F is for Fred Ebb. Broadway Lyricist to the Stars

Although Fred Ebb is best known for partnering with composer John Kander on “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” Kander and Ebb together created some two dozen Broadway musicals and musical revues, from 1964 until Ebb’s death in 2004 – and beyond, since several of their collaborations debuted on stage posthumously.

Here is Ebb singing one of their most popular songs “All That Jazz” from “Chicago,” with Kander on the piano. Since Ebb was a lyricist, the lyrics will follow many of the videos below.

Come on, babe
Why don’t we paint the town?
And all that jazzI’m gonna rouge my knees
And roll my stockings down
And all that jazzStart the car
I know a whoopee spot
Where the gin is cold
But the piano’s hot!It’s just a noisy hall
Where there’s a nightly brawl
And all that jazz
And all that jazz

Slick your hair
and wear your buckle shoes
And all that jazzI hear that Father Dip
Is gonna blow the blues
And all that jazz,Hold on, hon’
We’re gonna bunny hug
I bought some aspirin
Down at United DrugIn case you shake apart
And wanna brand new start
To do that- jazz!Find a flask
We’re playing fast and loose
And all that jazz

Right up here
Is where I store the juice
And all that jazzCome on, babe
We’re gonna brush the sky
I betcha Lucky Lindy
never flew so high’Cause in the stratosphere
How could he lend an ear
To all that jazz?

Oh, you’re gonna see your
Sheba shimmy shake
And all that jazz

Oh, she’s gonna shimmy
Till her garters break
And all that jazz

Show her where to park her girdle
Oh, her mother’s blood’d curdle
(If she’d hear her baby queer)
For all that jazz

Come on, babe
Why don’t we paint the town?
And all that jazz
(And all that jazz)

I’m gonna rouge my knees
And roll my stockings down
And all that jazz
(And all that jazz)

Start the car
I know a whoopee spot
Where the gin is cold
But the piano’s hot!
It’s just a noisy hall
Where there’s a nightly brawl
And all that jazz

No, I’m no one’s wife
But, oh, I love my life
And all that jazz
That jazz

Flora The Red Menace, 1965

Nineteen-year-old Liza Minnelli sings “Sing Happy”

Sing me a Happy song about Robins in spring
Sing me a happy song
with a happy ending.
Some cheerful rondelet about catching the ring
Sing Happy

Sing me a sonnett all about rolling in gold
Some peppy melody about rainbows blending
Nothing with phrases saying you’re out in the cold
Sing Happy

Tell me tomorrow’s gonna be peaches and cream
Assure me clouds are lined with a silver lining
Say how you’ve realized an impossible dream
Sing me a happy song

Play me a madrigal about trips to the moon
Or some old ballad about two eyes shining
It can’t be loud enough or a moment too soon
Sing Happy

No need reminding me that it all fell apart
I need no lyrics singing of stormy weather
There’s quite enough around me that’s breaking my heart
Sing Happy

Give me a hallelujah and get up and shout
Tell me the sun is shining around the corner
Whoever’s interested helping me out
Please keep it happy.

I’m only in the market for long loud laughter
I’ll let you serenade me till dawn comes along
Just make it a happy
Keep it a happy song.

Cabaret, 1966

“Cabaret” won the Tony Awards for best musical and best score — the first of three shows for which Kander and Ebb won Tonys. Twelve of their shows were nominated for best score.

Jill Haworth, the original Sally Bowles, sings the title song

What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

Put down the knitting,
The book and the broom.
Time for a holiday.
Life is Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

Come taste the wine,
Come hear the band.
Come blow your horn,
Start celebrating;
Right this way,
Your table’s waiting

No use permitting
soem prophet of doom
To wipe every smile away.
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret!

I used to have a girlfriend
known as Elsie
With whom I shared
Four sordid rooms in Chelsea

She wasn’t what you’d call
A blushing flower…
As a matter of fact
She rented by the hour.

The day she died the neighbors
came to snicker:
“Well, thats what comes
from to much pills and liquor.”

But when I saw her laid out like a Queen
She was the happiest… corpse…
I’d ever seen.

I think of Elsie to this very day.
I’d remember how’d she turn to me and say:
“What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.”

And as for me,
I made up my mind back in Chelsea,
When I go, I’m going like Elsie.

Start by admitting
From cradle to tomb
Isn’t that long a stay.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Only a Cabaret, old chum,
And I love a Cabaret!

