Logo for "Cats" of 1981, one of the longest running stage productions in recent history.
In the stage production of Cats there is the very poignant song, “Memory,” performed by the aging female feline, Grizabella — a cat who has seen better days. The famous 1981 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber was originally produced in London. Since then, Cats has become one of the theater’s all-time box office success stories, with “Memory” remaining as one of its most beloved and signature tunes. In the original production, Elaine Paige sang “Memory” as Grizabella, and her version of the song became a Top Ten hit in 1981 with the single reaching No. 5 on the U.K. charts in July 1981. The song has since been recorded by more than 160 artists.
The sample MP3 version of “Memory” offered below is by Barbra Streisand, from her 1981 album, Memories. The Streisand single of “Memory,” released in 1982, reached No. 52 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, No. 9 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, and No. 34 in the U.K. Lyrics for the song also appear further down the page in a separate sidebar. Rough videos of Streisand singing “Memory” in the studio circa 1981 are found at You Tube and other sources. More on “Memory” and its lyrics in a moment. First some background on Cats and Grizabella.
Elaine Paige as the original Grizabella.
Cats is based in part on the works of poet T. S. Eliot, and his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. As a child, Andrew Lloyd Webber had been read Eliot’s poems by his mother. Sometime in the 1970s, he picked up a copy of Eliot’s poems and began ruminating on their use in his music. Over some years, the Cats production would gradually take form in Lloyd Webber’s mind. A number of the named Cats that would appear in the musical production have their origins in Eliot’s poetry. Grizabella, however, is not found in Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. But she does appear to be partly based on the woman mentioned in one part of Eliot’s poem, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night,” excerpted below. She is also the subject in some unpublished fragments of Eliot’s work titled, “Grizabella the Glamour Cat.” In the Cats musical, in any case, Grizabella becomes a prominent and poignant character. She is named the “Glamour Cat,” something of misnomer it turns out, since she is typically depicted in the production as a silvery blue-gray queen cat with tattered fur — a cat, quite frankly, who has seen better days.
(1) “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”
…Remark the cat
Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her coat is torn
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.”
(2) “Grizabella, the Glamour Cat”*
She haunted many a low resort
Near the grimy road of Tottenham Court;
She flitted about the No Man’s Land
From The Rising Sun to The Friend at Hand.
And the postman sighed, as he scratched his head:
“You’d really ha’ thought she’d ought to be dead
And who would ever suppose that that
Was Grizabella, the Glamour Cat!”
________________________________ * from an unpublished fragment by T.S. Eliot.
Grizabella does not have a clearly stated backstory in Cats. However, at some point in her life, she appears to have become enamored with the glamourous life and left her group, the Jellicle Tribe, to pursue that course. Jellicle is a term also taken from T. S. Eliot’s work, introduced in his poem Song of the Jellicles, describing cats that are peaceful and pleasant by day, but who also love an active nightlife. Jellicles are also featured and named in the Cats musical.
Grizabella appears in the play returning to the Jellicle group. After a time in the glamourous world, she became disillu- sioned with her new lifestyle and fell upon hard times. According to some interpre- tations, she may even have descended into prostitution, or as one reviewer later put it, “a fallen feline who has roamed the lowest alleys.” In any case, Grizabella returns home to find that the majority of her former Jellicle group are disgusted, ashamed, and afraid of her. Upon her return later, she sings “Memory,” revisiting the old days when she was young and beautiful — then a real “glamour cat.” The song is also part appeal to the group, as Grizabella wants to begin a new life.
“Memory” Barbra Streisand
Not a sound from the pavement.
Has the moon lost her memory,
She is smiling alone.
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet,
And the wind begins to moan.
All alone in the moonlight;
I can dream of the old days,
Life was beautiful then.
I remember the time I knew what
Let the memory live again.
Every street lamp seems to beat
A fatalistic warning.
Someone mutters and the
street lamp sputters,
And soon it will be morning.
I must wait for the sunrise.
I must think of a new life,
And I mustn’t give in.
When the dawn comes,
Tonight will be a memory, too.
And a new day will begin.
Burnt out ends of smoky days,
The stale cold smell of a morning.
A street lamp dies, another night is over;
Another day is dawning
It is so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun.
If you touch me,
You’ll understand what happiness is.
