Quotes about Dorothy Fields
Richard Maltby Jr, lyricist
What is it that makes Dorothy Fields so admired by her peers? I
can tell you what I love about her work. A Fields lyric is always
meticulously crafted yet retains the easy fresh natural flow of
colloquial speech. Her language is precisely the language a person
would use expressing a feeling, even if it weren't sung or rhymed
- yet the rhyme schemes are scrupulous and the structures impeccable.
Concealing the art may be the highest skill in the craft of lyric-writing.
Dorothy Fields is a master.
Now add exuberance, wit and the joy of expressing simple deep emotions.
Gee I'd like to see you looking swell, baby,
Diamond bracelets Woolworth doesn't sell baby.
Till that lucky day you know darned well, baby;
I can't give you anything but love.
Or consider the utter simplicity
Someday when I'm awfully low, when the world
I will feel a glow just thinking of you, and the way you look tonight.
It is hard not to fall in love - with the author.
Thomas S Hischak (author of Word Crazy)
Few lyricists have had the talent Dorothy Fields had for writing words
that sit so well on the music. Just reading her lyrics one can see
the music rise and fall. One of her earliest lyrics is a good example:
I can't give you anything but love
Her words not only fit the music, they confidently ride on top
of it. Perhaps Lehman Engel put it best when he said Fields' lyrics
Dorothy Fields perfected the character lyric to a level beyond that
of many better-known songwriters. Whether the song was an elegant
ballad for a romantic Hollywood film or a streetwise character song
for a musical play, Fields wrote with a precision found only in the
best lyricists. The fact that she was able to sustain this precision
for over forty years makes her unique in a way rarely seen on Broadway.
Morag McLaren, singer
I have lived, breathed and sung the songs of Dorothy Fields over the
past three years and they are very close to my heart - just where
they belong - for her words speak straight from the heart. They are
simple, true and direct without being sentimental. They are sophisticated
and elegant without being pretentious. They are earthy, witty and
suggestive without being crude. They are colloquial and real rather
than poetic. Interestingly for a woman working in a male dominated
profession, they are assertive, but not aggressive. I feel privileged
to have an opportunity to concentrate on and immerse myself in her
work. I believe singing the songs has allowed me to grow and develop
as a singer and interpreter for they are a joy and a gift to perform.
Mark Steyn, critic
"Writing music takes talent" Johnny Mercer used to
say, "but writing lyrics takes more courage". By
lyric-writing courage, I like to think Mercer had in mind Dorothy
Fields - as far as I'm concerned, the greatest woman writer of the
twentieth century, though unlikely ever to be anthologized by Virago
with an introduction by Victoria Glendinning.
Ethan Mordden, writer
1. Fields was a stayer
having started in Blackbirds
of 1928 she was still at it forty-five years later in Seesaw.
Yet hers was an ever-youthful talent, smartass but sensitive and wondering.
2. As for Dorothy Fields, this wonderful talent may be the only
lyricist in musical theatre history who sounded more youthful as
time ran on. Her first show had come along in 1928 …Yet, in Sweet
Charity, Fields has the ear of a teenage prodigy. Moreover,
like Oscar Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim (but unlike most Golden
Age lyricists and especially unlike Cole Porter and E.Y. Harburg),
Fields changes voice from character to character. She's great with
slightly demented women of no education, such as Ethel Merman's
Jeannette Adair in Stars in Your Eyes or
Shirley Booth's role in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
and By the Beautiful Sea. Charity would
be right up Fields' alley, as we hear in You
Should See Yourself, Charity's eulogy of the boy friend who
pushes her into the lake. He's a creep, but he's her creep; so she's
glowing, building, praising - especially his dressing style, that
"college-type, rah-rah-dee-da tweed".
I ask you, is even Fred Ebb sharper?
Caryl Brahms / Ned Sherrin, writers, composer/lyricist
Someday when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you,
And the way you look tonight.
Four lines which contain the essence of Dorothy Fields' work: simple,
direct, warm and stylish. In a world full of lady novelists, woman
poets and, increasingly, female playwrights, Dorothy Fields is not
alone as a woman and a songwriter; but she is way out in front. I'm
in the Mood for Love, I Can't Give
You Anything But Love Baby, Pick Yourself
Up, provide a range of romantic, graceful, amused conceits
of the twenties and thirties from the pen which, 20 years later, would
conjure up brash, believable, but quite different songs to suit the
quite different sixties, and a defiantly modern phrase in Big Spender,
like I don't pop my cork for every guy I see.
