The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #41 – Frank Sinatra, Jr.

Frank Sinatra, Jr. was born on January 10, 1944. Music was definitely in Frank Sinatra, Jr.’s blood.  Like his legendary father, Frank Sinatra, Mr. Sinatra was a singer, performer and recording artist.

You will find Frank Sinatra, Jr. was a wealth of information, a very interesting and passionate man as well as a lover of the Great American Songbook, those songs written in the early half of the 20th century.  You could describe Frank Sinatra, Jr. as knowledgeable, honest and passionate.

Despite the fame of the Sinatra family name, Frank Sinatra, Jr. called himself a “homespun boy at heart,” and described himself as follows:  “Frank Sinatra, Jr. today is an old man who tells people that he was never famous he just has a famous name, and as it happens the only thing that justified his life is that he practiced what he believed.”

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David Martin: singer-songwriter

David Martin lives and breathes the songs.  Chances are, you’ve heard something David Martin wrote.  His songs have sold over 26 million records around the world, but all stories have a beginning.  For the British singer-songwriter, he began his career as a member of the group Butterscotch on RCA Records.  Soon after, he formed a songwriting partnership with Chris Arnold and Geoff Morrow.  The partnership resulted in many the composition of many songs recorded by the true legends of recorded music, including Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, Wayne Newton, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Mama Cass.  Many others would perform and record their well crafted songs.

One of the songs David Martin would write has brought many smiles to the world.  David Martin’s song “Can’t Smile Without You” would become a pop standard and worldwide hit after being recorded by Barry Manilow.  Manilow was not the first, nor the last artist to record the song.  The Carpenters, Engelbert Humperdinck, Vic Damone, Andy Williams, Gino Cunico and others would perform and record their own versions.  The song has been performed countless times in concert and featured in motion pictures as well as earning Martin three BMI awards for over 3 million airplays.

Although he has written and continues to write songs, he is still very much a singer.  As a songwriter, he has a great admiration for the great songwriters of the American Songbook, those great lyricists and composers who wrote the standards: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer and Sammy Cahn.  It is his love for these American classics that resulted in his new album “Silky Smooth Moments.”  Accompanied by the Terry Coffey Trio, David Martin sings such standards as “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” as well as one written by David Martin himself.

It’s a beautiful gesture from David Martin.  Although he has accomplished so much with his own songs, he pays tribute to the great songwriters who came before him.  We invite you into the world and passion of David Martin, where songs with great messages never die.  They endure.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to welcome this man, he’s a singer, song writer, his name is David Martin and he has a brand new album ‘Silky Smooth Moments,’ welcome.
Thank you Paul and thank you for inviting me to be part of your show, I’m really looking forward to speaking with you.

The pleasure is all ours, I think most stories are best from the beginning, what was life like growing up?
Well, you know, it was pretty tough, happy, very happy, I had a… thank God a very happy home life with my parents, we had… the best years I can remember were  in West London, where… in a little place called Hammersmith, which is a pretty throbbing place these days, and it was a happy time really, I was an only child, strange as it may seem and a lot of time in those days just spent playing on the street, which is kind of different to how it is now, because now a days people don’t let their children go out on the street understandably, but it was happy and we had fun and you know, I was kind of a young sporty, I did a lot of sport as a young kid and my school days were great, so, I’d have to say, didn’t have lots of money, but in those days, you know, it didn’t matter, in fact in these days it doesn’t matter really, cause money is just a thing isn’t it really, yeah, I’d have to say that I had a fundamental, happy home life and it was a good start for me to enter into the big, wide world.

Was it a very musical household?
My Father was very, very musical, well, I think it’s a 50-50 situation, my Father had an amazing operatic voice, although by trade, funnily enough a bit like Perry Como, he was a hairdresser by trade and he never ever took his singing seriously, but he had a great, powerful, strong voice and on my Father’s side, he had a Great Aunt who had two children and one of them was a lady called May and he remembers vividly when he was a child, that they would spend weekends, evenings, weekends with May sitting at the piano, thumping out tunes and everybody would be singing away, so, I think it’s my Father’s side where that musical strain came from.

And when did you realise that you had a musical talent?
I realised that Paul as long ago as when I was seven years of age, I remember being in a playground with a friend at school, and we were walking, just walking across the playground and I was singing away, singing away something or another and he said to me “oh that’s really nice, what song is that you’re singing?”, and I said “I don’t know I must have heard it on the radio,” so I kind of listened out for a few days and didn’t hear this song and realised that at the age of seven I had actually made a song up. That’s when I realised I had that gift really and to be honest I’ve been making songs up ever since. (David and Paul laugh)

So you think the ability to write songs was something you were pretty much born with?
Oh there’s no question about it, there is no question, it has always come very naturally to me it’s always been something that…. you know, you could say to me now, I mean if you could come up with a song called  Paul Leslie Show, I can probably do it on the spot. It’s one of those things which, it’s always been there, I kind of have a… I can wake up in the middle of the night with a whole melody going through my head, or I can be in the car or whatever, and it’s just always been there, it took some years for me to develop it and own it and in actual fact, I mean jumping forward a bit, when I was first signed as a singer, ’cause I started out as a singer, but I was signed to a record label called Pie Records, and it was then that it really started properly, because the record producer said to me, you know, “we’re going to go out and look for some material today” and I went all around the publishers with him and they played these songs, most of which I thought were pretty boring and he just happened to say “do you write yourself?” And I said “ohyeah, sure”, you know, kind of bluffing it really, and I went home and wrote a couple of songs and we put them on a recording session, and that’s really  how it started out, then I realised that I had something which was approaching something professional, it’s always been there.

What about the group ‘Butterscotch’ how did you come to be in that group?
By that time, I had two writing partners, Geoff Morrow and Chris Arnold. Chris Arnold, Geoff Morrow and we were known in the industry as Arnold, Martin and Morrow and we were kind of jumping, working songwriters, writing away trying to get artists to record our songs, in the middle of this wave of euphoric activity, a record came out which was number one in the USA, I’m sure your listeners will know it called ‘Love Goes Where My Rosemary Goes’ and a pal of mine called Tony Burrows was the lead singer on that record. It shot to number one in the UK, shot to number one in the USA and the bizarre thing was that I started getting telephone calls from friends saying “oh, we’ve heard this fantastic single that you’re singing on David and how fantastic for you” and I said “well it is a great single, but it’s not me singing.” (David and Paul laugh) it’s actually Tony Burrows, ’cause we both have kind of a similar kind of sounding voice I guess, but what that did was, made me think we’ll maybe we should do something like that, so Geoff, Chris and I put our heads together and we came up with this song, ‘Don’t you know, She Said Hello’ and I did the vocal and we decided to call it… call the band ‘Butterscotch,’ and it was a bit hit in the UK, so that’s how that happened, it was kind of triggered from one thing that led to something else and that’s how that happened.

Going back then, before that, you mentioned Chris Arnold and Geoff Morrow, the songwriters that you wrote so many songs with, what circumstance led you to meet them.
You know, it’s the old story, isn’t it Paul, we all lived in… at that time I’d grown up and I was engaged, or about to be married, I can’t remember at what stage, but we all… I’d moved well away from West London and I was now living in North London, and they were living in North London as well, so we knew each other socially and they were song writers, Geoff and Chris and I was a vocalist, ’cause I’d signed my deals I said just now with Pie, so although we were great friends, it was one of those situations where they wrote songs and didn’t really tell me much about what they were doing and I was kind of trying to make my way as an artist, and so we were friends but weren’t really involved together, until one day Jeff called me up and said “look, we’ve got this song that we’ve written for Billy Fury, do you remember Billy Fury, Paul?

I have to be honest, I don’t know that name.
Well, Billy Fury was a massive artist in the UK and I’m going about the late, late sixties, into the seventies, he was a really big, big artist over here and he had a lot of big hits, ‘Half Way To Paradise’ and all sorts of things, they had this song that they’d written and Geoff said to me, you know, “would you be interested in demoing the song for us, doing a demo of the song?” I said “yeah, I’d love to,” I went over to their place one evening where they used to work, and they played me this song, which was called ‘In Thoughts Of You’ and half way through the song or when the song ended, I said “yeah, I love the song, I’m happy to do it” I said, “but, I hope you don’t my saying so, I think the middle section’s a bit weak and Geoff said “what do you mean, what’s wrong with it?” and Chris wasn’t very happy with me making that comment (Paul laughs), I said “well, I just think.. I don’t think it’s really going anywhere, I think it needs to…”well, what would you do with it?” Said Geoff, I said “well, okay, play it again,” so they played it again and I said “well I think I would do this, and suggested a couple of changes, which in fact they made, I did the demo, Billy Fury recorded it, it went top five in the UK and then Geoff approached me and said “look, why don’t we work together as a team?” So I said “okay, fine” and that’s how it started.

Of the songs that the three of you wrote, could you pick a best interpretation of a song that you wrote?
Do you know, it’s a really good question, it’s a really good question because the thing about writing songs… I mean at the beginning you’re only too happy for anybody to take the trouble to record something you write, I mean, you’re desperately trying to get your songs covered by anybody, you get over that stage after a while, because sometimes what happens is, you write a song, and people record it and when you hear it, sometimes you get quite disappointed because you don’t feel they’ve treated it in the way that you would like them to have done, I think there are two answers to that question, if I may, one of them has to be the Presley version, Elvis Presley version of our song called ‘This Is The Story,’ the reason why I say that is because we did a demo of the song, obviously aimed for him, I tried to do, dare I say, my best Elvis Presley impression I could, although I didn’t sound anything like him, but I did a really… tried to get the essence of it if you like and when we heard the recording, it was absolutely fantastic because it was exactly the way we demoed it and the phrasing and everything, I think that was one of the best. The other one was a song that Cliff Richard recorded of ours, called “So Long,” which is a really beautiful recording and one of the best lyrics I think that Chris wrote, ’cause Chris in those days wrote most of the lyric and Jeff and I did most of the melodies in those days. Cliff did the song ‘So Long’, which sadly ended up on the ‘B’ side of a single, but I think we all felt should have been an ‘A’ side and would have been a very big hit in this country, so I would say those two songs stand out for me.

The number of artists have recorded all the songs that you guys wrote, you mentioned Elvis Presley recorded a few of those songs, but then you mentioned Cliff Richard, has there been an artist that you had an emotional attachment to that you were just had a over the moon that they recorded one of your songs?
Well, I mean, you know, you’d have to say, again, there’s a wonderful answer, we had a song called ‘Who In The World’ that was recorded by Mama Cass which was fabulous and always comes back every time I suppose, to ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ Barry Manilow, which is impossible not to be emotional about it, I mean, it was a most fabulous recording and I think even though, funnily enough a number of recordings before he did it, when he did it, I think he made it into the essential recording of that song, you see, it’s a very good question Paul, because you get very mixed emotions when artists record your songs and I think the Mama Cass version of ‘Where In The World’ was just gorgeous really, beautiful, beautiful recording.

 A second ago you mentioned the song ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ and I suppose as a great testament to what a great song it is, it’s been recorded by Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, Engelbert Humperdinck, Vic Damone even  recorded it, the late Andy Williams, why do you think it is, because people universally seem to love that song. Why do you think it’s so beloved?
It’s a very good.. these questions are very good questions, because if we only knew, if one even had a clue, it’s so difficult to understand what makes this one song stand head and shoulders above another one, I mean, again, the story behind that song was a fascinating one because it was during the time of my marriage to a lady called Debbie and she had a greeting card shop in Hampstead, North London, I went and picked her up to take her home one night in Hampstead… we lived in a place called Harrow and when I arrived, she gave me an envelope and in the envelope was a plain blue card, with a small badge on it with a tear, and I opened the card and it just said ‘can’t smile without you’ and I thought ‘well, a brilliant song title’, so by the time we got to Harrow, which is about thirty minutes from Hampstead, to be honest the song was written and I actually recorded it, the first recording of the song and from that recording, all these other recordings were emanated, and our publisher at the time was an American guy in America, we were with Dick James Music, with a guy called Arthur Braun in America and he had great beliefs in the song and he went running around with this song and first, when he went to see Clive Davis, Clive played it for Barry Manilow, who kind of, actually passed on the song and they recorded it on Arista with a new up and coming guy called Gino Cunico.
Oh yes.
Do you remember that?
I have that vinyl album.
You do.. fantastic, and then, as you say Engelbert Humperdinck did it and this one did it, a UK guy called Des O’Connor did it, and also, The Carpenters recorded it and it was one of these songs that kept on being picked up, until of course, Barry picked it up, eventually Clive persuaded him to do it and the rest I guess is history, but, you know, to answer the question, it’s really difficult, because when a song is written, as the writer of it, you have a ‘thing’ about it, you kind of like it, or love it, or whatever, but you have no way of knowing whether that song is going to end up being a world monster or not, it’s very difficult to understand, I think what it is, is that the message and the style and everything about it resonates so strongly with people and perhaps they recognise their own situation in the song, which is what makes them make it their own. I remember going to the O2 a couple of years ago, ’cause Barry was over here at the O2 Arena, 25,000 people and when he just played the introduction, and he whistled (David whistles the intro) just whistles the introduction, the whole place, 25,000 people stood on their feet and sang the song from beginning to end with him all the way through, now that was emotional experience, I can assure you.

 On that note, there’s a picture on your web site, everyone can go to the web site, it’s davidmartinsingersongwriter.com, there’s a picture of you and Mr. Manilow together.
There is indeed, yeah.

Well, there is an article recently where Barry Manilow was talking about that song, all these years later, since it was originally recorded, he was talking about his fondness for that song. I am wondering what your personal experiences have been like with Mr. Manilow.
He really is an absolute lovely, lovely sweet man, very… you know… what you see is what you get, and I’ve on and off been speaking to him for all these years, I mean we’re talking about twenty five years, well, where were we when he first recorded it? Seventy… wait a minute… he recorded it in… it was a hit in America in 1976 I think, so we’re talking twenty four… we’re coming up to thirty, thirty nine years ago that he did the song, the last time I saw him was at the O2 as I think I mentioned, I said “Barry,” I said “you know, we’ve been involved with this song for so long,” he said, he said “David”, he said “it’s kind of like ‘Yesterday,’” he said and “may it carry on for another thirty odd years”,  you know, he said, he’s a really lovely person and very articulate, very much involved in his career and how he comes across for the public in terms of his vocal and everything else and he’s very professional, and a great guy, with a beautiful voice, which seems to do the trick wherever he goes.

Our special guest is David Martin. I wanted to bring everybody up to the present, you have this brand new album out, it’s entitled ‘Silky Smooth Moments.’
Right.

Just to tell everybody a little bit about it, most of the tracks… you have a song you wrote on there, but most of the tracks are the classics from The American Songbook.
Yes.

What is it about the American Songbook that made you want to record an album of standards?
Well, obviously like everything in my life, there’s always a story behind it, it’s just simply this, as I mentioned to you Paul when we started talking, I began.. I started out as a singer, I was never intending to become a songwriter to be honest, I started out as a singer and in the UK I was travelling around doing little clubs in army bases ’cause in those days you had a lot of army bases over here, entertaining US troops and stuff like that, and most of the songs that I did in those days were these kind of standard songs, and then lo and behold, about, I suppose about two years ago now, eighteen months, two years ago, I got a call from a friend of mine, a promoter friend of mine who puts on concerts and shows and he said “David,” he said, “I don’t know if you’d be interested,” he said “but I’m putting on an American Songbook show, would you be interested in taking part, you know, as one of the artists in the show?” So I said “Well, why not, I’d love to, be lovely to go back to all those beautiful songs again.”