Look, a new day has begun…
Unbeknownst to Grizabella, Old Deuteronomy, the leader of the Jellicle group, overhears her and decides that she should be welcomed back and forgiven. In fact, he decides that Grizabella is the one cat worthy to travel to the Heaviside Layer — the place where Grizabella can be reborn (they all have nine lives, you know). In the musical, one cat is chosen each year by Old Deuteronomy to go to the Heaviside Layer and begin a new life. One song in the production is titled, “Journey to the Heaviside Layer.” In the end, Grizabella is forgiven by all and ascends to the Heaviside Layer.
Music Player “Memory” – Barbra Streisand
“Memory,” meanwhile, is a very powerful song, with broad appeal, even to those who have never seen the play. And for those who have, the song is attached to the imagery of the production and its storyline. But “Memory,” in any case, has deep emotional reach, appealing to certain universal truths and longings in many of its listeners — to that deep well of nostalgia, the longing backward glance, the wistful remembrance of nimble youth, and the feelings of vulnerability that come with aging. “Memory,” in short, provides a lot of reminiscent latitude, accounting no doubt for the song’s popular appeal.
“Memory,” it turns out, was a last-minute creation for the Cats production. Lloyd Webber’s usual way of working on a song was to first to create a melody and then add lyrics. And he very much wanted to compose melodies for Eliot’s poems that he loved. In the course of the musical’s development, T.S Eliot’s widow, Valerie, gave Trevor Nunn and Cameron Mackintosh — director and producer of the project — some manuscripts of extra materials her husband had written. These were poems and fragments that Eliot had not included in his published work, fearing they might be too unsettling or inappropriate for children. Among these was the poem fragment, “Grizabella the Glamour Cat” shown earlier above, which became an inspiration for Webber and team.
Betty Buckley as Grizabella.
Still, according to one account, two weeks before the opening of Cats in May 1981, Webber was concerned that his show lacked a big hit song. So, he went back to work in his normal habit of writing the melody first before a lyric was created. With the melody done, Trevor Nunn then went to work on the lyrics. Nunn is believed to have used T. S. Eliot’s “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” and “Preludes” in crafting the final lyrics for Grizabella’s song. In any case, it all came together with “Memory” ready for the opening.
In the musical, “Memory” is performed briefly in the first act and in its entirety near the end of the show, at the climax, as Grizabella delivers her nostalgic remembrance of her glorious past along with her plea to start life anew. It is by far the musical’s most popular and well-known song.
Elaine Paige was the original Grizabella in London in 1981 and also played the Glamour Cat in the 1998 video, which reportedly became one of the best-selling music videos in America and the U.K. The original version of “Memory,” re-recorded with the video, rose again to No. 36 on the U.K. music charts in October 1998. Betty Buckley was the first to play Grizabella on Broadway. Laurie Beechman played Grizabella at New York’s Winter Garden Theater in the latter 1980s and was also first to play the part with a U.S. touring company. Linda Balgord played the role on Broadway in 2000.
Tricia Tanguy playing Grizabella in a 2008 road production of “Cats.”
Cats, meanwhile, became a wildly successful theater production. It first opened in London’s West End in 1981 and then on Broadway in 1982. The London production of Cats ran for 21 years and the Broadway production ran for 18, both setting long-run records. It played 8,949 performances in London and held the record there as longest running musical until October 2006 when it was surpassed by Les Misérables.
On Broadway, at the Winter Garden Theater, Cats set the longest-running record in June 1997, playing a total 7,485 performances before its final show in September 2000. Only ThePhantom of the Opera, also an Andrew Lloyd Webber production, had more performances. As of early 2010, Cats remained Broadway’s second longest-running show in history. Lloyd Webber, in fact, had quite a run of successful shows in the 1980s and beyond. At one point in December 1990, two of his musicals, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera — along with Les Misérables by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil — were grossing about $1.5 million a week. These three were then the longest-running shows on Broadway, each also playing in London at the time.
The cast from a December 2007 production of "Cats" at the Roma Musical Theater in Warsaw, Poland.
By 1997, when Cats eclipsed Chrous Line as the longest running musical on Broadway, it was also pumping a sizeable sum of money into the New York economy. A study done for Cats by one marketing group at that time found the musical had contributed $3.12 billion to the city’s economy, most of it through foreign tourism, and more than $195 million in state and local taxes. “Compare that to the economic impact of the World Series last year , which was $34 million,” said George Wachtel, who carried out the Cats study and who has surveyed audiences at the musical over the years.
In 1998, Lloyd Webber produced a video version of Cats, based upon the stage version, released on VHS and DVD. Cats has been translated into more than 20 languages and has been performed around the world many times. The production has also been broadcast on television worldwide.
Promotional photo for "Cats" production.
