A Ship Without A Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart by Gary Marmorstein
From “Blue Moon” to “Where or When,” and “My Funny Valentine,” Lorenz Hart, together with Richard Rodgers, created some of the most beautiful and witty songs ever written. Here is the story of the strikingly unromantic life of this songwriting genius.His lyrics spin with pinwheel brilliance and sophistication, yet at their core is an unmistakable wistfulness. The sweetness of lyrics such as “My Romance” and “Isn’t It Romantic?” is unsurpassed in American song. But Hart’s lyrics could also be cynical (“This Funny World”), celebratory (“The Lady Is a Tramp”), or ironic (“Falling in Love with Love”).
Larry Hart and Richard Rodgers both attended Columbia University, though neither left with a degree. Together they wrote approximately thirty Broadway musicals and dozens of songs for Hollywood films. At least four of their musicals—On Your Toes; Babes in Arms; The Boys from Syracuse; and Pal Joey—became classics. Rodgers and Hart were an odd couple. Rodgers was precise, punctual, heterosexual, handsome, and eager to be accepted by society. Hart was barely five feet tall, alcoholic, homosexual, and more comfortable in a bar or restaurant than anywhere else. Terrified of solitude, he invariably picked up the check or threw the party. His lyrics are all the more remarkable considering that he never sustained a romantic relationship, living his entire life with his mother, who died only months before his own death at age forty-eight.
Marmorstein’s fascinating biography includes many of the lyrics that define Hart’s legacy—those clever, touching stanzas that still move us or make us laugh. AShip Without a Sail superbly portrays the life of this exuberant yet troubled artist whose gift so enriched American popular song.
Gary Marmorstein is the author of Hollywood Rhapsody and The Label and has written about film, theater, and popular music for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Stagebill, among many other publications.