Richard Rodgers remembers Lorenz Hart
(Richard made this speech at USC in November 1973. There was a salute to Larry Hart, and he was asked to speak)
In my whole personal life I worked with virtually only two men. And through some quirk of fortune, they happened to be the two best lyric writers in the country. I worked with Oscar Hammerstein for many years, and with Larry Hart for about twenty-five. It would be awfully hard for me to say which of the two was more accomplished, which of them had more talent. I do know that Larry was more difficult to work with. He was more mercurial, he was harder to find, he was harder to pin down. And when you did, it was awfully well worth it.
He was a sort of genius. He had a way with words that was simply unbelievable. He could write fast when he wanted to write fast. And he could be painstaking when he wanted to be. But he was always good. His words were clever. They were sardonic at times. They were never mean. They were often funny. And more often than most people realize today, they were sentimental. As a matter of fact, the big hits of Larry's that still live today were his sentimental songs. Songs like "Where or When" which is not only sentimental, but had a philosophy. It was based on the phenomenon called deja vu. And Larry had been there before and made the listener believe that he had been there before.
I'd like to tell you a story that is pretty well known. It is about Larry and me in a taxicab in Paris with two girls. Suddenly a car came out of a side street and just missed us by inches. One girl screamed, "Oh, my heart stood still!" Larry said, "Say, that would make a great title for a song." I called Larry a dirty name for thinking about work.
The next thing I knew we were in London to work on a show. And I found my little black notebook with the words "My Heart Stood Still". I wrote a tune for it. Larry came into the room and I said, "I've got the tune to your lyric." And he said, "What lyric is that?" And I said, " 'My Heart Stood Still' . They're your words and it's my tune and I think we've got a song." And sure enough we did.
With 'My Heart Stood Still', he wrote simply. The lyrics were monosyllabic. I don't think there is a two-syllable word in the whole song. The song is still sung today. Larry ran the whole gamut. He ran it well. He was a nice man. A good man. And he was kind. I loved working with him, and I loved him. I miss him terribly. But I did have the privilege of working with him and I'm grateful for that.
A different quote of Richard Rodgers on Lorenz Hart:
For me, Larry Hart was a constant revelation. His intellect, his enthusiasm, his urbanity and his sentiment all combined to give his lyrics the wit and freshness that helped to change the whole face of the musical theatre.
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