Brill-iant…

This actually started about two years ago.  I was listening to a few “oldies” and amongst them was Magic Town, a song made popular by The Vogues.  I realized that it was a song I’d never tried to play on the piano so I sat down and fiddled with it for a while.  Thanks to the convenience of the Internet I found a copy of the lyrics to keep me on track and soon I was (more or less) playing the song.  Fast forward two years… amazing what one can forget.  Hearing that recording of Magic Town again I remembered that I had once been able to play it and dug through my miscellaneous music sheets until I found the lyrcis again.  This time I decided to record the song as a reminder of my efforts two years earlier…

In fairness to those who don’t know the original, here’s what it sounds like, courtesy of The Vogues and YouTube

Now, when I printed out the lyrics, I noticed that the song was attributed to Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.  Their names were not unknown to me but I decided to do a little research on other songs they’d written.

The first thing you will discover, if you look them up, is that they are a husband and wife songwriting team.  Mann (born 1939) is the principal composer while Weil (born 1940) is the lyricist.  The next thing you will discover is the number of songs which they wrote which were major hits for a variety of performers.  Here’s a very selective sampling (song/performer)…

I Just Can’t Help Believing- B.J. Thomas, Elvis

Hungry and Kicks- Paul Revere and the Raiders

Here You Come Again- Dolly Parton

On Broadway– The Drifters

We Gotta Get Outa This Place– The Animals

Only in America– Jay and the Americans

Shades of Grey– The Monkees

Somewhere Out There– Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram

(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration and Yov’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’- The Righteous Brothers

It’s also notable that You’ve Lost holds (as of 2010) the record for the most-played radio song of all time… 14 million plays and counting!

Now for the “Brill” aspect…

Weil and Mann were only two of a stable of songwriters working out of the Brill Building in New York.  Built in 1931, it housed offices and studios where some of the most well-known songs in the catalogue of American popular music were created.  Its alumni (in addition to Mann and Weil) include (name[s] and one example of their body of work)

Burt Bacharach and Hal David- I Say a Little Prayer

Neil Diamond- I’m a Believer

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart- Last Train to Clarksville

Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry- Do Wah Diddy Diddy

Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller- Love Potion Number 9

Gerry Goffin and Carole King- Up on the Roof

Neil Sedaka-Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Phil Spector- To Know Him is to Love Him

Laura Nyro- And When I Die

Andy Kim- Sugar, Sugar

As you can appreciate, the occupants of the Brill Building (Mann and Weil among them) have had a significant impact on the course of popular music over many decades.  I mention this because we so often remember the song and the performer… less often the songwriter.  So consider this post a “tip of the hat” to all those who have created the original material on which is built the recordings that we enjoy and remember.

Today’s p.s.

I referred to The Sing Off in a previous post… well, the process of elimination continues with lots of great performances along the way.  Here’s the Dartmouth Aires in a recent episode singing a medley from Queen…

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