“Over the last 17 years,” wrote New York Times reporter Peter Marks in November 1998, “[Cats‘] productions have been performed in 26 countries to an aggregate audience of 50 million people, who have bought $2 billion worth of tickets.” Cats and its music have also helped turn some new discoverers of its story to exploring the works of T.S. Elliott.
Grizabella and “Memory”, meanwhile, continue to hold a favored place in the hearts of many music fans and theater goers. In 1998, the Times’ Peter Marks described the song as having joined other “enduring melodies,” such as “Shall We Dance?,” “Maria,” and “Send in the Clowns” in “the pantheon of immortal show tunes.”
For more stories at this website on the history of music and/or film, please visit those respective category pages, or go to the Archive or Home pages for additional story choices. Thanks for visiting.
A poster for the 1965 film version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘The Sound of Music,’ one of many R&H productions that have yielded long-lived economic returns in music, film, and continuing stage productions.
“I see musicals as a very big growth area for investment,” said André de Raaff, chief executive of Imagem Music Groupin April 2009. Mr. de Raaff’s company had just acquired the rights to a mother lode of Broadway hits by music legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Imagem is owned by a giant Dutch pension fund and the European media company CP Masters. The company is believed to have paid some $250-to-$300 million for the rights to the Rogers and Hammerstein treasures. The deal was first reported on April 21, 2009.
Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein (1895-1960) were the re- nowned American songwriting team who created a string of popular Broadway musicals in the 1940s and 1950s. “Oscar & Hammerstein,” as they are popularly known, reigned over what is considered the golden age of Broadway. Rodgers did the composing and Hammerstein the writing. The musicals with their songs — and the film versions that typically followed — garnered an impressive array of awards over the years, among them some 34 Tony awards, 15 Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, and two Grammys. Five of their shows — Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music — became runaway successes and are now regarded as musical icons. The music from these shows — and other Rodgers & Hammerstein work — remains popular among millions around the world and is regarded as a business gold mine.
In the deal that Imagem made, it acquired not only Rodgers & Hammerstein rights, but others as well, covering some 12,000 songs, 900 concert works, 100 musicals, and 200 writers. Among these are compositions by Irving Berlin and Mr. Rodgers’s other collaborator, Lorenz Hart. Irving Berlin’s song “White Christmas” — one of history’s top-selling songs ever — and his hit musical, Annie Get Your Gun, are also included, as are the Rodgers & Hart songs “Pal Joey” and “The Lady is a Tramp.” Imagem made its deal with the New York city-based Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization (RHO), which formerly managed all of this material. Imagem essentially acquired the RHO organization wholesale, retaining its existing management staff.
The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization was created in 1943 to manage the works of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein.
“The sale represents a transfer of power over one of America’s most famous song catalogs and the licensing rights for future productions of the musicals,” wrote New York Times reporter Patrick Healy. RHO president and executive director, Theodore S. Chapin, who agreed to stay on at RHO, suggested that Imagem’s global reach would help RHO find new licensing deals for their holdings in Europe and Asia. “[S]ince Imagem is global,” he said, “I hope they can help us disseminate the works we represent with a little more moxie.”
Over the years, RHO had run its business fairly conservatively, collecting royalties from tens of thousands of licenses it issued for theatrical productions of R&H works. They also issued thousands of licenses for performances and recordings of their copyrighted songs, musicals, and concert works. Imagem’s deal with RHO covers some 12,000 songs, 900 concert works, 100 musicals and 200 writers. By 1990, for example, RHO was licensing about 3,000 productions a year and its music-publishing division employed about 20 people. RHO had been run in recent years by two Rodgers & Hammerstein heirs — daughters Mary Rodgers Guettel and Alice Hammerstein Mathias, who appeared satisfied with the deal they made with Imagem. Speaking on behalf of the Hammerstein family, Alice Hammerstein Mathias stated: “The collaboration between my father and Richard Rodgers was extraordinary. That they kept everything together, including the management of their copyrights, is a testament to their shared vision, and now that vision will be continued in this promising new venture.” Added Mary Rodgers Guettel: “My father always believed in moving forward. This is a big and wonderful step, and I am thrilled by the new opportunities that André and his team bring to my father’s songs and shows…”
The composer Richard Rodgers, left, and the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein at work in 1953.
Rodgers & Hammerstein
RHO was initially founded by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein in 1943, then for the purpose of controlling their own musicals, and additionally, those of Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, some separate Hammerstein works, and later other properties such as Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun of 1946.
