Navigate the site using the links below

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 is cold,
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 … baby! …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 dance.
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.


All rights reserved.......... © Jon Aldous 2006.......... Contact Me