Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Musicals

Dr. Bob Prescribes Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, Show Boat (1927)

World War One began on July 28, 1914. All of the warring parties – the Central Powers of principally Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Turkey and the Triple Entente of mainly France, the United Kingdom, the Russian Empire, and Italy – believed they would be victorious and home by Christmas. They were all very, very wrong. Across the pond, with the exception of a few hotheads, the American public and government wanted nothing to do with the “European war”. The prevailing public opinion and governmental policy was one of neutrality. The feeling was that if the dusty, old Euro-Empires wanted to destroy themselves, they should be allowed to do so. In the end, a neutral America could only benefit from Europe’s self-destruction, or so the majority of Americans believed at the time. It didn’t take long for American public opinion to turn against the Central Powers. That turn was triggered by the sinking of the British passenger liner the RMS Lusitania 11 miles off the southern coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915; the Lusitania was returning to port in England from New York. Torpedoed by the German submarine U-20, 1198 passengers and crew were killed, including 123 Americans. Though the German […]

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Music History Monday: Richard Rodgers and the American Crucible

We mark the death on December 30, 1979 – 40 years ago today – of the American composer Richard Rodgers at the age of 77. A life-long New Yorker, Rodgers was one of the most prolific American composers of all time, having written the music for – among other works – 43 Broadway musicals and over 900 songs. He is one of only two people to have scored an EGOT, meaning that he received an Emmy, a GRAMMY® (three of them, actually), an Oscar, a Tony (seven in all) along with a Pulitzer Prize (for the musical South Pacific, in 1950). (For our information, the only other person to have won all five awards was the phenomenal Marvin Hamlisch, 1944-2012.) We will discuss Maestro Rodgers as an exemplar of the “American crucible” in a bit. But first, permit me some first-person information that, believe it or not, will eventually have a direct bearing on this post. An observation: we all do things to our bodies when we are young (or relatively young) that, in retrospect, we should not have. For me it was fairly serious weightlifting, which I took up in my early 30’s and continued until I was 51. […]

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