The Broadway musical All American in 1962 had great pedigree -- and was a huge flop. It has a score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, who just two years earlier had written the show Bye Bye Birdie. (And a few years later would win the Best Musical Tony Award for Applause -- and separately Strouse would later write the music for Annie.) Moreover, the book was written by none other than Mel Brooks, early in his career. And to top all that, the star of the show was Ray Bolger, the beloved 'Scarecrow' from The Wizard of Oz. Further, the female lead was Eileen Herlie, who had a respected Broadway career, and three years earlier had starred in the Broadway hit Take Me Along. However, for all that, All American only ran for 80 performances.
I'm not a fan of the score -- though a friend who saw the original production said that the score was joyously staged which made it fun. For me, only one song is of much interest...though happily, the song is absolutely great and has become a standard, still heard today, "Once Upon a Time."
A great many artists have recorded the song, though my favorite rendition remains the original from the show's cast album. In part, I dearly love the arrangement with a gentle flute weaving its way throughout the song in a lilting, floating way, almost like a bird. But also I think Ray Bolger's performance is unique. Most artists performing the song do it -- thoroughly appropriately -- as a tender look back on life, which it is. Bolger, though, in the context of the show, almost talks the song and fills each line an utter wistfulness and heart-aching sadness at what once was and is now long-since passed and gone, though with a gladness at it having been.
The song is later joined by Eileen Herlie. And though I think Bolger does the song far-better, she has such a rare sound to her voice that it fits so well.
Again, bear with me. As much as I like bringing this version to people's attention, it's not the point here.
This below is the point.
Much as I love Ray Bolger's rendition of "Once Upon a Time" from the Broadway musical All American and is my favorite version of the song, I can't leave it there.
A couple days ago, while looking for something else, I came across this video by chance, from three years ago. It's from a 90th birthday celebration in 2016 for Tony Bennett, who had sung the number earlier in his career and wonderfully. And here to honor him, performing the Broadway classic "Once Upon a Time" is -- Bob Dylan! And most especially with his gravelly tone, he does a terrific job with it.
That's the point.