In the early 1940s, by the time Rodgers and Hammerstein came together for their extended collaboration, they had each had separate careers. They were both over 40 by then. Hammerstein had success in the 1920s, helping create stage hits with operetta-style musicals such as Rose-Marie of 1924 and The Desert Song of 1926.
Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart on the cover of Time magazine, Sept 26, 1938.
In 1927, his hit musical Show Boat (with Jerome Kern) broke new ground on Broadway on a number of fronts, becoming the first, as they say, to integrate “book, music and lyrics” into a coherent whole. Show Boat, known for Paul Robeson’s classic performance of “Old Man River,’ also broached social issues, including addictive gambling, alcoholism, racism and interracial marriage. Hammerstein, in fact, would become known as a key innovator and “book writer” on Broadway — making the story, not the songs or the performers, central to the production. Still, by the early 1940s, Hammerstein’s good fortune had evaporated and he went for about ten years without a hit show. Richard Rodgers on the other hand, working with lyricist Lorenz Hart, had composed the scores for a number of hit shows that included, On Your Toes (1936), Babes in Arms (1937), The Boys From Syracuse (1938), Pal Joey (1940), and By Jupiter (1942). More than 80 popular tunes came from those works. Both Rodgers and Hart were featured on the cover of Time magazine in September 1938. But Hart’s health was in decline and he passed away in 1943.
Oscar Hammerstein II on the cover of Time magazine, October 20, 1947.
Rodgers and Hammerstein, who had worked together on occasion in the past, came together again in the early 1940s to work on what would became Oklahoma! This production furthered what Hammerstein had started in Show Boat — focusing on story, and integrating all aspects of the musical around plot and characters. Oklahoma! began the string of major Rodgers & Hammerstein successes, five of which are explored in more detail below. Between them, Rodgers and Hammerstein had a prolific output over the years. Hammerstein wrote an estimated 850 songs; Rodgers composed more than 900. Their work, either seperately or together, is found in more than 40 Broadway musicals, and indirectly in many others, as well as Hollywood films and television adaptations. Hammerstein died at the age of 65 shortly after the opening of The Sound of Music in 1960. Rodgers died in 1979 at age 77.
Rodgers & Hammerstein Gold
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma!’ opened in March 1943 and ran for 2, 212 performances.
Oklahoma!, the first musical written by Rodgers & Hammerstein — about a cowboy and his farm-girl romance in the early 1900s when Oklahoma was a territory — opened on Broadway in March 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances. In the decade before Oklahoma!, no Broadway show had run over 500 performances. Oklahoma! is regarded by some as the first real phenomenon in modern Broadway history. Notable songs in the production include: “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and “Oklahoma!.” Some of this music appeared on the popular music charts over multiple decades. “People Will Say We’re in Love” was a No.1 song in 1943 and “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” and “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” also topped the charts. New York Times writer Stephen Holden later observed that this musical “helped to define a national mood of optimistic self-assurance that persisted for two decades, until the assassination of John F. Kennedy. … And perhaps more than any Broadway show before or since, it addressed America’s urban and rural cultures in a language that both could understand.” A 1955 film adaptation starred Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. The film’s soundtrack was No. 1 on the 1956 album charts. For years the play has enjoyed numerous revivals, national tours, and foreign productions, including one in 1999 starring Hugh Jackman and Josefina Gabrielle in London. Oklahoma! continues to be a favorite play for school and community productions.
Cover of cast album from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel,’ which first opened on Broadway in April 1945.
Rogers & Hammerstein’s Carousel opened on Broadway on April 1945 and ran for 890 performances. In London, the show opened in June 1950, and ran for 566 performances there. Among Carousel’s notable songs are “If I Loved You,” “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The play was adapted for a Hollywood film in 1956 and also a made-for-television special in 1967. The 1956 film version starred Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. A 1994 Broadway revival won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival.
Carousel, set between 1873 and 1888 in a New England coastal village in the state of Maine, tells the tale of a love affair between Billy Bigelow, a traveling, carefree carnival man, and Julie Jordan, a local factory worker. Billy loses his job just as he learns that Julie is pregnant and, desperately intent upon providing a decent life for his family, he is coerced into being an accomplice to a robbery. Caught in the act and facing the certainty of prison, he takes his own life. When he reaches Heaven, he is denied entry because of his terrible deeds. Years later, Billy is allowed to return to Earth for one day, where he encounters the grown daughter he never knew, now besmirched by her father’s former reputation. Billy seeks to instill in both his daughter and her mother a sense of hope and dignity. When the play first ran, The New York Daily Mirror wrote: “(Carousel is) beautiful, bountiful, beguiling…it is the product of taste, imagination and skill.”. In December 1999, Time magazine named Carousel the Best Musical of the 20th century on its “Best of the Century” list, with the editors adding that Rodgers and Hammerstein “set the standards for the 20th century musical”. Carousel is especially well-regarded in the theater community, and Richard Rodgers called it his favorite musical.
