Marty Panzer: Lyricist

Marty Panzer is a great lyricist who has songs known all over the world. He began writing songs with his friend Barry Manilow when they started working in the CBS-TV mailroom. They wanted a career in music so they began writing commercial jingles. From there, you could say Marty Panzer’s songs have more than taken off–he wrote songs for Barry Manilow like “It’s a Miracle,” “This One’s for You,” “All the Time,” and “Even Now.” Not only has Marty Panzer written songs for Barry Manilow, but he wrote the Kenny Rogers classic “Through the Years.” His songs have been recorded by the likes of Dionne Warwick, Frankie Valli, Gladys Knight, Julio Iglesias, Dusty Springfield, and others. Marty Panzer has 35 gold and platinum records, four BMI million play awards, a 3 million play award, and record sales in excess of 70 million units.

“An Evening with Marty Panzer,” featuring songs, stories and performances by many guest composers and artists (including Diane Schuur and a special guest performance by Barry Manilow), had it’s world premier at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles, benefitting the Academy For New Musical Theatre.

For 17 years Marty Panzer has taught a workshop on songwriting at UCLA. His songs are loved by many, and the host of this show is no exception. It is our pleasure to welcome a great and passionate lyricist, a man who says he is about “things that last.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is our great pleasure to welcome our special guest, Mr. Marty Panzer.  Thanks so much for making the time to do this interview.

Happy to be here, and it is a great pleasure for me as well.

Who is “Marty Panzer”?

“Marty Panzer” is a very lucky guy, who works very hard to stay that way.  My mom was the center of my universe, and then CBS, and then Barry.  And now, songwriting.

A songwriter.  Would you say you focus more on the lyrics, or the melodies?

Ninety percent, lyrics.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve actually begun writing some melodies to lyrics I’m writing, but that’s a very new thing.  Primarily, it’s been lyrics.

So, take us back a while, and tell us what was life like growing up?

It was very isolated.  It was just my mom and I in a small one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.  We didn’t have very much money.  My mom always made sure that I was happy.  I never knew the difference.  We were the same as everyone else who lived in the area.  There was always a lot of music.  A lot of music playing, all the time.  And maybe that’s why we were so happy!

And what kind of music did you hear around the house?

Mice fencing.  We had a lot of mice.  And you would hear them fighting with each other all night long.  But, I don’t know if you could consider that music, but after we got past the mice fencing, we found, well, you know, in order really, for years, I was obsessed with Jackie Wilson.  I just loved the performance quality, I loved the orchestra quality.  When Jackie Wilson passed, I found Andy Williams.  Andy sang all the popular songs of the time, but when he sang them, I could finally understand the words.  And the words were always the most important thing to me.

Now, why do you think that is?  That the words are the most important thing to you?

Because they move me!  Because words in a book, words in a letter, words in a note- words move me in a way that visual art doesn’t.  I’ve gone to all the great art institutes, and, you know, walked around for five hours, and never seen anything that looked more inspiring than, ‘Oh, that’s nice yellow’.  ‘Oh, that’s great blue.’  And, I come out of there, and other people are crying, and heaving sighs, and, and, I don’t even understand it.  But, on a word, you can get me.  On a word, you can get me, and, and it, and it fills my head with emotion, and, and words have always been able to do that to me.

I remember when I was a really young kid, I would take the subway to CBS, and I read the first Rod McKuen book, which I think was “Listen To The Warm”, and I had experienced none of these emotions, none of these feelings, none of these heartbreaks, none of these joys, none of, none of any of the things he was speaking about.  And yet, I cried like a baby, on the subway.  It was all so real and so moving, and I wondered, God!  Will I ever have as rich a life?  Will anybody ever love me as much?  Will I ever love anybody as much?  Will I lose?  Will I win?  Will I live without?  Will I live with?  The power of words reached me when I was very young.

Can you remember early things you wrote, whether a poem or a story, not necessarily lyrics?

