There’s nothing like having a baby snuggling into your shoulder, dropping off to sleep, as you sing to her. She likes to sing, too, but wordlessly. So, I give her words to go to sleep by. I don’t know any traditional lullabies, unless “Baby Mine”, from Dumbo, counts, but I’m never able to remember all the words to the song. It has that nice, slow rhythm, but so do many other songs that never qualify as sing-me-to-sleep songs.
The singing almost always starts with “Will I Ever Tell You?”, from The Music Man, though I occasionally start it off with “Lida Rose”, which always comes first in the musical. But something about the key and rhythm to the lyrics “Dream of now, dream of then, dream of a love song that might have been…” are perfect for lullabying a baby, even if she doesn’t appreciate the romance of the song. From there, I usually progress either to “‘Til There Was You” (“There were bells on the hills, but I never heard them ringing, no I never heard them at all, ’til there was you…”), also from The Music Man, or “Maybe”, from Annie.
When people think of Annie, they always think of the song “Tomorrow”, but my favorite has always been “Maybe”. The girl who played Annie in the original movie, Aileen Quinn, apparently preferred it, as well. I never have been able to understand all the hoopla about “Tomorrow”. I was raised on the 1982 movie of Annie, so if you’re wishy-washing over whether to see that one or the newer one, always err on the side of the older one. I was tortured through the newer version (starring Victor Garber as Daddy Warbucks) once, and don’t think I could ever survive it again. Speaking of torture, my family once gathered around the tv to see what the newer version of The Music Man would be like, though we were fully expecting it to be horrid. We were right. What can you expect when the original version stars the incomparable Robert Preston as the ONLY worthwhile Music Man, ever? The newer one starred Matthew Broderick (who can’t sing, has no rhythm, and no charm or charisma), and Kristin Chenoweth (who can sing, but just isn’t right for the classy Marian). Avoid at all costs.
On the lullaby round, the next song is often “On the Front Porch With You”, which is sung by Burl Ives in the movie Summer Magic. It took me years (literally) to figure out what that song was from, because in the days before the Internet and before CDs and mp3s, we listened to it on an audio tape, along with a bunch of other Disney songs. At that age (teens or younger), I had no idea that Hayley Mills starred in anything besides Pollyanna, but she was the star of Summer Magic. And no, I still don’t now what it’s about, nor have I ever seen the movie. I just know that if Burl Ives sings it, it will probably be awesome. Most people will have heard his performance of the Christmas song “Silver Bells”, in the classic stop motion animation TV classic (he’s the snowman, of course).
I rotate in “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”, which I originally heard on Ultimate Broadway, a Best-of collection of musicals, or sometimes lean towards “Out of My Dreams”, from Oklahoma!. My grandpa loved musicals, so I was raised on anything Gordon MacRae, so Carousel and Oklahoma! were definitely on this list. No matter what some people say (Buddy, no hating), Oklahoma! is a fabulous show, and there are excellent points to both the original movie and the newer “stage” version that you can find on DVD, starring Hugh Jackman. [Note to purists: Obviously, not every song mentioned is a “Broadway melody”
On the one hand, MacRae had one of the most glorious voices that has ever existed, and he was well-matched by Shirley Jones (who was also Marian the librarian in the movie version of The Music Man). Being filmed back in the old days, some of the risque elements were edited from the movie, so there are one or two songs missing… which I don’t miss in the slightest, never having learned to love them. On the other hand, MacRae and Jones weren’t dancers, so the dream sequence trades them for two other people… where the girl DOES look like Jones, but the guy dance does NOT look like MacRae. I’ve always thought his dance double looked more like a slimmer Arnold Schwarzenegger… so it takes you right out of THAT dream.
In the newer version, Hugh Jackman (yes, if you didn’t know it already, Jackman is a musical star, as well as an action star) and all the lead cast can sing AND dance, so every girl watching will swoon when Curly appears during the dream sequence. But with the two extra songs back, and some of the original crudities back, it’s slightly darker in spots. Jud comes across as extremely creepy, both because of the actor (who does a great job, by the way) and because of that extra song. I usually skip it, because listening to him sing obsessively about his love for Laurie is just… terrifying. But some of the group dance numbers are absolutely fantastic, so I tend to recommend both the old and the new, in this case.
When the baby really isn’t going to sleep for me, I have to branch out into some other songs, trying to remember (yes, the song “Try to Remember, as sung by Jerry Orbach, works for this, too) others that have the same slower tempo. Qualifiers for that description include songs from Kismet, The Desert Song, Cinderella (the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical), West Side Story, and several others.
“And This is My Beloved” and “Stranger in Paradise”, from Kismet, are family favorites. I’ve never actually seen the movie (starring Howard Keel) or seen a stage production, but I’ve heard the soundtracks from both movie and original musical. I have a suspicion that my grandpa sang these songs a lot, when I was younger, so I don’t recall hearing them as much as others, but they sounded so very familiar, when I ran across them in later years. And, of course, I have some Gordon MacRae collections, where he sings both of them, and I listen to those a lot.
“The Desert Song” and “One Alone” are from an operetta, technically, but it was made into a movie musical, starring Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson. An older film, the acting isn’t always great, but the music can’t be ruined. And the American reporter is a comedic role that everyone should see. He always makes me laugh. And watching Grayson as a flirt was pretty interesting, as I’m used to seeing her as the shy but blossoming daughter Magnolia in Show Boat, and starring opposite Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh. That girl could hit some NOTES.
I love to sing “Somewhere”, from West Side Story, as well as “Tonight”, but I regularly forget the lyrics, and always mean to go look them up again. So, I’ll skip off into a rendition of “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” or “Ten Minutes Ago”, which are the best of the musical version of Cinderella. I still remember the first time I ever saw this movie, starring Lesley Ann Warren, in a made-for-TV musical, but it was still Rodgers & Hammerstein, which means it can’t be all that bad. We were in Michigan, visiting my cousins, and even if the sets in the movie were more like those of a play on the stage, I was mesmerized by the fun of some songs, and the beauty of the others. And since I loved watching Warren in The Happiest Millionaire, I had no trouble loving to watch her in another musical.
“I’ll Never Say No”, from The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a great song for sleepy purposes, but don’t ever sing it to someone who might hold you to the words of the song. Telling someone you’ll never say no to them, no matter what they say or do… they might just take advantage of that. : ) Debbie Reynolds almost won an Oscar for her role in this movie musical, but I think she lost to Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins. This was also at the time when Harve Presnell, who played Johnny Brown, could’ve become a big box office star, but things fell through for him. Instead, people that love the TV show The Pretender will have seen him as Mr. Parker, the old great mustached gentleman, father to Ms. Parker. Some of the extras on the DVDs have the actors saying that Presnell was always entertaining people off set with his singing. How awesome would that be?
There are so many others, and plenty of newer musicals to make use of. I really need to run through my collection, so I don’t miss out on singing any of them to the baby. Maybe when she’s older, she’ll hear one, and have a vague recollection that she’s heard it somewhere, too. And maybe she’ll fall in love with songs and musicals, someday, too. One can only hope.
[see Lullaby the Baby… a Reprise]