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Dorothy Fields' Sweet, Various Gifts to Popular Song

One hundred years ago today, lyricist Dorothy Fields was born. She wrote dozens of hit songs for Broadway shows and Hollywood musicals.

Fields' career is remarkable on multiple levels. She made it to the top of the songwriting heap as a woman surrounded by men, with such peers as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. With composer Jimmy McHugh, she wrote several early hits, such as "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "I'm in the Mood for Love."

Nor did Fields burn brightly only to fade away: Her career stretched for nearly 50 years, as prolific as it was long and successful. From her start in the 1920s through the early '70s, Fields contributed lyrics for over 200 songs. She got into show business over the objections of her parents; her father had been a famous vaudevillian.

"A Dorothy Fields lyric is marked by this kind of surprising, sophisticated wit and this elegant turn of phrase," Fields biographer Deborah Grace Winer tells Jeff Lunden. "And, maybe more than anything else, this dead-on ear for slang and colloquial speech."

That dead-on ear was still going strong late in Fields' career. A key collaborator was Cy Coleman, with whom she penned songs for the 1966 musical Sweet Charity, now being revived on Broadway. Dorothy Fields died in 1974 after attending a rehearsal for one of her shows. She was 69 years old and still on top.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Lunden is a freelance arts reporter and producer whose stories have been heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on other public radio programs.
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