Charles Fox: Composer

The legendary composer Charles Fox is an inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He wrote the music for such songs as “I”ve Got a Name” recorded by Jim Croce, “Killing Me Softly” recorded by Roberta Flack, “Ready to Take a Chance Again” by Barry Manilow and many more.  He’s written with some of the greatest lyricists, from Norman Gimbel to Paul Williams.

Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil: Songwriters

Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil are two of the most prolific songwriters in American Music…Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil.  Mann & Weil are the writers of “Somewhere Out There,” “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” and “On Broadway”  and they sit down with Paul for a light-hearted and at times serious talk about songwriting and their lives.

Mann and Weil are both inductees in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  They’ve collaborated with Leiber & Stoller and are two of the most respected people in popular recorded music.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is our great honor to welcome Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

Cynthia:  Thank you. Thank you so much.

I kind of want to start from the beginning. What was life like growing up for you folks? Was it a very musical household?

Barry: My household was kind of musical. On my mother’s side there were a lot of musicians. She had cousins that were classical musicians. As a matter of fact, one of them, I think, was a lead violinist in the New York Philharmonic. And there were some friends that, that lived in Brighton Beach and we would visit, and the father would play violin, the son would play piano and then one of the daughters played cello, and they, they kind of put on a performance. So I really was brought up with music. And my mother played piano, too, and my brother would always be playing classical music in the background.

Cynthia: And me?

Ms. Weil.

Cynthia: Yeah. Absolutely nothing except – no music in my family except that my mother’s sister, who was my favorite aunt, was a dancer and that was the only connection to music there was in my household. But she was definitely a show-biz Auntie Mame kind of person.

Barry: And you were like an exotic dancer weren’t you, Cynthia?

Cynthia: (Laughs) If you can believe that, Paul.

We will – well, I don’t know.

Cynthia: (Laughs)

Okay. So, what about favorite musicians growing up, like, favorite artists?

Barry: Well, I started listening to pop radio even – right before rock and roll even hit. So I used to listen to a radio program called Martin Block’s Make Believe Ballroom. I think it was on ABC radio. And they would play, on Sundays they’d play the top 20 records and then they’d do a countdown. So some of the records – there were a lot of pop records for that period of time. I remember I was a big Frankie Laine fan, stuff like That Lucky Old Sun and Mule Train. And then when rock and roll hit, there were a lot of doo wop records. And I’m trying to remember the early, my early – I liked a lot of Presley. I thought he was great. I can’t remember, really. I mean, there’s probably a list of a lot of stuff I really I liked but I can’t remember more right now.

Cynthia: I used to also listen to The Make Believe Ballroom and I loved the countdown but I was, basically, interested in musical theater. And even when I kind of got into the pop music business, Barry had to educate me on pop music.

Barry: Yes, that’s true. I got into The Drifters and The Everly Brothers, and I told Cynthia to listen to those, those records especially. Plus everything else that was going on

What about the first song you guys wrote – not together but just all-in-all?

Barry:  Uh, I was around – this is before I was in the music business – I was about 11, 11 or 12 and I wrote a song called – one of those, it had kind of had doo wop chords. You know, C, A minor, F, G – and it was a song called The Ecstasy of Love. And, uh, as a matter of fact, when I got in the music business that was the first song I got published. I was very lucky. In fact, it was the first song I even showed. And that was the song. Cynthia?

Cynthia: Yes. What was the first song I ever wrote? Hmm. I think it was probably that song that was on the back of Way of a Clown?

Barry: Oh,  Cherie?

Cynthia: Yeah, right. I couldn’t remember the name of it – which I wrote with Teddy Randazzo, and that’s how I met Barry.

Well, on that note, this question is for Cynthia Weil. When you first met Barry Mann, what was your first impression?

Cynthia: He was very hot (laughs). It was my second impression, too (laughs).

Barry: How about when you saw me play piano?

Cynthia: Oh, I just thought he was sexy and talented and terrific and – I mean, so much so that I found out where he was signed and followed him up there, so it was a case of stalking.

Oh, really (laughs)?

Cynthia: Yeah, absolutely.

Barry: Yeah, but I came, I went up to play a song for Teddy Randazzo with Howie Greenfield and when I played – she was really into a lot of kind of show music – and when I played the song, I mean she had never really seen somebody play pop music the right way I played it. You know, Carole King could have gone up there and she would have been bowled over.

Cynthia: (Laughs) I would have fallen in love with Carole King. I could have married her (laughs).