Stephen Sondheim, composer/lyricist
What I like best about Dorothy Fields is her use of colloquialism
and her effortlessness, as in Sunny Side of
the Street which is just perfect as a lyric.
Betty Comden, lyricist
The marvellous thing about the way Dorothy wrote is that her lyrics
were inventive without being tricky. She didn't engage in clever wordplay
for its own sake. She could do it- but she never compromised her direct,
fresh manner of expressing a thought.
I knew Dorothy mainly in the latter part of her life. I always thought
she was a wonderful looking woman, very chic, great eyes, a beautiful
manner. And she was bright and funny, and famous for giving great
parties. The fact that even as she got older she was able to stay
in tune with the younger generation was one of the remarkable things
about her, and enabled her in later years to produce work as authentically
contemporary as Sweet Charity.
Fred Ebb, lyricist
I think Dorothy Fields was a great lyricist because of her humanity,
her humour, her simplicity, and her incredible, meticulous craftsmanship.
I don't think you would find a false rhyme or any other kind of lyrical
error in any of the many great songs she has written.
I think she had a particularly feminine voice, and the reason is that
I cannot imagine a man writing some of the lyrics for which she is
most famous, that is Make the Man Love Me,
Pink Taffeta Sample Size 10, Nobody
Does It Like Me. I don't know why this is so - and it could
be because when I hear these songs, I know she wrote them - but to
me, they sound particularly feminine.
Sheldon Harnick, lyricist
For me one of Dorothy Fields' special gifts was her magical ability
to mix sophisticated and imaginative ideas with utterly prosaic, "kitchen
sink" words and images, resulting in lyrics of a remarkably appealing
freshness. This was a balancing act requiring an impeccable ear and
an unusual sense of selectivity- and she had them both.
Johnny Mercer, lyricist
There are certain writers who have a great feeling for tunes,
no matter where they come from. I think I'm one of them. I don't
mean that in any egotistical way. I think Dorothy Fields is one
too. She's written with a lot of guys and she's always written well.
She has a feel for the tune...
But to get back to Dorothy - to me she's like John O'Hara. He had
such a terrific ear for dialogue - she has it for lyrics.
I know why I've waited, know why I've been blue...
I know why my mother, taught me to be true
She meant me for someone exactly like you
Now that doesn't rhyme or anything, it's not difficult, but it
just says what the melody says and it's wonderful. Listen to this
one - it's the start of a verse and she writes Gee,
but it's tough to be broke, kid, it's not a joke, kid ...
and then she goes I can't give you anything
but love, baby. Wow! What an idea for a poor boy and girl...And
later on, when she wrote with Kern, Dorothy did that beautifully
too. She wrote right up to his melodies. Her lyrics enhanced
his tunes - Lovely to Look At,
Remind Me. My God, what a good lyric
that is! Remind me, not to find you so
attractive. Marvelous! It just makes the tune.
Will Friedwald, writer
A mind for metaphors.
There's a take of A Fine Romance
by Billie Holiday in which Holiday stumbles across an unfamiliar
phrase in the line We just fizz like parts of
a seidlitz powder. Even as early as 1955, this particular
substance was no longer on anybody's lips (in a manner of speaking).
Some contemporary listeners might have the same problem with For
heaven rest us / We're not asbestos, from I
Won't Dance. You have to know that asbestos was regarded
as a flame-retardant wonder before it turned out to not be so wonderful.
Yet both are prime examples of the brilliance of Dorothy Fields,
who wrote them. Like many of her best couplets, it's at once specific
to its era and timeless; despite the obscurity of some of these
references, her meaning never seems less than clear. The speaker
in A Fine Romance sees the romance
fizzling, the one in I Won't Dance
doesn't want to give it a chance to start sizzling. No one but Fields
would have thought of either metaphor, but they both work wonderfully.
Stephen Holden, writer
No lyricist had a more fluent gift of the gab than Fields, the
only woman to achieve full acceptance into the boys' club of great
American songwriters. You have only to listen to the words of I
Won't Dance, A Fine Romance
and On the Sunny Side of the Street
to feel invigorated by their wit and vivacity.