The Happy Time, 1968

Robert Goulet sings the title song

Remember the Christmas morning long ago,
The frosted glass, the dancing snow,
The Happy Time
Remember the painted horse, the carousel.
The chocolate kiss, the caramel,
The Happy Time.
Remember the pale pink sky,
Your first Easter Hat.
And if you should ask me why
The reason I ask you this is that
I want to remember you remembering
The Happy Time.
2. Remember the day you found the dollar bill,
Or roller skating down the hill,
The Happy Time.
Remember the compliment you once received/
The lie you told they all believed.
The Happy Time
Remember your first school play, the sound of applause.
Why do I go on this way?

70 girls 70, 1971

Mandy Pantinkin sings “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” from the musical (he was not in the Broadway cast.)

The trouble with the world today it seems to me
Is coffee in a cardboard cup
The trouble with the affluent society
Is coffee in a cardboard cup

No one’s ever casual and nonchalant
No one wastes a minute in a restaurant
No one wants a waitress passing pleasantries
Like “Hiya miss”
“Hiya sir”
“May I take your order please”

The trouble with the world today is plain to see
Is everything is hurry up
It’s “rush it through”
“Don’t be slow”
“BLT on rye to go”
And coffee
I think she said ‘coffee’
I know she said ‘coffee
In a cardboard cup’

The trouble with the helter skelter life we lead
Is coffee in a cardboard cup
The trouble the psychologists have all agreed
Is coffee in a cardboard cup

Tell me what could possibly be drearier
Than seaboard from the Belnord cafeteria
Seems to me a gentleman would much prefer
An “afternoon, how you been
Would you like the special sir?”

The trouble with the world today is plain to se
Is everything is hurry up
There’s Reddi Whip
Instant tea
Minute rice and my oh me
There’s coffee
I think she said ‘coffee’
I know she said ‘coffee
In a cardboard cup’

The trouble with the world today beyond a doubt
Is coffee in a cardboard cup
The trouble is the way we like to take things out
Like coffee in a cardboard cup

No one knows the meaning of utopia
Is dining at your coner cornucopia
Seems to me we wouldn’t be such nervous wrecks
With ‘hello there, be right back
Would you care for separate checks’

The trouble with the world today is plain to see
Is everything is hurry up
It’s all become Looney Tunes
With sugar packs and plastic spoons
And coffee
I think she said ‘coffee’
I know she said ‘coffee’
I’m sure she said ‘coffee
In a cardboard cup’

(spoken): “Hurry up!”

Chicago, 1975

Jerry Orbach sings “Razzle Dazzle.” (The last minute or so is an interview with cast members)

Give ’em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle ’em
Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give ’em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather ’em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?
What if your hinges all are rusting?
What if, in fact, you’re just disgusting?
Razzle dazzle ’em
And they;ll never catch wise!
Give ’em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle ’em
Give ’em a show that’s so splendiferous
Row after row will crow vociferous
Give ’em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture ’em
How can they hear the truth above the roar?
Throw ’em a fake and a finagle
They’ll never know you’re just a bagel,
Razzle dazzle ’em
And they’ll beg you for more!
Give ’em the old double whammy
Daze and dizzy ’em
Back since the days of old…

Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon sing “Nowadays”

The Act, 1978

Liza Minnelli and company sing “City Lights” at the Tonys

The little old lady sat on the porch of the farm-house.
The little old lady rocked back and forth and crocheted.
“Oh, listen to the cricket, look at the rooster, smell the hay,” I told her.
“And see the pretty little egg that the hen just laid.”
The little old lady took off her glasses and squinted.
And how she responded literally had me floored.
She said: “I’m glad to meet someone who appreciates
the beauty that nature initiates.
It’s sweet to hear, but me, my dear, I’m truly bored.
I miss those city lights, those sparkling city lights,
those twinkling city lights blurring my eyes.
I love those city lights, the color of city sights
that shine under city lights tinting the skies.
New mown hay gives me hay fever.
There’s the rooster, where’s my cleaver?
So laid back, my mind might crack,
and when the thresher’s up my pressure’s up.
City lights, oh, I long for those city lights,
the bulbs of those beaming brights beckoning me there.
Be there.
Take the crickets and go shove ’em,
urban crises, how I love ’em!
Grime and grit and pretty city lights.
Walking lanes to pick a daisy,
that could drive a person crazy.
Home-made bread lies here like lead,
and Polly’s peach preserves–
oh, please, my nerves!
City lights, how I long for those city lights,
the bulbs of those beaming brights beckoning me there.
Be there.
Sties and stables sure are smelly,
let me sniff some Kosher deli,
brightly lit by pretty city lights.
Pluck your lillies of the valley,
let me sally up some alley
dimly lit by pretty city lights.
Country air means zilch to me,
I won’t breathe nothing I can’t see.
So let me quit and hit those pretty city lights.
Hit them city lights!
Love them city lights!
Fairs and socials ain’t no pluses,
I saw more on cross-town buses
brightly lit by pretty city lights.
Hold that udder and churn that butter,
me, I’d rather shoot some gutter
dimly lit by pretty city lights.
Slop those sows, go on and fill your pails,
Honey, just let me plant my buns down in Bloomingdale’s.
Yes, let me quit and hit those pretty city lights.
Love them city lights!

