Michael Shobe, Assistant Program Director, WQXR
Michael Shobe is the assistant program director for New York’s classical music radio station WQXR.
Here are some memorable performances of Richard Rodgers’ songs, for your enjoyment, on his birthday.
1) Patti LuPone knows Richard Rodgers. The Broadway legend does a lot of things really, really well, including “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from Pal Joey. This performance is live from Palm Springs. Is there a better place to sing some Richard Rodgers?
2) “Have You Met Miss Jones?” is one of those tunes every musician learns at an early age. But it takes a grown-up to do it like this. Here is George Shearing performing the number, accompanied by himself at the piano.
3) Margaret Whiting had a long and successful career singing the American songbook. Her first hit record was singing Richard Rodgers’ “It Might As Well Be Spring” from State Fair in 1945.
4) Not all great performances of Richard Rodgers’ songs have lyrics. John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” not only pushed jazz in a new direction, it brought the saxophone legend his greatest moment of popularity.
5) At a very young age, Chet Baker’s version of “My Funny Valentine” made him super famous. Here is the balladeer later in life performing the number in Tokyo. While most people remember his early recordings from the 1950’s, there is no doubt in my mind that his musicality only grew exponentially over the years. See for yourself.
6) If Chevy Chase is introducing your performance, you’re doing something right…
7) Judy Garland sings “Johnny One Note” with impeccable style and grace from the 1948 film Words and Music, which also features the final pairing of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland on screen. The movie is a fictional account of the successful collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and it features some great performances from the duo’s extensive catalog. There is also a scene in which Judy Garland sings a duet with Lorenz Hart. That alone is worth finding a copy of the film. Not surprisingly, Rodgers disliked almost every aspect of the film except for the casting of Janet Leigh as his wife (IMDB.com).
8) Lena Horne was also in Words and Music, singing “The Lady Is A Tramp” in a nightclub scene. She is simultaneously graceful and powerful and delivers a gritty performance worthy of her Bed-Stuy roots.
9) Here is a different take on “The Lady Is A Tramp” featuring Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. You may not always agree with Gaga’s choice of dress but there is no denying that she can sing. She enjoyed working with Bennett so much that she recently got a tattoo of his drawing of a trumpet on her arm. Tony Bennett sounds fantastic as always.
10) The ever calm and collected Blossom Dearie sings “Surrey With The Fringe On Top” in 1961. She’s accompanying herself at the piano in a trio setting. The way she lags behind the beat in the second verse is a particularly effective way to emphasize the lyrics, “I can feel the day getting’ older. I can feel a sleepy head on my shoulder. Noddin’, droopin’, close to my shoulder ‘til it falls kerplop.” Watch out for the key change at the end!