“Ill get rid of that damn song if I have to poison the bird seed.”
- David Merrick, Tony Award-winning theatrical producer, on the song “Meadowlark,” from the musical, The Baker’s Wife. (According to Patti LuPone)
Who knew this classic, emotive, and nearly cliché cabaret song would cause such a ruckus?
The background (It’s long, so bear with me):
Betty Buckley and Patti LuPone both sing “Meadowlark” in their concerts. It’s a signature song. Over the past several years, the two divas have bickered about who “owns” the song – aka who it was written for. Recently, the tussle has reached new levels of awareness as a result of Buckley prefacing her performance of the number with a very funny story. I heard this story first hand last year when I saw Buckley at Feinstein’s (greatest weekend ever!)
Buckley’s story is as follows:
Apparently, Betty heard through the grapevine that Patti was upset that she (Betty) was going around telling audiences that Stephen Schwartz wrote the song for her (Betty). Betty recalls Schwartz did, in fact, write the song for her back when the show was still a concept. This was the early 70s. Even though Schwartz wanted her for the role, the producers had other ideas, and Betty underwent several auditions, eventually losing out, much to her dismay. A woman named Carole Demas was cast instead, eventually fired, and Patti was hired to play the role in the ill-fated pre-Broadway tour.
Betty claims that she called Patti on the phone to iron things out. Patti got all huffy, stated that she had originated the role, and sniffed back, “Well, how would you like it if I sang ‘Memory!”‘ (This is Buckley’s signature song – she originated Grizabella in Cats on Broadway and won a Tony for it. Incidentally, I have a recording of Patti singing “Memory” at an Andrew Lloyd Webber concert.) They hung up, and both immediately called Schwartz on the phone to ask who the song was written for. Diplomatically, he said he couldn’t recall. They called each other again, and agreed that they were both too old to sing the song anyway, so they would each retire it.
Please note: They are both still singing the song.
Today, Playbill.com has an interview with Patti, where she basically calls Betty a lier:
“I just want to go on record that I have never claimed ‘Meadowlark’ was written for me. I know it wasn’t. I replaced Carole [Demas], who originated the role and the song. So I never have claimed that ‘Meadowlark’ was written for me.”
Really, Patti? You never claimed this? Well, perhaps you forgot something you said years ago.
LuPone has a web site, where she infrequently posts rants, raves, restaurant reviews, ramblings, etc. About nine years ago (I have a mind like a steel trap!), Patti posted a rant that was on her site for a single day. It referenced a “broke down diva” who goes around claiming that “Meadowlark” was written for her, when the song was, in fact, HERS, dammit. I really wish I had copied and saved it. The next day, the post was replaced with this one:
“I’ve changed my mind and have withdrawn certain stories that started this Ramblings. I don’t want to invite un-necessary controversy. It’s just lousy Karma.”
Trust me – she basically ripped Buckley a new one.
I can’t wait to see what transpires next in the Meadowlarkgate scandal. I love shit like this.
Buckley’s new-agey “Meadowlark”:
Patti’s crotch-grabbing “Meadowlark”: