mi” and “My Favorite Things.”
He was just that damned good.