Okay. Well, this question is for Barry Mann. When you first met Cynthia Weil, what was your first impression of her?

Barry:  Well, you know, I saw her – it’s when I went up to play the song for Teddy, she was there. She was writing with Randazzo. So I looked and I thought she was really gorgeous and – but I thought she was Teddy Randazzo’s girlfriend so I didn’t do anything. I mean, you know, I just kind of laid off it and I forgot about it. I mean, the next thing I knew, I think the next week, she came up to Aldon music where I was signed as a songwriter and, you know, that was it. She kind of hooked me. Now, if you also want to know what I thought of her talent, at that time we weren’t writing together but I asked to see her lyrics. I mean after we were starting – we were going together, oh, about a few months later, I asked to see her lyrics. I was curious. And I really loved what she had shown me. I really thought that she had a great combination of sophistication and also soul, and I thought it would be a really – it would really fill a niche that was needed in the pop market.

I was hoping that you could tell us about the first time that you guys wrote together. What was that experience like?

Barry:  God, Cyn, do you remember? I don’t even remember. It almost, I almost, I can almost say it feels like the way we write now. I mean, we, we, we just kind of hit it off. It just worked.

Cynthia:  The first song we, we wrote was that Beneath My Feet song. That song called Painting the Town with Teardrops (laughs).

Barry:  … and which you got a record on it.

Cynthia:  And we got a record on it. And I think the second song we wrote was Bless You, that Tony Orlando cut.

Barry:  That was our first chart record.

Cynthia:  Yeah.

Amazing. I was hoping that you could also share your memories of the time at Don Kirshner’s Aldon music.

Barry:  Umhmm.

Cynthia:  It was (corrects pronunciation) “All”don, although it was Al and Don. A lot of people do say “Al”don but it was Aldon and it was, it was like a school for songwriters with a bunch of crazy and ambitious, energetic kids all competing with each other for records.

What about your memories of the Brill Building, around that area?

Barry:  Well, you know we were, we weren’t in the Brill Building, of course. We were in 1650 Broadway which was like kind of a sister building. It was, uh, it was a few blocks up, on 51st Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue. So, I mean, so the Brill Building and 1650 was similar except the Brill Building had all the publishers. But it was all very competitive and everybody – at least it was competitive within Aldon Music. We weren’t as competitive with other writers that were not part of Aldon but I’m sure they were competitive within their own organization. It was really kind of hot bed of pop writing. It was very exciting time even though, at the time we were doing it, we didn’t know how exciting it was until later on. And we didn’t know that our songs would end up lasting the way they did. But it was a great time for music. Everything was wide open. There were a lot of , a lot of record labels. There were a lot of artists who didn’t write their own songs, so there was a lot of stuff – a lot of places for our material. And also, we could write all different kinds of songs. We could –

Cynthia:  Right.

Barry:  We could experiment. There was nothing to hold us back. We – Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Cynthia and myself always thought of ourselves as the bridge between old Tin Pan Alley and rock and roll. And that’s the, that was the feeling.

This one is for Barry Mann. When you had that hit with Who Put the Bomp

Barry:  Right.

How did you feel about that?

Barry:  (Laughs) Uh, I was glad to have a hit (laughs) because I had put out a few records before. And it was, you know, it was really just a spoof song. It was a put-on. I mean, it was not the kind of song that makes an artist. As a mater of fact, when they told me to cut an album, which I didn’t want to do because I – there was no point in it. I mean, what was I going to do? I mean, if I cut an album of all funny records maybe it would have, would have done something. But it wasn’t and it was a waste of money.

I wanted to ask, for the benefit of all of our listeners, about some of the most well-known songs that you two wrote.

Cynthia and Barry: Umhmm.

Everybody knows You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling.

Cynthia and Barry: Umhmm. Right.

Tell us about that one.

Cynthia:  We had met Phil Spector in New York and he asked us to come out to California to write with him. And so, we packed up our dog and hopped on a plane and went out to Los Angeles. We were staying at the Chateau Marmont because it was the only hotel that would let us have a dog and a piano. And Phil played us this record of these two guys from Orange County who really sounded black, and we loved their sound. And we went back to the hotel and Barry suggested we write them a ballad. And I, I don’t know where you got that idea, honey, because we heard up-tempo stuff by then.

Barry:  Well, because we both loved Baby, I Need Your Lovin’.

Cynthia:  Yeah, that’s true.