I only remember this because my mom would remind me.  I wrote an article for public school about the two dogs that were sent into space- Litvak and Latka, or Latka and -somebody else?  Two, a black and a white dog that were sent up in Sputnik and it was a big deal!  I made the front page of my fourth grade newspaper, and I was quite the celebrity at that time!  We’re planning to turn that into a Broadway musical with PETA’s approval– not really!  It’s just the first thing you asked, the first thing I ever wrote- that actually really is the first thing I ever wrote!

That really hits home for me!  I’ll tell you about that in an email.  What about the first lyrics you ever wrote?

Well, you know, Barry and I were always at the piano- at CBS, after CBS, between mail runs, in between all the things that were happening- we were always at the piano.  I can’t ever tell you the first we ever wrote, but one we wrote at the very beginning was,

(Recites)

The first lady I know
She is sweeter than an apple pie
The Sunday school kind of Golden Rule kinda girl mom wants you to try
And yet I met her at a noisy bar
Where all the noisy boys congregate
She understood
Wouldn’t do any good
But she was just too lonely to wait

That song had a beginning, a middle, an end, and we were so proud we had finally written a complete song!  So, that’s one of the earliest- I mean that’s not the entire song- but that’s the beginning of one of the earlier songs.

It almost worked like a spoken-word piece.

Well, it had music- it had fabulous music!  Barry wrote fantastic music.

(Sings)
The first lady I know
She is far more sweeter…

I mean he wrote beautiful music to it.  It was before we really started recording or anything, but it had beautiful music to it.  Who knows?  With Barry, you never know.  He could be singing it now.  He never forgets anything.  He could be singing it now in Uruguay at the Festival of the Arts.  Who knows?

So, where do you get the inspiration to write something?

“This One’s For You”, and “Even Now”, and “It’s A Miracle”, all happened to me.  So, sometimes real events precipitated the songs, and it was just what was coming out of me through every pore, and meant so much to me, that I was fortunate to have an output to be able to express it.  So, lots of it-  Marilyn and Alan Bergman, two of the most famous songwriters of all time, she was the president of ASCAP- Marilyn and Alan once told me,  “A songwriter, or maybe, especially a lyricist, is always going within himself to bring up new ideas.  Therefore, you have to replenish the well inside you by reading, by listening, by learning, by communicating, by being aware of the universe.”  And I think I am.  I think I am.  I mean, if there’s an award for watching “Hardball” seven times a day, I’d probably get it.  And, so, my inspiration comes from what I see every day, and also, sadly or happily, from the things that really happen to me.

So, take us back to this CBS mailroom.  What was that job like, and I’m wondering, did your mind wander a lot when you thought of stuff you could write?


You know, the mailroom was piles and piles and piles of paper.  But, it was all show biz.  It was the exciting new world I had always dreamed of finding.  When I was alone in that one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with my mom, I said, ‘There must be more to this!  There must be a world out there with bright people, handsome people!  People that were learning and living and doing more than I was doing!’  And CBS was the place.  So, I really loved every moment of it, from the mailroom, till I became the manager of On-Air Operations.  If my mind ever wandered, it was to those beautiful and handsome people that were everywhere in the company!  I hadn’t seen those kind of people in Brooklyn, not a one!

He’s been your friend for a long time, and he’s also been a songwriting partner.  What is he like to work with, creatively?


He’s mean!  He’s vicious!  He’s insensitive!  He- no.  No, no, no, really!  He’s a fountain of creative ideas.  Barry has more ideas in a minute, than the United Nations has in forty years.  He’s also a perfectionist.  That’s a very good trait, and that’s part of the reason he’s been successful so long.  And, he’s also the most appreciative person I’ve ever met.  He is so happy when we write something- especially regarding the writing- when we write something, it means so much to him that we’ve done this together, we have a special joy that comes from being best buddies, from appreciating, from hearing in our head, the same ideal.  And so, when we accomplish that, he’s very appreciative, and so am I.  It’s nothing but a joyful relationship.

