Manhattan (song)

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"Manhattan"
Song from Garrick Gaieties
Published 1925
Writer Lorenz Hart
Composer Richard Rodgers

"Manhattan" is a popular song and part of the Great American Songbook. It has been performed by Lee Wiley, Oscar Peterson, Blossom Dearie, Tony Martin, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme, among many others. It is often known as "I'll Take Manhattan" based on the opening line.

The music was written by Richard Rodgers and the words by Lorenz Hart for the 1925 revue "Garrick Gaieties". It was introduced by Sterling Holloway (later the voice of the animated Winnie the Pooh) and June Cochran. The song appears to describe, in several choruses, the simple delights of Manhattan for a young couple. The joke is that these 'delights' are really some of the worst, or at best cheap, delights that New York has to offer, as anyone who has visited Mott Street will understand. A particular Hart delight is the rhyming 'spoil' with 'boy and goyl'.

Since its debut, it has regularly appeared in popular culture. It was first heard on the silver screen in the 1929 short Makers Of Melody, a tribute to Rodgers and Hart sung by Ruth Tester and Allan Gould. Since then, it has been used in the Rodgers and Hart biopic Words And Music (1948), Two Tickets To Broadway (1951), Don't Bother To Knock (1952) (sung by Anne Bancroft), Beau James (1957), Silent Movie (1976), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), The English Patient (1996), Kissing Jessica Stein (2001) and many other movies and TV shows, most recently in the 2007 AMC production Mad Men episode "New Amsterdam". In the film All About Eve (1950), the song is played on the piano at the party when Margo and Max are in the kitchen.

As times progress, the song's reference to whatever long-running show is popular on Broadway changes with each cover version. The original lyrics reference Abie's Irish Rose, which ran on Broadway from 1922 - 1927. The Ella Fitzgerald rendition from 1956 mentions My Fair Lady, as does Dinah Washington's 1959 recording, while Rosemary Clooney references South Pacific.

In the early and mid-1950s, singer Julius La Rosa became a national celebrity for his exposure on several of the shows hosted by one of the most popular television stars of the era, Arthur Godfrey. On October 19, 1953, La Rosa sang "Manhattan" on one of Godfrey's radio shows. Immediately after he finished, Godfrey fired him on the air, saying, "that was Julie's swan song with us".

Notable recordings[edit]