Song of the Week – Shakespeare in Music

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

I just learned yesterday that a very dear friend of mine, Matthew Wells, died in early June while living in Thailand.  This brings me profound sadness.  Matt was a very gifted writer of poems, plays, and fiction.  Sadly, he never achieved the popular recognition that he deserved.  Perhaps that will happen posthumously.

Among Matt’s many, many areas of expertise was his PhD level knowledge of the works of William Shakespeare.  It is with that in mind that I humbly offer today’s SotW.

The words of William Shakespeare are considered some of the most important works of poetry and literature in the English language.  They have lived through the centuries because of their beauty and how they capture the essence of human emotion and behavior so accurately.  So it is no wonder they have occasionally been set to music.

My first exposure to Shakespeare’s words used in modern music was when I heard the original cast album for the (Off) Broadway musical, Hair (1967).

“What a Piece of Work is Man” is from a monologue from Hamlet. In Act II, Scene 2, Hamlet addresses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  The speech describes the wonder of God’s creation of the human body and mind.

Jazz vocalist Cleo Laine recorded a version of Shakespeare’s lullaby “You Spotted Snakes” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream on her 1986 album A Midsummer Night’s Dream: You Spotted Snakes.

From Act II, Scene 2, “You Spotted Snakes” is sung by the Fairies to protect their sleeping Queen, Tatiana, from the dangers of spotted snakes, thorny hedgehogs, newts, and blindworms.

In 2016, Rufus Wainwright released an album called Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 40 – Take all my loves, my love, yea, take them all, describes the hurt of a love triangle between the narrator and a person that had an affair with his lover.

These are timeless, beautiful words, set to music.

I hope you approve, Matthew.  This one is for you!

Enjoy… until next week.