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The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II Hardcover – November 25, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375413588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375413582
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 10.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Here the editorial torch for the Complete Lyrics series passes from Robert Kimball, helmsman for the Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Frank Loesser volumes, to Asch. The lavish format remains the same. The lyrics appear chronologically (save for undated lyrics in an appendix) and among plenty of photos. Hammerstein’s time line begins in 1916 with a song for a Columbia University student show and concludes with The Sound of Music in 1959. Hammerstein began writing the book musical, in which the songs suit moods appropriate to the tenors of the scenes in a narrative drama, in 1920, which is surprisingly early. Classic shows before he teamed with Richard Rodgers in the most successful partnership in musical-theater history include Rose-Marie, The Desert Song, and Show Boat, the landmark first “serious” musical. In 1943 came two experiments that further altered the course of the musical’s history: Oklahoma! and Carmen Jones. In all, there are 850 sets of lyrics in this book, which like its series mates, belongs in every collection concerned with musical theater. --Ray Olson


“Unexpected trivia is only one of the many pleasures of this book. Another is the chance to trace clearly and in detail the development of a remarkable artist across a 40-year career . . . No one [with even the slightest interest in how words are married to music] should fail to read and treasure this collection of the lyrics of one of the supreme masters of musical theater.”
—John Steele Gordon, The New York Times

“If a faulty memory trips up your shower-stall crooning, you need a copy of The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II . . . Amy Asch spent seven years tracking down every song written by Hammerstein (1895-1960) and determining the definitive lyric. For musical theater lovers, it's a treasure chest of old favorites and unexpected gems.”
—Tom Beer, Newsday

“A show-music fan’s delight.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A fabulous testament to Hammerstein’s genius. Lavishly illustrated and scrupulously researched, this is a treasure for anyone who cares about 20th Century American poetry, theater and film.”
—Keith Runyon, Louisville Courier-Journal

“From his earliest efforts to ‘The South of Music,’ this incredible collection is nothing less than a celebration of American theatrical genius.”
—Larry Cox, The Tucson Citizen

“An astounding collection . . . remarkable.”
—Matthew Murray, BroadwayStars.com

The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II is, like its subject—and unlike its hero—a musical in its own right.”
—Daniel Elkind, The Jewish Forward

“Anyone with a glancing interest in theater will be familiar with a few immortal phrases from “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ ” or “Some Enchanted Evening.” But this hefty, handsome volume reveals anew the breadth, range and sheer fecundity of a central figure—maybe the central figure—in the evolution of the American musical theater. Hammerstein wrote revue songs, operettas, musical comedies and of course the musical plays, with Richard Rodgers, that changed the face of Broadway forever and are so crucial to the musical canon. The book contains 850 lyrics, a quarter previously unpublished, with deeply researched notes and commentary by Ms. Asch that add color and context, although the limpid poetry of Hammerstein’s best lyrics needs little of either to shine.”
–Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

“Hammerstein drew on patterns that had existed long before [his] birth: a sentimental love of the land; a passion for social justice, predicated on faith in the innate goodness of ordinary folk; a canny awareness of the comedy inherent in the basic human tropes of man and woman, parent and child, boss and underling; and an earnest reverence for the mysteries of life. Hammerstein combined these familiar elements into something new, producing works that swept the world, entered the vernacular, and lodged permanently in the public mind. . . . In The Complete Lyrics, edited with painstaking thoroughness by Amy Asch, Hammerstein found ideas that even people unimaginably remote from Broadway’s sensibility could share.”
–Michael Feingold, The Village Voice

“Oscar Hammerstein flew on a bright cloud of music for his entire career . . . Everyone has a line of Hammerstein’s washing around in the back of his brain.
[Hammerstein] expanded the boundaries of the American theater song, past the narrow urban wit of the rhymesters. When he worked with Sigmund Romberg, the old goulash-peddler would run through the lyric and at the end say only: ‘It fits.’ Hammerstein came to see that that perfunctory acknowledgement was, in fact, high praise–that that was the most important thing about any lyric. It might also be poetry, but first it had to ‘fit.’ Hammerstein’s words always fit.”
Mark Steyn, The New Criterion

“Catnip for people who love musicals . . . I just love this book.”
–Bill Goldstein (NYTimes.com)

