Broadway’s Influence in the Music World
By Casey Bell
Being an influencer makes lots of money these days. Brands are rushing to pay social media influencers to market their products or services. But good old Broadway has been an influencer for a long time. Specifically, an influencer to the music world. Broadway’s influence on the music world is huge. There are so many songs people sing on the regular and don’t even know they originated from Broadway musicals. Unfortunately, there is no time to mention every one, because this article would be longer than you would want. I thought about making a top 10 or top 15, but I realized I would have many comments of “you missed one.” So, instead I will mention a few, and if I missed one or seven you can add them in the comments.
February 14th originally was the holiday that Christians memorialized Saint Valentine and other martyrs of Christ. But it is now a lover’s holiday. In 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart created a musical, Babes in Arms. One of the songs in this show was “My Funny Valentine.” Ever since then jazz musicians have recovered this song 1000 times more than a student recovers his/her text book. Because the show has not been produced much since then many people do not even know the show exists.
Speaking of Christians, another holiday they misscelebrate (it’s a word now) is Christmas. It originally was celebrated from December 25th through January 5th. No gifts were given, each day celebrated Jesus from the day he was born to the day he resurrected. If you count, it is 12 days, hence the song twelve days of Christmas. Any who, another song, from Broadway, which is always misidentified as a Christmas song is, “My Favorite Things.” From the somewhat biographical musical, The Sound of Music, many people think it is a Christmas song due to the lyrics, “Brown paper packages tied up with string,” and is always played around “the season.” But if you watch the show or film, you realize it is a simple song that teaches the children what to do when really bad things happen, think of your favorite things. Not only has this song been covered by many artists (Dorothy Ashby, Sarah Vaughn, The Supremes, John Coltrane), but the music was sampled by Ariana Grande for her song “7 Rings.”
There are many songs from Broadway that jazz and American standard artists have covered, “I Get a Kick Out of You” (Anything Goes), “Feeling Good” (The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd), and “If I Were A Bell” (Guys and Dolls), just to name a few.
But I never thought that the hip-hop world would take a Broadway showtune and sample it. In 1998, Jay Z used Annie’s “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” and used the chorus for his hit single, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).” Jay Z was not the only pop artist to cover a Broadway tune. “Rich Girl,” by Gwen Stefani and Eve was inspired by “If I Were a Rich Man” (Fiddler on the Roof), “Popular Song,” by MIKA and Ariana Grande comes from the song “Popular” from the show Wicked. And Missy Elliot’s “Big Spender,” is from the iconic and legendary, Bob Fosse’s song and dance number, “Hey Big Spender,” from Sweet Charity.
Of course, there are many more, but not enough time to share them.
HAIR! Hair the musical gets their own paragraph. Not only was Hair the first Rock Musical, but it was the first Broadway musical that used amateur actors and singers with no theater experience. It also was the first musical filled with diverse actors and the first to have an actress of African descent (Melba Moore) replace an actress of European descent (Diane Keaton). Hair also is the only musical where just about every one of their songs was sampled and/or covered by multiple artists all over the world from the time it first premiered in the 60s and is still loved and being sung today. The most loved are the opening and closing songs, “Aquarius” and “Let the Sunshine In.” The list of sampling and covers is way too long to list, but I will list a few (5th Dimension, Diana Ross, Donna Summer, The cast of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” Hans Zimmer, The Chopsticks, and so many more). If you’d like to see the influence Hair had and still have you can check this link out.
There are so many more to mention, “Corner from the Sky” from Pippin was covered by Motown’s Jackson 5. South Pacific’s famous, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” was not only used in commercials, but was sampled by Two Tons of Fun (The Weather Girls), and the Queen of soul (R.I.P.), Aretha Franklin sang her version of Les Miserables, “I Dreamed a Dream.” Of course, we can go on forever, literally, forever discussing the many Broadway showtunes that inspired the music world to create Billboard chart topping hits, which is why we must never forget the contribution Broadway and theater has in the world.