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two photos of a woman washing her hair on stage
Mary Martin performs onstage in “South Pacific,” 1949. Oscar Hammerstein Collection, Music Division.

A Rodgers and Hammerstein Anti-Valentine’s Playlist

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Never lacking romance, the musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II are often known for their love songs, such as the soaring “Some Enchanted Evening” from “South Pacific” and the cheeky “People May Say We’re in Love” from “Oklahoma!”. But not everybody wants to be reminded of fairytale romances and star-crossed soulmates—especially on Valentine’s Day! Luckily for our scorned lovers and cynics of the world, the famous songwriting duo also wrote their fair share of songs on resisting love and saying goodbye. Here are some of our favorites from the Library’s Rodgers and Hammerstein II collections!

 

  1. “Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” from “South Pacific” (1949)
    For every handsome French ex-patriot with a rich, operatic voice, there is a woman who would rather wash him right out of her hair! Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “South Pacific” premiered on Broadway in 1949. Set during World War II, the musical features a plucky American nurse named Nellie stationed on a South Pacific Island. It is there that she finds herself enchanted by an older, refined Frenchman. Though she eventually falls in love, it is not without a fair bit of reluctance. In the first act, she sings the now classic tune, “Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair,” declaring to a chorus of women that she plans to “send him on his way! (Get the picture?)”

Broadway star Mary Martin (“Peter Pan,” “The Sound of Music”) played the role of Nellie. According to the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, Martin actually suggested she wash her hair on stage and can be seen in the photos above shampooing and rinsing her hair while performing the number.

 

Handwritten Score and Lyric Sheet from “State Fair,” undated. Richard Rodgers Collection, Music Division.

 

  1. “You Never Had it So Good,” “State Fair” (1945)
    Need a little empowerment to get you through this Valentine’s Day? Then check out this jazzy tune from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “State Fair.” Performed by the fictional troop “Emily Arden and the Fairtones” at the Starlight Dance Meadow, the song offers up a saucy warning for anyone mistreating their partner:

“You never had it so good. For once in your life you’re living.

Show your baby you’re grateful for all your baby is giving.”

 

Pages from draft of “Cinderella,” 1957. Oscar Hammerstein II Collection, Music Division.

 

  1. “The Stepsister’s Lament,” “Cinderella” (1957)
    Sick of other girls having all the fun? Well join the chorus, [step] sister! Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics to this little ditty for the 1957 television musical “Cinderella.” Jealous of Cinderella’s attention from the prince, her stepsisters pick at her perfection and lament that men won’t fall for “usual girls” them!

“Oh, why would a fellow want a girl like her,

So obviously unusual?

Why can’t a fellow ever once prefer

A usual girl like me?”

 

Sketch for “So Long, Farewell” from “The Sound of Music.” Oscar Hammerstein II Collection, Music Division.

 

  1. “So Long, Farewell,” “The Sound of Music” (1959)
    Long before Ray Charles told Jack to “hit the road” or N*Sync said “Bye, Bye, Bye,” the Von Trapp family had their own ultimate good-bye song! One of the wonderful things about the Oscar Hammerstein II Collection is that we can view his creative process in real time through his multitude of sketches and drafts. In this handwritten sketch, Hammerstein brainstorms different words for goodbye. Some of them never made it in, such as “adios!” and “[sic] toodeloo!”

For an insightful look into Hammerstein’s process for writing other tunes such as “My Favorite Things,” check out the Library’s Rodgers and Hammerstein II video series, hosted by Michael Feinstein.

 

So, to all the dastardly exes, obnoxious lovers, and negative energy this Valentine’s Day, we wish you a great, big, “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, toodeloo…er, goodbye!”

 

Resources

Oscar Hammerstein II Collection

Richard Rodgers Collection

Rodgers and Hammerstein II Video Series with Michael Feinstein: My Favorite Things

Comments (4)

  1. Absolutely LOVE this post! Thanks😻🤗❤️

  2. This is the greatest post. Totally love ❤️ it

  3. You nailed it! Thank you for today’s chuckle. Now STEPSISTER’S LAMENT is stuck in my head.
    I think I’ll go listen to some Ella Fitzgerald…..

  4. Brilliant! Great blog!

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