Don't get me wrong. I say this with love. At its best, the Great American Songbook is a wonderful document of a sophisticated and elegant time in American popular culture. When the melody, harmony, and lyrics are expertly combined, it's like a perfectly blended, bracingly cold classic cocktail. Those who know me know I'm not one to turn down a vigorously stirred martini. And sure, even when the ingredients are a little off, a good singer can make you forgive a lot.
But let's face it. Not only is the range of acceptable song subjects in the GAS incredibly narrow and formulaic compared to the post-Dylan musical landscape, the emotional range of the lyrics is -- with a few glorious exceptions -- similarly constrained. And all too often the lyrics are stilted, lazy, or just straight-out cringe-worthy.
So, let's have our own contest: what are the worst standards lyrics of all time? And no fair using post-facto lyrics written to jazz heads like "Inner Urge" or other such abominations -- it has to be lyrics approved by the composer. So, "Satin Doll" is eligible, but the Manhattan Transfer vocalise rendition of Coleman Hawkins's solo on "Body and Soul" is not. Also, it's better if it's songs that people actually sing, still.
Let me start things off with some classic terrible lyrics, starting with the one referenced in this post's title:
Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most
Lyric: Fran Landesman
All afternoon, those birds twitter twit,
I know the tune, "This is love, this is it."
This whole tune is incredibly painful.
Days Of Wine And Roses
Lyric: Johnny Mercer
Through the meadowland toward a closing door,
A door marked "Nevermore,"
That wasn't there before
Okay, let me get this straight. This door you speak of... it's in the middle of the meadowland?
I've Got A Crush On You
Lyric: Ira Gershwin
Could you coo, could you care
For a cunning cottage we could share?
The world will pardon my mush
'Cause I've got a crush, my baby, on you.
Sorry Ira, but oy... there's cute, and then there's that.
Lyric: Cole Porter
No citation needed beyond the title. "De-lovely"? Arwgh... (See also: "'S Wonderful")
Lover, Come Back To Me
Lyric: Oscar Hammerstein
The sky was blue
And high above
The moon was new
And so was love
Oscar Hammerstein is the most overrated lyricist of all time.
Teach Me Tonight
Lyric: Sammy Cahn
The sky's a blackboard high above you
If a shooting star goes by,
I'll use that star to write "I love you,"
A thousand times across the sky.
The sky's a what now? Yes, I understand it's part of the conceit of the song, but still...
You And The Night And The Music
Lyric: Howard Dietz
Until the pale light of dawning and daylight
Our hearts will be throbbing guitars
I have got to get me one of them throbbing guitars.
Nominate your favorite bad standards lyrics in comments!