What was it like the first time you ever heard something you wrote performed on the radio, or on a record?

Well, I grabbed my pants, I said good-bye to whoever I was with, and I ran to call Barry!  What else could I do?

I said, ‘Barry, put the radio on!  You can’t believe it!  It’s actually our song in the radio!’
And he said, “WHAAAT!” (Laughs)

It was great!  It was great!  It was just- it was, it was a little unreal, you know?  I think at that time we were so young, we didn’t realize how difficult it was, and how extraordinary it was, we know that as years have gone on.  You can’t get on the radio.  But, for us, it was just, smooth as silk.  We wrote the songs, we released the songs, everyone loved the songs, our record company supported the songs, and they were on the radio, and they sold a million copies before the end of the week.  So, we were very fortunate.  We were very fortunate then, and appreciate it now, probably even more than we did then.

 We’re talking with lyricist Marty Panzer.  You’re songs have been covered by a lot of influential people.  What is it like today- you said you’re even, almost more appreciative- but what is it like now, when you hear someone, you’re flipping through the radio, and -BAM! -there’s your song?

Well, you know, Daft Punk was a revelation!  We never heard “Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed” exactly covered like Daft Punk actually covered it.  But, we were very happy with it.

You know, the ones that stand out are- Teddy Pendergrass did a magnificent version of “This One’s For You”, and it was after his accident, and the cover of the album had Teddy standing up.  And it was his way of saying, “I’m okay.  I can stand up.”  And he did this beautiful version of “This One’s For You”.  I always loved it.

Diane Schuur- when Barry produced the Diane Schuur album- she sang as brilliantly, and as emotionally as I could ever dream.  I mean, that was perfection.  When Diane Schuur sang “Life Is Good”, I would sit on the piano bench next to her, holding her hand, and we would both cry.  It took a hundred and fifty takes, because we kept crying, and they had to start over again, but it was just absolutely heart-wrenching.  She’s so good!

Well, we recently had the opportunity to interview Diane Schuur, and the album you’re talking about, “Midnight,” you talked a moment there about what a pleasure it was. But, what was it like working with her?

I’ll tell you, if you have the time, I’ll tell you a wonderful story, what impressed me the first time I ever saw her.

I went down to San Juan Capistrano where she was playing at a club, and she looked great and she sounded great, and there wasn’t anything remarkable about that, I knew she sounded great, she was a multi Grammy-winning artist.  But then, in the middle of the show, she said to the audience- she said to the audience,

“You know this year, I had an operation that could have lost my voice forever.  But it didn’t.” She said, “This year, I’ve lost forty pounds!”  She said, “This year, I’m loved by a man more than I’ve ever been loved by anyone in my life.”  And, “This year, I am eleven years sober.”

Well.  I just fell back in the chair.  I was so impressed with her honesty and with the fact that she was smart enough to realize that her life was so wonderful at this time.  Smart enough to realize that.  Not everyone is!

I ran outside, called Barry, and told Barry the story, and he said, “That’s the song!”

And we wrote the song, because I had never heard of a song that said, “Life Is Good!”  I never heard of a song that talked about, “I know life is good!  I’m happy, and I’m grateful, and I’m thankful, and I’m appreciative.”  It’s one of my favorite songs ever!  She did a brilliant job of it, and I just love the lady.

Well, speaking of legends, it had to have been thrilling to have Frankie Valli record a song of yours.  Tell us about the song he did, and what did you think of his rendition?

He recorded a song that was my second record ever with Richard Kerr.  Richard Kerr had written the music to “Mandy” and “Looks Like We Made It” and “I’ll Never Love This Way Again”, and Richard was one of the great ones.  The great writer of the Seventies and Eighties, the great melodist of the Seventies and Eighties.  And this was one the new songs we had written, and listening to the legendary Frankie Valli’s voice on top of a song written with Richard Kerr was stupefying.