Woman of the Year, 1981

The second show to result in a Tony Award for best score.
Lauren Bacall sings “I Wrote The Book”

The kicker: So when it comes to losing a man, you’ll find it unsurprisingly true. That last week I wrote that book, too.

Zorba, 1983

Norm Lewis (not from the original cast) sings “Life Is” at the March 2010 Vineyard Theater gala honoring John Kander!

Life is a glass of rum!
No!
Life is a sip of sage!
No!
Life is the taste of raki flowing warmly from the cup!

Shut up!

Life is a walnut leaf!
No!
Life is an olive tree!
No!
Life is a scented melon-breasted woman when her lips are red and full…
No!
Life is a barbered, planted orchard and two lovers passing by it!

Life is my fist in your face if you don’t keep quiet!
What did you say?
I said, “Life is my fist in your face if you don’t keep quiet!”
Oh? Oh? Oh! Oh!

Wait. Listen to me. I will tell you.

Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die,
Life is how the time goes by!
Life is where you wait while you’re waiting to leave,
Life is where where you grin and grieve!

Having if lucky, wanting if not,
Looking for the ruby underneath the rot,
Hungry for the pilaf in someone else’s pot,
But that’s the only choice you’ve got!

Life is where you stand just before you are flat!
Life is only that, mister,
Life is simply that, mister,
That and nothing more than that!

Life is what you feel,
‘Til you can’t feel at all,
Life is where you fly and fall!

Running for shelter, naked in the snow
Learning that the tear drops any where you go
Finding its the mud that makes the roses grow
That’s the only choice you know!

Wait! Once again…

Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die…
This is how the time goes by!

The Rink, 1984

Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli sing “Don’t ‘Ah Ma” Me”
This is not a high-quality video, but I choose it because the lyrics show off Ebb’s skill at a theatrical song (with aid, no doubt, by book writer Terrence McNally)

[ANGEL, spoken]
Oh I’ve got a lot of things to tell you Ma

[ANNA, spoken]
How long was it this time Angel? Seven years?

[ANGEL, spoken]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA, spoken]
Basta! Finito! We’re closed! I’m finished!

[ANGEL, spoken]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
If the earth had opened up
If it swallowed me inside
Would my baby darling girl even realise I’d died?
You were sitting on hill
With some yippee on your lap
Talking love and life and art and that transcendental crap
With the dope I’m sure you smoked
And a healthy dose of coke up your nose

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
Up your nose!

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
And for all you ever knew I was hustling for the rent
‘Cause you only call collect maybe every other lent
While I’m bleeding in the street from some maniacs attack
You’re in some Ramada Inn seeking wisdom on your back
Making kibble of your brain
An emancipated pain in the ass

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
In the ass!

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
And don’t ah Ma me!
You said you had to find yourself so find yourself some other place
And don’t ah Ma me!
I don’t need you around to help me complicate my life

And if you really gave a damn
You’d have never stayed away
When you break a mother’s heart does it make a Guru’s day?
But you’re nearly thirty now
And you’r panicked and upset
So you walk back in the door
And expect me to forget
Welcome home, my little pig!
Boy you’ve really got a big set of balls

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
Oh some balls!

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
And don’t ah Ma me!
You said you had to find yourself so find yourself some other place
And don’t ah Ma me!
I don’t need you around to help me complicate my life, capisce?
And don’t ah Ma me!
The sign on the apartment doesn’t say Salvation Army does it?
Don’t ah Ma me!
I’ve heard it all your life and I don’t need to hear it now

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma! It’s like it was before
I just walked through the door!
And right away you start to fight and curse

[ANNA, spoken]
That’s bullshit

[ANGEL]
Ma!
I thought there’d be some tears

[ANNA, spoken]
Tears?!

[ANGEL]
And after all these years
You might have mellowed some
But Jesus was I dumb

[ANNA]
So you thought I might be calm?
Maybe jolly you along?
Well believe me I’m not calm
And believe me you were wrong
Should the sound of your hello
Be like music to me years
When I haven’t seen your face in, what is it, seven years?
So you walk back in my life
Should I really bless my luck?
That’s an outfit you could wear on a sanitation truck
“Have a daughter” I was told
“They’re a blessing when you’re old”
Ah Stugatz!

