The Sondheim Lyrics Chain

Started by KathyB, Jul 10, 2017, 09:48 AM

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There's a just keep in "Waiting for the Girls Upstairs," but, in my opinion, the one in "Move On" has better choices for a target word after it:

Just keep moving on,
I chose and my world was shaken,
So what?
That choice may have been mistaken,
The choosing was not.
You have to more on.


"Move On" was the one I had in mind ("Just keep your shirts on!" from "WFTGU" never occurred to me, but it's a great catch!).  But I'm tickled you chose my favorite stanza; some centuries ago, I actually picked "I chose, and my world was shaken -- so what? / The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not." as a favorite quote for my senior-year high-school yearbook photo.  Sounding both pretentious and portentous in that context, the lines actually held no specific personal meaning except as generically-appealing Words To Live By -- but, exquisitely versified by my idol (even with the mildly questionable rhyme of "what" and "not") in my favorite show, they sounded mighty profound to me.

Which is why I'm gonna be an annoying pedant and point out that it is in fact "The choice," not "That choice".  There's a trim little parallelism in there, focusing the distinction between "choice" and "choosing" onto those two words alone, which goes just the tiniest bit soft if the article also changes.  "The/The" makes us listen harder to what's being said, while "That/The" arguably overexplains.

I was half convinced I'd waken,
Satisfied enough to dream you.
Happily I was mistaken,

I'll steal you, Johanna,
I'll steal you.
Do they think that walls could hide you?
Even now, I'm at your window.
I am in the dark beside you,
Buried sweetly in your yellow hair...


In the old days of this game we had an acronym, QFM, which stood for "Quote from memory." I should have used that with my lyric. (By the way, I do realize it's "The," but my fingers obviously didn't. Or I should have just checked the lyric before typing it, which I understand would not necessarily stop my fingers from typing the wrong word anyway.  :) )

Even now
(now I can't get Barry Manilow out of my mind)


(Typed directly from Finishing the Hat)

Even now,
When you're close and we touch
And you're kissing my brow,
I don't mind it too much.


And if I wanted too much,
Was that such a mistake
At the time?

You never wanted enough.
All right, tough -- I don't make
That a crime.

On first hearing, "I don't make that a crime" sounded ever so slightly faux-conversational to me: it gets its meaning across, but I'm not 100% convinced it's how most people would verbalize that idea, and the obvious explanation is that it's being condensed, so efficiently as to become almost too concise, for the sake of the rhyme.  Still, if it's not altogether effortless, it comes closer than such a feat of compression has any right to, and the result is a model of elegant simplicity, if not of absolute conversational realism: six lines, three interlocked but decidedly modest rhymes (much/such, mistake/make, enough/tough), and not a five-dollar word anywhere to be seen.  (Nor, conversely, a stumble into the pop banality or tortured syntax for which a lesser lyricist might have settled in the well-trod arena of the bittersweet-breakup song).  And of course, leave it to SJS to make Charley's lyric -- the song that ends up "opening doors" for Shepard & Kringas -- track the dynamics of their eventual professional "breakup" with poignant specificity shadowed by ambiguity: who "wanted too much," and who "not enough"?  Artistically, commercially, interpersonally?