"To Keep My Love Alive" - Getting to the "Hart" of the Matter
There are many great lyricists to celebrate throughout the history of Broadway: Sondheim for his complexity and deep understanding of character development, Porter for his sparkling wit and his wizardry with internal rhyme, E.Y. Harburg with his subtly subversive whimsy, Ira Gershwin for his sophistication, and of course Dorothy Fields for her bold, realistic characterizations. Still, I have always been partial to Lorenz Hart who could marry all of the above with an ease and smoothness that elevate the song to greatness without drawing attention to itself. In other words, it is natural. A Hart lyric glides, flows and illuminates.
"To Keep My Love Alive" was the final lyric written by Lorenz "Larry" Hart and it is one of the finest examples of his work. Written for the 1943 revival of the 1927 musical A Connecticut Yankee, the song is sung by the murderess Morgan le Fay. Both a character song and a list song, the number is dark comedy at its best. The villainess lays out her track record with marriage, declaring she is "never the bridesmaid, I'm always the bride." The reason for her multitude of nuptials is because her husbands keep mysteriously dying. Coyly, she tells us of each of their faults and, as her stories unfold, we realize she's stabbed, poisoned and defenestrated her spouses in order to tolerate them. Coupled with Richard Rodgers spritely melody, the listener has to keep reminding themselves that this song is about murder and not about love. The divine juxtaposition of words and music, the song is ironic, sardonic, and most of all, comic.