I've been looking for this to post for a long while. It's the song, "Confidence," from a little-known 1964 off-Broadway musical, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The score isn't effective all the way through, but half of it is quite wonderful. The music is by Leon Carr (who had a successful career writing TV jingles, most notably, "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut" for the Almond Joy/Mounds candy bars) with lyrics by Earl Shuman. The book is by Joe Manchester, based of course on the James Thurber story.
In fairness, I have it on the album, but converting it all to a digital file is something that I never decided to get around to doing. But with the National Football League season starting in only about 10 days, I thought it was time to finally get it done. And so, bingo! Here, at last, it is.
Wait, the NFL?? What does the NFL have to do with this.
Okay, here's the tale.
Today, NFL football on Sunday is carried by CBS and Fox. Just a few years earlier, though, NBC had the contract along with Fox. However, before that, for a very long time, NFL football was a Sunday tradition on CBS and NBC. It was a huge deal when upstart Fox outbid CBS -- which ultimately is one of the things that put the new network on the map.
And when CBS carried the NFL football on Sundays, most notably from the mid-60s forward, they began their broadcast with a rousing march. Many years later, ABC's Monday Night Football tried sort of the same thing with their theme song, "Are You Ready for Some Football?" (at least before Hank Williams Jr. went all racist, and was dropped). But it was CBS's joyful, enthusiastic, opening march that was the trend-setter. It simply put audiences in the spirit of a big football game. You heard that march, and you sat up, ready to watch. It was Sunday! It was football!
And that music -- little-known by most people, most especially not known by macho football fans -- was "Confidence."
From The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. An off-Broadway musical.
The song comes in the show when the always daydreaming and henpecked Walter is down at his favorite Harry's bar. It's around his 40th birthday, and he's ruminating about his wistful life. And it's there that Harry (performed by Rudy Tronto) begins to tell Walter (played by Marc London) to start having some confidence already, like making big changes in his life. Just throw it all aside, even if that means moving on from his nagging wife, Agnes. And with the pushing of others at the bar, (including Cathryn Damon, later a star of the TV series, Soap), and the influence of the flowing alcohol, Walter starts to build the confidence he's been lacking his whole life.
And no, this isn't in the original James Thurber story. And yes, it all ends happily. After all, the reason his wife Agnes nags him is because Walter is always so lost in his dreams, and he realizes that he needs someone to keep him on track.
(Though knowing such minutiae might seem wasteful and pointless -- in large part because it is -- I once scored bonus points for knowing this musical, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. A few decades ago, I was visiting my friend Stephanie Segal, who was having a little gathering. Also there was her childhood friend from New York, an actress named Christopher Norris, who would soon go on to some fame in the TV series Trapper John, M.D., a spinoff of M*A*S*H, as Nurse "Ripples." Upon being introduced, I offhandedly asked if she was the Christopher Norris who played Walter Mitty's little daughter, Peninnah, in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It was like a cartoon moment when a character's jaw hits the floor. Stef later told me that I had made a friend for life. A slight exaggeration since I haven't seen Ms. Norris since. But who knows, perhaps if we cross paths again one day...)
And yes, the character's name is Peninnah. That wasn't a typo.
By the way, I've thought that CBS blew it when they got the right back to Sunday football. They should have opened their first broadcast with this song. Well, if CBS screwed it up, at least I can rectify their error.
I know that there's a new movie version of the Walter Mitty story from Ben Stiller upcoming, so all the more appropriate to post this now. But then, movie aside, this is version with the NFL Song.
Anyway, even if you don't know the music from the NFL days, this is still an absolutely joyful, wonderful showstopping number. But if you do remember That Music from the early days of the NFL on CBS, you're going to hear the opening bars, leap up in your seat and shout, "Oh, my God! That's the NFL song!!!"
And so it is.
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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