So I did this show for him, which was called ‘The Seasonal Great American Songbook,’ ’cause it was heading into the Christmas period, and the show ran for about five weeks in a small theatre called ‘The New End Theatre’ in North London, and we got pretty good people turning out and during the course of the show, which was really enjoyable, I got a lot of reviews from people and also a lot of… a lot of comments from all sorts of people, and in the reviews that I got, they were referring to me as the ‘honey voiced David Martin,’  ‘listening to David Martin is like listening to confectionary,’ ‘silky tones’ etcetera, and I thought ‘this is really lovely’ and I pitched the songs pretty low in this show, because I was singing with a girl called Sarah Parry who had a big, strong kind of, very big voice and I thought it might be nice if I pitched all my songs really low, so having got all this reaction, I thought it might be a nice idea to go in the studio and see what the voice sounds like with these kind of songs in this low register, so that’s how it all started Paul, and I went in and recorded two or three songs, everybody got so excited because… a little trio got.. trio together, and we ended up actually recording 16 songs, of which ended up… there’s about 11 on the album, one of which is ‘Silky Smooth Moments’ and that song came about because the engineer on the session kept saying ‘God, this sounds so silky smooth’, so we thought, ‘oh great idea, I just called it ‘Silky Smooth Moments,’ and then me as song writer, couldn’t resist coming up with a song called ‘Silky Smooth Moments.’

 The wonderful thing is that a lot of my peers over here in the industry, have heard it and said to me ‘you know, I think this is like a standard song waiting to happen’, so you couldn’t ask for more praise for a song than that, I’m pretty proud of it and actually pretty proud of the album too, I think it’s one of the nicest works I’ve done, so that’s the story behind it, the song called ‘Silky Smooth Moments.’ Obviously I wanted it to be in the same genre as the songs on the album, something in my brain kind of ‘clicks’ and very, very quickly, songs started to form and shape and came out as it was, so I wouldn’t say that I was thinking about any particular song writer, or I was influenced in any way, I think style of the songs written in that period by Irving Berlin, by Cole Porter, etcetera has made an imprint in my mind, so that when I go in to that songwriting mode, it comes out, very much in that style, it’s the best way I can answer it Paul.

 You mentioned a second ago Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.  What are your favourite composers and lyricists from that Tin Pan Alley era?
I’ve got to say Irving Berlin, I’ve got to say Cole Porter, I’ve got to say Sammy Cahn, Johnny Mercer, fabulous, brilliant writers and if you like, more latterly, Henry Mancini is a great writer, Harold Arlen who wrote ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow,’ I mean these songs frankly, absolutely on a strarter which is top, top, top quality songs, and then if I… I went to a… some years ago now I think, probably going back about 25/30 years, but I went to a celebration dinner in London at a big, one of the swanky hotels on Park Lane in London, and it was in celebration and tribute to the great writer Sammy Cahn who wrote as you know ‘All The Way’ to Sinatra and ‘Second Time Around’ and one of the tracks, I think, ‘Teach Me Tonight’ on the album, he was a giant writer on. I arrived at the… at the hotel and as I walked into the reception area where there must have been about at least 200 people, it was a bit like the parting of the waves, it was coming sort of like a parting of the space and through the middle of this space walking directly towards me was Sammy Cahn himself.
Oh wow.
So I… well, I thought ‘well, I’d better take the opportunity while I’ve got it,’ so as he walked toward… I think he might have been going to the gents, to the gents room, I don’t know, but as he walked towards me, I sort of extended my hand and he took it and I said “I just somehow, just wanted to shake your hand and say ‘thank you for the wonderful, wonderful pleasure that you’ve given me and millions of other people at the same time and may you go on for many, many, many, many, many years,'” he said “well David,” he said “what’s your name?” I said “David Martin” I said “I’m one of the newer breed on the block, one of the new kids on the block” and he said to me “well ummm”, he said “I don’t know you David” he said, “but you must have done something right for you to have been invited to be here”, he said “and if I can give you any words of wisdom it’s this”, he said “stick with what you know best, do what you know best, don’t allow yourself to be influenced by other stars and other people and all the rest of it”, he said “you just stick to what you do best”, he said “and your style will come in to fashion, go out of fashion and come back again,” he said, “but that, I think is the best advice I can give you.” I’ve always kind of remembered those words and there’s a lot to be said for it too.

Thank you very much for sharing that story, that was incredibly interesting. I can’t imagine what it was like to meet him.
It was just… it was one of those enjoyable moments in your life, because he was a very cute, smart, perceptive man and also had a lovely sort of style of fun about him, I think that’s the thing about song writers, you know, we’re all a bit crazy to be honest and we all see life in a funny way, and we all have fun and pull each other’s leg and, but when we get down to it, we do the business, but unless you’ve got a sense of humour, I don’t think you can be a song writer to be honest.

The album, is there a favorite track on the album?
Obviously I ‘m going to push mine to one side, because like I say, I’m very proud of it, but if I had a favorite track of all the other tracks, I’d have to say it was ‘Wee Small Hours Of The Morning,’ I just adore the song, I can’t imagine being able to improve on the vocal that I’ve done, ’cause you know we singers always think we can do better, but I can’t… listened to the album a few time and that track for me, stands out, I’m really, really proud of it.  Love the song. I love the track.

That is the one that also caught my ear.
Wow.                                                                                          

That one, you did that one very well.
Ahhhh, thank you Paul. Thank you very much.

 On that note, what vocalists have influenced you the most?
Well, I’d have to give you different branches of music for that, first of all, in the genre apropos the album, I ‘d have to say Nat King Cole, probably rates as my favorite singer of all time, I  just, when I heard him as a young lad walking through a store in London, I couldn’t be more than 10 or 12, and I was walking, I think, with my Mother through a store and suddenly this voice came out through the store speakers and I remember being routed to the spot, thinking to myself ‘if this is a human being, it’s so utterly beautiful and perfect’, I couldn’t believe it, so Nat King Cole is just, for me, a most wonderful singer. But I love Frank Sinatra, I love Tony Bennett, I love Michael Bublé who I think does a fantastic job these days, great singer, obviously I love Barry Manilow, but Barry’s not in the same… he’s not in that genre, and from the rock side, you know, I was crazy about Elvis. I think Elvis is one of my favorite singers of all time, but funnily enough, going back to, again, into my early days of listening to records and stuff, there was an American singer called Guy Mitchell who I loved to hear, and I used to love Guy Mitchell, so I don’t know if you guys remember him, but I do, he’s really good.

When someone listens to this album.
Yes.
What do you want the listener to get out of the experience?
That’s a really wonderful question Paul, thank you for asking it. I am very impressed when I listen to albums by Ella Fitzgerald, by Sinatra, by Nat King Cole, by various singers of that ilk—Al Jolson going back even further if you like, they all have, even though they may be singing songs that they’ve all recorded, perhaps similar songs or the same song, they all have a uniqueness about them, in their own voice and their own delivery, and something about it, which grips the listener and makes the listener say “well, I love this voice, I want to go out and buy it” and that’s what I’ve tried to accomplish in making this album, to have my own unique sound, which people around me have called ‘silky smooth’, which is very flattering, but nevertheless, my own unique sound, so that anybody listening to anything I sing,  makes them want to go out and buy that record, I think hopefully I answered your question.

Indeed. What is the best thing about being David Martin?
The best thing about David Martin is that he’s got five wonderful children, who he loves to pieces, and thank God they love me. I’ve had a wonderful life. I’m still having a very happy life. I have great friends, a great family, and do you know, all of that, is the most important thing, and all the rest is wonderful, and if I can give people pleasure along the way, then that gives me, makes me happy with my life, and that to me is the best thing about being me.

I have a very strong feeling that there will be people listening to this interview, not just here in the States, but from different places in the world, what would you like to say to the people who are listening to this?
That I hope that all of you are in good spirits and in a good place, that you’re happy in your lives with all your friends and family, that you are good to one another, do the very best you can, if you can do a good deed every once in a while that’s fantastic, but, at the end of the day I think the most important thing, is to be happy with yourself and if you can achieve what you set out to achieve, then, congratulations to you, but, the most important thing you have to do in life, is just try your best, and if you try your best, then you can never say that you did anything but the right thing.

Wow, my last question, who is David Martin?
Who is David Martin?
Yes Sir.
David Martin is a young guy in the UK who wanted to achieve certain dreams, he achieved many, many of them, and is a guy who is probably like Mr Joe, Mr and Mrs Brown who live next door, ’cause I’m kind of like the guy next door, but I, you know, happily I’m able to entertain people and that makes me happy, and also David Martin is a guy who continually has ambitions to continue to do things that will become successful and hopefully give people pleasure, and I think that’s a very important thing, to carry on in life, and always want to do something better and achieve something, rather than decide you’ve reached a point in your life where you’ve done as much as you need to do and then kind of switch off and don’t continue, I think that kind of sums me up, I will always have a little project on my time board and I will always want to give people pleasure by achieving it.

Very well put, may I make a confession?
Please.
I very much respect and admire songwriters and it’s always a very big pleasure for me when I speak to people who compose and write the songs. When you whistled the little beginning part of ‘Can’t Smile Without You.’
Yes.
The hair on my arms stuck up.

(David and Paul laugh.)

It really did and I grew up in part in the Philippines and my Mother sang that song.
Ahhhhhh

And played that song, I’m not kidding you, I probably have heard that song a thousand times in my life, and to speak to you is a very big honor. So I congratulate you on your album, and, much like you thank Sammy Cahn, I just thank all the songwriters for writing something positive.  It makes people smile, because, I also… if I could say one more thing, I witness people cry, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons when that song is being sung and it’s very special.
That’s so lovely Paul, well, thanks for saying that, I think in one of Barry’s books he mentions in a chapter that there was a lady who was… I’m not sure what the illness is called, I think it’s agoraphobia, but there was a lady who suffered from not being able to leave her home, is that called agoraphobia when somebody leaves their home?
I believe so, agoraphobia.
But she had… she just loved ‘Can’t Smile Without You’, and he was coming close to her town to perform, and she left her home to go to the show so she could hear him sing the song. Now that… when I read that in the chapter, that made me feel quite… quite eerie to be honest. Anyway, why don’t I do this, if we’re at the end of the interview, I should go (David sings to the tune of ‘Can’t Smile Without You’)… ‘Paulie my dear, I’m glad to be here, doing your show,  we all think of you as cream of the crop, the man at the top, and we’re glad to know, cause you know we can’t smile without you..’ How’s that?
I am smiling as big as I ever smiled. (David and Paul laugh) That was special, thank you very much.
My pleasure.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON.

Debra Byrd: Singer & Vocal Coach

Debra Byrd is known in some circles for her work as the vocal coach on American Idol. In other circles, she is known for her duets with Barry Manilow. Still among Bob Dylan fans, she is known for her duets with Bob Dylan.

So who is Debra Byrd? Well, in her own words:

At heart, I believe I’m creative, a creative being, a blessed being. I’m just a person who loves life and who loves to work with singers. 

Ladies and gentlemen, by special request it is our pleasure to welcome our guest, Debra Byrd.

Thank you very much, Paul Leslie. You have put a huge smile on my face. It is an honor to be interviewed by you.

What was it like growing up?

I come from a nurturing and loving family, and my grandfather made everyone sing, period. Everyone that was just – it didn’t matter, cousins, distant cousins. He was filled with life, a musician, an arranger, a wonderful singer. Consequently, everyone had to sing and I didn’t know that people came from families who couldn’t sing. I just knew that everyone around me, I grew up knowing that everyone around me could sing to some degree, to some capacity. And really wonderful, nurturing people – absolute music and love. And my grandmother was an extraordinary woman. Just wonderful people. My grandfather was a talented arranger and a voice, a big booming voice that had cut like a laser to cut through any kind of group setting. And I grew up, you know, it’s like – you know, what was it? You know, those families that you see on TV. Not The Partridge, older than that. Oh, it’s leaving me and it’s driving me crazy. But it was a family sing-along, And going to church, a faith-based family. Strong connection. Strong God connection. And, uh, I had – I feel honored and I was very supported in my growing-up years so that’s the kind of family I grew up in.

And what kind of music did you listen to growing up? Did you have favorite singers and favorite bands?

Well, my family listened to opera and gospel and Ray Charles and Etta James (laughs).  I mean, that’s a very eclectic mix of music. And my mom – I remember when my mom took me to the opera and she made me go to the library and take the libretto and learn what it was. And that was as a kid, so yeah, I listened to all kinds of music at home.

What did your experiences on Broadway teach you?

My experiences on Broadway taught me how to take care of my physical body as a performer. That was huge because to pop out those eight shows a week, there’s an extraordinary discipline that comes along with it, and that means learning how to make sure that you’re in peak condition, peak performance condition, for eight shows a week. And that’s a grueling schedule, even when you’re young, as a teenager. That’s quite a grueling schedule. I learned how to really pay attention to what affected my body and I think that’s what got me on the road to learning about vocal health because I had an amazing voice teacher in Cleveland, Ohio named Gladys Tift. From her teaching me how to sing, and she taught me– I was trying to go to the Met. I was trying to be an opera singer and I sing in five languages. And I got a chance to use all of that energy when I was singing on Broadway. But the audition of Broadway taught me how to take care of my physical body, #1, and #2, what they taught me – the art of auditioning. And it is anart. And people become very scared of auditioning. They don’t know how to audition because there aren’t a lot of people – there’s not a lot of information on how to do it unless you’re inside it. And that’s why my DVD called Welcome to Star School is about auditioning – how to get a job. And no matter what the medium is, whether it’s the Broadway medium, television medium, getting a record deal – how to present yourself. That’s what being on Broadway taught me is that you definitely have to pay attention to how you get the job. And it taught me stamina (laughs). That’s the other thing. That’s the third thing. It taught me stamina and the responsibility of putting in eight shows a week.

You also studied opera. What skill did that give you?

I love it. I’ve got a huge smile on my face. Studying opera gave me an accuracy as a vocalist. It gave me vocal dexterity. It taught me how to place my voice with different tonal qualities. And it taught me fearlessness, a fearlessness that comes with confidence and knowing that I can meet whatever task is put before me in any genre of music. And that’s what opera gave me. Isn’t that something?

Indeed it is. And you have this DVD. You mentioned earlier that you’re fascinated by voices. What is it about voices in particular?

I think what fascinates me is listening to tonal qualities. Even hearing the sound of a baby, a baby’s laugh, I can’t help but smile. That’s one of the things. And the other thing is how people use their voices. How people – some people speak and they don’t even breathe. There’s a, I’m noticing a generation of people now on television and they speak (speaks in low monotone) and they don’t breathe until their voice gets into this space and they run out of air and they keep talking and they think it’s OK to keep talking. And they’ve got this – I keep wanting to say ‘Take a breath! Please, take a breath!’(Laughter) it’s quite fascinating to me when I listen to a voice. And especially when I’m hearing singers. I always get this thing, ‘Oh, I can fix that.’ Or ‘that’s fixable.’ Or ‘Boy, if I told them two sentences that would go away or that could be made better.’ I’m kind of attuned to voices that way. And I learned that from making records. Broadway – now, I can compartmentalize everything. Broadway taught me one thing. Opera taught me one thing. Making records taught me another thing of how to play, how to play with tonal qualities in your own voice and listen back and go “oh!’ – you didn’t even know that that was there. Just quickly – when Barry Manilow hired me when I was a teenager, he asked me to do a sound-alike and I didn’t even know I could do a sound-alike. So I have to, honestly, give him credit for hearing in my voice something that I didn’t hear. And that’s what made me explore other tonal qualities. He had me do a sound-alike like Gladys Knight. I didn’t even know I had that. And, consequently, I tuned into the nuances of Gladys Knight’s voice. Then I was able to go ‘Oh, yeah. That is in my voice.’ He also had me do a sound-alike for Diana Ross and he heard those aspects, and I paid attention, and I was able to do that. So that got me on the road to doing voice-overs and creating other characters and really paying attention. So I have to give Barry Manilow credit for that.

