Based on his Lyrics- suggest to me some Sondheim

Not too terribly familiar with Sondheim, but some of his true “Wordsmith” type ventures have always struck me as quite impressive and I’d like to explore a bit more.

Allow me to emphasize that I’m looking for recommendations that really show him flexing his “Wordsmith” muscles. If you have recommendations of lyrics that you connect with because you relate to the sentiment, or you feel a lyric succinctly explains a “great truth” or common human experience, let me say right off the bat that that isn’t what I’m looking for here. Sure I can appreciate all that, but it’s not what I’m looking for here.

By “Wordsmith” I don’t mean simply a lyricist who fills his songs with lots of big “SAT Words”, although effectively incorporating a well mastered vocabulary is certainly part of it: the greater the command an artist has of the tools of the craft, the more fully the artist can expand his/her execution of the craft. So, yes, vocabulary is part of it, but I’m also looking for cleverness in applying the literary devices of verse such as inventive rhyme schemes, use of alliteration, assonance, consonance, and double entendre.

To better solicit recommendations allow me to share some of the Sondheim that I am already impressed with, examples that have lead me to want to know more:

More (from Dick Tracy)
You’ll note there are no big “SAT Words” in this song, but the way the lyrics lock in with the rhythm- it’s really impressive. My favorite segment:

Also, this is one of those songs where it repeatedly resolves to the same word, “More”, requiring several and varied words that need to rhyme. Sure “-ore” isn’t a terribly difficult ending to rhyme but the structure of this song puts him in the position of having to come up with eight distinct rhymes for the same word and he did it without repetition and in such a way that no word is ever forced in in a way that comes off as contrived, nothing ever jars the listener out of the narrative.

This song is actually such a perfect example of what I am looking for, lyrically I consider it one of the most impressive songs ever, that I could actually use it as my only example in soliciting recommendations for similar achievement. But for fun, and better measure, I’ll list a couple other examples of what I like:

“Greens! Greens!” segment from the Prologue to Into The Woods

So, hopefully I’ve clearly explained what I’m most looking for. The examples listed are the kind of thing that most turns me on (artistically). It may also be helpful to note that I am exploring Sondheim from the perspective of a Tom Lehrer fan, Lehrer often cites Sondheim as one of his favorite lyricists.

Doper Sondheim fans, what are your recommendations?

Well, you’ve already mentioned my favorite: Into the Woods, which includes “On the Steps of the Palace”:

And I have not seen “Merrily We Roll Along,” but one of my favorites from that is the song “Not a Day Goes By” of which the two verses rather contradict themselves. I’d need to quote the whole song, though.

:: sees Sondheim signal in the sky ::

Honey! I’ll be back soon! I have to go be ever-so-slightly-sexually-ambiguous!!

:: races to thread::

Okay. First off, start with Sweeney Todd. The Broadway version, not the movie version, though that is okay. You will be simultaneously amused and horrified, which is a good thing.

Then go to Sunday in the Park with George, the 80s version, because it has both Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, notable because both my wife and I wish to have sex with both of them. The 80s versions of them, anyway. But you’ll not be watching/listening out of pure prurient interest, but because it’s so bloody brilliant and touching and wonderful that, if I believed in Heaven, which I don’t, I’d say Sondheim had earned his ticket in based solely on the song “Lesson #8.”

After that go to Passion, also known as "the non-stupid version of Phantom of the Opera. Well, not really, but there’s some similarity of theme, the difference being that, unlike Lloyd Webber, Sondheim knows more than one chord and did not write it while high on 'shrooms.

After that you may attack his catalog in whatever order strikes you, so long as you get to Anyone Can Whistle last. It’s okay if you hate that one. Everyone else does.

I’ll be back later. I must go reassert my heterosexuality now.

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air.
Send in the clowns.

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

In the context of the play, is remarkable song and a show stopper although it was actually written during the rehearsals of the play, “A Little Night Music”.

A Sondheim thread! That makes me so happy. :smiley:

Are you familiar at all with the shows Sunday in the Park With George or A Little Night Music? Both feature a lot of the times of songs you’re talking about. Here’s a few from several of his shows that I really enjoy.

Title song from Sunday in the Park With George:

“Putting It Together” from Sunday

“The Day Off” from Sunday

“Franklin Shepard, Inc” from Merrily We Roll Along

One of my favorites, “Now” from A Little Night Music:

“Liaisons” from A Little Night Music:

“A Weekend in the Country” from A Little Night Music

“More” is actually a response to “I’ve Got Rhythm”
(“I’ve got rhythm
I’ve got music
I’ve got my man
Who could ask for anything more?”
“Got my diamonds
Got my yacht
Got a guy I adore
I’m so happy with what I’ve got
I want more”)
If you listen to them back to back, you can hear it in the melody & rhythm, too.

