MadonnaTribe is proud to present the following interview to Sir Tim Rice, the acclaimed lyricist of "Evita".

Tim Rice began his professional life with the intention of being a solicitor, but very soon wound up working for EMI records and became the man behind the unforgettable lyrics of many famous musicals such as "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "Evita", "Chess", of popular Disney movies like "The Lion King", "Aladdin", and stage productions like "Aida" and "Beauty And The Beast".

His work has won him numerous awards including 12 Ivor Novello Awards, 4 Tonys, and 3 Oscars.
Tim was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999 and was knighted in 1994. During the Broadway run of the "Jesus Christ Superstar" revival in 2000, he had a total of four shows playing simultaneously on the Great White Way, a record later equalled in Japan when, with the opening of "Aida" in December 2003, he had four shows playing simultaneously.

Tim will be discussing with us how "Evita" came to life, the Oscar winning song "You Must Love Me", previous titles of the classic number "Don't Cry For Me Argentina", the Alan Parker movie and of course he will be sharing with our readers his thoughts about the Queen of Pop.

: Tim, thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed by MadonnaTribe!

Tim Rice: No problem at all.

MT: Legend says that the original idea of creating a musical about the life of Eva Peron came to you by hearing a ten minute radio program in your car about her in 1973.
What were the elements that made you clearly see that there was substantial material for a successful musical?

TR: Well I don't know, it was just the story that appealed to me when I heard this bit on the radio and I thought we were lucky at the time, we had a hit with "Jesus Christ Superstar", and we were wondering what to do next.


Suddenly, I thought, this is a very interesting story and I can't remember if I immediately thought if this is something we can do as a musical.

But I certainly wanted to hear the full program, because I only heard a small extract from the program.
I heard about 10 minutes of it, and I missed the beginning. As soon as I managed to hear the repeat of the program, I realized it was a great story and then gradually I thought that this is something that maybe we could work on.


: Let's focus a moment on "Evita", the movie which was released in 1996. You were asked to write a new song for the movie and you came up with "You Must Love Me", an oscar winning composition.

What is the idea behind the song and how was it conceived?

TR: The song was really just like all the songs in Evita.
They aren't written so much as songs but as episodes/scenes in telling a story, so in the original version, there was a lot of semi-sung dialogue, perhaps that's a bit unfair on it, but it was quite a complicated musical passage between Peron and Eva, which I think the director felt wouldn't translate very well onto film.


So we decided to simplify that and put in a new song, which also gave us a shot at getting the Oscar because you can only win an Oscar with a new song. I guess that was as much the reason as anything.

We wanted a song that showed Eva's thoughts as she was coming to terms with the fact that she was going to die.

MT: And Madonna performed it great in the movie...

TR: She did it very well, yes. It was a good record and a good performance and I was very pleased that it won the Oscar. I thought it was very bad luck on her that she wasn't nominated for an Oscar.

MT: She did win the Golden Globe...

TR: Yeah, that was good! I was there the night she won that.

MT: Aside from "You Must Love Me", what was your involvement in the film?

TR: Not a lot, to be honest. Directors don't really want writers hanging around. I complained about one or two minor things like lyrical changes, but they were ignored, and I thought "well, there's not much point in getting my knickers in a twist here".


I let them get on with it really. I mean, there were one or two things in the lyrics which I thought were stupid changes, but very minor ones, that nobody would have noticed. But people do this, I think people feel they have to do to put their mark on it or something, I guess.

MT: This leads to the next question.
What do you think about "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" sung in the film by Madonna? It helps establishing the character of young Eva. Do you agree with this choice?

TR: I'm a bit ambivalent about that one, I thought it worked for Madonna and she did it very well of course and it gave her another shot at a hit record.

But it kind of takes away one of the strands of the story, that Peron was working through lovers and people he was using just the way that Eva was.
I mean, she's still in the film, she had like one line.

But a bunch of people used to say in the original work that the song (Suitcase) was kind of stuck in and it didn't really work because it was slightly out of context, but I never quite thought that was the case. I thought it was a nice song and that it was a good scene and just because Eva wasn't singing the song didn't mean that it wasn't an important scene for Eva.

But I guess it kinda worked with Madonna singing the song, but I would have thought it would have been… perhaps the compromise.
I would have gone for would been to have Madonna sing one verse of it, and then maybe give the full song to the girl later turning it back onto Eva.

It worked, I wasn't too upset about that.

MT: "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" has become a classic now. Can you share with us some of your memory of the day you wrote the lyrics of such a powerful song.
How did the song come to life?