You’ve made several recordings with Barry Manilow. In my humble opinion, I just love the duet of Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree that appeared on the Singing with the Big Bands album.

(Laughs) Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. And I was very surprised because I was sitting on an airplane and I was on the – oh, United Airlines – you know how they have the artists on there? And there I was! I said ‘Gee, I’ve hit the big time!’ It was quite fascinating and thrilling for me. So, good and thank you. I appreciate you acknowledging that song and the work.

How did you meet Mr. Manilow, and can you remember doing that particular session?

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was on– I had just moved to New York and I was auditioning constantly. Constantly answering ‘cattle calls’. At the time there was Backstage magazine. It came out every Thursday and I religiously went to the newsstand to pick up my, um, Backstage magazine every Thursday. Now you can go to Backstage.com. But I answered an ad in the newspaper that said ‘Manilow needs girl’. And I walked into the audition and I remember I was #174 on the page, and I signed in. The ad said ‘Must sing well, singer who moves well and sings rock and roll’. So that’s what the ad said and I answered it and in answering that ad I had just done a song with a producer that I realized that Gloria Gaynor later recorded. I did the song with a producer and I used it as the audition and I was asked to stay back. The first time, I was asked to hang back so that he could put two other singers with me. And it wasn’t Barry Manilow. It was someone else who was rehearsing me, who was auditioning me. And there was, of course, the audition table. And I waited around and I was called back in. I was put with two other ladies and this tall guy stood next to me and he said ‘Do you read music?’ I said ‘Yes.’ He said ‘What part do you sing?’ I said “I sing anything.’ And he said ‘Sing the top part.’ And he assigned the other two ladies their part, the harmony. And I sight-read it and I sang it. And he said ‘OK’. He kept me, brought two other people and I had to sing the middle part. Then I had to sing the bottom parts. And he said ‘You do OK.’ And I said ‘Oh, thank you very much.’ I didn’t know who this guy was but, in hindsight, I know it was Barry Manilow. And he kept me and I had to keep singing some more songs and then he said ‘Ok’ and he said ‘Thank you very much.’ And I turned to him and I said ‘Did you write this stuff?’ He said ‘Yeah.’ I said ‘You write good shit’ (laughs). ‘Thank you very much.’ Famous last words, right? (laughs). A few days later, I received a phone call. I thought it was another audition and I was told to be at 250 West 57th Street in New York at 2 o’clock. And I showed up, and I thought it was another audition and I didn’t know it, but I got a job. And I said ‘Why am I here? I don’t know why I’m here. Who am I singing for?’ And I was told ‘You’re not singing for anybody. You have a job.’ I said ‘With whom?’ And he said ‘Nobody told you?’ And I said ‘No. No one told me’ It was Barry’s manager at the time and he said ‘You are going on tour. You’re here because you’re going on tour with Barry Manilow for four weeks.’ I said ‘I didn’t know that.’ So that’s how all that fun started. (Laughs) That’s the short version of it. I’m very grateful and very blessed to say that I am still a part of Barry Manilow’s musical family. And his career has endured, and I have learned so very much. Our exchange has been huge. And on my website, at debrabyrd.com, he has written a wonderful paragraph about me, so I am very honored that he has graced my website with a lovely paragraph of things that I gave him.

You’ve also recorded with the legendary Bob Dylan. What was he like to work with?

It was such a joy working with Bob Dylan. And my description of him? My description of Bob Dylan is that he’s just one of God’s different creatures. He’s so extraordinary. The way he looks at the world and the way he can put pen to paper is so visual. And the way his heart speaks, it’s really extraordinary. And that’s why he is, you know, the poet of our generation. You know he’s been called that or something near to that. It’s really quite extraordinary and I was quite honored to work with Bob Dylan, to tour with him and to – he used me as his music librarian at one point. I’m on movies of his and it was an extraordinary experience working with Dylan and doing duets with him.

What other artists have you dueted with, and who has been the most enjoyable?

You know, I was really, really wracking my brain – what other artists have I dueted with? I sing with the contestants on (American) Idol, who have been on Idol a lot. I can arbitrarily say I’ve dueted at rehearsal with them – with Carrie Underwood on Alone and with Kelly Clarkson on another song and Fantasia on another song and, you know, Adam Lambert with some pieces here and there. But I’ve also – I could also arbitrarily say that I have dueted when the celebrities come on the show. And I’m so thrilled to help one of the contestants work with a celebrity, whether it’s Baby Face or whether it’s Michael McDonald, or whether it’s Joe Cocker, or whether it’s the lead singer from Judas Priest. I mean, it’s so thrilling to be in the energy and to sing along with. So, I can say that “behind the scenes” (laughs) I have dueted with people, but I haven’t recorded with other than Barry Manilow and Bob Dylan.

How did you get into vocal coaching?

You know, it’s the oddest thing. When I was performing on Broadway, Paul, I got a reputation, as a session singer and doing shows on Broadway, from people having vocal fatigue, and I got this reputation where people go ‘Oh, my voice is tired.’ And if I was in a show with them, I would go ‘You know what? If you did A, B, C, D and E then that would correct that.’ And they’d go ‘Oh, OK.’ And I said ‘I want feedback. Go do it and let me know how it works out.’ And I would always get positive feedback. That’s because I had a great voice teacher. And I would be that way in the recording studio and I got this reputation. And people would come to me “Byrd, can I hang out with you for 20 minutes? I have a vocal problem.’ And I would go ‘Sure. Let me see what I can fix’ And they would give me feedback and they would say ‘That thing you did, the thing you had me do, whatever that was, you fixed my problem.’ That’s how it started and I attribute that all to my great voice teacher – because I’ve only had one – and that’s Gladys Tift in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s how it really got started and it was by reputation. It’s quite extraordinary.

Who are the best singers?

Well, see, that’s – you and I could be on this interview forever if I gave you a ‘best singers’ list because there are so many, so many wonderful singers. But – and every time I do this, I always feel like I’m leaving someone out – but this is going back to tonal quality and sensibility and phrasing. Pavarotti always makes my heart skip. He just does. But so does Steven Tyler and so does Rosemary Clooney (laughs), you know? And I have to add on to that Gladys Knight, Minnie Riperton, James Brown, Kim Burrell, Michael McDonald, Kelly Clarkson. Aretha Franklin spawned a generation of women who sing like Aretha. Stevie Wonder has spawned a generation of men who sing like Stevie Wonder. Lena Horne said in an interview she wished she could sing like Aretha Franklin. I mean, the list is incredible, incredibly long. I mean, Freddie Mercury. There’s so many. Roger Daltry. I could go on and on and on. They’re fascinating – entertainers with incredible instruments, and that’s why we love them. That’s why they’re iconic. That’s why people revere them for years and years. Sinatra. Tony Bennett. Can we talk about Tony Bennett at his age now? (Laughter) I could go on and on and on. It’s fascinating and I don’t want to leave out people but I know I’m leaving people out. But what I’ve mentioned are a wide range of people. Yolanda Adams, Donny McClurkin, Sting. You better change the subject because I’ll keep going on and on and on. I get diarrhea of the mouth when I talk about singers (laughs).

What is the best thing about being Debra Byrd?

(Laughs) Wow! What is the best thing about being Debra Byrd? I think the best thing about being Debra Byrd, from a singer’s aspect, is the fact that I am trusted. People entrust their vocal abilities to me and they trust my information. I think that’s the best thing. I’m very humbled and honored by it, and I feel the love and the honor and the respect. And there’s a joy I receive from just people trusting me. And I think another best thing about me is because I encourage so many people and that I see the seed that I have planted and I see the fruit that comes from the seed that I have planted. I think that’s – my heart is happy that I can be of service in that way. And I guess I would call that being blessed beyond my imagination. I think that’s what I’d have to say. That the best part about being Debra Byrd is being blessed beyond my own imagination.

Well, my last question. You have a lot of fans out there. Wherever someone is in the world, what would you like to say to them?

Oh, boy. Now see, that’s another thing I could go – I do seminars. I do seminars around the United States, and I am an Artist in Residence at Berkley College of Music, and universities have me come and speak totheir students. And I love doing it. So I give lessons by Skype. I have students in France. I have – I just helped a young lady on a Chinese competition show, singing in Chinese. I mean, just thrilling things. Working with singers is so thrilling to me. On a spiritual note and on a life note, I would want to say to your listeners to be true to yourself. Be true to yourself. Be respectful of others. Always say thank you. Have an open heart. Don’t let the world grind you down. Always have a Plan B. And lastly, keep you hand in God’s hand. That’s what I would like to say to the world.

Very beautifully said.

Thank you. Thank you very, very much.

Thank you. It has been a pleasure. It’s always nice to speak with people who are so passionate and also, may I add, to speak to people who have as pleasant a speaking voice as they do a singing voice.

Thank you. Thank you very, very much. I’m all about everything vocal. And you’re right, you used the right word. It is a passion of mine. I have a great passion for it. I guess that’s my grace. That’s the grace I put on my life is that I’m so passionate about it and everyone I work with, no matter what age or what style. So I thank you. ‘Friend’ me on Facebook. I’m there and my Twitter account is byrdstarschool.

Thank you so much. It’s been a great pleasure to talk to you.
It’s a pleasure doing an interview with you, Paul Leslie. Thank you!

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Who is Richard Kerr?

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In 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing Enoch Anderson, the very talented lyricist who wrote songs with Barry Manilow for 15 Minutes, the first original album from Manilow since the 2001 Here at the Mayflower. The experience was very fascinating and many people commented on how well-spoken Enoch Anderson is.

People sometimes ask me when I became a fan of Mr. Manilow’s. I always chuckle and answer that I was born this way. It’s not far from the truth. My mom has an appreciation for really great music. Appreciation is too mild of a word. She LOVES music. She told me about seeing Simon & Garfunkel as a youth. I got to see Simon & Garfunkel too and am glad we can share an admiration for them. We also love Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, along with her sister—my aunt. Either my mom or my aunt (both?) saw Frankie and the Seasons 21 times! She likes the impeccable and soulful vocals of Kenny Rogers. She likes a lot of the Beatles catalogue. Those are just the pop music favorites, and her favorite would be—Barry Manilow. Barry Manilow? The “Copacabana” singer?

Why, yes he did compose and sing that song, and I heard “Copacabana” along with so many of the other songs Manilow recorded hundreds of times. She held my baby sister in her arms and would dance while “Can’t Smile Without You,” played on a cassette tape player in the kitchen of our house in the Philippines. The fact is, “Copacabana” is only the tip of the iceberg of the music Manilow has recorded. He’s recorded classics from the Great American Songbook—backed by big bands and also pop standards from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He’s done Broadway standards, and of course plenty of his own songs, usually written with his favorite lyricists and others written solo. What is so impressive about Manilow is the incredible quality of music he makes and how well he is at interpreting another songwriter’s work.

As you may have guessed, I have an admiration and appreciation for what Manilow does and I think his career is something I both take seriously, from an almost faux-scholarly perspective, but also get a great deal of joy listening to. Some of my favorite songs Manilow composed—“Even Now,” “This One’s for You” and the joyous “It’s a Miracle,” had lyrics written by Marty Panzer. It was a name I had seen many times. I’m a careful reader of the liner notes, especially of the Manilow vinyl records I have and cherish. I decided after the success of the Enoch Anderson interview, it would be great to get in touch with Marty Panzer. His response to my inquiry was pure enthusiasm. I think he realized the purity of what I was doing. I really wanted to know what inspired these wonderful words I had heard hundreds of times.

Talking to Marty Panzer was exciting. People who know him well really love him and his passion is so infectious that you find yourself seeing music and what it is to experience music for the blessing and gift that it is! Those who have met Marty Panzer or have seen his storytelling on stage know what I am speaking of. It would become one of my favorite interviews to date and the amount of mail I got from people who listened to it showed that I was not the only one who appreciated it. Then something interesting happened. Often interviewers say that the typical relationship with the interviewee is that the interview is broadcast, or the article is published and you never hear from the subject again. My experience has been different in that I have really connected with some of my guests, but I feel like Mr. Panzer understood more than almost anyone what it is I am trying to do and has encouraged me so much in that respect.

I decided there was no need to stop there. I found out after 8 years of interviewing people on the radio, that I had a real passion for interviewing lyricists (those who write the words), composers (those who write the music) and songwriters (those who do both). I set out to try to interview the songwriters who had written songs that had resonated in my heart. It’s been incredible. Some of the interviews have been with very famous songwriters like Jimmy Webb, Neil Sedaka—or Bob Gaudio. Others have been a little more obscure…like Richard Kerr.

Who is Richard Kerr? If you’re asking me— he’s a musical genius. It all started when I was looking through the CD Ultimate Manilow. I noticed some of the greatest songs on the album—“Mandy,” “Looks Like We Made It,” and “Somewhere in the Night,” were all composed by a man named Richard Kerr. No question about it, Manilow had a lot of success with this man’s songs. But, who was this man?

“Somewhere in the Night,” is in my opinion one of the greatest songs I’ve heard. That’s a strong statement, but you can start with the absolutely incredible lyrics by the great Will Jennings. . Look at the lyrics that open this song: “Time, you found time enough to love / I found love enough to hold you. / I’ll stir the fire you feel inside/ Until the flames of love enfold you.” I mean… “Wow. Who does that?” Then I put on the headphones and listened intently to the melody. It’s one of the most gorgeous of any recording. I listened carefully to not only the popular Manilow recording, but also to renditions by Helen Reddy, Yvonne Elliman, Kim Carnes and Richard Kerr’s own version.

So it was in 2011 I decided to track down and interview Mr. Richard Kerr. One of the people who most encouraged me to interview Kerr was Marty Panzer. He wrote to me, “Richard Kerr is one of the great talents of our generation. At the time, his music may very well have had the greatest impact on Popular Music, since the Beatles. Richard does all the right things… for all the right reasons.” Keep in mind that Kerr has written songs covered by not only Manilow, but also Dionne Warwick, Roy Orbison, John Denver, Rita Coolidge, the Righteous Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Manchester, and Peter Cetera.

Manilow’s first #1 single was “Mandy,” recorded 40 years ago this year. It was written by lyricist and recording artist Scott English and composed by Richard Kerr. Scott English recorded the first version under the original title, which was“Brandy.” First, I interviewed Scott English and heard from a couple of people who were kind of miffed by Scott saying he did not originally like Barry Manilow’s interpretation of “Mandy.” I interviewed Richard Kerr next and received quite a few emails from people who read the transcript. When I asked if they listened to the audio of the interview, only a couple had said they did. Apparently more than a few people were also upset that Richard Kerr did not initially like “Mandy” either. Some responded positively to one of the two songwriters and not the other.

A few people emailed me to ask me this question—“Why do you bother interviewing these songwriters? Why not only interview the stars who sing the songs?” This is a question that people have asked me for years. Take for instance, Barry Manilow. He’s been the most requested interview by people who listen to my interviews for years now. It’s in large part because I’ve welcomed almost all of Manilow’s lyricists, Enoch, Marty, Adrienne Anderson and Jack Feldman. I’ve also interviewed other songwriters that Manilow covered: like Gerard Kenny who composed “I Made It Through the Rain,” and David Pomeranz who wrote “The Old Songs,” and “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again,” Charles Fox who composed “Ready to Take a Chance Again,” Randy Edelman who wrote “Weekend in New England,” Tom Snow and Cynthia Weil who wrote “Somewhere Down the Road,” and countless others. Needless to say, Manilow has recorded a lot of songs through the years!