DVD cover of 1958 film version of ‘South Pacific.’
South Pacific, a Rodgers and Hammerstein stage production, opened on Broadway in April 1949. A U.S. tour ran for almost five years in 118 cities from April 1950 through March 1955. Among its popular songs are: “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger than Springtime,” and “Some Enchanted Evening.” Based upon short stories from James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein, along with co-writer Joshua Logan, won a 1950 Pulitzer Prize for their adaptation. The original production featured Mary Martin as Nellie Forbush a naive young Navy nurse from Arkansas and opera star Ezio Pinza, as Emile de Becque, a French plantation owner. In the story, these two main characters become romantically involved. The story, set in World War II, also involves the frustrations of bored military men stationed on the South Pacific islands with too few women around. Racism is also a part of this story, emerging when Nellie learns that Emile has fathered dark-skinned Polynesian children with a former partner, and another character, Cable, refuses to marry a local Vietnamese girl.
Concert version of ‘South Pacific’ at Carnegie Hall, telecast by PBS in 2006.
The Broadway production of South Pacific was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won all of them, including Best Musical and Best Score. It was the only musical production ever to win all four Tony Awards for acting. The show was a critical and box office hit and also spawned a 1958 film. There were also a number of U.S. and U.K. revivals. In film, Glenn Close, Harry Connick, Jr. and Rade Šerbedžija starred in a 2001 ABC television version of South Pacific. A June 2005 concert version, edited down to two hours, but with all of its music, ran live at Carnegie Hall with stars Alec Baldwin, Reba McEntire, and Brian Stokes Mitchell. This production was also taped and telecast by PBS in April 2006. A recent Broadway revival of South Pacific opened in April 2008 at New York city’s Lincoln Center Theater. This revival won seven Tony Awards, including best musical revival and through early 2009 was still doing a healthy box office. At the show’s 60th anniversary in April 2009, more than a dozen of the remaining cast members from the 1949 production, along with Mary Rodgers, daughter of Richard Rodgers, and Alice Hammerstein, daughter of Oscar Hammerstein, attended a special matinee performance. A national tour based on the 2008 Broadway revival will begin in San Francisco September 2009.
50th anniversary edition DVD for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘The King and I’.
The King And I opened on Broadway in March 1951 and launched the career of relatively unknown actor named Yul Brynner, who played The King. The story is based on the popular 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam, by Margaret Landon, based on a true story about Anna Leonowens, a Victorian Englishwoman who became the governess to the children of the King of Siam in the 1860s.
Rodgers and Hammerstein had the benefit of a 1946 film version of the novel preceding their own work, which was first proposed as a musical to them by the actress Gertrude Lawrence who wanted and got the leading role. In the production, The King is largely considered to be a barbarian by those in the West, and he seeks Anna’s assistance in changing his image, if not his ways. Although both Anna and King hold fast to their respective traditions and values, they grow to understand and respect one another, and become involved in a unique kind of love story. This Rodgers and Hammerstein production resulted in a number of hit songs, including: “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You,” “We Kiss in a Shadow,” “Something Wonderful,” “I Have Dreamed,” and “Shall We Dance?”
Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat in 1999 film, 'Anna and The King'.
Many credit Rodgers & Hammerstein with creating a fair picture of the orient in this production; a picture of the East with dignity, without resorting to any of the clichés often found in western productions. One reviewer, noting the careful attention to staging, costumes, etc., touted the production as promoting “a flowering of all the arts of the theater”.
In 1956, a Hollywood film adaptation was made starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. It won five Oscars including one for Brynner as Best Actor. The King and I returned to Broadway in 1977 and 1985, and also as a short-lived 1972 TV sitcom, Anna and the King. Yul Brynner, over the course of 34 years, played The King more than 4,600 times, first on stage, then on the big screen, and also on the television series. In the first week of January 1985, as Brynner began his final engagement in the play at the Broadway Theatre, a new Broadway record was set for advance ticket sales in a single week, grossing $1,541,547. Another Hollywood film version, Anna and The King, starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat , was produced in 1999, though with many differences from the musical production.
