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Subject: Re: oft-misquoted titles (4)
From: Michael McPherson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Michael McPherson <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 7 Jun 2017 14:24:10 -0400
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Thanks Jon for your very clear explanation. I have decided that correcting people that the actual title is “Theme from New York” is as useless as correcting people saying “6th Avenue” to “no, the actual name is ‘Avenue of the Americas.’”

Best,
Michael

> On Jun 5, 2017, at 9:16 PM, Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Michael - no problem - it's an interesting discussion. 
> 
> However, I want to say that I don't think it's a "common mistake" to refer to the Kander 
> and Ebb song as "New York, New York." First of all, the writers themselves referred to that 
> version of title several times in the book excerpt I cited yesterday. But more importantly, 
> we as humans like to abbreviate whenever possible, and things like "Theme From" get 
> rather cumbersome to have to say every time one mentions a title. So they get dropped, 
> officially or not. We as opera lovers all say "Cav And Pag" or "Traviata" or "Hoffman" or 
> "Onegin" etc, and we don't consider those to be mistakes, just convenient abbreviations. 
> Imagine if we really had to say "Der Ring des Nibelungen" instead of just "The Ring" each 
> time we referred to it?? ;-)
> 
> Yes, if you're in a purely academic setting and have to distinguish one "NY, NY" song from 
> another (cataloguing them in a library database, perhaps, etc), it is correct and proper to 
> know the complete titles. But I can't think of many general "everyday" situations where 
> you'd really have to qualify the title - probably the context of the conversation would help 
> that. (If you're talking about "Beethoven's 4th" with a pianist, it's most likely understood 
> that you're referring to the concerto, not the symphony. If you're at an orchestra concert 
> with no piano soloist, you're probably talking about the symphony. Only when the context 
> isn't clear might you mention the complete title. But if you ask the pianist at a piano bar to 
> play "New York, New York," or yes, even "The Theme From New York New York," he might 
> still want to check with you which of the 2 songs you actually meant, lol.)
> 
> And - I daresay, most people probably do think of the Kander and Ebb song when hearing 
> the title "NY, NY" - it's just a more popular tune. That's not to say that the Bernstein one is 
> unknown or unworthy, of course. And I've done 4 productions of On The Town, and it's 
> music that is near and dear to my heart. ;-)
> 
> As far as identical titles - there are many. The Gershwins wrote a "Shall We Dance" years 
> before Rodgers and Hammerstein did. Cole Porter's "All Through The Night" has nothing to 
> do with the traditional folk song, and his "Tomorrow" was of course way before the much 
> better known song from Annie. 
> 
> Stephen Sondheim and Cy Coleman both wrote songs called "Stay With Me" within 2 years 
> of each other (for the shows Into The Woods in 1987 and City Of Angels in 1989). There 
> are 3 famous "Suppertime"s - Irving Berlin (the lynching song introduced by Ethel Waters), 
> Clark Gesner (Snoopy's song in You're A Good Man Charlie Brown) and Alan 
> Menken/Howard Ashman (Little Shop Of Horrors). Sondheim wrote a "Saturday Night" 
> some years before the Bay City Rollers hit in the 1970's, and a "Merrily We Roll Along" 
> that has nothing to do with the song we associate with the Merrie Melodies cartoons - and 
> this despite the fact that the Kaufmann/Hart play also called "Merrily We Roll Along" - the 
> basis for the Sondheim/Furth musical, in fact, played Broadway the year before Merry 
> Melodies started. ;-)
> 
> And by the way - that Gershwin "Shall We Dance" was put into the score of "Crazy For 
> You" - the revamped/rewritten version of "Girl Crazy" that hit Broadway in 1992 (though 
> not much of the original "Girl Crazy" is left intact). This despite the fact that Madonna had 
> had a major hit with a song called "Crazy For You" in 1985. (And, the 1992 show does also 
> feature a bit of a Gershwin song called "K-ra-zy For You," though it doesn't get enough 
> play in the show to warrant much attention.)
> 
> If a general lover of the performing arts says he has a ticket for "Romeo And Juliet" - I 
> guess he would need to clarify whether it was the Shakespeare play, the Gounod opera, or 
> either of the ballets by Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev. ;-)
> 
> I'm out of breath...which is probably a good thing. ;-)
> 
> (I find this fun, btw - so again, no prob!)
> 
> Jon
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On Mon, 5 Jun 2017 20:16:57 -0400, Michael McPherson <[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>> 
> wrote:
> 
>> Jon,
>> 
>> While I have seen several instances where the Kander and Ebb song is referred to as 
> “Start spreading the news,� apparently you are right; it is not the actual title of the 
> song. However, the only “official� title I can find  anywhere is “Theme from New 
> York, New York “ (as you also write).
>> 
>> But there is no doubt that despite this, the common mistake made by most people is to 
> refer to the Kander and Ebb song as “New York, New York.� But the official title of the 
> Comden, Green, Bernstein song from On The Town is “New York, New York.� And as 
> you also mention, titles are not copyrighted.
>> 
>> Anyway, I am now sorry I started this whole mess ….
>> 
>> Best,
>> Michael
>> 
>> 
>> Michael J. McPherson
>> [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>> On Jun 4, 2017, at 12:38 PM, Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
>>> 
>>> Michael - with all due respect, I'd like to see your documentation on this. I believe you 
> are 
>>> completely wrong. 
>>> 
>>> The official title of the song is "Theme from _New York, New York_", having been 
> written 
>>> for the film with that title directed by Scorsese. As far as I know, the song has never 
> been 
>>> officially referred to by its first lyric. Maybe unofficially by an occasional party of drunk 
>>> karaoke-ers, lol. But even then, I doubt that. ;-)
>>> 
>>> Kander and Ebb, in their book "Colored Lights," refer to the song as "the title song" (of 
> the 
>>> film) and as being called "New York, New York" (Ebb even qualifies that the real title 
>>> includes the words "[The]Theme From..."). They do say they were challenged by 
> Comden, 
>>> Green, and Bernstein about the title, but they ultimately wrote the song with that title 
>>> anyway. Kander refers to a piece written by Corigliano for Bernstein's 75th birthday "in 
>>> which the two songs chase each other."
>>> 
>>> The published sheet music and the soundtrack references on IMDB use only the title 
>>> "Theme from _New York, New York_" - and I assume that the rolling credits at the end 
> of 
>>> the film do the same. 
>>> 
>>> Titles, as I understand, cannot be copyrighted - and there are plenty of examples of 
>>> multiple songs with the same title. And there are two famous "New York, New York"s, 
> and 
>>> no hit song with the title "Start Spreading The News."
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> On Sun, 4 Jun 2017 10:56:16 -0400, Michael McPherson <[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>> 
>>> wrote:
>>> 
>>>> It’s not opera but the song “New York, New York� sung by 
> Sinatra and Minnelli is 
>>> not the title of the song. The real title is “Start spreading the news 
> …� New York, 
>>> New York is the song from “On The Town.�
>>>> 
>>>> Michael
>>>> 
>>>> Michael J. McPherson
>>>> [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>>> 
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Michael McPherson
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