But strangely, or just by coincidence, I met Frankie Valli about two, three months ago, at a party for Neil Sedaka.  And, I walked over to Frankie, and I shook his hand, and I said, “You know, I wrote a song that you once sang.”

And, he said,

(Sings)
Where did we go wrong?
Didn’t we belong together?

 He knew the song right off the top of his head, and sang it to me at the party!  It was really a thrill.  I mean, this is one of the great voices of our time!  One of the most distinctive voices of our time.

 Tell us about your song, “It’s A Miracle”, that appeared on the album, “Barry Manilow II”.

Well, “It’s A Miracle” has a funny story.

You know, one day, Barry called from, I don’t know where, somewhere in Europe, and he said to me,  “I have good news and I have bad news.”  And I said, “Yeah?”

And he said, “Every time I hang up on you, and I tell you some wonderful thing that’s happened- ‘We just played for the Queen of England’ -meaning he and Bette- ‘We had just played for the Queen of England’, or ‘We just sold a sixty-thousand seat arena out’, or ‘We just did the Burt Bacharach Special’, any wonderful thing, you always say the same thing about these great events!  And, when I hang up the phone, it’s running in my head for the next week.  So, the bad news is, I stole something that you say to me every day.  The good news is, I left all the rest of the words blank!  ‘IT’S A MIRACLE!’ ’’

‘Ohhh, right!  I say that, don’t I?’

And, he said, “You say that don’t ya?  And you always do, and I wrote a song called, “It’s A Miracle”, it’s fantastic, now all I need is the rest of the words!”

And, when he came back to New York City, I wrote the rest of the words.  You know, it’s been his opening number for thirty-two years?  For as long as he’s been on the road, it’s been his opening number.  He’s tried a hundred other numbers as the opening number, but the one number that gets the audience excited in a familiar, friendly, comfortable, approachable way is “It’s A Miracle”, and it was our first hit single, too.

Absolutely.  I remember seeing him in concert the last time he was in Atlanta, which sadly, he hasn’t been back since then, and he, of course, opened with, “It’s A Miracle”.  And, the mentioning of the cities, it makes you think about a lot of different things.  But, I have to agree, a perfect opening number.

You know, what I wanted to do was, not make it a travelogue.  In the second verse,

(Recites)
I never knew you looked so good
I never knew anyone could
I must have been crazy
To ever have gone away

 I almost forgot what it’s like
Holding you near me at night
 But now that I’m home again
You know that I’m home to stay

 I warmed it up!  I took it from a traveling city song to a more emotional song of reunion, and I think that made the difference, and everybody was surprised, nobody expected it to go in that direction, least of all me, and I think that was my first breakthrough in terms of, my first understanding of what my contribution could be to a song that would be on the radio.

What lyricists out there have been the biggest influence for you?

Number One would have to be the English translations of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”.  Eric Blau and Mort Shuman are some of the greatest lyrics ever written, and he wrote all these translations.  “No, Love, You’re Not Alone”, and,

(Recites)
Momma, do you see what I see?
On your knees and pray for me!
Mathilde’s come back to me!
Go ask the maid if she heard what I said and tell her to put the best sheets on the bed!
Mathilde’s come back to me!

 And when I heard that, I jumped right through the table.  I thought I’d never heard something so exciting, and so, I wondered, Gosh!  Will I ever feel that joy?  Will anybody love me that much?  Will I ever love anybody as much?  Will they come back?  It was a revelation.  And, Johnny Mercer, of course, wrote every song that matters, for the last hundred years.  It’s as simple as that.  Johnny Mercer wrote every song that will outlive all of us by a thousand years.  In the, really, pop world, Cynthia Weil is above and beyond, great.  I mean, Cynthia Weil is just a goddess of contemporary music.  She’s being installed in a couple of days in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  They just gotta get the hot water pipe up her leg, and she’ll be thereforever.  And, lastly, I would have to say, Rod McKuen.  Rod McKuen wrote, “If you go away on a summer day, then you might as well take the sun away.”  Just beautiful!  And, I’ve been lucky enough to have Rod and Cynthia Weil as guests at my UCLA class that I teach January, February, and March, “Writing Lyrics That Succeed and Endure”.  I’ve been doing that, believe it or not, I just finished my seventeenth year!  Which meant that I started at five!  So, I must have been really hot stuff to be able to teach a class at a university at five years old!  Anyway, those are my idols.

