Week 158: “Manhattan” by Rodgers & Hart (as performed by Ella Fitzgerald)

The term “staycation” may not have surfaced until 2003, but the dynamic songwriting duo of Rodgers & Hart captured the idea perfectly with this 1925 gem.

The song tells of the exploits of a young couple who decide against vacationing in a faraway place, but instead “save their fares” and explore their own backyard. They indulge in New York’s simpler (aka cheaper) delights – Mott Street! Delancey! Baloney on Coney Island! – and turn Manhattan into an isle of joy.

Staycations are highly recommended. No passport, no lineups, baggage optional. Admittedly, if you’re seeking adventure in your own backyard, those who live in Manhattan are at a clear advantage over most of us. But I love the song’s message; some of life’s best adventures are free, and right around the corner.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. Lorenz Hart’s clever lyrics. My favourites are in the first and last lines. In the first line he rhymes “Niagara” with the first half of the word “aggravate”, and in the last line he gives himself the chance to throw in a New York accent by rhyming “spoil” with “goyl”.

2. While the tempo of other versions are more foxtrot-friendly, this one is ideal strolling speed.

3. The voice and strings are very far forward in the mix, but the drummer is back there somewhere, about 50 feet in the background, waiting for the session to be over so he can go chill in his hammock.

Recommended listening activity:

Pretending your bike is a train, and embarking on a glamorous trip across the continent.

Buy it here.