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
Stugatz!

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
Enough

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
That’s it

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
Shut up. I quit

[ANGEL]
Ah Maaaaaaaaaaa!

[ANNA]
Now I’ve got a good thing going
And I don’t need you to hex it
Did you notice where you entered
You can also make an exit?
So go out and find a husband
Don’t try to be a whore
I am sick and tired of your ah Ma!

[ANGEL]
Ah Ma!

[ANNA]
Shush!

Cabaret, 1988 revival

Liza and Joel Grey sing “Money.” This is actually from the 1972 movie, but I had to fit in somewhere

Kiss of the Spider Woman, 1993

The show won Kander and Ebb a third Tony for best score. Chita Rivera sings the title song

Spider Woman:
Sooner or later
You’re certain to meet
In the bedroom, the parlor or even the street
There’s no place on earth
You’re likely to miss
Her kiss
Sooner or later
In sunlight or gloom
When the red candles flicker
She’ll walk in the room
And the curtains will shake and the fire will hiss
Here comes her kiss
And the moon grows dimmer
At the tide’s low ebb
And her black beads shimmer
And you’re aching to move
But you’re caught in the web
Of the Spider Woman
In her velvet cape
You can scream
But you cannot escape
Sooner or later your love will arrive
And she touches your heart
You’re alert and alive
But there’s only one pin
That can puncture such bliss
Her kiss
Sooner or later you bathe in success
And your minions salute
They say nothing but “YES”
But your power is empty
It fades like the mist
Once you’ve been kissed
And the moon grows dimmer
At the tide’s low ebb
And your breath comes faster
And you’re aching to move
But you’re caught in the web
Of the Spider Woman
In her velvet cape
You can run
You can scream
You can hide
But you cannot escape!

Charles Pistone sings The Day After That (he was not in the original cast)

Valentin:
It was made out of mud
And pieces of tin
And boxes nailed together
Cardboard boxes
My castle

My home
And we slept on the floor
My sister and I
With gunny sacks for our pillows
Coughing, hungry, cosy
My home
And every Sunday on our knees
We would thank the Lord
For his bountiful blessings
And our mother poured soup
Into little cracked bowls
As she spoke of something better
Beef steak, maybe, someday
My home
And that lady had eyes
That were empty and cold
At the ripe old age of thirty
Death came
Welcome
To my home
And still that Sunday
On our knees
How we thanked the Lord
For his bountiful blessings
And my sister and I
Swore the day that we left
There’d be no more children like us
In the filth there in the heat there.
In the smell there
And no more Sundays
On our knees
Would we thank the Lord
For his bountiful blessings
And we came to the city
And begged for our food
Then, one April day we heard it
Thunder rumbling
One man speaking
Thousands singing ..
Someday we’ll be free
I promise you, we’ll be free
If not tomorrow
Then the day after that
And the candles in our hands
Will illuminate this land
If not tomorrow
Then the day after that
And the world that gives us pain
That fills our lives with fear
On the day after that
Will disappear
And the war we’ve fought to win
I promise you, we will win
If not tomorrow
Then the day after that
Or the day after that

Valentin:
and families of the disappeared
Someday we’ll be free
I promise you, we’ll be free
If not tomorrow
Then (Or) the day after that
And the candles in our hands
Will illuminate this land
If not tomorrow
Then the day after that
And the world that gives us pain
That fills our lives with fear
On the day after that
Will disappear
Will disappear
And the war we’ve fought to win
I promise you, we will win
If not tomorrow
Then the day after that
Or the day after that
Or the day after that
Or the day after that
Or the day after that
Or the day
After that

Chicago, 1996 revival

This revival is closing in on its 25th anniversary, and is currently the second longest musical in Broadway history. I feel free to choose songs by singers anytime during its run. So here are Marcia Lewis singing “When You’re Good to Mama,” Brandy Norwood singing “Roxie,” and then Carol Womack singing “When You’re Good to Mama” again.

Steel Pier, 1997

Debra Monk sings “Everybody’s Girl,” a raunchy song that’s one of the few comic moments in a bleak scenario

Shelby
A long time ago
A lady whose name was Carmen
Drove a man wild
Until he was out of control

I truly believe
That i am a modern day Carmen
In spite of the fact
I do not habla espa?ol

That girl was exactly like me
We share this philosophy
Ol?, I say

I’m not the type who’s ready
For datin’ someone steady
I’m everybody’s girl

On sunday night it’s Danny
On monday maybe Manny
I’m everybody’s girl

There’s a point to my behavior
Which is:
Smart girls always share their riches

So, if your heart succumbs
Don’t let it
You’re certain to regret it
All others, come and get it
I’m everybody’s girl.