There are a lot of entertainment people in Hollywood who think of screenwriters as being a joke. In our star-obsessed culture, it kind of makes sense, but in my opinion…it’s absurd. To me the screenwriters are the truly brilliant creators. The parallel in music is the not-so-celebrated geniuses in music. The fact is, if you don’t want to hear or read interviews with songwriters…I maybe and probably can’t make you care. All I can do is continue with my passion and explain to you why I work so hard to interview songwriters, and not just the legendary names like Burt Bacharach and Paul Williams that people recognize.

The fact of the matter is that we wouldn’t have a song like “Somewhere in the Night” without a brilliant composer like Richard Kerr and an artistically endowed lyricist like Will Jennings. The song was born out of their creativity, minds and life experiences. Why would I talk to Scott English about the first incarnation of “Mandy,” back when it was “Brandy”? Well, because he is the only one qualified to tell us what inspired those words when he took pen to paper. These men and women who write songs are geniuses. The pain and sorrow in Scott English’s life manifested itself and something of beauty came out—“Brandy.” Was there genius in the way Barry Manilow arranged the song? Of course! Certainly there was, but let us never forget who wrote the song. Without speaking for Barry Manilow, and this is purely speculation, but I believe he would agree with me. I can enjoy and appreciate Manilow’s interpretation and find the evolution of the song as fascinating as it is. After speaking with the men who wrote the song, I can appreciate both the original and the interpretation for different reasons. If you’ve taken a moment to listen to the interviews of Richard Kerr and Scott English, I thank you most sincerely. I’m going to continue to interview great songwriters—some whose name you know and some you don’t necessarily recognize. Maybe you’ll listen to what they have to say. They’ve certainly given us gifts that never feel “used.” Great songs continue to satisfy us again and again.

As to people taking offense to songwriters being surprised or not loving a recording artist’s version of their song, I would say this: if anyone is entitled to an opinion, it is the songwriter. After all,it is their song. When I or someone else asks what they think of an interpretation, should they lie? If anything, I am proud to give them an open forum and believe these people feel they can be honest with me. If someone felt they had to be diplomatic and not say what they really believed, I would essentially have failed as an interviewer. It’s important to preserve the history of these songwriters and also record their perspectives and opinions. As is the case with Pete Seeger, a legendary songwriter I interviewed who passed away today, an interview with them is a way to keep something of them around. Maybe one day it can help us and we can understand who the person that created these masterpieces was.

So it’s not that I don’t want to interview a star like Barry Manilow. I’ve tried and was even asked by a former publicist when I would be available to interview him. It ended up getting called off, but it’s not Barry Manilow the star I want to interview. It’s Barry the music lover and composer. And if I ever interviewed Manilow, before we parted ways I’d ask him to put in a good word with lyricist Bruce Sussman for me. Frankly, I am as enamored by the creative output of Marty Panzer, Bruce Sussman, Jack Feldman, Adrienne Anderson, and Enoch Anderson as I am Barry Manilow. One of the greatest compliments I ever got was today, from a great writer and friend named Kyle Prater. He said that what has kept what I do so genuine is that whomever I interview is given the same respect and treated every bit the same as a “big name.”

Recently, I had an interview scheduled in north Florida with a singer. This incredibly talented vocalist has an amazing story and a unique outlook, but had to back out of the interview not even 24 hours before it was supposed to take place. These things happen. I decided that the Paul I know, and I’m talking about myself here, would go down there and find a story nonetheless. So I drove down at night and fell asleep in my hotel room at 2:00 A.M. The next morning I set up a little office in my room and set out to track down and get an interview with a 92-year-old lyricist named Luigi Creatore. I’ve tried for some time to reach him and some may know him as not only a playwright and record producer, but also a co-writer of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” as sung by Elvis Presley and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” that the Tokens recorded. Could we ever comprehend how much joy and love these songs have helped us realize? Can you imagine how many people hear “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and remember it playing at their wedding? So after doing some detective work, I ended up getting ahold of Mr. Creatore and was invited to his home in Boca Raton. While I was there, I was introduced to his wife Claire, who as it turns out is the widow of George David Weiss who wrote “What a Wonderful World,” a song my mom loves. I recall very vividly my mother telling me how she related to the lyrics. I wonder if moments like those have had a bigger influence on my life than I realize. While I was interviewing Luigi he talked about that song “What a Wonderful World,” and even though he did not write it, I could tell how much he admired and loved it.

On my way home, I started thinking about how crazy this passion and very strange trip of interviewing songwriters has been for me. It caused me to be stranded once. I thought about how little sleep I had gotten that weekend, how weary driving for long hours can make you and if maybe I was a bit unbalanced? Then as I looked at the beautiful Florida skyline as the sun was setting I heard the unmistakable first few seconds of Louis Armstrong’s recording of “What a Wonderful World.” As the song played, I thought about the lyrics like I never had before. I thought about the people I have had the chance to meet on this big blue ball. Some of them were very young when they left us and some were older. And I thought about the newest one who was just born. Some of them wrote music or words that I grew up hearing countless times from childhood on albums or on the radio and would meet years and years later. I could have stayed home where I am comfortable, but I was now blessed with a new perspective from yet another songwriter, a man named Luigi Creatore who never had seen me before, but greeted me at his front door with a hug. To be able to meet people like him who have brought so much joy to others is something I have more gratitude for than I can contain. I won’t stop doing this. And thanks to people like Luigi and Richard, -the songwriters, because of them, yes—what a wonderful world.

Special thanks to Chef Adam Mohl.

Richard Kerr: Composer

Richard Kerr is a British composer who has written songs recorded by Dionne Warwick (“I’ll Never Love This Way Again”), Helen Reddy, Tom Jones, Kim Carnes, Natalie Cole, Frankie Valli, Rita Coolidge, Bonnie Raitt, John Denver, the Righteous Brothers, Roy Orbison, and Peter Cetera.  He is perhaps best known for writing many songs recorded by Barry Manilow, including “Mandy,” “Looks Like We Made It,” and “Somewhere in the Night.”

What was life like growing up?
Hard question, not a wonderful life for me early on, but I have always… from my very first memories, I remember my Father singing me songs.

What kind of songs?
Probably songs you’ve never heard of Paul.. ‘Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day,’ ‘Old Faithful,’ songs like that.

You’re absolutely correct, I have not heard of those songs (Paul and Richard laugh)..
What type of songs are they?
Well, ‘Little Man’… well, actually, they are very well known songs, but they’re of my Father’s era, I don’t know how I would describe them, they’re sort of like.. I guess.. Lullabies.

I see.
Old Faithful’ is about a horse that was a firm favorite in the forties, and I think the same applies to ‘Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day.’ You can imagine what that song is about, a Father singing to a son.

What city were you born in?

Bedford.

What kind of town is that, what’s it like?

Well, it’s a, fjord means river and it’s a town on a river, the Ouse, and I went to Bedford school, which is a privileged school to go to, it was a fee paying school and for the first seven years or so I did very well indeed, and then I realized that I had probably been learning everything parrot-fashion and for the next six years I did terribly.

Mmmm.
We had a school chapel there, and I was in the choir, and we always congregate there every Sunday and of course at holidays, especially at Christmas time where I sang the solo in ‘Once In Royal David City.’

So you had a talent for music from a very early age.

Very early age, yes, I studied the clarinet, which is not much use as a songwriter. (Paul and Richard laugh)

It’s the instrument Woody Allen plays.
Woody Allen certainly does play that, yes, absolutely. My very favorite clarinet of all time, now I’ve forgotten his name, it’s terrible, I can’t think of his name, Art… no, no.. I can’t..

Artie Shaw?
Artie Shaw! Artie Shaw, I never could manage the Concerto for Clarinet in ‘C,’ it was incredibly complicated thing, but Artie Shaw had such a wonderful tone to his clarinet.

In addition to.. you just mentioned Artie Shaw, I was curious specifically about the popular music of the day, that you were especially fond of.

The first vinyl record I ever bought was Eddie Cochran’s ‘Twenty Flight Rock.’ But I would have to say that growing up round about…as a teenager the first influence I ever had although I didn’t know I was ever going to be a songwriter was Buddy Holly.

I see.
I remember going… we used to go to a place called Clacton-On-Sea, which is not that far away from here, but I haven’t been back since my youth and I played ‘All Shook Up’ by Elvis Presley till people.. must have turned people out of the place, I just could not stop playing that record. (Paul laughs)

You mentioned the clarinet, what about the piano, how did that enter your life?

It’s pretty boring little story, but I mean..very briefly there was a piano…. when I left school I went into the wine trade, very briefly and I was living in a sort of a boarding house, where in the main sitting room, which nobody ever went into unbelievably, there was a grand piano and myself and a friend who was also in the boarding house there, we just decided one day that we would sit down and try and write some songs and I’d never had a piano lesson in my life, but we started hawking these little songs around, our version of Tin Pan Alley in Waldorf Street in London and eventually publishers got interested.

Tell us about the interest of the publishers, what was the songs specifically that caught their ear?

Not songs that would mean anything to you. I mean I could plug out a few titles to you, but they wouldn’t mean anything to you because they weren’t hits.

Well just tell us a few so we can look them up.

‘Hard Loving’ was the first.. I think the first single I put out as a recording artist and ‘Concrete Jungle’ which sort of was almost, almost a hit.

Interesting.
It was played like a hit, but it didn’t really sell that great and I never dreamt that I could possibly ever make a living out of being a songwriter, but, as I say I was in the wine trade at the time at a very posh store which is still very much in existence now in London called Fortnum & Mason, and Fortnum & Mason heard about the fact that I was recording – as they put it ‘a rock n roll singer’, and they did not like the association of their store with rock n roll, now we’re going back a long time now, because today it would probably be a plus but in those days they sure as hell didn’t like the association, so they asked me to stop having their name associated with my record and I had the greatest publicist, man named Les Perrin, who was also the publicist for a slightly well known group called the Rolling Stones (Paul laughs, Richard continues) and David Bowie and he said “it’s too late Richard, I can’t.. you know, all the stuff has gone out to all the various people, I can’t suddenly pull it back” and then in the end the Fortnum & Mason fired me.

I see.
And I was absolutely scared to death, cause I’d been, you know, I had a steady job and I didn’t dream I could be a song writer or a recording artist or anything like that, but it was the one thing that pushed me into the music business.

Well, tell us about the song ‘Blue Eyes.’

(Richard laughs)  Ohhh, ‘Blue Eyes,’ ‘Blue Eyes’ is…you don’t know the term ‘busker’ do you over there?

One who plays on the street for…?
Yeah.

Yeah.
Yeah, yeah a one man band Don Partridge was the man’s name and myself and my Manager Don Paul, we were queuing up to see the latest James Bond film in Leicester Square and this guy Don Partridge was busking outside of the cinema and he had the most incredible co-ordination and he was really good and Don Paul said to me “I think I’m going to take that guy if he’s.. if he’ll let me and I want to take that guy into the recording studio” and in those days it was all mono, not even stereo and he took Don into the recording studio and it cost him eight pounds to make a record called ‘Rosie,’ which went to number three in the British charts, and Don Partridge could not write or couldn’t find a follow up that he liked and he asked me if I would like to have a go and ‘Blue Eyes’ was the result of that, and I wrote that with Joan Maitland and that went to number two in the charts for twelve pounds it cost him because we put an upright bass on it for a half session.

So, twenty pounds the total cost, a number three and a number two, not bad.

We had an interview recently with Scott English, he’s a man you wrote with, what was your first impression of Scott English?

The entire, exact opposite from me. (Paul laughs).

Well, explain what that means.
Very loud, from the Bronx, I believe it’s the Bronx and extremely loud man, I’ve always been a very quiet person, and…which is not very well suited to the music business, but there you go, but I can’t absolutely remember howwe got together, I think it was probably… I think it was actually at some sort of music business function and we… I think we were just talking to one another and we just decided that we would try and write something together, as simple as that.

One of the songs that you wrote was entitled ‘Brandy.’

Yep.

Tell us about composing ‘Brandy.’
I know that Scott put out a whole load of his own explanations to the title of ‘Brandy’, but I never paid much attention to things like that when I was presented with the lyric because I think I was actually presented with the lyric of ‘Brandy’ first. I think that the lyric came before the music, and I wrote to it almost in a sort of James Taylor style, I mean I wasn’t aware that I was writing in the James Taylor style but almost in a James Taylor style, and we sat and we wrote that, I remember exactly what it was, it was in Curzon Street in Mayfair, we couldn’t… Scott’s electric piano wasn’t working properly and we had to go next door to his neighbor who had a sort of out of tune piano and the song just came musically very, very quickly for me, because I just related to the lyrics so clearly.

The song later became entitled ‘Mandy’ as recorded by Barry Manilow. What did you think of Manilow’s interpretation?

Interesting. It’s one of the first memories that I had of going to Los Angeles. I was asked to go over by my publisher and Rondor, Rondor which is A&M’s Publishing company, and I was waiting to see a man named Jeff Benjamin who worked at Rondor and outside the…while sitting outside of his office door, I heard this song being played, and it genuinely took me Paul about a minute into it to realize it was my song that was being played.

Interesting.
I couldn’t actually tell, I mean, being behind closed doors as it were, I couldn’t actually pick out the fact straight away that it was ‘Mandy’ as opposed to ‘Brandy’ that was being sung, but when I did find that out, I was absolutely livid that someone had changed the title without asking us. Until I saw it zooming up the charts. (Paul laughs) When you think about it I think ‘Mandy’ is probably a much more accessible title than ‘Brandy’.

Yeah.
But Scott had had chart success in England himself as an artist as ‘Brandy’, but anyhow, you know, Clive Davis had decided to change the title of the song, in my mind probably has the greatest ears.. had the greatest ears of any record Chief in the States and he had that record ‘Brandy You’re A Fine Girl’ by Looking Glass, which had been a recent number one for him on CBS and he just started up this new label Arista and ‘Mandy’ was in fact I think the very first release on Arista.

A lot of the songs you’ve written have been with Will Jennings, in my humble opinion a brilliant lyricist. How did you meet Will Jennings?

On that same trip over I had been asked to sit down and write with a man named John Bettis.

Yes John Bettis.
John Bettis that time of Carpenters fame, I’d travelled all the way over there and I hate flying, I’ve got a tremendous fear of flying, always have done, still do, I pushed aside my fear and go on the big bird in the sky and come over to write with John Bettis and he said “I’m awfully sorry, but I’ve got some re-writes to do for this new Carpenters album.” So I thought ‘aaah well that’s okay, I can get some really good melodic things together on my own and wait for him’, and my publisher over there said to me “I really would like you to look at some of these lyrics by a man named Will Jennings,” and I said, his name was Lance Free and I said to Lance, “you know, Lance, I really… I understand what you’re saying but I really don’t want to sit down with a lot of different people, I came over here to write with John and I’d rather…” and he said “now please just look at a few of Will’s lyrics”, when I looked at a few of Wills lyrics, he never had a hit at this stage, he’d just come over from Nashville himself and I looked at some of these lyrics and I just thought ‘this is my sort of lyric, you know what he writes it’s from the heart, I can write with this guy’ and so we decided to sit down and write together whilst I was waiting for John Bettis.

Is that how most of your songs have come about, is the lyric usually done first and then you compose the melody?

No, in fact the first song that Will and I wrote was a song called ‘Somewhere In The Night,’ we were very fortunate enough to have several chart records on that but never one I would call huge hit. Manilow recorded it and Helen Reddy and Yvonne Elliman, Kim Carnes and various other people,but I remember presenting the melody to him first on that one, the first song we wrote, I was staying at a place, a very infamous place called the Sunset Marquis, which is on Sunset Boulevard and it was… I rented this electric piano which had three notes missing on it, but it didn’t matter because it was such a great atmosphere at A&M Records where my publisher was the old Charlie Chaplin Studios and if you couldn’t write a hit song there, you couldn’t write one anywhere.

