The Laughter and the Music

Composed by Scott R. Harding (b. 1968)

Lily Tomlin is a tasty dish,
A laugh a minute, born in Detroit, Mich.
She said that growin’ up in Michigan was fine until she realized where she was.
As Ernestine she drives us mad,
An operator guaranteed to cause guffaws,
“One-ringy-dingy! Two ringy-dingies!”
Gilda Radner came from Detroit too,
A laugh a minute with her crazy crew.
They brought Saturday Nights to Life with silly idiotic sketch comedy.
As Emily Litella asked: “Why is there so much violins on T.V.?”
“No, no no! It’s not ‘violins!’ It’s violence! Why is there so much VIOLENCE on T.V.?!?”
“Oh.
NEVER MIND.”
There’s so much laughter between those Great Lakes!
Hilarious people who gave us the shakes!
Bob Bell, clownin’ around!
Pam Dawber! Nanoo-Nanoo!
Dick Martin, You bet your sweet bippy!
Harry Morgan, Horse Hockies!
Even Sinbad, Air Force man,
Brings us laughter when he can!

Salvator, he made the beat go on.
Vincent, he sang of you and me.
Glenn, he said the heat was on.
Louise, her papa didn’t preach.
Theodore, he had a stranglehold.
William, he cried tears of a clown.
James, he had a lust for life.
Steve, he only called to say:
Diana, she discoed upside down.
Charles, he knew a runaway.
Robert one and two,
He took Rock as his name.
He liked his rock old time.
They brought music, wondrous music on the countdown.
They sang music, wondrous music, sweet and sublime.
And through it all we had Kemal to bring the music home.
Across the waves on Saturdays, a week of songs well-known.
The music kept our feet on the ground, but kept us reaching for the stars.

—Original text by composer

 I liked the idea of referencing Michigan musicians, and I started doing a search of musicians who were born and RAISED in Michigan: someone just born here, but who moved to L.A. as a child, wouldn’t have the same understanding of the state as someone who’d really spent a lot of time here. I came up with a pretty good list, but it was also merged in with other famous people who were born here. There were a lot of actors, but what really drew me was the number of comedians (or “funny people”) who called Michigan home. That’s where I came up with the blending of comics and musicians…inspired, in some part, by the comedy/tragedy masks. Then, on top of THAT, since [my wife and Michigan Recital Project flutist] Tess and I had just been watching “White Christmas,” I saw very clearly in my mind the Rosemary Clooney/Vera Ellen duet with “Sisters,” and I thought it would translate nicely to Emily and Margot, with that same kind of easy swing feel and just-under-the-surface cheekiness. Once that part was finished I worked on getting the “musician” half down, working from a characteristically-repeating pop chord progression. I liked the idea of referencing the pop stars by their real names, and making the audience kind of figure it out with the song references included.

–Scott R. Harding

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