"Memory" is a show tune from the 1981 musical Cats. It is sung by the character Grizabella, a one-time glamour cat who is now only a shell of her former self. The song is a nostalgic remembrance of her glorious past and a declaration of her wish to start a new life. Sung briefly in the first act and in full near the end of the show, "Memory" is the climax of the musical, and by far its most popular and best-known song. Elaine Paige originated the role of Grizabella in the West End production of Cats, the first to perform the song publicly on stage and bringing attention to its writers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn, who received the 1981 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.
Conception and composition
The lyric, written by Cats director Trevor Nunn, was loosely based on T. S. Eliot's poems "Preludes" and "Rhapsody on a Windy Night"." Andrew Lloyd Webber's former writing partner Tim Rice and contemporary collaborator Don Black submitted a lyric to the show's producers for consideration, although Nunn's version was favoured. Elaine Paige has said that she sang a different lyric to the tune of "Memory" for the first ten previews of Cats.
Composer Lloyd Webber feared that the tune sounded too similar to Ravel's Bolero and to a work by Puccini, and also that the opening – the haunting main theme – closely resembled the flute solo (improvised by Bud Shank in the studio) from The Mamas & the Papas' 1965 song "California Dreamin'". He asked his father's opinion; according to Lloyd Webber, his father responded "It sounds like a million dollars!"
In its original orchestration, the song's climax is in the key of D-flat major, the composer's favourite.
While Lloyd Webber mentions Ravel's Bolero, there is no mention of similarity to "Bolero in Blue" written by Larry Clinton. In this case Lloyd Webber's composition appears to replicate note for note the first several measures from Clinton's composition. Larry Clinton wrote "Bolero in Blue" in the 1930s and performed it on his mid-fifties album "Larry Clinton in hi fi".
The arrangement of the lyrics in the show were changed after the initial recordings of the track, with the first verse, beginning "Midnight, not a sound from the pavement..." being used in only the brief, Act I rendition of the song and a new verse, "Memory, turn your face to the moonlight...'" in its place for the Act II performance. In addition, the original second bridge section became the first and a new second bridge was added. Consequently, the arrangement of the lyric for a recording usually depends on whether the artist has played the role on stage.
"Memory" has been covered by numerous musical acts. Among the more notable are the following:
- Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in the West End production of Cats, released a version of the song that was a Top 10 hit in the UK, peaking at #6 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1981. She re-recorded the song in 1998 with a slight lyrical alteration, which was included in the video release of the musical. This version reached #36 in the UK Singles Chart in October of that year. Elaine also recorded a version for her 1983 album Stages.
- Barry Manilow released a cover of "Memory" as a single in late 1982; this became the highest-charting version to date on the Billboard Hot 100 when it reached No. 39 in January 1983. Manilow's recording also made the Top 10 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, reaching No. 8. This version is included on his album Here Comes the Night.
Barbra Streisand version
|Single by Barbra Streisand|
|from the album Memories|
|B-side||"Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)"|
|Songwriter(s)||Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn|
|Producer(s)||Andrew Lloyd Webber|
|Barbra Streisand singles chronology|
Barbra Streisand recorded "Memory" (produced by Lloyd Webber himself, and widely regarded as the definitive version) for her 1981 album Memories. When released as a single, Streisand's cover reached No. 52 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 9 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart in 1982. In the UK this version peaked at No. 34 the same year. A music video was made for her version of the song; it was filmed with only one camera on a set resembling a recording studio, and utilized some vintage stock footage of New York City and New Year's Eve parties to make the mood melancholic. The video was produced by Chips Chipperfield. The single sold 749 000 copies in France and is the 231st best-selling single of all-time in the country.
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||14|
|Canadian Adult Contemporary (RPM)||3|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||30|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||19|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||4|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||34|
|US Billboard Hot 100||52|
|US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)||9|
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- T. S. Eliot, "Rhapsody on a Windy Night", Academy of American Poets. Accessed Aug. 18, 2017
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- "Barbra Streisand Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- Rhapsody on a Windy Night and
- Preludes the T. S. Eliot poems that inspired the lyrics to "Memory"
- Memories 1981 Album Barbra Streisand Archives Memories album page