Well, what’s your opinion of that song ‘Somewhere In The Night’?

I love the song, in my mind it was about a particular lady and it was one of those melodies that came very quickly and although it’s entered the charts on several occasions with Manilow and with Helen Reddy, I’ve never felt it quite… the closest that it came to in terms of feel was an act that Clive Davis produced himself, and act called Back Door From Rodney who never set the world on fire, but one of these days, I still think that it’s going to get a definitive version.

Hmmmm, it is absolutely, in my humble opinion anyways one of the most beautiful songs ever.
Oh well thank you, that’ s very kind of you.

There’s another one that you wrote with Will Jennings, ‘Looks Like We Made It,’ that is a favorite with a lot of people, tell us about composing that song.

Well, we were.. I was back… we would come over to England, this was back in England and I remember so clearly it was one of those rare beautiful days where there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and Will was… had been put up in some small hotel and he had all the curtains closed and I came in and said “Will, it’s beautiful outside there” and he said “I can’t concentrate when all the curtains are open,” we sat down, we wrote ‘Looks Like We Made It’ that afternoon, Will and I used to write, always used to write in my favorite way of writing and that is we both sit together with nothing and I would be fooling around on the keyboard, Will would be just thinking about lyrics and we might be in the same room, we might not, but we’d be in the same house or hotel and he’d hear what I was doing and I would hear what he was doing and he’d say, nine times out of ten he’d say “I love what you’re doing there” and I wouldn’t even be aware of what I was doing and I’d just go over and over and over it again and he’d say “yeah” and we’d write really, really , really write together as it were as opposed to so many songs of late, where someone will send me a lyric or I will send a melody, we’d actually write and compose the song together in the same room.

There’s been so many songs that you’ve composed that Barry Manilow has recorded. Why do you think that Barry Manilow has recorded so many of your songs?

I know why Paul, because Clive Davis wanted him to. I think you know I was a Clive Davis favorite at the time, it’s strange, I didn’t really want to get into writing all those ballads, I didn’t want to get known for writing all those ballads, although they’d been very kind to me, you know and of course having started off with ‘Mandy’, which was when Manilow was totally unknown, you know, I know that Barry I think it’s quite right and honest to say Barry never wanted to record other people’s songs, he only wanted to record his own songs, which is fair enough, he’s.. you know, he’s a fine songwriter. It was Clive that said “no, you know, you haven’t got a single here, this is a song you’re going to record” and I… I’m not privy to exactly what went on with Clive with Barry in their times together, but I do know that he never wanted to record ‘Mandy’ in the first place, he never wanted to record ‘Somewhere In The Night’ or ‘Looks Like We Made It’ or all the other ones at all, it’s down to Clive.
Interesting.

Well, one of Manilow’s long time collaborators, the lyricist Marty Panzer…

Yep.

You wrote a song with him, how did you meet Marty Panzer?
(Richard laughs).. I was lying back, exhausted after having written quite a lot with Will and needed to just take a little break, and I was in Palm Springs, I was lying back on one of those sun loungers soaking up the sun and I heard this man “are you Richard Kerr?” and I thought ‘who the hell is this’. My eyes were closed, I’d been ……. I got up and I said “yes, I am” and he said “I recognized your photograph and my name is Marty Panzer,” I said “hello Marty,” really wishing that he’d go away and he said “I’m a great friend of Barry Manilow’s” and I said “ohh well, very nice to meet you” and he said “do you think that there’s a chance that you and I could write something together one day,?” and I said “yeah, I mean let me know, or show me one or two lyrics that you’ve written, I’d love to see whether we can”  and I like Marty’s style very much indeed, very, very much from the heart and we sat down, I think we’ve written maybe six or seven songs, a long time ago now.

He has actually two questions that he asked for us to to ask you.

Oh.

So these two questions are from Marty Panzer.
Right.

As not only one of the most successful songwriters of your generation, but also one of the most well respected songwriters of your generation..
Writers..

He’s speaking of you, yes.
Oh.

Which writers today are writing at the quality level you respect?
Oh boy, there are a lot. But you know, I.. it’s funny, I haven’t… Paul I have never… and probably to my detriment, but I have never really studied the music business, or, not the music business, but I’ve never really been one of those who sort of goes out and buys lots of albums when they come out and stuff, but I’d have to say the first person that comes to my mind today is Adele and I can’t remember the name of the guy that she writes mostly with, but she’s a great talent. A lot of my other choices are people who are not really current, but, I mean I always have loved Don Henley’s writing from the Eagles..

Yeah.
And there are so many people that I love, I think that if I sat in front of a chart right now with a lot of records in front of me, I should probably be prepared for this, but there are so many bands who I don’t know the names of the writers to. I heard again recently a new album by Randy Newman, Newman’s always been one of my real favorites, but these are all old.. I mean, you know, Paul Simon is a great writer,  Jimmy Webb who I spent a wonderful evening and night with many years ago, he’s a great writer, but today, as you probably are too aware, with the exception of a few, the music business has changed, you know, a hundred and eighty degrees and it’s not really songs today, it’s more image, it’s more production, it’s like the film industry in a way, that they sort of parallel one another in that special effects are so important today in music and in film and I think to the detriment of the story andr the meat of the song or the film.

Yeah. Well, the second question of the two that Marty wanted me to ask he says, who is best at carrying the torch for well written, important songs that will last beyond the moment. You just mentioned Adele, what about perhaps singers that are singing other people’s songs, who do you think is doing a good job?

There are just so few, I have lost touch with those singers who.. they’re tough questions Marty. (Paul laughs).. I don’t know whether the British chart echoes the American chart any longer. I guess I’d have to say that Michael Bublé does a pretty darn good job of other people’s songs but you’ve really stumped me, it’s hard to pick out.. I can’t just pick out a lot of names that come to mind.

One of the songs that you wrote is a very well known song ‘I’ll Never Love This Way Again,’ what inspired that?

That was Will and I, Will Jennings and I, at my little ranch style place in Nichols Canyon, I love the names Los Angeles gives to its roads, I started off in Wonderland Park Avenue, I moved to Astral Drive, and in Astral Drive we wrote that song and it was one of those songs that had a bitter after taste to it, simply because some guy out of New Jersey put a claim that we ripped him off, we’d never heard his song, we’d never met him, what happened was that they froze all the… because they had to legally, BMI and the record company Arista froze all the royalties, so we didn’t see the royalties from that record for over a year, or a year and a half I think, but the actual writing of the song was another one with Will that came very quickly indeed and I believe that was a verse lyric first.

There’s another one that you wrote, recorded by the late Roy Orbison, ‘In The Real World’…

Ahhh yeah.

Tell us about that song.
What a lovely man, I just have to say one thing about Roy, which probably all his closest friends have said and know for themselves, but of all the stars, so called stars that I have met during the years, I would have to say that Roy was the one with the least glitter about him, he was such a humble man, you’d never known that he had had the sort of career he had. That was written in Will’s house in West Lake Village in an afternoon I remember ‘In the Real World,’ it came really quickly, and I believe that was partly lyric first, yet again it’s the sort of lyric you see for me anyhow that writes itself, and when Roy heard it, I don’t know how Will got to know Roy, but it was Will got to know Roy rather than myself, but Roy came round one afternoon, we played him that and we played him another song ‘You May Feel Me Crying,’ he loved both ofthem and actually recorded both of them, the second one ‘You May Feel Me Crying’ was in a film, it wasn’t a hit, neither was ‘In The Real World,’ but it was on the last album he did.

What about the song John Denver recorded ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’?

Oh yeah.. funny you should say that, I was watching a special, you know, on John Denver just the other day, my wife is a huge fan of John Denver. Yeah, It was delightful to have a John Denver record, again, it wasn’t a big hit, but he was one of a kind in his style of writing and it’s always especially lovely from my point of view when a writer, a artist, someone who writes their own songs records one of your songs, that’s a special privilege I think, because it means that they really, really do value the song and they want to record it for themselves.

What about the song ‘In Another World,’ that Manilow recorded, what inspired that?

He didn’t get it at all, he didn’t… I wish I could play you the demo. I wrote that with a lady named Charlie Dore and it’s one of our favorite songs but I wasn’t happy with Barry Manilow’s version of that, it’s all I can say about that one.

Have you had any interactions with Manilow through the years?

Very little. Very little indeed, I think we probably only met on three occasions and all three at functions, you know, at music business functions, I do remember (Richard laughs)..  he suggested to me many years ago that we’d try and write together and I said “what, you mean just you and me?” and he said “yeah,”, and I said “what’s it going to be like,” I don’t know if you’ve heard of Ferrante & Teicher have you?

I haven’t heard of that no.
Oh, okay, well they were two guys who sat facing one another both at their own pianos and I said “I can’t imagine how we could do that Barry,” so nothing came of our writing… sitting down and writing together, it might have been interesting but we’d have probably had to get separate lyricists in.
Yeah.

Well, speaking of lyricists, you’ve written with the lyricist John Bettis who you’ve mentioned earlier.

Yes.

What was it like to write with him?
I think John and I had, bad luck is the wrong word, I just don’t think we were lucky, we’ve written a lot of songs together and we’ve had a lot of recordings and a lot of cuts of songs, we’ve never had a big hit together and we should have done, we started writing I think it’s fair to say, he was…the Carpenters were on the wane as it were, he had a lot of time on his hands, I, again loved his lyrics, I loved the way his mind works lyrically and he’s had so much success, just like Will has had, way apart from me I mean, you know the sort of hits that Will has had and John the same, I mean I don’t know if John’s won an Oscar, but Will’s won two, John has had tremendous success writing apart from me, but we’ve written some very fine songs, a lot of the songs I’ve put on my very unsuccessful own albums, and a nice man and someone that I think of very fondly.

I know this might be a difficult question to answer, with all the lyricists that you’ve worked with, and all of the songwriters you’ve written with, from Will Jennings to Scott English, Marty Panzer, John Bettis, I believe you told me you’ve written with Paul Williams.

Yes, but Paul, I love dearly, we’ve written maybe half a dozen songs together but we were both at difficult times in each of our lives, not songs that I think… I can only speak for myself, not songs that I’m really proud of, I would have thought that knowing his sort of writing and my sort of writing we would have been a match made in heaven, not something that I can actually say “yes, this song should have been a hit,” so we just had our writing times together, but other parts of life took over from our creativity I think when we sat down together.

 Well, on that note, of all of the co-writers you worked with, could you pick a favorite?
No. No. Absolutely not. (Richard laughs)

What about a favorite song of yours, is that possible?

Well, funny you should say that I think probably ‘Somewhere In The Night.’
Yeah.
I think so, although the one that’s been the best and the kindest to me is ‘Mandy.’ Some, I mean it changes so much that I think I know probably that most writers would say this about themselves, but I generally think I’m writing better right at this moment in time, this very moment in time and I have a half… whether the songs I’m writing and have written in the last five years we’ll become hits is something else, but I have a new lease on life, maybe one of those will be my favorite of all time.

What was it like to have Frank Sinatra record one of your songs?

Amazing, strangest thing is the song was ‘Blue Eyes’ which Don Partridge recorded, the busker.

Interesting.
And this shows you how much I don’t collect gold records, and things like that and hang them up on my walls,  like so many people do, I don’t have much interest in that side of it, but I’ve only ever heard it a couple of times, it was on a Sinatra album and therefore I felt quite justified to use it in my press handouts, but, I don’t even have a copy of it.

When somebody hears your music, wherever they are, on an elevator, if they’re listening to it on an album, however they’re listening to it, what do you want the listener to get out of that experience?

Don’t want to sound too self important here, but I would like them to be moved in some way or another by it.

I don’t think that’s self important.
I’m not very good, I’m not very good at writing songs that are just rhythmic and just bubble gum, the sort of thing that is here today, gone tomorrow, it’s hard to explain, there was one time I remember when I was signed to Screen Jenson which is now EMI publishing, where my publisher said “sit down and try and write like so and so”, only because he asked me to, I thought I would listen to a few things that ‘so and so’ had written, and it didn’t work for me, I have to come from the heart, even whether it be up tempo, slow ballad or mid tempo, it still has to come from the heart and I would just like someone to be… to say “yeah, that song really means something to me,” cause I could put myself in that person’s position, or in that piece of music, that means something to me at that particular time in my life.

What is the best thing about being Richard Kerr?

Well, I’m still alive, I’m still writing songs and I’m happily married with a wonderful Welsh Terrier who just this afternoon dug through the rabbit-proof fencing and caused me no end of strife chasing after him over the fields, I came back this afternoon Paul, after having finally captured him and it took me five to ten minutes to actually get my breath back. It’s a pretty good life I’ve got, I’ll always love music, it will always be my first love above anything I think, as long as I still have that desire to write, I’m happy.

For anyone who’s listening to this interview, wherever they are in the world or if they’re reading it, however they experience it, what would you like to say to those people?

They’re not writers or anything, just the general public yeah?

All kinds of people.
All kinds of people. Do it rather than say it.

Sound advice.
(Richard laughs)

For my last question.

Yep.

Who is Richard Kerr?
Richard Kerr is a… I think a fairly humble songwriter and someone who’s always trying… this sounds so hammy but is someone who’s always trying to be just a little better person each day if he can.

Well, just imagine if everyone had that mind set how much further along we’d be.

(Paul and Richard laugh)

A part of me would like to say ‘Thank You Mr. Kerr,’ but you like to be called Richard.

Yes please.

Thank You Richard, it’s been a great pleasure to have this conversation.

Well Thank You Paul, we tried to get together so many times on the phone and at last we’ve made it and Thank You very much indeed. I hope I’ve sort of… it’s been semi interesting.

It has been very interesting, it has been a real honor. Thank You.
Oh Thank You very much Paul. It’s been a pleasure.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON

 

 

Gerard Kenny: Songwriter & Recording Artist

Certainly Gerard Kenny is a songwriter who has “Made It Through the Rain.”  I think you’ll agree, he’s a fascinating artist.  In this interview he tells his story, which begins in New York.  These days, Gerard Kenny lives in the United Kingdom and has a dedicated following.  In addition to his own songs, his music has been recorded by Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Jack Jones, Perry Como, Shirley Bassey and many others.  We hope you enjoy.

Jack Feldman: Lyricist

JACK FELDMAN is a lyricist.  Along with composer Alan Menken, he wrote the songs for the musical “NEWSIES,” with book by Harvey Fierstein.  Jack Feldman has also written many lyrics for songs appearing in Disney animated films.  Along with fellow lyricist Bruce Sussman, Jack Feldman wrote many songs with recording artist Barry Manilow.

***

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome our special guest.  He’s a very talented lyricist, Mr. Jack Feldman.  Along with Alan Menken and Harvey Fierstein he is the creator of the new musical, ‘Newsies.’  Thanks so much for joining us.
My pleasure Paul.


Who is Jack Feldman?

(Laughs)  Well, I’m a guy who grew up in the New York area on Long Island and I got to see a lot theater while I was growing up cause my parents would go and I remember going also with my grandmother when I was just a little kid and I always loved it.  It was at the center of my life since I can remember in terms of what I enjoyed to do and what I enjoy doing and working in the theater was always what I aspired to do.


