Monday, July 31, 2017

Music Monday ~ Picking Pockets, Russia and.....who?

What do these two songs have in common, other than a passing relevance to, erm...well, current news stories - need I say more?

From Russia With Love

Gotta Pick a Pocket or Two

Both were written by Lionel Bart, whose birthday would have been tomorrow,
1 August, he was born in 1930, died in 1999.

SNIPS from an obituary, by Tom Vallance, in The Independent:
The piece begins:
IF HE had written only Oliver!, the composer Lionel Bart would have earned an honoured place in the history of British musicals, but he was far from a one-show wonder. His other work included shows such as Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be and Maggie May, plus many pop songs including "Living Doll" (Cliff Richard's first No 1 hit), Tommy Steele's "A Handful of Songs", Anthony Newley's "Do You Mind?" and Matt Monro's "From Russia With Love".

He epitomised the start of the Sixties in Britain, which he uniquely captured in song and spirit, and he was one of the few composers to deal uncondescendingly with the working classes, transposing their life styles and vernacular to the musical stage. "Nobody tries to be la-de-da or uppity, there's a cuppa tea for all," sings the Artful Dodger to Oliver, while Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be remains a time capsule of a world in which folk talked of their "birds" amd their "manor" and dreamed of being able to afford furniture that was "contempery"......
 Lionel Bart with John Lennon

Bart also epitomised the Sixties in a less happy way - like many who flourished in that era he was seduced by sudden success into a world of drink, drugs and hedonism, squandering his money and his youth.

Bart was one of the 11 children of an East End tailor. He was born Lionel Begleiter, in 1930, and he had no formal musical training. He displayed a flair for drawing, however, which brought him at the age of 16 a scholarship to the St Martin's School of Art in London....He worked in a silk-screen printing works and commercial art studios before an attraction to the theatre brought him work at the left-wing Unity Theatre, where he worked as a set painter. He started writing songs in response to a sign asking for musical material for one of the theatre's productions. Unable to write music, he would tap out the melody with one finger and someone else would orchestrate it.

The rest of the obituary is an interesting tour through Bart's career, ending with:

Of all the people I know in this business who have had ups and downs, Lionel is the least bitter man I have ever come across. He regrets it but, considering that everyone else has made millions out of his creations, he's never been sour, never been vindictive.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said, "Lionel's genius has in my view never been fully recognised by the British establishment. The loss to British musical theatre caused by his untimely death is incalculable."

Lionel Begleiter (Lionel Bart), composer, lyricist and playwright: born London 1 August 1930; died London 3 April 1999.

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