Song of the Day #757: ‘Not While I’m Around’ – Ken Jennings and Angela Lansbury

I’ve given short shrift to a number of genres throughout my Song of the Day series. Rap and heavy metal, certainly, because I don’t like or own much of either. Jazz and classical, which don’t really offer up “songs” in the traditional sense. Adult contemporary, for the most part.

The blog has mostly focused on pop, rock, alternative and a little bit of country. And as that group pretty well describes my CD collection, it will likely continue to be the focus.

But this week I’m turning my attention to a type of song that can encompass any or all of the above styles but still belongs in a category all its own — the show tune. My next five songs are all featured in movies or stage plays.

Kicking things off is one of my favorite show tunes, ‘Not While I’m Around’ from Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I knew the song long before I was familiar with the musical. I first heard it performed by Barbara Streisand on her Broadway album (a very good record despite my general dislike of her voice). This was my favorite track on that album.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned it was from the violent, grisly Sweeney Todd, and sung by an orphan boy no less. That made the song a lot more interesting and poignant, and as much as I enjoy Ms. Streisand’s version, I feel compelled to feature the original 1979 Broadway cast instead.

This clip features Ken Jennings as the orphan Toby and Angela Lansbury as Sweeney Todd’s co-conspirator Mrs. Lovett. Toby appreciates that Mrs. Lovett has taken him under her wing and vows to protect her from harm (not realizing that she’s been baking Todd’s victims into pies all along).

Tim Burton’s recent film version of this play, starring Johnny Depp (of course) as Todd, is worth renting if you can get past the blood, which flows almost constantly. Or you can remain here in the safety of my blog and enjoy the show’s loveliest melody.

Nothing’s gonna harm you, not while I’m around.
Nothing’s gonna harm you, no sir, not while I’m around.

Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays,
I’ll send ’em howling,
I don’t care, I got ways.

No one’s gonna hurt you,
No one’s gonna dare.
Others can desert you,
Not to worry, whistle, I’ll be there.

Demons’ll charm you with a smile, for a while,
But in time…
Nothing can harm you
Not while I’m around…

Not to worry, not to worry
I may not be smart but I ain’t dumb
I can do it, put me to it
Show me something I can overcome
Not to worry, Mum

Being close and being clever
Ain’t like being true
I don’t need to,
I would never hide a thing from you,
Like some…

No one’s gonna hurt you, no one’s gonna dare
Others can desert you,
Not to worry, whistle, I’ll be there!
Demons’ll charm you with a smile, for a while
But in time…
Nothing can harm you
Not while I’m around…

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #757: ‘Not While I’m Around’ – Ken Jennings and Angela Lansbury

  1. Amy says:

    Well, as you well know, I do love Streisand’s voice, so it’s difficult to cap her rendition in my book. Still, I appreciate hearing the song in its original context.

    It’s funny how much a “show tune” can work on a completely different level when taken out of that context the original show provides. This song, for instance, always struck me as the most passionate assurance by a person (wife? mother?) who had a tremendous stake in the safety and well-being of the person to whom she was singing. There is no irony in the delivery when Streisand sings it.

    I figured it was only fair to offer the Streisand version for comparison and found a performance that certainly demonstrates what I mean:

    I guess that’s the mark of the greatest show tunes. They work equally well in the show for which they were written and on their own. I look forward to seeing what else you feature this week.

  2. pegclifton says:

    Oh my, am I going to enjoy this week!! I love show tunes, especially the older ones. Streisand and Sinatra have done wonderful albums featuring show tunes, but there is nothing like a live production when the “show stopper” is sung.

  3. Clay says:

    I got the embed to work… looks like WordPress made a change to how YouTube clips have to be posted on the back-end. So I can fix any future embeds after the fact (I’m sure there are a lot of American Idol contestants relieved to hear that!). 🙂

    Barbra’s version is indeed lovely. How uncomfortable must Jason have felt in that audience, though!

  4. Dana says:

    I thought you hated show tunes…:)

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