February 14, 2012

Album of the Week: Ogden Nash Reads

"ogden nash"

Ogden Nash was a poet known for his light verse. Although his humorous verse was enjoyed by millions for decades, he enters the Hirschfeld story at the nadir of his career. In 1943, he wrote the lyrics to the musical comedy One Touch of Venus with music by Kurt Weill, and a libretto by none other than S. J. Perelman. The show, which starred Mary Martin was a hit, Nash's only Broadway success, as well as Perelman's. But they didn't stop trying.

Perelman decided for his next show he would collaborate with his friend Al Hirschfeld on a musical comedy set in the futre that was a satire on business and advertising. They asked Nash to supply the lyrics and hoped to get Weill also back on the team. When Weill was unavailable, they turned to Vernon Duke. The resulting star-crossed 1946 production of Sweet Bye and Bye is a legendary flop, whose wonderful score was only recorded last year. Although Perelman and Hirschfeld leapt from the show's closing in Philadelphia into a a nine month excurision around the world that was immortalized in the classic Westward Ha! (Or Around the World in 80 Clich├ęs), Nash and Duke were traumatized by the experience and would not return to Broadway for six years, when they wrote the score to Two's Company (which featured several tunes from Sweet Bye and Bye and was not without its own problems).

One year later in 1953, Nash recorded a selection of his poetry for one of Caedmon's earliest, and surprisingly successful, releases. On the record, Nash reads "Portrait Of The Artist As A Prematurely Old Man," "How Do You Say Ha-Ha in French?" and "Bankers Are Just Like Anybody Else. Except Richer," among other pieces. While Hirschfeld's portrait on the cover is pitch perfect, Caedmon would not ask for another cover drawing for more than twenty years.

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