In my last post, I wrote about a really stupid song from the past, “I Dunno Why,” as sung in my memory by Dean Martin. And now I have to talk about another song, one of the best by one of the best sets of lyricists who ever tinkled a piano. The song is “Where Do You Start?” with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. I’ve always thought their “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” is the best set of lyrics ever written, but these two have a track record for songs that few if any writers ever achieved, with the possible exception of George and Ira Gershwin, really Ira since he wrote the lyrics of all those great songs.
I first heard Michael Feinstein sing “Where Do You Start?” on one of the talk shows maybe ten years ago, and felt the sorrow of the words as he sang them. It’s the story of two people who have lived together, loved, and then for some unstated reason decided to end it. The listener gets the impression it was a decision made by the other partner and not the singer. And like all the Bergman songs, this one is near perfect in the choice of cadences and images and rhymes: “Where do you start? How do you separate the present from the past? How do you deal with all the things you thought would last, that didn’t last? With bits of memories scattered here and there, I look around and don’t know where to start. Which books are yours, which tapes and dreams belong to you and which are mine? Our lives are tangled like the branches of a vine that intertwine. So many habits that we’ll have to break and yesterdays we’ll have to take apart. One day there’ll be a song or something in the air again, to catch me by surprise and you’ll be there again, a moment in what might have been. Where do you start? Do you allow yourself a little time to cry? Or do you close your eyes and kiss it all goodbye. I guess you try. And though I don’t know where and don’t know when I’ll find myself in love again, I promise there will always be a little place no one will see, a tiny part deep in my heart that stays in love with you.”
Since my original Feinstein encounter, I’ve come to own seven more versions of the song—Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Maureen McGovern, Susannah McCorkle, Trish Hatley, Sophie Milman, and probably the best by Barbra Streisand—all of whom sound like their hearts are breaking as they sing the last word and the song subsides.
Anyone who might be interested in finding out more about Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the songs they wrote may go to www.alanandmarilynbergman.com.