Monday, June 08, 2015

Music Monday ~ Frederick Loewe & Alan Jay Lerner aka Lerner & Loewe

Loewe on left, Lerner, right.
Lerner and Loewe were the team of lyricist/librettist Alan Jay Lerner, and composer Frederick Loewe (he was born this week in 1901). They are known primarily for the music and lyrics of some of Broadway's most successful musical shows, including My Fair Lady, Camelot, Gigi, Paint your Wagon and Brigadoon.

Wiki's page on Lerner & Loewe tells that....
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, more commonly known as Fritz, met in 1942 at the Lambs Club in New York City where, according to Loewe, he mistakenly took a wrong turn to the men's room and walked past Lerner's table. Having recognized him, he asked if Lerner wrote lyrics and Lerner confirmed he did.

Lerner claimed to be the more dominant member of the partnership, which is supported by interviews with their close friends,[citation needed] saying that he would throw out the first two melodies that Loewe would write to any song even if they were both perfect. He said he always knew, with a little pushing, Loewe was capable of greater work. Loewe also worked perfectly with Lerner, who would agonize for weeks over a lyric. Unlike other collaborators Lerner would work with, Loewe was the most understanding of the time Lerner needed for his lyrics and would never pressure him to complete the work.

Their last collaboration came with the 1974 musical film The Little Prince, which received mixed reviews but was lauded as one of the team's most cerebral scores.

Regardless of their professional relationship, Lerner and Loewe were close friends and remained so until the end of their lives. Their final public appearance was in December 1985, when they received a Kennedy Center Honor, six months before Lerner's death.

Lerner said this of Loewe: "There will never be another Fritz...Writing will never again be as much fun. A collaboration as intense as ours inescapably had to be complex. But I loved him more than I understood or misunderstood him and I know he loved me more than he understood or misunderstood me."

From Lerner's Wiki page:
The Lerner-Loewe partnership cracked under the stress of producing the Arthurian Camelot in 1960, with Loewe resisting Lerner's desire to direct as well as write when original director Moss Hart suffered a heart attack in the last few months of rehearsals, and would die shortly after the show's premiere. Lerner was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers while Loewe continued to have heart troubles. Camelot was a hit nonetheless, with a poignant coda; immediately following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, his widow told Life magazine that JFK's administration reminded her of the "one brief shining moment" of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot. To this day, Camelot is invoked to describe the idealism, romance, and tragedy of the Kennedy years.

Cue Richard Burton:

Robert Goulet with a medley of 3 Lerner and Loewe songs:

Julie Andrews with another medley of L & L songs:

Vic Damone with my personal favourite from My Fair Lady


It'd be interesting to investigate whether their astrology tells the same tale of friendship and professional collaboration - with some challenges. I can find no times of birth for either of them, so 12 noon charts have to suffice. Moon positions will not be exact and ascendant remains unknown.

Frederick Loewe born in Berlin, Germany on 10 June 1901.

Alan Jay Lerner born in New York City on 31 August 1918.

Both men's natal Suns are in signs ruled by Mercury, planet of communication: Loewe, the composer, in Gemini, Lerner, the lyric writer, Virgo, and though the two signs have quite different attributes, they do often seem to work well together - depending on other chart placements.

It's possible (but can't be established without times of birth) that both had natal Moons in emotional Water signs; Pisces and Cancer - their Sun and Moon compatibility accounts, in part, for their longstanding friendship, and working relationship.

It's not surprising that, as stated in one of the quotes above, Lerner was the dominant personality in this partnership - his Venus, Saturn and Neptune in Leo gave him a goodly dose of confidence and ambition to take control and make his mark! The understanding and patience Loewe showed to his colleague might be represented by natal Mercury in gentle, sensitive Cancer; his Mercury has a conjunction of Jupiter/Saturn (excess and limitation) in opposition from Capricorn - some kind of balancing act?

Both men had Pluto conjunct a personal planet: in Loewe's case conjunct natal Sun; in Lerner's conjunct Jupiter - and possibly even Moon - depending on his time of birth. These conjunctions might reflect the strains and challenges the two faced from time to time, in some cases even affecting their health.


Sonny G said...

surely some of the most beautiful music ever written.. I love broadway show music!

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Me too. Songs from old movie musicals were my first love in the world of music. First LP I bought with my pocket money, while still at school, was Mario Lanza's songs from The Student Prince (saw the film several times); then it was on to Gordon MacRae, Carousel, Oklahoma etc etc. To be honest, nothing has changed, except the shows - I'd still rather listen to my CDs of Evita or Les Miserables than anything or anyone else (except, maybe, Frankie - but only him!) :-)

mike said...

