While Adler and Ross’ score for Damn Yankees has a great many items that are almost universally agreed to be absolutely delightful (“Heart”, “A Little Brains, A Little Talent”, “Whatever Lola Wants”, “Those Were the Good Old Days”), the three ballads for the real romantic couple, Joe and his wife Meg, have always been regarded as the dull baggage that comes along with the sparkling specialty material. Granted, the two major ballads in their last show, The Pajama Game, were co-authored by an uncredited Frank Loesser (the genius-level composer of Guys and Dolls and Adler and Ross’ mentor), so one would only expected them to be somewhat weaker working entirely on their own. Still, these three ballads are so often the subject of complaints that I thought I’d examine them here. This is the first of the three, sung by Joe as he leaves a letter with his wife before going off to sell his soul in order to become a famous baseball player (it’s a deceptively weird show). It’s definitely the gentlest of the three, and the most touching, and perhaps because of the way it oddly seems to touch the heart, it has the most defenders of the three; all but the most dedicated detractors seem to be willing to give it at least a partial pass. It might also help that this particular ballad is sung by Joe’s original, older self, not his magical young form. This not only adds the effect of an old man’s fading, quavering voice to add more poignancy to the song, but it hands the song off to someone other than original leading man Stephen Douglas, who had a strong baritone but was so wooden a performer that he made Nelson Eddy look like Carol Channing.
Verdict: Definitely good.