May/June 1999 | Volume 50, Issue 3
Stephen Sondheim. Whatsoever he hews he gets good reviews, unlike Webber, who nebber gets naught but the boot —except he gets loot. So much loot he can’t fit in his suit. But Sondheim! —whose art is so exquisite, so superior, it hankers hard to hunker up its master’s tight posterior. So refined it leaves behind the vaulting flute of melody, the well-stacked house of harmony, and the mighty vital organ of humanity. Bring on the clowns indeed! What we need is some grand old bathtub warmth— which is a nice lead-in to:
Walter Donaldson. Not hallowed in hardback, nor printed in glossy, his songs are our tunes, never bossy, nor mossy. He rocked out of Ragtime and merged into Swing, a People’s composer, an unsceptered king, whose melodies seesaw or snap or soar high as if they had come from the top of the sky when in fact they’d been picked from the street (not the valley) and cobbled together in old Tin Pan Alley. Singing “Love me or leave me” and “Little white lies” and “Mammy” who sits there surrounded by pies and my dead wartime “Buddy” and fine Caroline, and girlies like Maisie who’s driving me crazy and might stop me from reaching my home sharp at seven, where me and my family make up “My blue heaven.” Dear all-purpose, all-seasons Donaldson! Never no more “making whoopee” with the horses, or asking, “How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm?” For now he’s safe from alarm— honored by the hour as round the world we hymn him daily s,inging-out beneath the shower.