Poster for the 1965 film verison of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘The Sound of Music.’
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music presents the story of the von Trapp family of Austria fleeing their Nazi oppressors during World War II. It was adapted from Maria von Trapp’s autobiography, The Trapp Family Singers. In The Sound of Music, Maria Rainer is the cheerful teacher to Georg von Trapp’s seven children, who also helps lead the family to safety over the Alps to Switzerland in flight from the Nazis. The Sound of Music opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959. It starred Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. The production left a number of memorable songs, including “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” “Do-Re-Mi,” “My Favorite Things,” “So Long, Farewell,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” and “Edelweiss.” On June 15, 1963 The Sound of Music closed at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York, after 1,443 performances. The show also had a long run in London, closing on January 14, 1967 at the Palace Theatre after six years and 2,385 performances — one of the longest running American musicals ever in London.
A movie version of The Sound of Music produced in 1965 by 20th Century Fox starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. It won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film premiered at the Rivoli Theatre in New York city in March 1965, where it ran for 93 weeks.In 2005, Box Office Mojo listed The Sound of Music as the third-biggest-gross- ing film of all time at the domestic box office. The movie’s initial run in the U.S. release lasted four-and-a-half years, prompting Variety magazine at the time to proclaim it the “all-time box office champion.” In 2005, Box Office Mojo listed The Sound of Music as the third-biggest-grossing film of all time at the domestic box office, at $911.5 million, adjusted for inflation. Only Gone with The Wind and Star Wars grossed more. When the home video version first became available in 1979, it set sales records and hit the Billboard Top 40 video sales chart, remaining on the chart for more than 300 weeks. Today, The Sound of Music remains one of the top grossing films of all time and is perhaps the world’s most popular musical ever made. The motion picture soundtrack, released by RCA, has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, and home video sales of the film in VHS and DVD formats, have done quite well too.
Over the years, the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein have held up quite well for their musical and production values, although receiving sharp criticism at times for being too sugary and too goody-goody in terms of the social values conveyed. In 1993, New York Times writer Stephen Holden offered this synopsis of the Rodgers and Hammerstein era: “Once upon a time, America dreamed of itself as a singing fairy tale for grown-ups, with a happy ending. Norman Rockwell painted this storybook country, and Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote its songs. More than just pop confections, they added up to a kind of secular catechism that sweetly but firmly instructed people on the rules of behavior in a world where America knew best and good triumphed over evil…”
Rodgers & Hammerstein -- 'too sugary'?
American pop since the mid-1950’s came partly as reaction to the values of Rodgers and Hammerstein. “Certainly rock-and-roll at its rawest represented a spontaneous burst of rebellion by huge segments of American society that found the cultured urbanity of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway songs too sweet, too sophisticated and too pious to speak for them,” offered Holden. Oscar & Hammerstein’s works, in those subsequent years, became for many, too optimistic, too cheerful, too hymnal and churchy, filled with sexual stereotypes, and too professed of American values and hegemony. Yet in their time, those values were mainstream; they were part of the national character, practiced by the majority. By the 1970s and 1980s, of course, Broadway self-corrected, as Hoden notes, producing disturbing and certainly “less-than sugary” works such as Sweeney Todd, Into The Woods, and others.
Holden concluded in his 1993 piece: “The America of Rodgers and Hammerstein — where the good guys won, love conquered all and progress was taken for granted — was itself a dream, a golden bubble of postwar hope and confidence that evaporated more than it burst.” True enough. Yet the Rodgers & Hammerstein works live on in the hearts of many, and still serve the values espoused, tempered, of course, by their own times. Hope and optimism, it seems, even if too sugary, are hard to extinguish. And certainly in terms of musical influence, Rodgers and Hammerstein continue to be heard in the strains of many pop ballads to this day.
Cover of 1996 CD for cast recording of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, ‘The King and I’.
The Rodgers & Hammerstein acquisition by Imagem offers a continuing source of economic value for its new owners. Fees from music publishing rights can be collected from a broad range of uses, and many of these are not vulnerable to piracy. While the major record labels have suffered in recent years with declining sales due to changing technology, music publishing rights are still quite lucrative. This part of the music business has held its value far better than recordings. Music publishers make money when songs are played on the radio, in restaurants and bars, and when any version of a song is used in a movie, TV show, video game, or commercial advertisement. Also, other artists singing Rodgers & Hammerstein tunes — called “cover versions” — require license arrangements and yield standard royalties. The Rodgers & Hammerstein properties already have an extensive track record of doing business of one kind or another, and more is expected.
