From Big Red Sun
Featured on: A Quiet Revolution
Collaborator: John Jiler (lyrics)
Song Type: baritone, bluesy, male, story song, tenor
Associated Artists: Joshua Henry, Derrick Baskin, Chuck Cooper, Maurice Murphy, Rob Tucker
From Playbill’s Track-By-Track Breakdown Feature (03/27/20):
From the newest song in this collection to the oldest. John Jiler and I have been working on a musical called Big Red Sun for most of my professional life. It’s one of those shows that has won awards and been developed in workshops all over the country, but it didn’t get a production until 11th Hour Theatre in Philadelphia premiered it in 2018. Just to give you a sense of how old this song is, I have a demo that Chuck Cooper recorded for me in 2004. The show is about how much America changed between the 1940s and the 1960s— from Glenn Miller in a suit to Bob Dylan plugging in an electric guitar in two short decades. This scene is set in 1962 in New York, and our character sings about both his music and his way of life that has disappeared far too quickly. For me, the joy of this score has been writing in ways that evoke time and place but still do the storytelling work that theatre songs do best. And it doesn’t hurt to collaborate with someone as musical as Joshua Henry, who came up with all of his own scat solos.
WENT CRAWLIN’ UP TO A CAT IN THE CITY
TOLD HIM I NEEDED TO SEE MR. BLUE.
HE SAID TO GO KILL SOME TIME WITH MY KITTY,
COME BACK TO SEE HIM AT A QUARTER TO TWO.
WENT SLINKIN’ OFF WITH MY LITTLE ALICE.
FOUND US A JOINT KNOWN AS ‘CHEZ SO AND SO’.
A LONG TIME AGO IT SHINED LIKE A PALACE,
NOW NO PLACE IN HARLEM WILL TAKE YOU SO LOW.
STEPPIN’ DOWN THE AVENUE
BACK WHEN EVERY HEART WAS TRUE.
ZORA NEALE AND LANGSTON TOO,
TALKIN’ FRENCH “COMMENT VAS-TU?”
SABLE STOLES AND LOW-BRIMMED HATS.
LEMON DRESSES, RED CRAVATS.
HELLO DUKE, DUBOSE AND FATS!
HOW YOU LIKE MY CREAMY SPATS?
NOW THOSE CATS IS GONE LIKE THE SNOWFLAKES.
NOBODY STEPPIN’ DOWN NO AVENUE.
COLD WINTER WIND BLOWIN’ SORROW AND BAD BREAKS.
NO POET HERE BUT OLD MISTER BLUE.
COUNTIN’ THE MINUTES TO MY SWEET APPOINTMENT.
CLOCK CREEPIN’ UP ON A QUARTER TO TWO.
CAT GONNA GIVE ME MY PRECIOUS OINTMENT
IN A NEEDLE THAT SHINES LIKE THE SUN BREAKIN’ THROUGH!
AND THE SKY OPENS UP TO A HEAVENLY VIEW!
IT WILL GIVE YOU THAT COLOR SO DEEP AND SO TRUE!
YES THE SKY OPENS UP TO A HEAVENLY VIEW!
KNEW I COULD COUNT ON OLD MISTER BLUE.
YES I KNEW I COULD COUNT ON OLD MISTER BLUE.