I am a huge fan of Stephen Sondheim, and this weekend, I picked up a copy of Sondheim Sings: Vol. II for $3.00 at the Sam Goody in the mall, which is closing.
For all his brilliance as a composer and his staggering genius as a lyricist, Sondheim the singer is not a standout; in his own words,
"For those of you who have not had the pleasure of hearing my voice before, I tend to sing very loud, usually off-pitch and always write in keys that are just out of my range."
But I have to say I find a special poignance in hearing Sondheim sing his own music. Although it is not included on this recording, Sondheim's performance of Anyone Can Whistle from Sondheim Evening: A Musical Tribute (recorded in 1973) makes me a little weepy.
The opening song on this CD is a jaunty tune Sondheim wrote (at age 25) for his friend Jerry Beaty's 39th birthday. Since it's Sondheim, it's no sentimental mush:
You look flashy, you look sporty,
you look almost as dashing as Morty*
Well, you're only as old as you look - and you look 40.
You look blase, you look nifty
But when they ask you your age you look shifty
Well, you're only as old as you look.
Let me look again - 50
Of in-laws you have a clawful
and the favors they ask are inlawful
Well you're only as old as you look
and you look awful.
Happy birthday, Jerry Beaty
May your problems be few and unweighty
Well, you're only as old as you look
and you look eighty...five
You're practically alive
*Morty refers to Morton Gottlieb, a theatrical producer who was known for his slovenly physical appearance.