Happy Birthday today, July 10th, to the gentleman who has brought so much fun and joy to my life: The one, the only, the magnificent, splendiferous, fabulous Broadway composer Jerry Herman!
Whenever I hear a story about the positive power of “the ripple effect,” and how one person’s acts of good can reach more people than they may ever have dreamed possible, I think of Jerry Herman. This is a man I’ve only met twice, once at an album-signing in a Barnes & Noble, and another time at a stage door. However, he’s been enhancing my life since I was three years old with his upbeat, positive, happy music.
Jerry Herman wrote the Broadway shows Milk & Honey, Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Dear World, Mack and Mable and La Cage aux Folles. Take a look at these lyrics from the song This is the Land of Milk and Honey from the first one. It’s about the building of the nation of Israel which, when initially settled, was a desert requiring a whole lot of hard work to transform into an oasis. One look and you’ll see what I mean about Mr. Herman’s amazing outlook:
What if the earth is dry and barren?
What if the morning sun is mean to us?
For this is a state of mind we live in
We want it green and so! It’s green to us!
For when you have wonderful plans for tomorrow
Somehow even today looks fine
So what if it’s rock and dust and sand?
This lovely land is mine!
Mr. Herman is from Jersey City, New Jersey, originally. I wish the stereotype of Jersey people were more like that of the Herman family and less of the godfathers and the goodfellas. People like the Hermans do New Jersey residents proud. Jerry was blessed with the gift of an encouraging mother named Ruth. Her philosophy is said to come through a lot of his songs. When he asked her once, as a child, why she was having a party, her response was, “It’s today!” That became one of my favorite songs from Mame. Here’s some more lyrics for you:
Light the candles,
Get the ice out,
Roll the rug up,
Though it may not be anyone’s birthday,
And though it’s far from the first of the year,
I know that this very minute
Has history in it – we’re here!
It was Ruth who encouraged her son to be a composer, and the world is a better place because she did. My house is filled with old vinyl LP’s and newer CD’s of music by Jerry Herman. My iPod is loaded with all of my favorite Jerry Herman tunes – Open a New Window, The Best of Times, With You on My Arm, Each Tomorrow Morning, Bosom Buddies, Mame, Put on Your Sunday Clothes, Elegance, Hello, Dolly! It’s been said that “input determines output.” I have never been a sad or depressed person. How could I ever be? Jerry’s tunes have been playing in the background my whole life!
I know quite a few “Broadway babies” who feel the same way about these songs. There are quite a lot of us, people he doesn’t know but whose lives he’s uplifted for the better. Whenever I meet up with one for the first time, they always feel, automatically, like an old friend. They’ve got the same kind of can-do outlook, the same spirit that if you want something, you’re capable of getting it, or that if there’s an obstacle, it can and it will be overcome. When you have wonderful plans for tomorrow somehow even today looks fine!
I hope Jerry Herman has wonderful plans for today, his 83rd birthday. I also hope he realizes how much good he’s done for so many of us “out there” in the land of the public. He might not know us personally, but we’re certainly a more terrific group than we might have been, all thanks to knowing and loving his work.
By the way, my iPod also filled with songs played by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, the band from Broadway Empire, and as I write this, I’ve just had the most brilliant idea. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks were to record a Jerry Herman Songbook Album? I can’t resist putting that little idea out there. Who knows? Perhaps it will create a nice ripple effect of its own!