TR: The lyrics were written over a period of time, it was quite a difficult one to get right.

The title came almost at the very end. The title would cause a lot of problems because we just didn't know what to call the song, and we briefly flirted with the idea of trying to make it a song that would work out of context, that could be taken as a love song as well.

It had some terrible titles like "It's Only Your Lover Returning" and also "My Wild Days".
There exists a version of Julie Covington's on one of Andrew [Lloyd Webber]'s compilation CDs where her version of the song singing "it's only your lover returning" and it just doesn't work.

It's exactly the same in every other respect, same lyrics, same orchestration, the same vocal. But when you got a bad title, it kills the song.
In the end, the line "don't cry for me Argentina" was used elsewhere in the show very early on, and everybody thought that was a nice line, so we made that the title of the song.

The song in itself almost doesn't make sense.
I mean, "Don't cry for me Argentina" is a whole song but in a way, it's not meant to, it wasn't written as a song, it was written as a scene in a show.
It's meant to be a string of political clichés, sounding pretty, and not really saying very much. But it kind of worked, bizarrely, it worked as a song out of context.

So, in the end, we got the hit we originally tried for in the wrong way.

MT: During her successful re-Invention tour 2004, Madonna not only re-invented her repertoire of classic songs but also added to the show one of the most beautiful moments of Evita: "Lament". Did you happen to see the show and what do you think of "Lament" re-Invented?


TR: No, I didn't actually. I just never got around to seeing it. Sheer idleness, I think. I heard that she did the "Lament" that way and apparently did it in an electric chair. To be honest, I just never got around to seeing it I can't remember, maybe the timing just wasn't right.

MT: I think the DVD is coming out later this year...

TR: Oh great, I'll see it then.


: What was your idea about Madonna before Evita and did the film experience make you change your perception about her?

TR: I don't think really, no. My idea was that she's a very talented artist. Her music was very strong and several of the songs were clearly out of the ordinary pop songs, they were songs that would last beyond her interpretation of them. I think it's fair to say that musically, I far prefer her earlier stuff to her later stuff.


Perhaps it's because her later stuff is more contemporary. She's moved with the times but it seems to me in some related stuff it's tended to be more sounds and production values rather than songs.

I think she's a fine artist and I was very keen for her to get the part, rather than some of the other ladies who would have been interesting but I don't think would have been right like Meryl Streep and Michelle Pfeiffer and other names that were tossed around.

I would reckon she was by far the best because she just had the look, and there are obvious parallels to be made between Eva Peron and Madonna.

: ...and I'm pretty sure she wanted that role very badly.

: Yeah she did, she certainly seemed to want it and I'm glad it did well for her.

: Evita will soon come back on stage in London...

TR: Yes this is the plan and I'm not quite sure when or who with, but I think it's going to come back sometime next year.

: Will the new edition be influenced by the movie? Is "You Must Love Me" going to be included?

TR: I think "You Must Love Me" would go in. It's become quite a well-known song and I think it would be nice to put it in. I don't think it's been finally decided but I would be surprised if it doesn't go in.

And I would guess also that the "Suitcase" song would probably go back to the mistress, although maybe I can put forward the idea of giving Eva a bit of it and then who knows, maybe someone will take over (haha).

: Speaking of re-inventions, there have been many versions of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" in different styles. From "Disco Evita" to the "Miami Remixes" by Pablo Flores and Madonna.
What do you think about this great ballad being turned into a strong dance anthem?

: Oh, I'm delighted. It's a good tune A really strong tune can take almost any treatment and I think "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" is one of Andrew's best tunes and I'm delighted to hear almost any version.
I don't necessarily like all of them but it's always interesting to hear new versions and I thought the Madonna dance mixes were very good.


: I have one of the Don't Cry For Me Argentina mixes in the car and I get so high from it, which surprised me because I'm so used to hearing this song slowly.

TR: Ha ha, it's quite nice to hear it speeded up a bit, occasionally, because it is a long song (haha).


MT: You attended the Evita premiere in London in December 1996, did you have any memories from that occasion. Were you nervous to see the final result of Alan Parker and how he dealt with your work?

: I don't think I was nervous at all, to be honest. I hadn't seen it before.
I'd seen a little clip of it which I thought was very good. I was marvelly intrigued, really, it was like going to see a movie.

I don't remember much about the evening really. There was a party afterwards which I certainly went to, but you know, most of the fuss was around Madonna, who was actually there.

But that was fine, I was delighted somebody else took much of the flack.

