Monday, April 28, 2008

I Have Confidence, or Why Richard Rodgers Should Have Stuck to Notes

"Strength doesn't lie in numbers,
Strength doesn't lie in wells,
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers,
When you wake up, wake up! It tells me
All I trust I leave my heart to,
All I trust becomes my own,
I have confidence in confidence alone,
Besides which, you see,
I have confidence in me!"

There are so many, many problems with this song. For those who are unfamiliar with The Sound of Music, it was the last collaboration of Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and between the stage and screen productions, Hammerstein died. Unwilling to accept this fact, Rodgers decided to become his own lyricist for a disastrous few years. In 1962, he created No Strings, a show whose lyrics are merely insipid. In 1965, for The Sound of Music film, he created "Something Good", pushing the boundaries of insipid beyond all reasonable expectations, and "I Have Confidence", whose lyrics leave insipid in the dust and burst through to surrealist. What on earth does the passage quoted above mean? "All I trust I leave my heart to"? Is this some sort of sick last will and testament? Does Maria really believe that sleep is a panacea for the insecure? Above all, is her grammar so poor as to believe that "I have confidence in me" is the right formula for her climactic phrase? Not to mention the idiocy of "hav[ing] confidence in confidence alone" (emphasis added) and immediately contradicting this sentiment with "Besides which".

Let me disclaim: I adore this film. I find it uplifting in a way that few Nazi films can manage. I understand that its history is amazingly inaccurate and that it whitewashes rural Austrian collusion with the Nazis, but that didn't matter to me at age 6 or so when I first saw it, and my subsequent education can't tarnish the gut reaction it still gives me.

But, but, and once again but (a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang reference for those who have read the book)--I can't quite forgive the man for forcing the staggeringly articulate Dame Julie to commit emotionally to those garbled sentiments for the sake of a ridiculous rhyme and a skewed scansion.

Really, Dick, you should have stuck with Larry Hart. He knew how to write a song for a stripper who reads Schopenhauer, and he could make you believe it. An Austrian nun-reject-turned-governess is a piece of cake after that.

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

Whatever, I love this song no matter how amazingly stupid it is.

"Strength doesn't lie in wells." There is only one word that i can think of to describe this sentence, and that one word is "wisdom."