What would you say it is about theater that captures you so much?
I think originally it was musical theater and the way that songs were used to tell the story of whatever piece it was.  Whatever show it was.  And I remember that also from animated movies like the classic Disney animated movies which at that time, and even up until not that long ago, were done very much the way songs in a show function, that is to illuminate character, tell part of the story, advance a relationship, tell you what the character might be thinking, in what in a straight play might be a soliloquy  or a monologue and that suspension of disbelief that seem to come so easily on stage where a character or characters could be talking and then singing and you would buy it and so even though in a real life situation it sounds like it would be silly on stage, it was perfectly natural and I think part of the reason why movie musicals don’t work on screen as much is because screen is so much, uh, the movies are so much more literal and the artificiality of breaking into song is that much more noticeable and hard to accomplish.


Can you remember specific songs or recordings that you especially liked growing up?
Well I listened to a lot of stuff that all kids listen to, or that most kids listen to in terms of stuff that was on the radio and pop music of the time.  I was always interested in that and I always was familiar with it but what I was really drawn to in a much more profound way were original cast albums from shows.  At first, the ones that happened to be in the house because my parents had bought them after seeing a show and later, those that I would go out and buy myself or ask my mom to get for me and I use to literally memorize, not on purpose, but I’d listen to them so much that I ended up memorizing virtually whole original cast albums of shows, a lot of which I could still sing from memory or write down from memory if I want to.  For some reason, it just always, they always stuck in my mind.


Were you always a writer?
I wasn’t always a writer in, in a discipline sense.  I think I always wanted to be.  I remember telling a neighbor of mine when I was about five or six years old…we were both about five or six…that I wanted to be ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein.’  I don’t recall that much of the conversation but for some reason I recall saying that.  I even remember exactly where we were out in my backyard when I said it.  But I really didn’t start to write in any kind of a disciplined way till high school and the first thing I wrote of that nature was when I was a senior in school.  Every year the seniors would put on an original show basically lampooning school life and when I was a senior I wrote a good deal of that show, the script and lyrics and music and along with some other people but it was definitely, I took the lead, in that and that was the first project that resembled even in its, you know, most amateur form the structure of a show and songs that fit characters and story.


You’ve written a lot of songs with Bruce Sussman.
Yes.


How did you meet him?
We met in songwriting workshop that was called the ‘BMI Workshop’ that was started by a very successful, and at the time, well-known Broadway conductor by the name of Lehman Engel.  When I got out of college I went into the workshop…you had to audition for it…and that’s where Bruce and I met.  We weren’t working together at the time.  I was writing my own lyrics and music and Bruce, as a lyricist, was working with another composer.  But at some point, a couple of years after we met we started to work together as well, doing the lyrics together and my writing the music.  We worked on one project actually with a playwright by the name of Wendy Wasserman who achieved considerable fame.  Won the Pulitzer Prize , matter of fact, and died tragically young about, oh goodness, I don’t know, eight years ago now, maybe more and that got done at a not-for-profit theater here in New York and that was the one full-length show that we worked on together, Bruce and I.


What was he like to work with?
Bruce was great to work with.  We had a very similar sensibility, very similar sense of humor, we both tended to admire the same writers and, and shows and we just got along really, really well and it was a very smooth collaboration.   It always was.

You wrote the lyrics along with him, Bruce Sussman, to one of Barry Manilow’s most well-known songs and that song is ‘Copacabana.’
Right


Tell us a little bit about writing that song.
What happened was Barry had been to Rio de Janeiro and in Rio there’s a beach called the Copacabana Beach and he had remembered a line from a movie that he saw, that he had seen on TV many, many times , an old movie where they used, where they were talking about that beach and the line was something like “Copacabana, there’s music in that name” and when he came back from Brazil he said it would be great to write a song called ‘Copacabana’ and he didn’t really give us any direction in terms of what it should be about and I remember the hardest part of the song for us was deciding on what the approach to it would be.  What we started out with the beach and after a little while thought well there’s no reason why we can’t do it about the club which was legendary at that point.  It had passed its heyday but it was really still very well-known and at that point it was a dance club and we thought if we set it back in the 40’s and did it like it was an old movie and had sort of a melodrama plot, kind of tongue-in-cheek and that sort of gave us a handle on how to, on how to write the song and once we had fashioned a little story, and a few characters, the rest of it was fun.  Once we, once we cracked it and decided how we were going to approach it.  It only, I think we, we did it basically in two nights’ working, two evenings and then gave it to Barry.  I think we even called him and we sort of dictated it to him over the phone and he wrote the music very quickly and that’s how the song was written.

It certainly has endured.  Still a very well-known and well-loved song.
Yeah, I mean it was never meant to be anything but a, an album cut to sort of change of pace on one of Barry’s albums because so much of what he had hits with were ballads, love songs, and so he thought if we could, if he could mix it up and put a song that had a real dance beat to it and a little bit of humor it would make for a better variety on the album and, but basically listeners called into radio stations asking for it to played and that’s how it sort of broke out but it was never meant to be a single.  It was always meant to just sit on the album but it was kind of forced out which was great.  It was a surprise and it was terrific to have that reaction to it.

A personal favorite is ‘Why Don’t We Try a Slow Dance,’ which you co-wrote.
Yes
What was the inspiration?
We wrote that for a, a TV special that Barry was doing.  He did a bunch of them and I honestly don’t remember what the impetus was for that in particular.  I can’t remember whether it was something that was mapped out in the script of the show and they envisioned it.  We wrote it to be sung, you know, for him to sing on the show so there would be, he would be seen singing it. It wouldn’t … it wouldn’t just be on a record but he eventually put it on a record.  I always thought that was a neat song too.  It was kind of a throw-back type song.


Do you have a favorite Manilow song that you had a hand in writing?
Well, I guess despite virtue of the fact that it was the first song for Barry that we all wrote together, I would have to say ‘Copacabana.’  It did achieve a popularity and it was literally a pop, the first pop song that I ever wrote.  Bruce had written with Barry for a year or two before I joined the collaboration so he had already gotten his feet wet but I never had.  It was quite special to sit down and the first one we did together ended up being successful.  That’s not necessarily my favorite Manilow song but my favorite one that I had a hand in doing.

The ‘Newsies’ musical has
Yes.

Has a new cast recording out.
Yeah.

And I wanted you to tell us how did you first come to hear of the ‘Newsies’ project?
I heard of the ‘Newsies’ project through Alan Menken who I also met in the BMI song writing workshop where I met Bruce.  Alan was a year ahead of me but we became friends and eventually he started to work, of course, with Howard Ashman and they were a brilliant, brilliant team.  They did ‘The Little Mermaid’ together and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and part of the ‘Aladdin’ movie and Howard was ill and he was originally slated to do ‘Newsies’ but he was really too ill to do it and so Alan called me and asked if I’d be interested in, you know, meeting about it and see if was something I’d like to do and that’s how I got involved. 


What is it Alan Menken like to work with?
Alan is incredible to work with.  He is…he is so gifted and it all sort of comes from his gut as he’s fond of saying.  He gets an instinct for the way something should sound and once he does he writes pretty quickly and it’s pretty amazing to be in the room with him when he’s working on music because as a composer I know that I don’t, I never work with that kind of sort of, I don’t know if you’d call it inspiration or just instinct.  He just…it just sort of pours out of him and that’s not to say that he’s not flexible or won’t make changes.  He’s very collaborative.  He’s an inspiration to work with cause of how gifted he is and I think when you work with somebody that good it tends to make you better.

How did the process of writing songs with him work?
It varies.  Well, usually we would…we would come up with what the purpose of the song was going to be.  If a scene had already been written we knew we wanted to put a song in we would start from that which is always a little easier.  It’s always easier to write when there are limits and you know whose singing it, what they’re feeling, what you want to say.  And I guess once we had all that settled and we had talked about all that and talked about it with Harvey, obviously, who wrote the script I think if he’d had his druthers, Alan likes to write the music first or at least some of the music first just to get a feel for it and we often did that.  He would rough out a melody or a chorus and then we would find a title and then I would go home and work on a lyric draft and then we would get together again and refine it.  But there were also times when he was doing something else or he needed to be somewhere else and I knew that we had a song that we wanted to do so I would sketch out a lyric and bring that to him and he would set music to that.  There was no…there’s no strict way that we go about doing it.  It’s really sort of as it comes which is great because I enjoy writing to music and he has no problem setting the lyric if it’s put in front of him.  I mean it’s not to say that we didn’t have a lot of false starts and stuff like that.  You always do.  But we never had a problem with the process in terms of it needed to be a certain way or in a certain order which is great  Very freeing.

You mentioned Harvey a second ago.  What is Harvey Fierstein like to work with?
I had never met Harvey.  I was only a fan, a huge fan, of both his writing and his acting and I was a little intimidated at first because, because he is Harvey Fierstein and I guess I would have felt the same way about Alan if I hadn’t known him but because I had known him for so many years it wasn’t like that but Harvey completely puts you at your ease.  He is also unbelievable collaborative.  If he fashions a scene and we have an idea for a song and they may not absolutely mesh, he would always say “You guys write the song and I will adjust the scene to make sure that the song and the scene fit together.”  He was always…and it’s very hard when you’re the difference between being a playwright and being a book writer for a musical.  As a playwright you’re in charge of everything that’s said and done on the stage.  As a book writer, a lot of times you have to give up your “best moments” to the songs.  He instinctively knows the difference so well that when he’s working on a musical he’s fully prepared to let the song drive the show.  But it’s deceptive because it’s his dialogue, it’s his characters.  In this case some of the characters were from the source material which was the movie of ‘Newsies’ but without all that foundation there, there’s really nothing to write about and no characters to write for.  It’s an extremely underrated skill, writing the book to a musical and I think often a writer gets blamed unfairly, um, and a lot of terrific playwright are not necessarily good musical book writers because it’s a very different process, that kind of collaboration, and Harvey is just expert at it.  He also wrote the book to ‘La Cage aux Folles and ‘Catered Affair’ so he’s an experience book writer and it’s easy to see why he’s successful having worked with him because he’s a perfect collaborator and hilarious…hilarious!  We had all…the three of us had an incredible amount of fun working on the show.  We really did.

Prior to doing this interview we’re doing I got to correspond with him and he asked that I would please send you his love.
Oh!  Well that’s nice.  Thank you very much!  I just spoke to him this morning as a matter of fact.  We’ve become really good friends in the couple of years we’ve been working together on it and we speak all the time and he’s, I consider myself very lucky to have him as such a good friend.  He really makes me laugh and he’s also a very caring, thoughtful, thoughtful guy.  He really is.

Is there a lyric from ‘Newsies’ that you’re the most proud of?
I think my favorite lyric or my favorite song, I should say, in the show is the song that opens the second act, ‘King of New York,’ which was a version of which was in the movie, but I rewrote a lot of the lyrics for the show.  Part of it is because I think the music is incredibly infectious and just great and part of it is because the images that I got to use and having the kids describe what their fantasy of being rich and famous would be was really fun.  There was a lot to choose from and it was fun to work on and I’m happy with the way the whole thing came out. 

As a result of working on ‘Newsies’ what has been your favorite memory?
I have to say that I think my favorite memory was when, as a surprise, found out that we were going to Broadway which was never the intention for the show and the first time we had an audience and a lot of the actors who played ‘Newsies’ are very young and for twelve of them it was their Broadway debut and the first time that a number and the first time that a number in, after the first audience, the first time one of the numbers got a huge hand and they had to freeze and sort of hold for the applause before they could go on which had never happened in rehearsal cause you never had an audience.  And I think my favorite memory is watching the faces of those kids.  I mean, I call them kids.  They’re not all children, but they’re all very young.  It was just so joyous to see, even though they were trying to freeze and stay in character you could just see that they were like ready to jump out of their skin from excitement because of the way the audience was responding to what they had just done, part of which was an unbelievable amount of dance which is brilliantly choreographed by Christopher Gattelli and incredibly executed by these kids who play the Newsies.  They are phenomenally talented and this was the first time that I think they got that affirmation from the audience and it was, it was really thrilling to, you know, look at their faces while they were waiting there.


Some of the best songs out there are songs you used in Disney cartoons.  Why do you think that is?
I think it’s a combination of the fact that they at Disney worked with excellent, excellent song writers in the heyday of the animated cartoons including the Sherman brothers, who did so much, so many songs for their films and certainly Alan Menken and Howard Ashman who continued that tradition.  I think also the storied themselves were classic, interesting stories that always, that, you know, people always wanted to see and with characters and conflict and everything that makes something dramatic or funny built in, though when you have great characters, really interesting situations and great writers you’re going to be more likely to end up with great songs.  So I think, I think it was a combination. I think if any of those elements are missing it’s not going to be as successful as so much of the songs in their movies are. 

You’ve written songs that have appeared in Disney movies like ‘Perfect isn’t Easy’ which was sung by Bette Midler.
Right

What is it that you like about writing songs for Disney?
I think what I like the best is that their songs traditionally, songs for Disney movies, are very close to the sensibility of songs on stage.  Or at least they use to be, right up through Howard and Alan’s movies, the movies that Alan did with Tim Rice or with David Zippel or Glenn Slater.  They’re songs which either help tell the story or give you insight into the character or the relationship between the characters which is exactly what so many songs in live theater shows do.  So it’s really sort of like the same process, or very close that you use when you’re writing a show and since that was always what I loved to do, working for Disney was a first cousin of that.  I respond to it very much.

Who has influenced your lyric writing the most?
Lyric writing?  I would say most definitely Stephen Sondheim whose work as a composer and a lyricist I think is unsurpassed in musical theater.  Other favorites of mine:  Sheldon Harnick, who I think is just a brilliant, brilliant lyric writer.  Frank Loesser also just had an ability that was sort of one in a million.  Right off the bat, I would say those three, you know, Fred Ebb, brilliant lyric writer.  I would say in terms of the early days of, you know,  the 20’s and 30’s and 40’s before I was around I guess you know Cole Porter was the quintessential  Broadway sophisticated songwriter and his stuff is, for the most part, brilliant…absolutely brilliant. 


You mentioned Sondheim just a second ago and I was reading in Sondheim’s second volume of his two books, he mentions your name.
Yeah.  Yeah he does in the acknowledgements of both books. Yeah.

What was that about?  That’s interesting.
I, I knew him for a long time but not very well at all and we happened to be having a drink one night and I had remembered that he had started or was planning to start to work on these books years before and I just asked him whatever happened with that and he said “strange you should ask because I just have started to actually work on it.”  At that point it was only going to be one book and he said he’d only shown them to a couple of close friends.  He’s written a couple of chapters to the first book and asked me if I would be interested in reading the chapters that he had written, which,  (laughs), I almost, you know, passed out when he asked me because feeling about his work the way I do , I knew that, you know, this was going to be unbelievable and he sent them to me and it just gradually evolved into a back-and-forth where, at first, there were a couple of facts that might have been off or something like that and so I would say “Hey, I believe that, I don’t know, this song was written in such-and-such and not in the date that is, you know, in the manuscript  and a couple of times I actually corrected some of his own lyrics because I know them so well and they were either typos or misprints or he had forgotten that he changed the lyric in the movie version of, let’s say, let’s say ‘West Side Story’ from what it was in the stage version and he kept sending me the chapters and I kept, I kept reading them closely, over and over again and I would say that that and ‘Newsies’ which, coincidentally were both sort of happening at the same time were the two most thrilling professional experiences of my life.  The chance to get to not really “work” with him but to observe his process and read every draft of every chapter and see what he changed and what he took out and what he added…it was an education the likes of which I could never have imagined and , you know, it was…it was literally a dream come true as was ‘Newsies.’  They were both, I mean, so completely different in terms of what the projects were but so thrilling and having anything to do with his books and having a chance to look at them in early stages and stuff, that was just …for me it was…it was unbelievable.  Unbelievable.  I’m so grateful that he trusted me enough to allow me to read the stuff and even make a comment on it and, I mean, who am I to comment to him? But he’s so open to anything that’s going to make anything better.  There’s no sense of “Well I’m Stephen Sondheim and you’re not.”  (laughs)
(laughs)
 He always treated me so much like a colleague and that was, you know, invaluable…invaluable to me.  He is just wonderful to meet.

