Richard Rodgers, one of the great composers of the American Musical Theater, was born on this day in 1902. With Lorenz Hart (lyricist for “Manhattan” and Pal Joey) and Oscar Hammerstein (lyricist for South Pacific, Oklahoma, and The Sound of Music) Rodgers’ music has been part of the musical and cinematic collective consciousness for nearly a century. His music found its way into the rock and roll repertoire via The Marcel’s doo-wop version of “Blue Moon. ” Saxophone legend John Coltrane made Rodgers an essential part of the jazz songbook with his many searching, exploratory versions of “My Favorite Things.” One of my favorite performances of Rodgers’ music is the “Isn’t It Romantic” sequence from Rouben Mamoulian’s 1932 film Love me Tonight, which through a wonderfully convoluted chain of events brings the song from Maurice Chevalier’s lips, by way of a haberdasher, a train compartment and finally a troupe of soldiers, to his beloved Jeanette MacDonald.
The Music Division is home to the Richard Rodgers Collection. You can see the manuscript to Rodgers’ “Guadalcanal March” (from Victory at Sea), and listen to recordings of the song performed by the U.S. Marine Band and the Virginia Grand Concert Band in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Hum along to your favorite Rodgers and Hart or Rodgers and Hammerstein tune, put on The Sound of Music, and remember this American legend.