A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Welcome to our series highlighting the music we have here at Thomas Ford Memorial Library. Each week of 2013 we will discuss one of our favorite songs from the collection. Classical or Country, Hip-Hop or Heavy Metal, we’ll be blogging for every taste.
When I arrived in the Chicago area in 1981, I took trains everywhere I went, and at every station was a poster for the musical Evita. Like Jesus Christ Superstar, the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice had begun as a rock opera concept album and was staged years later. Julie Covington sang the role of Eva Peron on the album in 1976 but declined the part in the London musical in 1978. Elaine Paige took the role there, and when the musical reached New York in 1979, Patti LuPone starred. By 1981 when I saw the posters, the musical was sweeping the country and everyone was singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” including Olivia Newton-John, the Carpenters, Petula Clark, Shirley Bassey, Joan Baez, and Tom Jones.
I’ve always enjoyed “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” which appears near the beginning of the musical. On the original Broadway recording, the full orchestra brings the theme up slowly after the static of a crowd shrilly calling for Evita. In anticipation of Patti LuPone’s opening notes, I have to stop whatever I’m doing to listen. With lush strings and arresting stops, the song is the kind of grand drama that embeds itself in my brain. When I hear it, I hum it for days after. It is not surprising that many people fell for the song as it saturated the airwaves.
Not everyone was pleased. Critics argued that out of context, the song celebrated the life of a former prostitute who married a brutal dictator and lived a life of excess. The BBC Radio removed it from its playlist during the Faulklands War, and to reduce criticism of his wife, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos also banned it. Music fans, however, never batted an eye, loving the song that went viral long before there was YouTube.
Thomas Ford has a copy on compact disc of the original American recording with Patti LuPone as Evita and Mandy Patinkin as Che Guevara. You’ll find it in the Soundtracks bin.