Great!  Just an amazing story there.
Yeah.

In addition to all the Broadway artists, recording artists as diverse as Wayne Newton, Lily Tomlin, Dionne Warwick and Barry Manilow have recorded your songs.  Is there a favorite song of yours?   That’s probably a really tough question.
You mean of all the pop songs?

Of just all the songs you’ve written, is there one that you could pick that is a favorite of yours?
Not really.  It’s usually if I have one in mind it’s usually one that is from something that I’m working on currently just because it’s, it’s in the forefront of my mind and so I’m thinking about it.  It’s so common..I used to think that it’s just me sort of being, you know, bad to myself but I realized that most writers go through it.  When you write something and you hear it again or your read it again or whatever it is all you see are the things you wish were different and the things you wish you had changed and, that’s not to say that I don’t like anything I’ve done but when enough time passes you start to get a little more objective about it and have more perspective on it.  So that’s why the stuff that I’m working on more currently is easier to like (laughs) because I’m in the middle of it so I haven’t yet developed that kind of perspective.

When someone hears a song you wrote, what do you hope the listener gets out of the experience?Well there are all sorts of different, you know, reasons for songs to be.  So I guess I hope that they will get out of it what the intention is when you write it.  That it’s clear.  That it’s enlightening in some way or illuminating in terms of who the character is that’s singing it, if they’re maybe a little surprised by it but as Sondheim explains so brilliantly in his books, lyrics, unlike poetry, are sung in time and they only go by you once and it’s very important that you write so that the listener can understand what it is you’re saying and that it’s clear and concise enough so that they can get it on a first hearing.  That’s not to say that with more hearings you don’t find more in the song but it’s getting, it’s being able to write so that a listener can hear and understand what the content of the song is, what the emotion of the song is even while everything else is going on.  It has music.  There are sets.  There are costumes.  There’s lighting.  There’s all sorts of what could be distractions in terms of actually listening although, of course, they add immeasurably to the whole show.  So, in spite of all things coming at the audience or the listener, you want…you hope that what you’re saying is clear enough that it will penetrate the consciousness of the listener. 

What is the best thing about being Jack Feldman?
The best thing?  I guess the best thing is the fact that I always have had incredible support from my family, from my friends, in terms of doing the thing that I always wanted to do and that I’ve gotten the opportunity to do it…not always successfully and not always exactly the way I wanted it to come out…but I was always able to make a living at it.  I have had some success, which is largely due to the people I worked with and I guess just the fact that I’ve been able to do what I always wanted to do and can get up in the morning and go to work and say “I get to do this today, not I have to do this today but I’ve been given permission to do this today and maybe I’ll even get paid for it,” and that’s pretty great.

My last question: Our interviews with songwriters have been heard by people all around the globe so, totally open-ended:  What would you like to say to our listeners?

I guess I’d like to thank them on behalf of myself and I would think every songwriter that you’ve probably ever interviewed, from legendary ones to guys like me, you know, making a living at it.  Without the audience, there would be no reason…it’s not that there would be no reason to write but you wouldn’t get any kind of feedback from anything that you wrote and for those who are interested enough to listen shows like yours, take an interest in what it is that guys like me do is a huge gift and so I guess I’d just like to say “Thank you,” and the more you can support the arts the more likely it is more and more talented people will keep coming up and being able to do the thing that they love cause it’s the audience that makes that possible

Jack, thank you so much for this interview.  You’ve been very gracious and I appreciated all the thought you put into all these answers.
My pleasure Paul.  Thank you so much.  I appreciate your reaching out to talk.  It’s been a lot of fun.

TRANSCRIBED BY LORI DOMINGO

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

Adrienne Anderson: Lyricist

ADRIENNE ANDERSON is the very talented lyricist who was introduced to us by lyricist Marty Panzer.  She is most known for the songs she co-wrote with composer Barry Manilow.  Some of the most beloved songs recorded and performed by Barry Manilow feature the lyrics of Adrienne Anderson, including Daybreak and Could It Be Magic.

Songs Adrienne Anderson wrote have been recorded by many great artists including Melissa Manchester, Bette Midler, Donna Summer and Isaac Hayes.  The late great Frank Sinatra sang a televised performance of the song “See the Show Again” on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Fans of Dionne Warwick may know Anderson’s work from the song “Deja Vu” which she co-wrote with Isaac Hayes.  With Peter Allen, Adrienne Anderson co-wrote “I Go to Rio” which became a signature song for Allen.  The song was later covered by the band Pablo Cruise as well as the late Peggy Lee.

Who is Adrienne Anderson?

Wow, well combination of things of course and evolving. I am uh much more of a family person now than I was when I started my career. I’ve got a daughter who is 25 years old and has a huge future of her own, a husband who I’m devoted to that I’ve been married to for almost 30 years. As far as my definition of myself as a careerist; that’s never really got away. I love the creative process. I’ve always loved the creative process and while my projects vary I hope to be involved one way or another in something having to do with music for the rest of my life.

 So speaking of life, let’s go back to the beginning.  What was life like growing up and where are you from?

I grew up in Manhattan and it was fantastic. I was very, very lucky. Child of privilege, I got exposed to the golden age of Broadway. When I was just old enough to have any idea of what I was watching. And I mean the Golden Age I mean South Pacific, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, etc. all the original stage productions. When I was in the eighth grade West Side Story opened, changed my life. I went to see it four times. Studied theatre, studied dance, studied boys and was just very, very blessed to be in the cultural center of the western world and it had a life altering effect on me and I; I just loved growing up there.

Can you remember perhaps specific records or specific songs you heard around the house or on the radio?

When I was the youngest it was the Broadway stuff that had the most immediate impact on me because it was the height of Rodgers and Hammerstein and I was; just as I say; barely old enough to understand how great that stuff was. Also seeing it all on the stage, in real time, had a tremendous impact on me that I think lasted me all the way through. I mean to this day it’s scary how I can recall all those lyrics. I also had a Father who was very sophisticated musically who exposed me to jazz very early in life. So that I was very aware of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne and Bix Beiderbecke and Art Tatum and people like that so that I was not your typical kid growing up where when I was in college and everyone was listening to those early Beatles records. I was a Charlie Mingus fan a Miles Davis fan, a Horace Silver fan. I owe a lot of that early exposure and sophistication to my father.

Did you always write?

No, no, not at all. Originally I wanted to be on the stage. I did summer stock, I had some potential I went to Carnegie Mellon which is a very renowned theatre department and then I studied in New York, and was quite serious about all that but then it was the sixties you know and theatre got really boring and the real theatrics and entertainment had switched over to music and I had great taste; I didn’t have a great voice but I had great taste so I put together a little act and that’s actually how I met Barry. It’s a cute story I actually hired him as my accompanist to help me put an act together for ten dollars an hour and that’s how we met.

What was your first impression of Barry Manilow when you met him?

Well he was just the sweetest, geekiest guy that I had ever met, ya know, with a great, great ability to play piano and accompany. Everybody used him. He and I found each other to be kindred spirits almost immediately because he had this passion towards jazz and so did I. And he thought I was the cat’s meow and for some reason he loved my voice and I loved his playing and we just hit it off from the first time that we did a song together; it was instantaneous. So what we did was we spent about eight or nine months putting this act that was so unique that the people who were managing me; when we presented the act to them; said they couldn’t book me because nobody would understand or recognize any of the songs that I was attempting to sing. So they fired Barry and put me with somebody else. But Barry and I continued on and he was just starting to write a little bit and he said well since I’m trying to write songs why don’t we write songs together. I said sure ok so we started writing songs together and it was the tail end of the brill era I mean really the tail end of the brill era. But we would write a batch of songs and I wrote the lyrics because I wasn’t going to play like him; I couldn’t play like him. But we did a lot of duets too, two part harmonies and just thought it was great, great and we would just go from floor to floor and knock on publishers doors and Barry would play and I would sing and we would play songs for a hundred dollars and that’s how it got started. And eventually I lost more interest in the performing end of it and gained more interest in the writing of it and that was pretty much because of what he and I were doing together.

 Can you remember the first song that you and Barry Manilow wrote that you’d say “this one’s a keeper”?

“Our Love Will Still Be There” was the name of the song. It was good; we wrote a lot of good stuff. I mean I don’t think anybody actually published that one but I think that was the first song. He was always a great keyboard player and he always had even from back in those days the same kind of charm and personality that he’s got now. Of course his ambition in those days was to be the next Nelson Riddle. He wanted to be an arranger. He never ever thought of himself as a vocalist but the fact is he had the same voice then that he has now. Who knew?

 I remember hearing him one time in concert, he was at Philips Arena in Atlanta and he was telling a little story on stage and he started out and he said “I have never been much of a singer,” and I thought “yeah right.”  But, I have heard that story from a couple people that they never thought of him as a singer, it was more like what Bette Midler said to him, “But, Barry, you don’t sing.”

Well the thing about Barry which I guess you could say similar was that and one of the reasons that I stopped pursuing that was because the key I think to being a success as a vocalist is getting that personality across. He was always, always able to do that and that’s why I don’t think he thought of himself seriously as a singer because he didn’t necessarily have the technique or the pipes but what he did have right from the beginning was his personality; which was his own that came through and had a charm and a warmth, and a humor that never really changed and a tremendous (technicality)

What was the first song that he recorded of yours that was a co-write?

That he recorded of ours?

 Yeah.

Well there’s actually an interesting story to this one because what happened was I was in New York. I was moving to the West Coast because I was marrying somebody who wanted to move to the West Coast and I sorta figured oh well, let’s give it a go but I was very apprehensive about breaking up the relationship with Barry and being on my own because I thought well if I don’t have him writing and playing what am I going to do; just gonna be on my own; so I determined to try to figure out how to do it by myself I rented this rehearsal space on 57th street for whatever twelve dollars an hour and this was in the midst of the Paul McCartney Era. I came up with this little tune called “Amy” that for what it was; was actually quite good and quite charming and my soon to be husband in those days was a big shot music publisher at CBS and he had a production company and everyone agreed that this thing should be recorded. So full production, so we went into the studio to record this song and of course Barry was around, at the last minute they said we need a scratch vocal Barry would you mind. So he went in and he did the vocal on it and that record Amy is what landed him his first record deal at Bell records. So it’s ironic because he didn’t even write that song. I wrote that song.

Interesting.

Yeah, a little bit of trivia there.

 You worked with so many people.  I don’t know if this is true, but I read something about you working with Frank Sinatra.

Oh I never worked with Frank Sinatra, but Barry and I have a song called “Why Don’t You See the Show Again” which he actually performed on the tonight show when Johnny Carson was the host and nobody knew he was gonna do it and I was on the West Coast and Barry was in New York and he called me screaming hysterical and said “You’re not gonna believe this” and it’s a three hour delay so I had to wait three hours to see it but sure enough he sang the song and he sang it really, really well. And it was definitely a high light of my career without a doubt.

Incredible.

Yeah.

 Well tell us about the song “Could It Be Magic” that Barry Manilow recorded.

Well I was already on the west Coast when he came up with the idea based on the Chopin prelude and he had come up with the chorus and was terribly excited played what he had over the phone to me and I became terribly excited because it was obvious that there was something really special that was starting to happen. I think I was staying at a hotel down in LA when I wrote the lyric to the verses. I still have the copy on Hotel stationery of what I wrote. It was one of those things that I just nailed it right from the get go. Needless to say it was time well spent.

 Is it possible to pick a favorite song of yours?

You mean with Barry?

 Just in general, any song.

Ah geez, not really, I mean I have maybe my half dozen favorites. I’ve just written so many songs, most of which have not been top ten hits. You know that’s the way it goes sometimes is that some of your favorites tend to be more obscure but certainly “Could It Be Magic” is right up there and with Barry we had a great time on the 2am Paradise Café project  which was a highlight for all of us. A great experience ya know Marty and I were present during the recording of that record and I don’t know if you’ve heard the story but that was a one take and wrote. I don’t know if you know the musicians who were playing on that record?

Yeah.  Fantastic record!

They were well rehearsed and Barry had written beautiful arrangements to link all of the songs, you’ve listened to it I guess so.

Certainly.

It’s all just continuous and that’s Barry’s music. They just did the whole thing without any interruption when they were over, finished everybody kinda looked at each other and said “is this possible” but it was. Ya know it’s very unusual.

What about “Daybreak.”  What inspired the lyrics for that song?

Uh it’s kind of a funny story because when I wrote that lyric I really wasn’t thinking about Barry at all I didn’t think; I was thinking more in terms of a gospel R&B group I didn’t even show him the lyrics he was at my house and it was just sitting on a pile and he said what’s this; I said oh it’s just a lyric ya know and he said give me a couple minutes with this. I swear I remember I went down downstairs and made us lunch and by the time I had finished making us lunch he had come up with the music and ya know little could I have imagined that that little lyric was going to get the kind of mileage that it did but again it was one of the. A lot of lyrics that I wrote for Barry over the years were custom customized for him and that’s a great luxury when you can write for an artist. Especially when you can write for an artist that you know as well as I know him because I could kind of get under his skin and really, really personalize. Whereas if your just writing a lyric just to music that’s going out there to try to find and artist its very different but with “Daybreak” I certainly, I certainly didn’t have him in mind for that one at all.

 It’s a fantastic song.  I don’t think anybody could ever listen to that song, the words and the music and be in a bad mood.

(Adrienne laughing)
I can’t imagine that.

Well ya know, its, it’s great, ya know, it’s given us both a great deal of pleasure. Ya know I try to make my lyrics as personal as I can in terms of my own point of view. Uh, I am by nature an optimistic so I guess that definitely came across in that lyric.

What is it like to have someone like Dionne Warwick record one of your songs, that song “Déjà vu,” it has to be incredible.  She’s such a legend.

We were pinching ourselves. Barry produced that record and that was surreal because I was, uh we both were huge Dionne Warwick fans and that whole Bacharach/David catalog was just up there with the best of the ya know what was written in pop music in the mid-20th century and such a unique and perfect talent. I remember going into the studio while she was recording “Déjà Vu” her nonchalance was just astonishing ya know she was painting her nails while she was recording and puffing on cigarettes and then she would ya know just sing and she was just perfect and I remember Barry and I looking at each other in the control room and saying is this actually happening (laughing) we were both stunned and fans ya know like we were of a ya know younger generation growing up listening to all of the body of her work we were just in such awe.

What about your work with Peter Allen? Tell us about how that came to be.

Well Peter had a publisher in LA that I had a, a nice relationship with and so we were actually put together. We knew each other very casually just from knowing people in common and so it wasn’t we had never met but we weren’t friends we just kind of knew each other. So it was set up for us to write together. I had come up with some ideas, let’s see I don’t remember exactly it was some idea that was rejected immediately and the next think I know he’s saying well why don’t we write this and he started to launch into this music for “Rio” and the story as it goes is that we were just in an office publishers everyone had gone to lunch it was just him and me and the piano and we wrote the entire song in one hour with not a word ever changed and not a note ever changed and um when everybody returned from lunch we were terribly excited and we sat everybody down and said woah listen to this. Peter played and I don’t know if we both sang or just Peter sang but we just kind of knew we had nailed it. I don’t think anybody knew that that copyright was going to end up having the ledge that it’s had. This has just been astonishing ya know on a worldwide level. It’s been an amazingly successful copyright. But you can it’s just a crazy business because ya know you can write great stuff that never sees the light of day or you can write great stuff that takes you an hour like “Daybreak” took me twenty minutes to write. Then you feel almost guilty like this isn’t right. Ya know how can I be making this kind of money on something that took twenty minutes to write. I guess a lot of it is just circumstantial and I was very lucky I was very, very lucky. If you look at I don’t know what it is the percentage of people even in those days who earned a living writing lyrics I’m sure it was miniscule then and probably non-existent now.

