Just a few of my favorite, off-beat, little-known love songs for Valentine's Day.
This first is one of the more charming love songs, from the 1951 musical A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It's performed by Shirley Booth, who won an Oscar for the powerful drama, Come Back, Little Sheba (for which she'd also won a Tony Award), but is probably best-known for the 1960s sitcom Hazel, which ran for five seasons. Oddly, her performance in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is considered one of the reasons for the who's only mediocre, disappointing run of 267 performances. Not because she was no good, but because it was only a supporting role, Aunt Sissy, and she was so wonderful they refocused the show more around her character which imbalanced the story. Here's one of her numbers, "Love is the Reason," written by Dorothy Fields and Arthur Schwartz.
This is one of the funnier love songs. It comes from the 1961 musical Little Me that starred Sid Caesar in a tour-de-force performance, playing around half a dozen roles. For this character, he plays the incredibly wealthy Noble Eggleston telling his love Belle (played by the show's heroine, Virginia Martin) how much "I Love You,", despite their one huge difference, which he explains. The show has a score by Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman.
"When Did I Fall in Love" is simply one of the most romantic love songs I've heard, especially from a Broadway musical. It comes from the Tony-winning and Pultizer Prize-winning, Fiorello!, written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, a few years before the wrote Fiddler on the Roof. Based on the true story of Fiorello LaGuardia, he was a fairly short, dumpy man who had a somewhat marriage-of-convenience to the beautiful Thea, who likes him and feels a certain affection, but mainly had felt a bit beholden to him him for a significant favor he did on her behalf. But after a few years she suddenly realized how much her initial affection grew. And he heads off to Congress on morning, Thea (played by Ellen Hanley) sings, "When Did I Fall in Love?" (What I love about Harnick's lyrics so much, and this is a fascinating example, is how he takes ordinary, conversational words that could be dialogue, and crafts them to sound so lyrical and poetic. And in this case, so lushly romantic.)
Finally, this is by the great Tom Paxton, and when I saw him perform it in concert he described it as perhaps the only true love song. "Not Tonight, Marie."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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