But you’re interested in lyrics of a certain type so -

Now/Later/Soon - A Little Night Music (which really comes together when they start finishing each other’s lines)
Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir - Sweeney Todd
Agony - Into the Woods
Everybody’s Got the Right - Assassins (for the bailiff rhyme)

I am very fond of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

From “Comedy Tonight”:

Pantaloons and tunics, courtesans and eunuchs,
Funerals and chases, baritones and basses,
Panderers, philanderers, cupidity, timidity,
Mistakes, fakes, rhymes, crimes,
Tumblers, grumblers, bumblers, fumblers,
No royal curse, no Trojan horse,
And a happy ending, of course.
Goodness and badness, manifest madness,
This time it all turns out all right.
Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.

Someone’s already mentioned it, but “A Weekend In The Country” from A Little Night Music is remarkable in part because it’s got every principal character in the show singing separate parts in four or five different conversations and everything kind of reeling around everyone else’s parts…it just never fails to make me smile listening to it. Very clever and very smart.

“A Little Priest” from Sweeney Todd (I’d recommend finding the Lansbury/Hearn version on YouTube) is funny and clever despite the distasteful subject matter. The Lansbury/Hearn version is longer and (I think) better than the movie version.

One of my favorites (from Company):
Pardon me, is everybody here? Because if everybody’s here, I
want to thank you all for coming to the wedding, I’d appreciate
your going even more, I mean you must have lots of better things
to do, and not a word of this to Paul, remember Paul, you know,
the man I’m gonna marry, but I’m not, because I wouldn’t ruin
anyone as wonderful as he is —
Thank you all
For the gifts and the flowers,
Thank you all,
Now it’s back to the showers,
Don’t tell Paul,
But I’m not getting married today.
Sung — in a frantic, breathless rush — by Amy, who is melting down at the thought of marrying the most wonderful man in the world. Vera in the original cast was played by Beth Howland, who was best known as Vera, the ditzy waitress in Alice.

A Weekend In The Country

A Little Priest

Madeline Kahn did an excellent Amy for “Not Getting Married” during a Sondheim tribute.

Madeline Kahn “Not Getting Married”

Here is Bernadette Peters singing You Could Drive a Person Crazy. Last spring, my chorus sang this song with her. It’s not easy.

Everything I wanted to mention has been posted so far. I will think on’t.

‘Comedy Tonight’ from ‘…Forum’ is a fantastic wordsmithing opening number, IMHO.

This thread makes me happy!

** Pretty Little Picture**

**Love is in the air **

Please remember to post only a few lines of a song and then link to the rest due to copyright concerns. I’ve gone ahead and trimmed down some of the quoted lyrics because they went beyond what we recommend in length.

Not to be nit-picky, but at least in the published score, that line is “man in his madness.”

i know i’m late to the party, but i just stumbled on this thread while googling for the correct lyrics to “More” from Dick Tracy.

I fell hard for Sondheim’s lyrics as a child when i heard the following lyric from “you could drive a person crazy”:

When a person’s personality is personable,
He shouldn’t oughta sit like a lump.
It’s harder than a matador coercin’ a bull
To try to get you off of your rump.

i think that, like you, i was drawn to the “wordsmith” aspect of his lyric writing–
personable and coercin’ a bull? that struck me as genius.
i remain a big fan to this day, and his simplest lyrics have reduced me to tears on many occasions, but his cleverest lyrics will always have a special place in my heart.

many of the better known ones are already listed here, but i’m surprised to see nothing from FOLLIES; in addition to all the book numbers there are many “pastiche” numbers written in the styles of great writers past (Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern etc); there are also new versions written for the London version, and several additional numbers which were cut from the show but turned up elsewhere in revues et cetera. A few of my favorites:

“You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow/Love Will See Us Through” which includes the following:

“What will tomorrow bring?” The pundits query.
Will it be cheery? Will It be sad?
Will it be birds in spring Or hara-kiri?
Don’t worry, dearie. Don’t worry, lad.

near the end of the show there’s a show-stopper for each of the main characters; for “Phyllis,” who sings about the competing parts of her personality, he wrote a song called “Lucy and Jesse”:

Lucy is juicy But terribly drab.
Jessie is dressy But cold as a slab.
Lucy wants to be dressy.
Jessie wants to be juicy.
Lucy wants to be Jessie
And Jessie Lucy.

an earlier, cut version of that number was called “Uptown, Downtown” and had the following dense rhyme:

Uptown, she’s got the Vanderbilt clans.
Downtown, she’s with the sidewalk Cezannes.
Hyphenated Harriet, the nouveau from New Rochelle.

and for the London version he wrote “Ah, But Underneath”:

In the depths of her interior
Were fears she was inferior.
And something even eerier.
But no one dared to query her superior exterior.

speaking of “underneath”… I’ve just scratched the surface.
Hope you’re enjoying discovering his work. there’s a lot more there.

"You Could Drive a Person Crazy (bolding added)

Knock-knock! Is anybody there?
Knock-knock! It really isn’t fair.
Knock-knock! I’m workin’ all my charms.
Knock-knock! A zombie’s in my arms.
All that sweet affection!
What is wrong?
Where’s the loose connection?
How long, O Lord, how long?

Welcome to the boards, imaradio. Like SkipMagic said upthread (although that was way back in 2008), we ask that people use only short quotes from song lyrics that are under copyright - no more than four or five lines. I made an exception for one of yours so people would get the point of the quote.