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Susan Vita, Morgan Davis, Whoopi Goldberg and Paul Allen Sommerfeld. May 10, 2024, Whittall Pavilion. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

Whoopi Goldberg’s Visit to the Library

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The following is a guest blog by Music Reference Specialist Morgan Davis. 

Actress, comedian, author and media personality Whoopi Goldberg visited the Library of Congress on Friday, May 10 to discuss her new autobiography, “Bits and Pieces: My Mother, My Brother, and Me.” Prior to her public conversation with Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, Goldberg stopped by the Library’s Whittall Pavilion to view performing arts collections. 

Whoopi Goldberg’s rich and varied career inspired Music Division reference specialists Morgan Davis and Paul Sommerfeld to draw on the Music Division’s equally diverse collections while preparing a collection display for her. In a nod to Goldberg’s beloved role on “Star Trek: The Next Generation, ”on display were the two copyright deposits for the theme to the original “Star Trek ”series. The two deposits were submitted a month apart in 1966, with the second deposit included lyrics never intended to be performed. See a previous blog post, “Star Trek: Two Versions of the Opening Theme,” for more of the story.  

Next, Goldberg saw published and unpublished copyright deposits by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey,  who Goldberg portrayed in the 2003 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Included were “See See Rider,” which was selected for inclusion into the National Recording Registry in 2004, and “Prove it on Me,” Rainey’s bold affirmation of her bisexuality. Continuing to draw on inspirations to Goldberg, featured next in the display were holograph manuscript arrangements from the Pearl Bailey Papers. The songs specially selected for Goldberg from the Bailey collection were “Don’t Sit on my Bed” and “Saturday Night Fish Fry,” arranged by the jazz legend Benny Carter. Both songs were performed by the great comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley, who Goldberg portrayed in her one-woman show in the early 1980s, performed in duet with Pearl Bailey. Carter took special care to write vamps into the music to ensure Mabley and Bailey had room to insert their beloved, often improvised comic hijinks. In 2013, Goldberg produced and directed the documentary “Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley,” a close look at the life of the trailblazing Mabley who paved the way for comediennes such as Goldberg to claim space in the once decidedly monochromatic and male dominated profession. Goldberg was nominated for a primetime Emmy for the Mabley tribute.  

Curator explains collection items to Whoopi Goldberg
Author and actress Whoopi Goldberg looks over a special collections display in the Whittall Pavilion, May 10, 2024. Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, stands in the background. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress. Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.

Moving into the realm of works for the stage, the specialists showed a published score of Georges Bizet’s “Carmenwith lyric changes for “Carmen Jones”the all African American stage adaptation of Carmen, later turned motion picture film starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte—superimposed over the original libretto in Oscar Hammerstein II’s hand. Hammerstein’s score was opened to the frequently covered “Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum,” to which Goldberg hummed along while observing the one-of-a-kind gem from collection.

Because Goldberg appeared in the 1997 film “Cinderella,” Music Division staff couldn’t resist showing her music and lyric sketches to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?,” which Goldberg performs in the film. Tracing the sketches reveals the many iterations of wordplay Hammerstein underwent before finding just the right reasons.  

Goldberg was particularly surprised to see a typescript draft from the Neil Simon Papers of an unrealized film scene titled “The Merry Widows.” On the cover, handwritten in permanent marker, is the additional annotation “For Whoopi Goldberg and Bette Midler.” Goldberg exclaimed that she had never heard of nor seen the script, in which two women (played by Goldberg and Midler) are made widows after their husbands both end up dead in a botched robbery. The script includes an extended scene in which one wife confronts the other. But Simon left the script unfinished, leaving us to wonder what might have been.  

Library curators stand next to Whoopi Goldberg as she views collection display.
Author and actress Whoopi Goldberg looks over a special collections display in the Whittall Pavilion, May 10, 2024. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress. Note: Privacy and publicity rights for individuals depicted may apply.

The Simon Papers contain many drafts and script fragments like “The Merry Widows.” (Click here to review the press release about the Music Division’s acquisition of the Neil Simon Papers.) These fragments not only open new windows into his creative process but also demonstrate the sheer breadth and depth of ideas that Simon generated. Moreover, they offer untapped potential for new projects, revivals, and research opportunities within several of the Music Division’s one-of-a-kind collections 

Learn more about the Music Division’s collections and contact us through Ask a Librarian to plan your research.

 

Comments (4)

  1. Great post with equally great photos. The selections you chose to display were truly special and particularly relevant. Bravo!

    • Thank you, Susan! We’re so glad you enjoyed.

  2. Exciting! Enjoyed this article.

    Music Division, one of, if not THE the most amazing treasures in our country!!!

    People need learn about LC and the experts that work at LC tirelessly and unfortunately, mostly anonymously,

    • Thanks so much for your kind words!

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