In honor of Stephen Sondheim: just a few of his best lyrics

Stephen Sondheim, the respected, admired, and, let’s face it — worshipped — composer-lyricist behind some of Broadway’s most beloved and celebrated shows, died today at 91. Mr. Sondheim was the Shakespeare of musical theater. Now we know for certain that “there are giants in the sky.”

Even more than the melodies, Sondheim’s lyrics stand alone as works of genius. In honor of the artist who always gave us something to look forward to — the next Sondheim show, of course — let us revisit just a few of the legendary lyrics that he gave us. In gratitude…

“Somebody crowd me with love / Somebody force me to care / Somebody let come through / I’ll always be there / As frightened as you / To help us survive / Being alive” (Company)

“Plush velvet sometimes / Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here” (Follies)

“Every move and every breath / And you hardly feel a thing / Brings a perfect little death” ( A Little Night Music)

“Make just a ripple / Come on be brave / This time a ripple / next time a wave” (Anyone Can Whistle)

“I’d have kept those beans / but our house was cursed / she made us get the cow to get / the curse reversed / it’s you father’s fault / that the curse got placed / and the place got cursed / in the first place!” (Into the Woods)

“Today / the minutes seem like hours / The hours go so slowly / And still the sky is light / Oh moon grow bright / And make this endless day endless night” (West Side Story)

“Does anyone still wear / a hat / I’ll drink to that” (Company)

“Thanks for everything we did / Everything that’s past / Everything’s that’s over / Too fast. / None of it was wasted. / All of it will last: / Everything that’s here and now and us together!” (Anyone Can Whistle)

“It’s a very short road from the pinch and the punch to the paunch and the pouch and the pension” ( A Little Night Music)

“Curtain up! Light the lights! You’ve got nothing to hit but the heights!” (Gypsy)

“You said you loved me / Or were you just being kind / Or am I losing my mind” (Follies)

“How the kind of woman willing to wait’s not the kind that you want to find waiting” (Sunday in the Park with George)

“Sometimes people leave you / halfway through the wood / Do not let it grieve you / No one leaves for good” (Into the Woods)

“Every now and then / The country / Goes a little wrong” (Assassins)

“Trouble is, Charley / That’s what everyone does / Blames the way it is / On the way it was / On the way it never, ever was.” (Merrily We Roll Along)

“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd / He served a dark and a vengeful god / What happened then, well, that’s the play / And he wouldn’t want us to give it away” (Sweeney Todd)

“Honey, ‘ll take the grand / Sugar, you keep the spinet / And all of our friends and / Just wait a fucking minute!” (special material written for Kathie Lee Gifford, who did not want to sing ‘Goddamn minute’ in Putting It Together)

And the greatest lesson of all:

“Anything you do / Let it come from you / Then it will be new” (Sunday in the Park with George)

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