John Coltrane’s 1961 album includes his historic rendition of ‘My Favorite Things.’
“My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, for example — made popular during its Broadway run and with Julie Andrews in the film version — has been used in advertising. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the song was used in automobile commercials for Mitsubishi. In 2007, it was used in advertisements for the Skoda Fabia, a mini-car produced by Czech auto maker Škoda, owned by Volkswagen. It was also used that year in Master Card ads, one of which featured actress and singer Penelope Fortier.
“My Favorite Things” has also become a jazz standard, with John Coltrane’s album of the same name becoming a historic landmark of sorts, which helped spark the rediscovery of soprano sax. The song has also been performed by a range of artists in jazz and other styles, including: Stanley Jordan, Grant Green, Carmen Lundy, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Rogers, Tanya Tucker, Rod Stewart, Sarah Vaughan, The Supremes, the Gimme Gimmes, Kimiko Itoh, Tony Bennett, 2Pac, Barbra Streisand, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Andy Williams, Luther Vandross, and others.
“Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” another Sound of Music song, was used by Australian Idol contestant Guy Sebastian in 2003 when he performed it on Australian TV in the show’s first season there. Sebastian went on to win, becoming the first Australian Idol, and in 2004 he recorded “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” on his No.1 single, “All I Need Is You.” The Rodgers & Hammerstein song was also adapted for National Australia Bank’s “Confidence” TV ad campaign in 2007.
In 1954, Roy Hamilton’s version of ‘You'll Never Walk Alone’, became an R&B No.1 hit for eight weeks and a national Top 30 hit, boosting Hamilton to fame.
Over the last 60 years, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” — a song from Carousel — has been recorded by dozens of artists, some charting as hit songs in their time of play. Among those covering this song, for example, have been Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Elvis Presley, Roy Hamilton, Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, Renée Fleming, Nina Simone, Gordon MacRae, Ray Charles, Patti Labelle, the Righteous Brothers, Dionne Warwick, and others. The song is also a popular anthem for European soccer teams and has been used to help raise money for disaster victims and hurricane relief. Jerry Lewis has used the song for years during his Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy telethons. It has also been sung by Joan Baez, Marilyn Horne, Patti LaBelle and others in association with AIDS Walk campaigns and rallies in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago. In 2002, opera star Renee Fleming sang “You’ ll Never Walk Alone” at Ground Zero during first year commemoration of the 9/11 attacks. In 2009 she sang it again, this time globally telecast from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the Inauguration of President Barack Obama.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone”
When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific was recorded by a succession of popular artists in the first year of its release, 1949, including: Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Jo Stafford, Bing Crosby, Ezio Pinza (original cast recording), and Al Jolson. But in later years as well, others also did versions of the song, including Willie Nelson, Jay and the Americans, and Barbra Streisand. Jon Bon Jovi did it on the Ally McBeal TV show, and even Harrison Ford did a version in the film American Graffiti. “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahoma! has also been covered by dozens of artists, some resulting in early Top 40 hits — Bing Crosby ( No.2), Frank Sinatra ( No. 3) and The Ink Spots ( No. 11). “Hello, Young Lovers” from 1951’s The King and I was covered that year by Perry Como and Guy Lombardo with Kenny Martin. Earl Grant did the song on his 1958 album The End. Bobby Darin did an upbeat swinging version of the song, and Paul Anka had a popular 1960 version in the Bobby Darin style. Frank Sinatra slowed it down on his 1965 album September of My Years. Marvin Gaye has a version in The Marvin Gaye Collection, a boxed set. Philip Quast covered the song on his Live at the Donmar album, as did Mark Murphy on his 1993 album Very Early. In 2004 Kevin Spacey covered the song on his Beyond The Sea soundtrack for his film about Bobby Darin.
Poster art for a production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘Carousel'.
RHO, despite this history of success, has not been the most aggressive marketer of its portfolio’s possibilities. Primarily, it has been content to steadily licence its shows for stage productions, while limiting the exposure of its classic works in an attempt to protect their value.
It is known, however, that there is increasing demand for use of R&H material in film and television. But in the past, RHO has usually denied these kinds of uses because they sought to uphold the artistic integrity of their work, only licensing it for theatrical production and concerts. Imagem, on the other hand, is expected to seek a fuller range of marketing options.