I could never be a cowhand’s

La la la la la la

And you wanna know why?

All:
Why?

Shelby:
I just can’t keep my calves together.

I’m everybody’s girl
Some old Greek called Aristotle
Said it
If you got it, why not spread it?
So don’t go rattling any sabres
Exerting any labors
Just share me with the neighbors
I’m everybody’s girl

In case your passion rages,
I’m in the yellow pages
I’m… Girl.

You won’t be disappointed
I’m also double-jointed
I’m everybody’s girl
Though it leaves a lot of fellas
Cursin’
I’m a person
Needs disbursin’

And so to reaffirm my status
It’s absolutely gratis
To use my apparatus
I’m everybody’s girl

Men and me are like pianos. When they
Get upright, i feel grand!

Everybody’s girl!

Scottsboro Boys, 2010

Joshua Henry and company sing “Go Back Home,” as they await their unjust fate in prison.

Lyin’ all alone
I’m thinkin’
Starin’ at the stars
I wonder
Since I been away
I’m lonely
When I’m gonna go back home

Walkin’ through the world
Things happen
Right before ya eyes
Things happen
Soon enough you’re lost
And thinkin’
When I’m gonna go back home

Oh me oh my
Time goes slow
Where’s it gone to
I don’t know

But maybe times’ll turn
I pray so
Maybe some day I’ll get lucky
Someone’s gonna say
Alright son
Take the train and go back home
Hop a freight and go back home

SPOKE:
Hop a freight? I’d walk all the way back to Atlanta if I could.
I wouldn’t stop til I got there. No more nightmares.
Guards beatin’ me. Teasin’ me.
And I’d be home for my birthday too! Now that would be some present.

SUNG:
Oh me oh my
Time goes slow
Where’s it gone to
I don’t know

But maybe times’ll turn
I pray so
Maybe some day I’ll get lucky
Someone’s gonna say
Alright son
Take the train and go back home
Hop a freight and go back home

The Visit, 2015

Chita Rivera sings “Love and Love Alone”

Claire
When you’re young
Feeling oh, so strong
what can prove you wrong? Love and love alone
When the sun
seems forever bright what can dim
its light
Love and love alone
So beware young love
lost in a kiss
there’s a truth, young love

Simple as this
Every fond hello ends in goodbye
what seems certain to live will die
So enjoy
all the time there is
if you’re his, be his
make each day your own when tomorrows come and your heart is stone what has made it numb?
Love and love alone
Da da da da da
love and love alone

We Can’t Do That Anymore

Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly
Ebb had written this song with Kander for the musical “Wait for Me, World,”” which was never produced. He cleverly repurposed it for the “comeback” TV special he wrote in 1973 for Frank Sinatra

New York, New York

Their most popular song was not written for a Broadway musical, but it would be impossible to omit it. It is written for Liza Minnelli as the title song for the 1977 Martin Scorsese film “New York,New York.” Frank Sinatra is one of its main interpreters

Start spreading the news
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York

These vagabond shoes
Are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New York, New York

I want to wake up in a city
That doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill
Top of the heap

These little town blues
Are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it
In old New York

If I can make it there
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you
New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city
That never sleeps
And find I’m a number one
Top of the list
King of the hill
A number one

These little town blues
All melting away
I am gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York

And If I can make it there
I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you
New York, New York, New York

New York

 

That’s the 11 o’clock number, no doubt. But I prefer to end with Liza, and a less iconic song from the same movie, “But The World Goes Round”

Sometimes you’re happy
And sometimes you’re sad
But the world goes round
And sometimes you lose
Every nickel you’ve had
But the world goes round

Sometimes you’re dreams get broken in pieces
But that doesn’t alter a thing
Take it from me
There’s still gonna be
A summer, a winter, a fall, and a spring

And sometimes a friend
Starts treating you bad
But the world goes round
And sometimes your heart breaks
With a deafening sound
Somebody loses, somebody wins
One day it’s kicks
Then it’s kicks in the shins
But the planet spins
And world goes round

But the world goes round
But the world goes round

Sometimes your dreams get broken in pieces
But that doesn’t matter at all
Take it from me
There’s still gonna be
A summer, a winter, a spring, and a fall

And sometimes a friend
Starts treating you bad
But the world goes round
And sometimes your heart breaks
With a deafening sound
Somebody loses, and somebody wins
Then one day it’s kicks
Then it’s kicks in the shins
But the planet spins
And the world goes round
And round and round and round and round
The world goes round
And round
And round
And round

Author: New York Theaterh

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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