Frederica von Stade & Jerome Kern Lyrics Follow
"Ol' Man River" (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) is a show tune from the 1927 musical Show Boat that contrasts the struggles and hardships of African Americans with the endless, uncaring flow of the Mississippi River. It is sung from the point of view of a black stevedore on a showboat, and is the most famous song from the show. The song is meant to be performed in a slow tempo, it is sung complete once in the musical's lengthy first scene by the stevedore "Joe" who travels with the boat, and, in the stage version, is heard four more times in brief reprises. Joe serves as a sort of musical one-man Greek chorus, and the song, when reprised, comments on the action, as if saying, "This has happened, but the river keeps rolling on anyway."
The song is notable for several aspects: the lyrical pentatonic-scale melody, the subjects of toil and social class, metaphor to the Mississippi, and as a bass solo (rare in musicals, solos for baritones or tenors being more common).
Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra had a hit recording of the song in 1928, in a much faster tempo than Kern and Hammerstein intended, and featuring Bing Crosby on vocals and Bix Beiderbecke on cornet. A second version, by Paul Whiteman with bass singer Paul Robeson on vocals and sung in a dance tempo, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006. The song is considered one of the greatest of all time, and in 2004, Robeson's version finished at #24 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
- Appendix. I Have the Room Above Her
- Act 1. Scene 2. Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man
- Act 2. Scene 6. Trocadero Opening Chorus
- Act 1. Finale. Oh tell me, did you ever!...
- Show Boat/Act 2. Scene 6. Trocadero Opening Chorus - Kern, Jerome
- Show Boat/Act 2. Scene 1. Why Do I Love You? - Kern, Jerome
- Act 2. Scene 1. In Dahomey
- Act 1. Scene 4. Mis'ry's Comin' Aroun'
- Appendix. Waterfront Saloon Scene
- Show Boat/Appendix. Ah Still Suits Me - Kern, Jerome
- Appendix. A Pack of Cards ; unused - 1927)
- Act 1. Scene 1. It's a man...
- Show Boat/Act 2. Scene 4. Whaddaya Say, Boss?... - Kern, Jerome
- Act 2. Scene 4. Whaddaya say, boss?...
- Act 1. Scene 5. Queenie's Ballyhoo
- Show Boat/Act 1. Scene 6. Villain Dance - Kern, Jerome
- Show Boat/Appendix. I Have the Room Above Her - Kern, Jerome
- Appendix. Kim's Imitations
- Act 1. Scene 3. Life On the Wicked Stage
- Act 2. Scene 7. Hey, Feller!
- Act 1. Scene 1. Andy!!!...
- Show Boat/Act 2. Scene 9. Finale Ultimo - Kern, Jerome
- Show Boat/Act 2. Scene 3. Convent Scene - Kern, Jerome
- Show Boat/Appendix. Nobody Else But Me - Kern, Jerome
- Act 2. Scene 1. Why Do I Love You?
- Act 1. Scene 4. Take her up, Rubberface!...
- Appendix. Yes Ma'am
- Show Boat/Appendix. Dance Away the Night - Kern, Jerome
- Appendix. Ah Still Suits Me
- Act 1. Scene 1. Make Believe