“You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”

A night or so ago, I was humming myself to sleep with a medley of songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s towering, magnificant musical, South Pacific.

So today, instead of putting on a rock-pop-folk CD to get me into writing about a collection of purveyors of fake news — I’ve been stalling around here because I find these creatures so awful I regret every minute I am forced to spend in their sociopathic little lives — I put on my remastered CD of the original South Pacific.

A bit of old fartism: if you grew up as I did in the era of great Broadway musicals, you might find yourself, with my brother Ethan and me, going only to revivals of them. Because, unlike all contemporary musicals, every single song in them is a classic.

Among the multitudinous joys of the flawless South Pacific revival at Lincoln Center was the moment, as the overture began with the “Bali H’ai” theme, when the stage rolled back to show us the whole, full orchestra playing — and the entire audience broke into sustained applause. I broke into applause and tears. Can’t explain.

South Pacific is about two war time romances that twine around each other, but what it’s really about is racism and Hammerstein’s lyrics to the short bitter song, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” are even sharper today than they were in 1949, when the show opened.

You’ve got to be carefully taught to hate and fear

You’ve got to be taught from year to year

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made

Of people whose skin is a different shade

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late

Before you are six or seven or eight

To hate all the people your relatives hate

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

 

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