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Hammerstein's Book of Songs

LYRICS, by Oscar Hammerstein H. Simon & Schuster, 215 pp. $2.50.

By George A. Leirer

Since the publication of a collection of Oscar Hammerstein's Lyrics a few months ago, the editor of this page has been in correspondence with the only Harvard alumnus in the New Hebrides, Pann J. Ekwalah '21. It was desired that Ekwalah would consent to review this book, since only a person who has never heard the music to "OI' Man River" can hope to judge the merits of the words without being influenced by the melody. Ekwalah explains that he has been corrupted by the Voice of America broadcasts and is therefore ineligible. Nonook of the North is dead.

As a matter of fact, it is quite natural that these words of Mr. Hammerstein's should evoke their melody. He stresses the point that collaboration is necessary for his type of writing--he can't merely mail the composer his lyrics as did Gilbert to Sullivan. Mr. Hammerstein also admits to using a rhyming dictionary.

Included in this collection are songs from "Oklahoma!" "South Pacific," "Carmen Jones," and the unfortunate "Allegro." There are also songs from "Show Boat" and some written for movies, as well as unpublished lyrics. All of them show the same twinkling golly-durn humor and disarming command of cliches. The few unfamiliar lyrics in the book cannot compare with those of familiar melody, which proves the power of interdependence. One outstanding thing about most Rodgers and Hammerstein songs is that on first hearing they sound familiar, as if they had been in the air or in your own head for some time and were only waiting for Mr. H. to collect them and hand them over to Mr. R.

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