Tell us about the song that you wrote, “This One’s For You”.

“This One’s For You” is an interesting song.  The person I wrote it for, and I, weren’t really speaking anymore.  And, it was my way of reaching out to try to make touch, and to talk to someone that I wished that I could talk to, but I had to do it over the radio.

 I’ll tell you a little funny story.

At the end of the year of Barry’s touring, he would meet me at a little restaurant, and he would say, “Okay, let me hear your Fall Collection.” 

And, he sat down opposite me at a table, and I started,

(Recites)
This one’ll never sell.
They’ll never understand.
I don’t even sing it well.
I try, but I just can’t!

 And, he pushed his hand up in front of me, and he said, “STOP!  Ihave to have a Number One song that says, ‘This one’ll never sell’, and I can’t even sing it!”  (Laughter) He says, “Forget about the rest of it, I love it already!” And, well, I read him the rest of the song.  You know, it’s really come back into prominence in the last couple of years.  I think there was a long period of time where “Even Now” was the keynote song.  But, in the latest production at the Paris Hotel of his show, “This One’s For You” has certainly been highlighted and gotten more acclaim than it ever has before.

 Well, you just mentioned “Even Now”.  Tell us about the song, “Even Now.”

Ah, gosh!  “Even Now”.  You know, in the wee small hours of the morning, everyone misses someone.  When you’re lonely, when you’re heart-broken, when you’re down and out, of course you miss someone. You miss everyone! Well, there were a thousand songs that said that.  But, I missed someone, even at the best time, at the best moment of my life, when I was flying high, when I had had the greatest success I ever imagined, or couldn’t even imagine!  I missed someone because they were just worth missing.  And, because I wanted them to be there to share it with me.  And, I couldn’t think of a song that said, ‘Even now, when I have come so far, I wonder where you are, I wonder why it’s still so hard without you.’  I couldn’t think of a song that said, ‘I’m okay, but where the hell are you, still!’  And, so I wrote “Even Now”.

Tell us about the song that you wrote, that was covered by Kenny Rogers, “Through The Years.”

Well, you know, “Through The Years” was again, a sentiment that I had not heard another song say.  My relationships, the key relationships in my life, have been- my mom, Barry, my brother, my partner for over thirty years- there was no song that said how much those relationships, or a relationship, contributes to your overall well-being and joy and comfort and growth, over a long period of time.  And, I, that’s all I knew about!  I wasn’t interested in people that I’d be friendly with for two days, or two weeks.  I wanted ‘forever’, and I was lucky to have a ‘forever’ in many different ways.  And so, I wrote the song, “Through The Years”.

The wonderful thing is that, because it is such a testimonial to a long-standing relationship, it’s been used as the hundredth-birthday song for George Burns; it’s been sung at the re-lighting of the Statue of Liberty; it’s become the Number One wedding song.  You know, it’s about things that last, and I’m about things that last, you know?  And, my relationships are about that.  And, once again, the commonality in all my lyrics is, if there’s another song that says that, I don’t know it.

Is there a song of yours that you could possibly pick as a favorite?

As a favorite song?  Well, probably.  There’s a song that no one knows, but it’s called, “I’ll Love You Back To Life.”  “I’ll Love You Back To Life,” there’s only one recorded version of it by Davis Gaines.   Davis Gaines is a Broadway artist who played “The Phantom of the Opera” three thousand eight hundred seventy-something times.  He recorded on “Against The Tide” on, one of his CD’s, both “All The Time” and “I’ll Love You Back To Life”.  And, there’s no question that “I’ll Love You Back To Life” is my favorite, my dearest lyric, and I always say if you put me into a Cuisinart, and you turned it on, what would come out would be “I’ll Love You Back to Life”.

