In 1953, at the very start of her
song-writing career, Carolyn Leigh wrote the
lyrics to “Young
at Heart,” an instrumental
composition by Johnny Richards.
It was a monster hit for Frank Sinatra.
Already her work showed her deftness with
words and the cleverness in her rhymes:
"And If you should survive
til a hundred and five,
think of all you’ll derive
out of being alive."
What a wondrous word to put in a song.
When’s the last time you heard “derive” in a
Here’s your opportunity with Sinatra
Director Jerome Robbins had the idea to star
Mary Martin in J. M. Barrie's 1904 play
about Peter Pan, but with a few songs added
in here and there.
Moose Charlap (what a name!) was hired to do
the music and Carolyn Leigh was hired to
write the lyrics.
Together, they wrote a lot of songs, 8 of
which were put into the play.
But the play got negative notices out of
town, and Robbins wanted to add more songs
so that the show could be a full-fledged
For whatever reason, Robbins hired the
writers Comden & Green (see
Day 4 of this Advent Calendar) and
the composer Jule Styne
who quickly came up with 6 more tunes to add
to the ones Leigh and Charlap had already
Three of the Leigh/Charlap songs from the
show are classics:
and the soaring “I’m
Flying,” performed here by Cathy
Rigby (and, boy, can she fly!)
Following "Peter Pan," Leigh partnered with
Cy Coleman (see Day 8 of this Advent
Calendar) for the better part of a
They wrote pop hits whilst trying to get a
gig writing a Broadway score.
Three of their pop songs have become
Standard Number One:
Is Yet to Come,” sung here by Peggy
Lee, who was a longtime fan of Leigh/Coleman
Standard Number Two:
“A Doodlin’ Song,” performed here by Dick
Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, who clearly
were Leigh/Coleman fans, too.
Standard Number Three:
Here’s a dazzling rendition by Barbra
Streisand from her “People” album:
on Day 8 of this Advent Calendar, we gave
you links to two other Leigh/Coleman pop
standards -- “Witchcraft”
Me By” -- as well as songs from
Leigh/Coleman’s two Broadway musicals:
“Wildcat” with Lucille Ball (“Hey
Look Me Over”),
and “Little Me” (“I’ve
Got Your Number”)
Another hit from “Little Me” is “Real
Live Girl,” sung by Sid Caesar:
There’s a very funny story about Carolyn
Leigh when “Little Me” was trying out in
Philadelphia prior to the show's New
The song created for the end of the
first act - “Lafayette,
We Are Here” -- wasn’t
The audiences were sitting on their
The creative team tried re-staging the
number, but it was still DOA.
The producer (Cy Feuer), the director
(Bob Fosse), and the composer Cy Coleman
all agreed that the number had to be cut
But Leigh, who was very possessive and
protective of her songs, was determined
to keep it in the show.
Feuer said the song was gone.
Leigh said that that was a violation of
the Dramatists Guild contract they all
had signed. (Which it was.)
Feuer said he didn’t care.
At that point, Leigh stormed out of the
theater, only to return minutes later
dragging a cop behind her.
“Arrest him!” she screamed, pointing at
“And him!” pointing at Fosse.
“But not him,” she said, pointing at
“I may need him later.”
"Under what charge?” asked the
Leigh heatedly replied: “For
violating the Dramatists Guild
Such intractability may have had
something to do with the bust-up of
Coleman and Leigh’s partnership.
In 1968, Carolyn Leigh worked with Elmer
on the score for “How Now, Dow Jones,”
She also supplied the story, which was
A man and a woman are dating.
The man says he can’t get married until
the Dow Jones average hits 1000.
(This was in the days when the Dow Jones
was around 500.)
It just so happens that the woman’s job
is to announce the Dow closing every
Guess what she does to hasten the
Economic chaos ensues.
That was it.
The show opened on December
7, 1967, and closed on June 15, 1968.
(Could anyone really say they
Here, sung by
Tony Roberts with a troupe of dancers
clad in Mod Era green, and choreographed
by an uncredited Michael Bennett, is one
of the numbers from the show -- “Step
To The Rear”:
Over the next 20 years, Carolyn Leigh worked
continuously on a series of projects with a
variety of composers. But it was the
equivalent of spinning wheels, because none
of the projects ever came to fruition.
There were successful revivals of "Peter
Pan" and "Little Me."
And her songs continued to be sung and
But her glory days were behind her.
And what glorious songs she left behind.