“This one requires some heavy lifting. It's an oversize, 422-page beaut that would make a knockout gift for any lover of Broadway show tunes and classic American pop. The sheer number of songs he wrote is staggering. Lyrics divorced from the music can be a disservice, but Hammerstein was a poet, one of those rare ones with a sense of humor, so you don't even have to know the music to appreciate his clever writing. The familiar lyrics, from such classics as ‘South Pacific,’ ‘The King and I’ and ‘Show Boat’ will have you singing them as you read.”
The Seattle Times

“In some ways, The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II defeats the purpose of coffee-table books. It’s all about the word. Despite the historical images, one wants to linger over the obscure shows from the early 20th century, then luxuriate in the emotional potency of Hammerstein’s collaborations with Richard Rodgers, particularly ‘Oklahoma!’ ‘Carousel,’ ‘The King and I’ and the recently recovered ‘South Pacific.’ How his sensibility evolved from the Columbia University student show through ‘The Sound of Music’ is made much clearer through this volume.”
–Michael Barnes, Austin-American Statesman

“The lavish format remains the same . . . In all, there are 850 sets of lyrics in this book that, like its series mates, belongs in every collected concerned with musical theater.”

“The latest entry in Knopf’s superb ‘Complete Lyrics series’ supersedes any previous collection of Hammerstein’s lyrics . . . ”
Library Journal

“To list even a fraction of Hammerstein’s most popular songs is to recall some of the century’s most potent contributions to pop culture . . . Reading through the Hammerstein collection may compel you to rummage through your vintage recordings or perhaps start downloading its iTune counterparts. . . . Wandering through the 422 pages of The Complete Lyrics allows us the discovery of details that either remind of felicitous moments or offer fresh revelations. These fascinating, exhaustive books are filled with the kind of historical detail, photos, and trivia that make aficionados swoon.”
–Michael Adams, Open Letters Monthly

“This book is something wonderful.”
–Peter Filichia, TheaterMania

“A stunning catalog. Without question, The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II is the gift book of the season, whether for yourself or for a musical theatre friend.”
–Max Preeo, editor of Show Music Magazine

“A stoutly elegant compilation.”

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joe Regan Jr. on December 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great book and a wonderful Christmas gift for those who love music and theatre. Massive amount of research into every lyric he ever wrote, not only the Rodgers but also with other composers including Jerome Kern. Story behind every show, including some unproduced, and details on the original singers and includes cut material. A great book that sets the standard very high for these collections. There was also a rave review in the NY Times last week in the Arts and Leisure section. Highly recommended. Could not be a better gift!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By LotusPoint on January 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The previous review by Joe Regan states that a review appeared in The New York Times (in print on Dec. 25, 2008). What he neglects to point out is the following criticism from The New York Times' review by John Steele Gordon:

" If there is anything missing from this collection, it is Hammerstein's "Notes on Lyrics," written for the 1949 book. While frequently quoted here, it should have been included in its entirety. It contains more wisdom about how to go about this most exacting of all literary forms than anything I have ever read. No one with even the slightest interest in how words are married to music should fail to read it."

Would that those editing and publishing this current book had included it in its entirety, I would not now have to try to find a copy of the earlier book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Spritz on April 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...Oscar just wrote way-too-many execrable operetta lyrics in the '20s and '30s. There's a strange tension that builds thru the book as you work your way from one forgotten song (or show) to the next: you're waiting for 1943, getting together with Dick Rodgers, and The Real Hammerstein shining through. There's certainly much gold before that (Show Boat, some other stray Kern pieces), but a heck of a lot of dreck.

Really. Hold this (hefty) book in your hand and put your finger at 1943, which is where he "starts" for most Americans, and you're 4/5 of the way through the pages. I suppose that's the point of this series, to give us an exhaustive compilation of how Major Genius Lyricist plugged away for so many years, but it's curious, compared to Hart and Porter and Gershwin, how Hammerstein had to go through so much, so many tedious tales about far-off kingdoms and fair maidens, to finally arrive, ata mature age, to Oklahoma! and everything after. This guy put in one heck of an apprenticeship.

I'd say this book is only for the crazily devoted, who want to track down lyrics even Hammerstein himself probably forgot six weeks after he wrote them. But, like all others in this series, this title is lovely to look at, delightful to hold.
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