MT: I remember seeing the movie premiere in Los Angeles.
And when your name came up in the credits at the beginning of the movie, everybody did this huge applause and clapping, and I thought that was really cool.

TR: Oh really, haha!

MT: You worked with Sir Elton John on the songs for Disney's Lion King so you got to know him very well.
Elton recently commented on how Madonna supposedly doesn't sing live in her shows. What do you think about that?

TR: I haven't seen her shows recently.
I can't comment, I don't know if she sings live or not. I'm sure she sings live a lot of the time.

But if you're leaping around and dancing and doing those things, it's impossible to sing live. A live performance doesn't necessarily mean just live singing, you got to leap around and you want the choreography and all that, then I think that it's fair enough to mime.
It's physically impossible, I think.

I think you can technically say it's a live performance even if you are lip-syncing some of it, providing you're doing something else. Basically, I'm not a mega-fan of choreography anyway. I find choreography pretty boring, generally.


Obviously, brilliant choreography, in reasonable doses, is gripping but most of it is pretty boring or whatnot.
Personally, I would rather hear somebody sing live most of the time, or all of the time.
But if they don't, and they want to push the dancing, that's their privilege.

But I don't think it really matters if people mime to their own voice when they're doing something else.



: Which is your own favourite song or theme from Evita?

TR: I don't know. it's difficult to judge your own stuff, and it varies a lot.
You sometimes think one song is quite good and then you think another one is, and then you think they're all terrible or whatever. But I've always quite liked "High Flying Adored", that was a nice song... what else...
It kind of works as a whole, I tend not to think of it as individual songs.


It's always nice to hear one or two on the radio, which one does occasionally but most radio stations are fairly unimaginative and nearly always only play "Don't Cry For Me Argentina".
I think I'd probably say "High Flying Adored" is my favorite.

: There was one time I was playing that song in my car, and I was already emotional and it kind of got me sad...

TR: Oh, I'm sorry about that! (haha)

MT: Oh (haha) no problem, it's a song that reminds me of people who grow up and nobody knows who they are, and that's why it made me feel that way.

TR: Good!

MT: Is there something about the film you don't like or a particular scene you think could have turned out better?

TR: No, I think Alan [Parker] did a great job. My only comment is the one or two minor lyrical changes that I did touch on.
There was one bit where they changed Che Guevara's line from "no money"… I think it starts off as "Eva Peron had every disadvantage you need if you're going to succeed" and the original lyric is "no money no class" and that was changed "no money no cash" and I pointed this out when I first heard the soundtrack and I said "this is obviously a mistake and Antonio Banderas has misheard the lyric and it's obviously not "no money no cash" because that's the same thing".
And I was told "no, that was deliberate" and I said "well, that's the same, you can't change that, it's stupid".

And then anyway, that was half the point. She was lower class and they said "oh well no, she had a lot of class" and I said "but of course she had one sort of class but the class that Magaldi was referring to was that she was lower class, working class".

Also, she was 16/17 so she hadn't had time in her life at that point to become classy and even if she had, Magaldi wouldn't have really noticed it.
So (the answer is), the line by Che Guevara, referring to her affair with Magaldi.
I thought that was just plain stupid.

There's another one, equally stupid, where Person says in roundabout the time when he's in exile, he said something about "I can see us sitting on the terrace" and a bit about "breakfast in bed" and "doing crosswords and that sort of thing" and that was changed to "doing nothing", and I said "you know, why did you change that?" And I didn't really get an answer to satisfy me.
Something about "crosswords are a very middle-class occupation" and I said "well, Peron was very middle class", and I like the idea of them just sort of idling the time away doing crosswords which means in effect doing nothing.

It says it, I think, more subtly than just plain doing nothing because they weren't doing nothing, they were just living a very idle life, or dreaming about the possibilities of living an idle life.

But generally speaking, I thought it was very well shot. I thought Madonna was terrific. I thought Jimmy Nail was outstanding, he was great.


Antonio [Banderas] was very good, a little bit of a problem hearing some of the words at times.
I think in "The Lady's Got Potential" I couldn't really make out what was going on. But it didn't matter, I think it's only the people writing the words that really care if you hear all the words. Most people, you know, just let them drift by.

MT: Well that's it, thank you so much for spending your time with us to be interviewed

No problem at all! Thank you


MadonnaTribe would like to thank Sir Tim Rice for his kindness
and for giving people the gift of so many incredible lyrics that will be cherished for good.

Interview conducted by Angie Hung
Written by TheImmaculate and Angie Hung
Copyright 2005 MadonnaTribe

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