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September 28, 2012

A farewell to the composer of '(Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair'

One of the many reasons I became a Barbra Streisand addict at a tender age was her performance of "(Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair," a song of remarkable poignancy in music and words alike. The composer, Billy Barnes, died this week in Los Angeles at the age of 85.

Mr. Barnes did a lot of things in his career, including the song "Something Cool," many contributions to "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," and several successful musical revues.

I still think what Mr. Barnes achieved in "Too Long at the Fair" was an extraordinary example of songwriting, a model of its kind. In case you don't know it, or in case you would just like to enjoy it again, I've posted two versions that complement each other nicely:

Streisand's 1963 recording, which becomes a full-fledged opera scene, full of remarkable irony and pathos;

and a performance from the wonderful autumnal years of Rosemary Clooney's career, when she did such subtle, affecting things with limited resources (you get to hear more lyrics in this version).


Posted by Tim Smith at 8:56 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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