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The Story Behind "My Favorite Things," from The Sound of Music to Enduring Jazz Standard

The legendary Broadway musical writing team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II produced their final show together, The Sound of Music, nine months before Hammerstein passed away of cancer. Yet throughout all the songs of the show, there’s a great sense of hope and optimism. “My Favorite Things,” with its holiday imagery, and its reminder to remember one’s favorite things when times are hard, has been adopted and adapted by jazz artists and pop artists to this day. WRTI Classical Host Debra Lew Harder speaks with Jazz Host Bob Craig about the song’s enduring appeal.

Radio script:

[Music: "My Favorite Things," from The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, original movie score, Julie Andrews, soprano]

Debra Lew Harder:  In 1958, Rodgers and Hammerstein began working on a show called The Sound of Music. For a song in Act I, Hammerstein made a list of some of his favorite things.

[Music: "Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, Silver white winters that melt into springs, these are a few of my favorite things,” from “My Favorite Things,” The Sound of Music, original movie score.]

DLH: Rodgers was moved by the way Hammerstein "transformed the sights and sounds of everyday American life into a heightened homespun poetry."

Soon after, John Coltrane spun the melody and waltz rhythm of "My Favorite Things" into a new kind of jazz—modal improvisation…

Bob Craig: "That really set a new tone for a lot of jazz artists."

DLH: WRTI's Bob Craig.

[Music: "My Favorite Things," John Coltrane, soprano saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, double bass; Elvin Jones, drums]

DLH: Like the show and the song, Coltrane's 1960 version became a hit.

BC: That was a very big recording on campus at the time. People who were into jazz had to keep listening and playing it because it was so revolutionary."

DLH: A year later, jazz vocalist Mark Murphy improvised on the lyrics. Some of Murphy's favorite things?

BC: The names of famous jazz people.

[Music: "My Favorite Things," Mark Murphy, vocalist]

DLH: Jazz and pop artists continue to include "My Favorite Things" on holiday albums. Whether done homespun, or modal, or close to the original, its message, to remember your “favorite things" is one for holiday—or anytime.

Debra's last day on the air at WRTI was September 21st, 2021. She's now the radio host for The Metropolitan Opera. Read more here.