“When I get an idea for a song I can hear it in the orchestra; I can smell
the scenery; I can see the kind of actor who’ll sing the song and the audience
sitting there listening to it.”
Richard was meant for music. From the time he was a little boy tapping out tunes on his family’s piano and stepping out with his parents to see musical revues, he was mad for music. But not just any music: he wanted to compose for the musical theatre. And from this teens, that’s exactly what he did, first for college varsity shows and later for revues, and eventually, for Broadway.
But it took him a long time to get there — and boatloads of rejection came his way. At one point, he became so despondent he actually considered taking a job as a salesman for children’s underwear. One music publisher, hearing the snappy tune and lyrics for the song “Manhattan” — still a classic — said that the song was lousy and that Rodgers didn’t have any talent as a composer.
Richard knew he was meant for music, but except for a small circle of friends and family, no one else did. Making the world take notice wasn’t easy. The feisty composer saw himself engaged in a battle: arrayed against him were the enemy’s defenses and his job was to find a “soft spot” and break through that seemingly impenetrable line of indifference. And one way or another, he kept pushing and poking until he did. Later he would say that just walking into a theatre boosted his mood: “If I’m unhappy, it takes my unhappiness away. If I’m happy, I get happier.” His granddaughter observed, “He invented a special world. In anything to do with musicals, he lived in full color: the grass was green, the sky was blue, the birds sang and butterflies flitted about.”
Yes, Richard was made for music. He created a raft of beautiful tunes and hit musicals. And us? We’re made for words, for writing. Let’s remember who we are and become ourselves. Let’s keep on writing — and pushing and probing for that soft spot. Let’s make the world take notice of what we have to offer. Write on!