You also have worked with someone who is an upcoming guest of ours: Melissa Manchester.  What is your impression of her?

I adored her and we wrote a lot together and in those days in those days it was kind of different there were no restrictions her producer at the time just loved everything that we did and there was never anything held back in terms of we would just write stuff and it would just go right into the recording studio but Melissa and I were very, very close and we were very, very young. She was younger than I was and still is but there was a creativity and a free spiritedness to our work that was just; just delicious we didn’t feel any kind of commercial restrictions and I think there was an innocence in terms of being creative in a way that once you become more seasoned you tend not to be quite as because you tend to play it more safe and be a little bit more structured. But we had wonderful; wonderful times sharing the creative process together.

 Kind of working our way to the present, not too long ago you worked on “City Kid,” the musical and you’re working on something now.  I was wondering if you could tell us about these projects you’ve been working on lately.

Well you know instead of taking a day, a week or a month these projects take years. City Kid was kinda my brain child and I recruited two great, great guys to collaborate with me Peter Bunetta and Rick Chudacoff who are the producers and quite successful. And I came up with this concept to turn what I thought initially was going to be a concept album into a stage production. I sort of undertook this myself in terms of developing the story and urging them along because they thought I was crazy and uh it wasn’t there thing at all. They had never thought in terms of wanting to do Theatre. I actually found a great group outside of Seattle who fell in love with wanting to help develop the project and so they did and we had a workshop and a full stage production up there some of the best experiences of my life. You can’t compare being involved with a group of theater kids with making a record because theater is such a community experience, a collaborative experience so ya know where as if you’re writing a song for a record you write it with somebody or alone, then you’re in a recording studio, ya know, it’s pretty quiet there’s not that many people there. Whereas here it was all about people and so my endeavor was to try and contemporize Broadway what has proven to be a very, very difficult thing to do. Even if you saw the Tony’s this year you could see that some of the stuff that was written a year ago sounds like It could have been written forty years ago so it’s very, very tough. Broadway is very, very tough. We ended up finally after having a substantial run up in Seattle uh coming down to LA and having an eight week run down here which actually proved quite successful. However we were in a 99 seat equity waver with a cast of 17 and six band members all union so the costs were unrealistic and we were forced to shut down before we found what we needed to move on so as of now “City Kid” is in limbo. It’s been very hard for me but in the meantime I’m pursuing this Pawnbroker project which is really, really a horse of a different color and isn’t pop at all, is very serious. I’m collaborating with a fellow by the name of Eduardo Del Barrio who is a very serious composer. I’ve adapted the book which you know I think I’ve gotten pretty good at. It’s a wonderful story there was a film that was made of the novel in the mid-sixties that Sid Lumet directed that starred Rod Steiger that won an Oscar, Quincy Jones did a superb score. It was a very much heralded property in its day and there’s still a generation or two that certainly know “The Pawn Broker” Your probably just too young oh but these are very, very long range projects ya know so that kinda suits me in this stage of my life.

What is the best thing about being Adrienne Anderson?

The best thing about being Adrienne Anderson?

Yes ma’am.

Oh, well I guess the best thing about being Adrienne Anderson is that I’m a person who’s always been pretty comfortable in her own skin. I believe what I believe and I feel what I feel and I don’t tend to hide those feelings. I’ve been a very good Mother and a Very good Wife and a very good friend. People love me, I love them. There’s just not too much of a gap between my inner life and my outer life and I think that’s probably the best part of being me and the fact that I’ve been able to live out a lot of my fantasies. I’ve been Very, very, very lucky to have had the opportunity to do that.

 I have two final questions.  One is kind of light-hearted and then the other is a little more serious.  The light hearted one first: Your all time favorite meal.

(Adrienne laughs) Oh…. a good steak and a piece of Chocolate cake

Oh yeah?  How do you have the steak?

Medium rare.

Likewise.
(laughter)

My last question: what would you like to say to all the people listening?

Oh, I would say find you passion and live it and be good to each other along the way.

 Thank you so much for this interview.  It’s been a great pleasure.

Well thank You I’ve enjoyed it.

TRANSCRIBED BY LISA MARIE BOHLAND-LUNDGREN

Enoch Anderson: Lyricist

ENOCH ANDERSON has been writing songs with composer Barry Manilow since the 1970s.  As he tells us in this interview, for many years he was known as the one who never had a single.  With the release of 15 Minutes, Manilow’s first album of original songs in years, Enoch Anderson began getting a lot of recognition for his ability with words.  Anderson wrote lyrics to almost all of the songs on the album, with the exception of one song written by Adrienne Anderson and a few written by Manilow himself.

Incredibly, Enoch Anderson said this was his first radio interview.  We hope you enjoy what he had to say, whether you listen in or read our transcript.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure, we welcome our special guest, lyricist, Enoch Anderson. Thank you so much for making the time to join us.

Thank you.

My first question, who is Enoch Anderson?

I’m going to have to redefine myself.  It used to be easy.  I was the one who never had a single. Of all the people Barry worked with, I was the one who had never had a song released as a single, and I remember once, a fan actually came up to me, a fan of Barry’s and said “huuuuugh, ‘I know who you are, you’re the one who never had a single,’ so I’m going to have to redefine that because now there’s a single out.

Well that’s right, there’s a new album out full of songs co-written by our special guest Enoch Anderson, it’s Barry Manilow’s album ‘15 Minutes,’ on Barry’s own independent label, Stiletto. So, we’re going to go back a little bit, what was life like growing up for you?

I grew up in a small mining town in Northern Canada no references forother people my age , no Sesame Street, or no Mickey Mouse Club so, little bit different in that way perhaps.

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

My sister and brother were teenagers, so I was hearing popular music at the time through the radio, I don’t know if there’s anybody out there who knows what 78s were, you know, the old, old, old records, and they were old Vaudeville routines and music, there were some Broadway shows out with hits my brother and sister had, and so it was a real mixture of stuff, it was like a crash course in a century of popular music almost.

Can you remember examples of early writing that you did, not necessarily just lyric writing, but just any kind of creative writing?

Yeah, I used to make up stories and try to get an adult to write them down for me before I understood how to write, and when I could write, I would make little books and assemble them and bind them together with string, I had to write and illustrate them, and they were all about dogs, because I couldn’t draw human ears.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote if you can remember it.

It was when I was at high school, there was a local theatre group that was going to put on a melodrama and I think I tried out for it, they didn’t want me, but I wrote a song for the villain to sing, and I gave it to them and I didn’t get any response, nobody said anything about it and I didn’t hear it again, but when the show went on, I went to see it and they were singing my song. I didn’t get any credit on the program or anything; welcome to show business, but that would be the first time (Enoch laughs).

Where do you get the inspiration for your lyrics?

I don’t really know, sometimes I can tell you, there used to be a little park near where I lived, and on Sundays it was crowded with divorced fathers and their kids, and it was a convenient place for them to go when they only had one day together, and I wrote a song called ‘Sunday Father,’ so that I can make a direct connection, but a lot of times, I don’t know. I’ve told the story, I was going to bed very tired one night, and suddenly in my imagination there was this young housewife who was very unhappy with her situation and I wrote down a lyric, and I was kind of annoyed because I wanted to go to sleep, but I felt like  I owed it to her, she was very real to me, and that was the song ‘Sandra,’ I called it ‘Sandra’ because I thought I don’t know anybody called Sandra so nobody could say I wrote it about her, but, so many of the married women I knew, thought I had, so(Enoch laughs), I have no idea where that came from, sometimes ideas just float in.

What lyricists or songwriters have influenced you the most?

There are so many I’ve liked and if I try to name them, then I’m going to be upset later  because I will miss some, of course the older ones, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, so many.

Barry Manilow has made a lot of records lately of other artists material, but in his own right, as we know, he’s really an incredible songwriter and I wish he did more original albums, but I was going to talk about the album ‘Here At The Mayflower,’ it’s a great album and it features a number of songs you co-wrote with Mr Manilow, how did your songs come to be found on the album?

He told me about the idea, I remember, this huge apartment building in Brooklyn where a lot of people lived and it was based on where he actually grew up, I wrote a song called ‘Do You Know Who’s Living Next Door.’ As far as I’m concerned a number of lyricists wrote on the album and I don’t know what the others experiences were, but as far as I’m concerned, I think for the other songs of mine he used, there were things he had and he just saw a way for them to fit in, in that case he didn’t say, “I need you to write something for the elevator guy thing” or something like that.

 So what did you think of the album “Here At The Mayflower”?

Oh I like it very much because it showcases his creativity, he would be right along with you; he’d like to do more original material, and it was not a sure fire thing, it was telling stories of human experience, it wasn’t just trying to churn out formula singles, and I like that as a project that meant a lot to him.

 Now, you just mentioned, you said that you think that Barry Manilow would concur and probably would like to do more original stuff, without speaking for Barry Manilow, why do you suppose it is that he’s done less of his original music?

I think everyone is trying to adjust to the changing reality to the music business, in just the last few years, it’s changed so much, people often don’t buy albums any more, they download tracks, I think that he had something that was working very well for him, for several years, releasing these collections of familiar songs.

Do you have a favorite song of yours from that album “Here At The Mayflower”?

I guess I would say the song ‘Border Train,’ because there was something very different for me, usually I write a lyric, send him the finished lyric and he sets it to music, and this time it was the other way round, he sent me a melody and he said, “see if you can write to it” and it was this very evocative, haunting melody and he didn’t tell me anything about what he wanted it to be about, or anything, and so I had to see what it did for me, it made me feel as if I were on a train at night and I didn’t know where I was going and I went with that, and then I forgot about it, over the years, til I was in Vegas, seeing a show, and he did the song, which he had never done in concert before,  he just did it I guess, and I liked it so much and I thought I’d forgotten that, it’s got such a beautiful melody and it’s so haunting in a way, so, that would be my stand out right now.

We’re talking with lyricist Enoch Anderson. Here we are in two thousand and eleven and its ten years after Barry Manilow’s last album of original songs, he has a new album or original songs and today, the day we are recording this interview, ‘15 Minutes’ has been released and you co-wrote the songs on the album, so tell us,  how did the idea for this album, ‘15 Minutes’ come to be?

It was Barry’s idea, the stories all around us, there’s tabloids, TV shows, magazines at the checkout counters, over and over you see somebody becoming a sudden celebrity, and it seems you’re going to be hearing of a relationship falling apart for the person, there’s going to be rumours of substance abuse, there’s going to be professional problems, it’s a road that seems to meet the same terms almost no matter who the person is. The modern media merits all that, and he’d like to do a story album based on it and I was trying to show that I knew what he meant, and I said “I’ve got a title for you, 15 Minutes”, thinking of the Andy Warhol quote, and he liked that, so we were off and that’s how it all started rolling.

Very, very interesting, so, how did you and Barry Manilow begin the undertaking of the writing of these songs?

I started working on a song called ‘15 Minutes’, I sent that to him, which is the first song on the album and from that point on we were on our way. He would tell me the story that he wanted to represent and what would be going on and then I would work on the idea.

What were some of the initial concepts that you had, what were some of the ideas that you had when he told you about the album, other than the title?

Well, I was struck by the fact that it wasn’t going to be making a celebrity who crashed and burned, it wasn’t going to be sensational, going for dirt, it wasn’t going to be superior and wise and giving them advice or something, it was compassionate, it was a take on the human experience from inside the head of somebody going through it and people become spectacles to the public, but they’re people and usually very talented to find themselves hitting these skids that everybody seems to hit. So I thought there was a human angle to it that gave another fact to what we were seeing on the supermarket tabloids every day.

What is it like working with Barry Manilow?

It’s really better than I can tell you (Enoch laughs). It’ll sound as if I’m trying to be very politically correct by saying nice things, but, it’s a treat, we get along, now we work apart, I’m usually in Los Angeles and I write a lyric and I email it to him, and wherever he is, he sets it to music and he emails the melody back to me, so we’re not hunched over a piano in the same room,  we get along, we’re both articulate, so we can express what we mean, it’s just very creative and productive. There’s one funny story I’ll tell you, last year we were in the studio working on the ‘15 Minutes’ album and there was something that needed re-writing, and so I was saying “what do you need, or what has to be shortened, what do we do?” And he was showing me and we had a lead sheet and I was scribbling things on it and he was scribbling things on it, and we went to lunch and by the time we came back from lunch, the re-write was all finished and was fine and I thought “WOW, we can even work together when we ARE together, that almost never happens (Enoch laughs).

So, today the album has been released, ‘15 Minutes’ by Barry Manilow, what do you think about the album?

I think it’s exciting, whether people like it or not, it is a story we wanted to tell, nothing was changed behind our backs, nothing was forced on us, I don’t think he made a mistake in that direction, because he went into heavy rock territory, that would be the story and it would upstage the story he wanted to tell. It’s about a phenomenon that’s going on around us every day, the feeding frenzy over famous people, and this is what we meant. Barry could have gone on recording collections of old favorites forever and made lots of money, but he wanted to take a chance and be creative, and I’m hoping for his sake that it’s well received. Sooner or later you just have to turn it loose and see if it flies, so, I’m hoping people like it.

So you’re saying he was willing to take a chance again. (Paul and Enoch laugh).

Hey that could be a good song.

I had to. So, do you have a favorite song from the ‘15 Minutes album’?

I go back and forth, right now it’s a song that…. I liked it cos I knew it needed to be there, it had to be from when the guy hits rock bottom, he’s lost his fame, he’s lost his success, he feels his made a fool of himself and it’s all gone, and there has to be a turnaround point. The nice thing about hitting rock bottom is finding you’ve got some place to put your feet. I was in the supermarket late at night, coming home from work, all of a sudden this lyric hit me, and I had nothing to write with, and I had to mumble it to myself like a crazy person in the checkout line and get home fast. ‘Trainwreck’ that was the special to me, so I had no idea, so all of a sudden it landed in my lap.

We’re talking with the lyricist Enoch Anderson. When someone listens to a song you wrote, what is it you hope they get out of the experience?

I hope they recognize something that feels authentic to them, as I said, I don’t always know where the songs come from, they are not often from my own experience, I’m not a divorced father, which is the story of ‘Sunday Father’, ‘Sandra’ is about a young married woman, which I certainly am not, so if the divorced Dad or housewife says to me that “yeah, that’s how I felt, yeah, that was it, I identified with that”, then I am pleased.

What is in the future of Enoch Anderson?

Oh I’d like the privilege of going on with more creative work.

I have two final questions, one, somewhat light hearted and a little more of a serious question, the light hearted one first, what is your all time favorite meal?

Well, I love to eat, something I particularly like, Indian food, I love curries and that sort of thing, maybe lamb vindaloo.

Oh man, that sounds fantastic; I am also a curry devotee. So, the last question. Barry Manilow’s fandom is worldwide, thanks to technology, people from everywhere will be able to hear this interview, do you have any parting words of wisdom for our listeners?

Well, I’m not the wisest owl in the forest, I don’t know if I have wisdom, I guess all I would say is, look at an audience having a good time, if you’re at a movie, or if you’re at a concert, it’s when the audience is responding, look around and see how many different types of people there are, look at the diversity, it’s human experience to find us together, and there’s a lot more binding us together than there is sending us apart, that’s the value I think of good entertainment, and I think that’s something you can take away from that experience.

TRANSCRIBED BY ROSALIND WINTON