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“Manhattan” by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart with sheet music

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“Manhattan” by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart with sheet music

The song describes, in several choruses, the simple delights of Manhattan for a young couple in love. The joke is that these “delights” are really some of the worst, or cheapest, sights that New York has to offer; for example, the stifling, humid stench of the subway in summertime is described as “balmy breezes”, while the noisy, grating pushcarts on Mott Street are “gently gliding by”.

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A particular Hart delight is the use of New York dialect to rhyme “spoil” with “boy and goil”.In the first stanza, the couple is obviously too poor to afford a honeymoon to the popular summertime destinations of “Niag’ra” or “other places”, so they claim to be happy to “save our fares”. In the second stanza, they go for a walk down Delancey Street, which was in the 1920s a boisterous commercial strip, part of the working-class Lower East Side. In the third stanza, they plan to go to Greenwich Village, to watch “Modern men itch to be free”.

In the fourth stanza, it is revealed that the only rural retreat they can afford to go to is “Yonkers”, and the only restaurant they can afford is to “starve together in Childs'” – a popular discount cafeteria. These were all working-class places that attracted the poor, the unemployed, and gays and lesbians, along with other denizens of the Prohibition-era demimonde. In later stanzas, other places they will go to are likewise free – Central Park, “the Bronx Zoo”, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and to view the much-criticized statue of “Civic Virtue”


Lyrics

Summer journeys
To Niag’ra
And to other places
Aggravate all our cares.
We’ll save our fares.
I’ve a cozy little flat
In what is known as old Manhattan.
We’ll settle down
Right here in town.
We’ll have Manhattan,
The Bronx and Staten
Island too.
It’s lovely going through
The zoo.
It’s very fancy
On old Delancey
Street, you know.
The subway charms us so
When balmy breezes blow
To and fro.
And tell me what street
Compares with Mott Street
In July?
Sweet pushcarts gently gliding by.
The great big city’s a wondrous toy
Just made for a girl and boy.
We’ll turn Manhattan
Into an isle of joy.
We’ll go to Greenwich,
Where modern men itch
To be free;
And Bowling Green you’ll see
With me.
We’ll bathe at Brighton
The fish you’ll frighten
When you’re in.
Your bathing suit so thin
Will make the shellfish grin
Fin to fin.
I’d like to take a
Sail on Jamaica
Bay with you.
And fair Canarsie’s lake
We’ll view.
The city’s bustle cannot destroy
The dreams of a girl and boy.
We’ll turn Manhattan
Into an isle of joy.
We’ll go to Yonkers
Where true love conquers
In the wilds.
And starve together, dear,
In Childs’.
We’ll go to Coney
And eat baloney
On a roll.
In Central Park we’ll stroll,
Where our first kiss we stole,
Soul to soul.
Our future babies
We’ll take to “Abie’s
Irish Rose.”
I hope they’ll live to see
It close.
The city’s clamor can never spoil
The dreams of a boy and goil.
We’ll turn Manhattan
Into an isle of joy.
We’ll have Manhattan,
The Bronx and Staten
Island too.
We’ll try to cross’
Fifth Avenue.
As black as onyx
We’ll find the Bronnix
Park Express.
Our Flatbush flat, I guess,
Will be a great success,
More or less.
A short vacation
On Inspiration Point
We’ll spend,
And in the station house we’ll end,
But Civic Virtue cannot destroy
The dreams of a girl and boy.
We’ll turn Manhattan
Into an isle of joy!

Sheet Music Download here.