Written in 1922, “Manhattan” was the first hit for the songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, who would also compose other standards now considered part of the Great American Songbook, such as “Blue Moon,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Where or When.”
“Manhattan” is a great example of lyricist Hart’s wry sense of humor. His protagonists are a young couple in love, low on money but rich in imagination when reframing their romantic travel aspirations as a frugal staycation in the city. Hart’s joke here was that all the glamorous activities and locations mentioned in the song were really the cheapest, often grittiest attractions New York had to offer.
Popular versions of “Manhattan” have been recorded by the jazz singer Blossom Dearie, Motown act the Supremes, and many others. Arrangements tend to vary from one to three verses, both with and without an intro. I’m using a two-verse version with intro, similar to the version that jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald recorded on her album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers and Hart Song Book (1956), slowing it down and moving it to the key of D major for ease of playing.
Some of the chords you’re going to use are a bit more sophisticated than those typically seen in this column. And while a few have fancy names, they’re all pretty easy to play—no major finger contortions required here. That said, it might at first be tricky to do the third-finger barre required for the F#m7 and C9, B9, and Bb9 chords. Feel free to eliminate the highest note on the F#m7, and for C9 and B9, you could use an alternate shape: fingers 2, 1, 3, and 4 on strings 5, 4, 3, and 2, respectively, avoiding the notes on string 1.
Do take the time to appreciate the sounds that these chord types impart to the music—they really do add some spice.
You can find the notation for this guitar arrangement of “Manhattan” in the March/April 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.