Imagem’s Playlist Sample List*
“Love & Affection” – Joan Armatrading “As Long As You Love Me”
– Backstreet Boys “Think Twice” – Celine Dion “Numb” – Linkin Park “Take A Bow” – Rihanna “When The Going Gets Tough” – Billy Ocean “You Are Not Alone” – Michael Jackson “Ray Of Light”
– Madonna “Karma Chameleon” – Culture Club “Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears “American Idol Theme” – American Idol “Since You’ve Been Gone” – Kelly Clarkson “Rock Your Body” – Justin Timberlake “I Believe I Can Fly” – R. Kelly “Who Do You Think You Are?” – Spice Girls “All Summer Long” – Kid Rock “Run To The Hills” – Iron Maiden “Thunder in My Heart” – Leo Sayer
____________________ *Imagem Music Group holds rights
to about 100,000 songs. Source: www.imagem-music.com
Imagem, however, is something of a newcomer to the global music and entertainment industry. It was founded in 2008 by ABP, one of the world’s biggest pension funds ($223 billion), in conjunction with Dutch independent music publisher and media company CP Masters. ABP is the pension fund for some 2.6 million persons and employers who work for the Dutch government or its education system. Imagem began building its business by acquiring other music publishing rights and music catalogs. After Universal Music Group bought Bertelsmann’s BMG music-publishing unit, several of its pop music catalogs were spun off to satisfy federal anti-trust regulators — Zomba UK, Rondor UK, 19 Music, and 19 Songs. Imagem picked up these catalogs. Today, Imagem’s collection, includes a number of tunes from pop artists such as those in the box at right, including: Madonna, Linkin Park, Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake and others. From its London location, Imagem manages its back catalog and has a roster of 40 writers creating new music. It also seeks out and signs new talent, recently signing, for example, artists such as Australia’s Jarrad Rogers and the Portico Quartet.
In April 2008, Imagem acquired Boosey & Hawkes, a large classical-music publisher, whose catalog includes works of renowned artists such as, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, Serge Prokofieff, Igor Stravinsky, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. This catalog also includes jazz and other works by artists and composers such as Karl Jenkins, Elliott Carter, John Adams, and Wynton Marsalis. Boosey and Hawkes is also involved in the market for music in advertising and film, where revenues are currently growing at about 30 percent annually per annum, according to Imagem. Other clients at Boosey & Hawkes include orchestras, choirs, record companies, and radio stations.
In the April 2009 deal with RHO, Imagem also acquired works by other artists including Adam Guettel, Sheldon Harnick, Jerome Kern, Stephen Schwartz, Kurt Weill, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and others. RHO had represented Andrew Lloyd Webber in the past, including his musicals Cats, Evita, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. At the time of the deal with Imagem, RHO and Webber’s group were in discussions about continuing that relationship.
Actor Hugh Jackman shown on the cover of a DVD for a 1999 production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘Oklahoma!’.
Imagem’s strategy is one of diversification; assembling a mix of pop, classical, jazz, and show tunes, as well as stage productions and their production rights. Imagem (with Boosey & Hawkes) now owns the rights to more than 200,000 songs and reports annual revenues of about $130 million. The company believes that established songs are one of the safest asset classes around since their usage is relatively constant, generating steady royalty income.
Imagem appears eager and willing to go where other established music business interests will not go, and willing also to spend what others will not. In the recently completed Rodgers & Hammerstein deal, other potential suitors included some of the world’s biggest music publishers, among them, Warner Music Group’s Warner/Chappell Music and Sony Corp.’s Sony/ATV Music Publishing. These two had considered buying RHO, but dropped out of the bidding because they considered it overpriced, especially for a catalog of Broadway songs.
“Our purchase of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization is a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire the publishing and theatrical rights of some of the most beloved shows and songs ever written,” said CEO André de Raaff at the time of the deal. He also added: “I personally believe that the world of musicals in which RHO is a leading player will grow further on a worldwide basis and we look forward to adding value to these rights through long term cultivation and development.”
Patrick Healy, “Rodgers and Hammerstein Catalog Sold,” New York Times, April 22, 2009, p. C-3.
Press Release, “Imagem Music Group Buys R&H — Imagem Music Group Buys Rodgers & Hammerstein, Becoming World’s Leading Independent Music Publisher,” The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, Updated, May 22, 2009.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, “The Showmen,” Time, Monday, June 8, 1998.
Mary Martin, co-star of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘South Pacific,’ shown on the cover of Life magazine, April 18, 1949, as the show began playing on Broadway.
Pop culture and the history & businesses of pop culture, with emphasis on media & entertainment, including sports, politics, advertising & marketing as these relate to media, entertainment & popular culture.