By the 1950s, the influence of Rodgers and Hammerstein was enormous, and many younger theatre songwriters—peers of Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary—aspired to the success of R&H, and shared some of their aesthetic principles. As we look at songs written by contemporaries of this week’s NYFOS composers “Rodgers, Rodgers & Guettel,” one can’t ignore the contributions of Richard Adler (1921–2012) and Jerry Ross (1926–1955).
Adler and Ross had two hit Broadway shows in the mid 1950s with The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. In the song “Hey There” (from Pajama Game), you can hear how the melodic smoothness, sincere lyrics and satisfying chord progressions of some of the best Rodgers and Hammerstein ballads permeate this song, without ever feeling like it is an imitation. It doesn’t hurt to have John Raitt singing it so gloriously either.
I find it fascinating, from a vocal point of view, that this mid-century period of Broadway musicals produced so many wonderful male singers. In addition to Raitt, you had Alfred Drake, Gordon MacRae and Richard Kiley, to name just a few. Each of them possessed a beautiful, resonant voice that managed to find the balance between good diction and excellent vocal production—and in an age that wasn’t yet reliant on microphones on the Broadway stage.
Music and Lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross