Friday, August 31, 2012

Positive Quiddity: Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

Dorothy Fields (July 15, 1905 – March 28, 1974) was an American librettist and lyricist.
She wrote over 400 songs for Broadway musicals and films. Along with Ann Ronell, Dana Suese, Bernice Petkere, and Kay Swift, she was one of the first successful Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood female songwriters.


Fields was born in Allenhurst, New Jersey, and grew up in New York City.

Her father, Lew Fields, an immigrant from Poland, was a vaudeville comedian and later became a Broadway producer. Her career as a professional songwriter took off in 1928, when Jimmy McHugh, who had seen some of her early work, invited her to provide some lyrics for him for Blackbirds of 1928. Fields and McHugh teamed up until 1935. Songs from this period include "I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby", "Exactly Like You", and "On the Sunny Side of the Street."

In the mid-1930s, Fields started to write lyrics for films and collaborated with other composers, including Jerome Kern. With Kern, she worked on the movie version of Roberta, and also on their greatest success, Swing Time. The song "The Way You Look Tonight" earned the Fields/Kern team an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936.

Fields returned to New York and worked again on Broadway shows, but now as a librettist, first with Arthur Schwartz on Stars In Your Eyes. (They re-teamed in 1951 for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.) In the 1940s, she teamed up with her brother Herbert Fields, with whom she wrote the books for three Cole Porter shows, Let’s Face It!, Something for the Boys, and Mexican Hayride. Together, they wrote the book for Annie Get Your Gun, a musical inspired by the life of Annie Oakley. They intended for Jerome Kern to write the music, but when he died, Irving Berlin was brought in. The show was a success, and ran for 1,147 performances.

In the 1950s, her biggest success was the show Redhead (1959), which won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. When she started collaborating with Cy Coleman in the 1960s, her career took a new turn. Their first work together was Sweet Charity. Her last hit was from their second collaboration in 1973, Seesaw. Its signature song was "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish". Fields died of a stroke the next year at the age of 68.
Fields was the sister of writers Herbert and Joseph.

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She wrote famous lyrics for many songs, including Big Spender, A Fine Romance, I Can’t Give You Anything but Love [Baby], I’m in the Mood for Love, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Pick Yourself Up, Sweet Charity and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

A list of her songs is available at:

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