Our special guest is Marty Panzer.  How did the idea for “An Evening with Marty Panzer” come to be?

Well, you know, it’s a very, that’s a very concurrent question, a very contemporary question.  A couple of years ago, I did a benefit for the Academy for New Musical Theatre, and they just added me on the bill of four or five other composers including Rod McKuen, and David Shire, and I don’t remember who else.  And, I was supposed to do fifteen minutes, I didn’t know of what.  But, I told a story, and then someone came out, and the story had led into this song that they sang, and then, I told another story, and somebody else came out and sang that song.

When I came off the stage after twenty minutes, the audience was just on fire!  Everyone loved it!  The head of the organization said, “You know, the next time we do a benefit, we don’t need the other five guys!”

And, I said, “Really?  Thank you!”

Well, about a month later, he called me and said, “If we give you a theatre and an audience, would you do an entire evening for us as a benefit?”

And, I said, “Sure!”

And, he got me the Coronet Theatre, and on one night, about three or four years ago, I did “An Evening with Marty Panzer” with many people singing.  With Diane Schuur, and with Eric McCormack, and with Monica Mancini, and with Barry Manilow, and with David Burnham, and Brian Green, all kinds of wonderful, magnificent, talented people, and it went over spectacularly well.

I wondered whether it was going over so well because so many of the people in the audience knew me, and loved me, and would have laughed (unintelligible) anyway.

I got a call a couple of months later from a guy in Walnut Creek, who asked me to do that same show for him in northern California, near San Jose.  And, I did.

Well, these people didn’t know the United States of America, much less “An Evening with Marty Panzer”. They reacted just as enthusiastically as the people in L.A.  So, I said, ‘You know, maybe there is something to this!’  Because it has a broader market than I thought.

Forty-eight hours ago, I did an event for the Society of Sheet Music, for the New York Sheet Music Society in New York City, to another hundred and fifty people that I had never met or seen, and didn’t even know what the organization was.  And, my inbox is flooded with congratulations and thank yous and appreciations and, “We must do this”, “We must make this an off-Broadway show”, “We must put you on tour”, “We must do-“, all of that stuff.  So, maybe the next phase of what Marty Panzer does is, “Evenings with Marty Panzer,” in one form or another.

I loved doing it!  I mean, you know, when I watch Barry on the stage in Vegas, you think, there just is no greater thrill than being on that stage!  It doesn’t matter what you do behind the scenes.  When you see Barry glowing on stage, you think, that is the highest calling!  So, even if I write Anna Karenina, and make it a number one single, it’s not the same as winking your eye, and singing, “Even Now,”  So, maybe an “An Evening with Marty Panzer” in some form or another will actually come to something.  There are also some producers putting together an original show based around songs in my catalog.  I’m more enthusiastic about that now, than I’ve ever been before.  As I said, especially after seeing Barry having such a fabulous time these past six years in Las Vegas.  So, we’ll see.  I’m going to do a week at the University of Miami in October, and there’s a possibility of two other events in New York City, and also a possibility of something at a college in Nashville.  So, we’ll see!  I’m just, you know, you have to move with the times, and maybe this is the time, while I’m still as positive and optimistic as I am, and have enough energy to cross the country, maybe that’s what I should be doing now.  So, I’m hoping to do that next.

With your songs having been recorded by people like Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parton, Julio Iglesias, and of course, Barry Manilow, you’ve certainly achieved the kind of success that songwriters are striving for.  There have been songwriters who’ve told me they always dreamed of a certain musician or band covering their work.  Do you have any that you’ve been interested in presenting your work to that have not yet?

You mean that are alive? (Laughter)

Yeah!