Barry:  And I think that triggered You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling.

Cynthia:  Yeah, that was our favorite record at the time. It had a kind of yearning that was very touching to us. And so, we sat down and started writing the song and then, when we got half-way through, we couldn’t figure out how to end the chorus, right?

Barry:  Yeah.

Cynthia:  And what to do in the bridge. And Barry, you called Phil and –

Barry:  Yeah, and we played what we had and he was, he was really touched, especially when we came to the line “something beautiful is dying”. He said it made him feel like crying. Anyway, then he picked up on it. Then we went over to his house and we finished the song. And he suggested that we do that, that middle part, you know, and use that kind of Hang On Sloopy chord progression. You know (sings), bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp.

Cynthia:  It never would have dawned on me to go that direction for the bridge. Would it – would you have ever thought of it?

Barry:  No. It was a very good contribution.

I don’t even know if this is possible to answer but of the songs that you have written, could you guys pick a favorite song?

Cynthia:  Hmm. Does it have to be a hit?

No, not at all.

Cynthia:  Well, we wrote a song – we worked for a while on a musical of the movie Mask and it was produced at the Pasadena Playhouse. And there was a song in there called Close to Heaven that I think is probably one of the best lyrics I’ve ever written, and I love what Barry did. It’s a shame that it won’t get heard but I think that was certainly my favorite as far as my own contribution.

Barry:  Yeah, and I feel the same way about the song, myself. I think it’s a great song, melodically, too, and lyrically. It’s, it’s unbelievable.

Cynthia:  It’s very Springsteen-esque. I was very inspired by him.

Barry:  Yeah. And there’s another song in the show that ended. It’s a very kind of a long kind of piece. What was – I don’t know. What was the title, Cyn?

Cynthia:  I think we just called it Sturgis.

Barry:  Sturgis. And that song, too, is just – I really love. And then there’s a song I wrote by myself called There’s No Easy Way to Break SomebodyThere’s No Easy Way that James Ingram recorded. Kind of one of my favorites because I did, you know, I did the music and the lyrics. But it was, it was a very soulful lyric because it was, like, an experience that I had 20 years before that. Before I met Cynthia I had broken up with a girlfriend. And it was very touching and it was that story.

Cynthia:  Yeah, but you didn’t exist before you met me (both laugh).

Well, one song that I think everybody knows – and I have to say it’s such a fantastic song. I  love this song. Somewhere Out There.

Barry:  Oh.

What was the inspiration …

Cynthia:  Thank you.

I love that song.

Barry and Cynthia: Yeah.

Cynthia:  I like it a lot, too. I think it’s very – it’s timeless and when we wrote it Barry said this could have been written in 1940. And it was, it won a couple of Grammys and it became kind of an instant standard.

Barry:  Yeah.

Cynthia:  It was, and it was attached to an animated film which, and at that time, which was the mid 80s, animation was kind of dead. And we thought that this film would barely be seen because it was about a Jewish mouse. And so, we just loved the script and we had the opportunity to work with Steven Spielberg because he was Executive Producer. And so, we felt very free in writing the songs for this movie because we thought no one would be listening.

What was it like – you mentioned, Mr. Mann, about how much you liked Elvis – what was it like to have him record a song you wrote?

Barry:  You know, you can call me Barry (Barry and Cynthia laugh).


Barry:  You know, the first time I saw him sing one of our songs, he was in the movie – it was one of the movies he was in.

Cynthia:  You mean the documentary?

Barry:  The documentary. And he sang – it was in Las Vegas and he kept – he recorded two of our songs, Lovin’ Feeling and I Just Can’t Help Believing. And he – there was a bit going on. In the movie, he kept – he was very nervous about forgetting the lyrics. He’d, and you know, you’d see him in the dressing room trying to remember it and he couldn’t do it (laughs). He went on stage and he just got – he forgot some of the lyrics on stage, too, but he kept going. It was, it was good. And then he did Lovin’ Feeling which was great. Look, it’s Elvis Presley, man, and to, uh …

Cynthia:  It’s iconic.

Barry:  It’s iconic. Exactly. It was a thrill!

Well, on that note, the Beatles – that had to have been as thrilling if not more.

Barry:  Well, which song are you talking about?

Didn’t they record, live, a song you that guys wrote, Where Have You Been All of My Life?

Cynthia:  Yeah, but it was before they were the Beatles (laughs).

Barry:  Yeah.