I'm not much a fan of Broadway musicals, but "Camelot" was popularized just as I left my youth for adulthood, and I remember the "Camelot" buzz and chatter. America was enthralled with the music, not to mention the actors. Sadly, it predicated the harshness to come over the next several years, as the innocence of that period transitioned toward anarchy. Interesting to note that the play opened October 1, 1960, and there was a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction at 25* Capricorn four months later. That very Jupiter-Saturn twenty-year-cycle comes full-circle in December, 2020, when Jupiter-Saturn, after both conjunct Pluto in late Capricorn, are conjunct at 1* Aquarius.

Fascinating too, that the myth of Camelot, like Avalon, is so active in our human collective. It was 1989 when Mark Twain mainstreamed Camelot with his "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court".

Twilight said...

mike ~ "Camelot" was one show/film that seemed to pass me by. I had a lot going on during those years, all fairly non-Camelot-ish too, maybe that's why it has never been among my favourites.

Interesting point about Jupiter/Saturn - it matched Loewe's natal conjunction, and many years later returned as their show was "taking flight", bringing with it both success and distress. If I'm still around in Dec. 2020 I'll try to remember to watch what happens! ;-)

Yes, Arthurian tales and legends have, for some reason, managed to grab, and hold, the public's imagination.
My favourite "bit", from Tennyson's famous Arthurian poem:

Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried The Lady of Shalott.

Bob said...

Alan Jay Lerner
Date of Birth 31 August 1918, New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 14 June 1986, New York City, New York, USA (lung cancer)

"Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Spouse (8)

Ruth O'Day Boyd (26 June 1940 - 1947) (divorced) (1 child)
Marion Bell (26 September 1947 - 15 September 1949) (divorced)
Nancy Olson (10 March 1950 - November 1957) (divorced) (2 children)
Micheline Muselli Pozzo diBorgo (25 December 1957 - September 1965?) (divorced) (1 child)
(INSERTED FOR TIME INFO [ Milestones: Oct. 1, 1965 Divorced. Alan Jay Lerner, 47, Broadway lyricist (Camelot, the upcoming On a Clear Day You Can See Forever); by Micheline Lerner, 37, his fourth wife; on... ])
Karen Gunderson (15 November 1966 - 30 April 1974) (divorced)
Sandra Payne (10 December 1974 - 1976) (divorced)
Nina Bushkin (30 May 1977 - 1981) (divorced)
Liz Robertson (18 August 1981 - 14 June 1986) (his death)"

First married at 21 years, 9 months, 26 days old. Unmarried approximately 3 years out of the next 46 when he died.

From Wikipedia: "For nearly twenty years he battled an amphetamine addiction; . . ."

"By the late 1930s, German refugee Max Jacobson, M.D., had established a general practice on the Upper East Side catering to writers, musicians, and entertainers who nicknamed him "Miracle Max" or "Dr. Feelgood" for the "vitamin injection" treatments that made them happy and gave them seemingly limitless energy. Jacobson's panacea was 30 to 50 milligrams of amphetamines - the mood-elevating neural energizers also known as speed . . ."

"When Alan Jay Lerner was working around the clock on a musical, he might see Miracle Max five times daily, sometimes as late as 11 p.m."

"Officials at the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center said Lerner succumbed about 10:15 a.m. to the illness that had hospitalized him for the last two months."

Twilight said...

Bob ~ Thanks for these details. Goodness me! All those wives and divorces! Was he exercising his Virgoan quest for perfection, one wonders? :-)

It seems that Loewe was less adventurous, married and divorced just once (1931-57), lived longer (to age 86), though often in fragile health due to heart problems.

From Loewe's obit in New York Times

When Lerner died in 1986, Mr. Loewe was too ill to attend a memorial tribute at the Shubert Theater. But the composer delivered the following message that was read by Kitty Carlisle Hart: "I was always amazed how good we were and how simple it was,'' he wrote, and concluded with a fragment of a Lerner lyric: "I loved you once in silence. Farewell, my boy."

Anonymous said...

I could listien to Richard Burton read the phone book. What a voice, what an actor. I wish he had stayed primarily in the theater. He might have lived longer. I was one who never understood what he saw in Elizabeth Taylor. I suspect he had Buyer's Remorse after a few years.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ Great voice, great talent - yes! Who can tell what "celebs" see in one another ? - Maybe they are blinded by a reflection of the adulation they each receive from their fans.