I’ve got some hot dead ones that I’d love to get to!  But in terms of the live ones, you know, when you become successful in a certain area, whatever that area is, you receive opportunities in the same field.  So, I’ve gotten requests from Michael Crawford, and Julio Iglesias, and Kenny Rogers, and Barry Manilow- all for similar type songs, male ballads, and things like that.  I would love to write songs for Maroon 5, or for the Rolling Stones!  But, they wouldn’t think to call me because my reputation is not in that area.  Not that I couldn’t do it, or wouldn’t want to do it, but that no one thinks of me for that when that situation comes up.  What I have done in the last, I guess, ten years, is I’ve written over a hundred songs for the Walt Disney Company.  So, I’ve written the newest songs in a generation for Cinderella, Belle, Mulan, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Jasmine, Pocahontas- that was an enormous thrill, and it allowed me to speak in a different language than I had ever spoken in, or written in before, because they were women, and because Pocahontas had different things to say than Michael Crawford, and it’s been an absolute thrill.  My collaborator for all of that has been Larry Grossman for Pocahontas Two, my beloved friend, Don Grady, for all the other Disney songs.  And, I’ve had a wonderful time doing that, and it’s broadened my ability, I’m better at what I do now because of those opportunities, and I wish I would get other opportunities in different fields, than the automatic expected ones, that’s all I can say.  I’m grateful for the ones that I get, but, you know, it’s more interesting to write the song for the octopus villain in a Disney movie, than it is for another male vocalist love song.

So, when someone listens to a song you wrote, what is it you hope the listener gets from the experience of listening?

You know, I think today, so much is about the track.  So much is about the musical track, that people ignore the lyrics to an enormous degree.  They just don’t even hear the lyrics as they’re playing.  I sit in rooms with people who come to play me songs, and while their own lyrics are playing, they’re not even focused on them!  And, I think what I want people to get is the importance of the lyric, the value of a lyric, what a lyric can give to song, and how much it means.

You know, Barry said a quote that is really apt, and I told it to someone a couple of weeks ago, and they just jumped up for joy, they thought it was so appropriate.

Barry said, “A song is something you can sing in the shower.  Whereas, if you need twenty tracks to put together this cut, what you have is a production.  You have a record– but you don’t have a song.”

And, I think he’s right!  I think a song is music and a lyric, and when people listen to a song, I want them to hear the value, the importance of a lyric, and that’s what I teach at UCLA, and that’s what means the most to me.

Do we have time for me tell you my favorite lyric of all time?

We absolutely do.

Okay, well, I’ll just- there’s never been a class in seventeen years that I have not recited this lyric, because it informed me and educated me more than anything else.

(Recites)
Our little dream castle with every dream gone
Is lonely and silent,
The shades are all drawn
And my heart is aching
 As I gaze upon
A Cottage for Sale

The lawn we were proud of is waving in hay
 Our beautiful garden has withered away
Where we planted roses
The weeds seem to say
A Cottage for Sale

Through every broken window I see your face
But when I reach the window,
There’s only empty space
The key’s in the mailbox, the same as before
But no one is waiting for me anymore
The end of my story is there
On the door!
A Cottage for Sale

 What can I tell ya?  That is beyond brilliant.  I mean, that is a four-hour movie in a three-minute song.  It’s the most beautiful lyric I ever heard, and it is so compact, every word has significance, and is appropriate, it’s conversational, it’s descriptive, it paints a picture.

That’s what I want people to listen to in songs!  Songs were written that way until the producers took over, and it wasn’t about the song anymore, it was about the producer putting a hundred tracks behind somebody who had no real great song, but who could fake having a real song, if there were a twenty tracks playing at the same time.  So, I’m trying to get people to go back to writing the great songs, the songs that The Eagles wrote, the songs that Barry wrote, the songs that Johnny Mercer wrote, the songs that Cynthia Weil wrote.  The great songs, and to understand a great part of them, are the lyrics.  I’ve been doing it for seventeen years, and I hope, hope I’ve accomplished something!  We’ll hear as time goes on, whether the people in my class have come up with these kind of lyrics for the world.

