This Saturday, October 29, the Fred Barton Orchestra and a cast of Broadway’s best will be back on the Schimmel stage to open its fifth smash season of American Showstoppers. This concert promises some of the very best of the American Musical Theatre and Songbook cannon; the work of the Academy®, Tony®, Grammy Award® and Pulitzer Prize winning composer and lyricist Frank Loesser. This musical genius’ repertoire includes the scores to Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella and the Pultizer prize winning How to Succeeed in Business Without Really Trying. His popular music also includes the piano standard, “Heart and Soul” and holiday tunes, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and “What Are You Doing New Years Eve.” Let’s take a musical journey through Frank Loesser’s greatest hits.
“Baby It’s Cold Outside”
Perhaps the most covered of all holiday tunes, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was originally written as a private party tune for Loesser’s first wife, Lynn Garland. When the songwriter sold the song to MGM, it almost ended the couple’s marriage. Garland would later write, “I felt as betrayed as if I’d caught him in bed with another woman.” The song would be included in the Esther Williams’ vehicle, Neptune’s Daughter (1949). In recent years, the song has come under some criticism for lyrics that some determine to be misogynistic. While the song can be taken this way, the version featured in Neptune’s Daughter, features Betty Garrett singing the part that is traditionally sung by the male and Red Skelton singing the response, making the piece easier to stomach for a contemporary audience.
“Heart and Soul”
One of the most recognizable songs to anyone who has ever taken beginner piano lessons or knows someone who has taken beginner piano lessons, “Heart and Soul” is known mostly for its melody by Hoagy Carmichael. However, the lyrics belong to Loesser. The song was published in 1938, however, the most famous incarnation of the song belongs to the Clefftones who recorded their version in 1961. That version was later used in the 1973 hit film, American Graffiti.
“Luck Be a Lady”
Perhaps the biggest success of Loesser’s career was writing the music and lyrics to the Broadway classic, “Guys and Dolls.” The popular musical was based on the characters of short story writer and newspaper columnist Damon Runyon. While the score is filled with many standards, “Luck Be a Lady,” is indeed the most covered. While Marlon Brando as Skye Masterson sang the song in the 1955 film, it was the film’s other star, Frank Sinatra, who made the song a huge hit.
“I Believe in You”
How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying won Loesser a Pulitzer Prize. The show was a biting social commentary on the world of business. The main character, J.Pierpont Finch, works his way up the corporate ladder from the mail room to CEO of World Wide Wickets in the series of just two weeks. The show’s hit song “I Believe in You” became a standard and was covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Count Basie to Isaac Mizrahi in a Target ad. The following is the wonderful Michelle Lee in the very faithful 1967 film version.
“What Are You Doing New Years Eve?”
Not written for a particular movie or stage show, this holiday hit first charted at No. 9 on Billboard’s Best-Selling Retail Rhythm & Blues chart in December 1949 with the band, The Orioles. It has been covered by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Barbra Streisand to Barry Manilow. It was also featured in the hit movie When Harry Met Sally. Below is a charming duet of the song by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Their video version with banjo and guitar went viral on Youtube in 2011.