You’ve been working on a book.  What has the experience of writing a book been like for you?

Well, you know, originally when I started thinking of this, of whatever the right form for presentation of “An Evening with Marty Panzer” would be, putting down the reminiscences, and leading into songs, and other songs, my first thought, and the first suggestions given me were, that I should put it in book form.  And, I started- I had a really terrific guy working for me, who helped me with the computer, and all kinds of stuff, and, and I just enjoyed telling him the stories.  And, I was telling him the stories, he was entering them into the computer.  When he left to go on to a job on Broadway, I stopped doing the book, because I didn’t have the same zest for telling these stories to somebody else.  But, I think now, I’m gonna go back to it.  Because I realized, that the response has been so consistent over all these years, if I can make the book as entertaining as the show is, well, it should be put down on paper, so that if I get hit by a truck tomorrow, these stories don’t die with me.

So, I’m gonna back to the book, which I have sort of left there, in behalf of the new work that came along.  It would seem to be more important to write a hundred songs for Disney, than to continue writing my life story.  I was living my life story.  But, right now, I think I need to go back, and while it’s still fresh in my mind, continue that book, and flesh out these stories on paper.  So, that’s on my agenda as well.

What is the best thing about being “Marty Panzer”?

You know, the best thing about being “Marty Panzer” is that I am Molly Panzer’s son, and Barry Manilow’s friend, and Gregg Rader’s partner, and Bernie Panzer’s brother.  That’s the best thing about being “Marty Panzer,” that I have roots and connections to wonderful, supportive, loving people for forty years, and I love every day, because I have the love of these people, and I’ve been very lucky to not be alone, and to not be doing this on my own, and to have the support of these people, so that’s what makes me happiest.

That’s a beautiful answer.  And now, for the final question.  We have listeners from all over the world…

How much is this question worth?  Is there a dollar value?

This is-

No?  (Laughs)

I don’t know how much this is worth.

Okay!  (Laughs)

Do you have any parting words of wisdom for our listeners?

The most important thing, I think, in whatever you do, is to live a good life, and to be out there in the world, and to listen to other people, and to hold on to those that love you, and give back as much as you can, and appreciate, as Diane Schuur did, how good life really is, and I think that the other things that seem like miracles, really come as an out-growth of your own good nature, your own talent, your own observation.  I think, just get up in the morning, and live your life to the fullest, and write it down!  And, believe in it!  And you will be surprised how many people out there feel the same way, and would love to communicate with you, and would love your communicating to them, your ideas.

Mr. Panzer, it has been fabulous to do this interview with you, but, you know, I was just thinking during this interview, a lot of people might think this is the first time we’ve ever talked, in this interview, but I realized when I was thinking about all these songs, that this isn’t the first time we’ve talked, because I’ve been listening to you tell me these stories and these messages, through these songs, that I’ve heard since I was six, seven years old, with my mother playing these records growing up.  So –

Really?

Yes, I’ve heard these songs my whole life, and so, I’d like to say, first of all, thank you for the great interview.  Thank you also, for these songs that have touched me for a very long time.

You are more than welcome, and I’ll tell you, that’s the best compliment you could ever give me.  To touch someone.  To make someone feel happy or sad.  I read on the bus one day, when I was ten years old, “To change the complexion of the day, that is the ultimate art.”  If you can make someone feel happier, or feel some emotion that they weren’t feeling before, you interacted with them, you’ve accomplished what God put you on the Earth for.  So, I thank you very much, and I accept that compliment with enormous humility, and enormous pride.

Well, again, thanks so much for the interview.  Let me know if you’re ever in Atlanta!

I will!  And, maybe this- I think maybe one of these early shows here of “An Evening with- “, maybe the first one is in Tallahassee, I dunno.  I don’t know the distance between Atlanta and Tallahassee, but, it’s in the same quadrant of the world, so, we’ll find each other, I promise.

TRANSCRIBED BY ANGELA L. WASHINGTON

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