Lorenz Hart, the lyricist in the great Broadway songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart, was born in Harlem, New York on this date in 1895. Hart’s enduring songs, many of which became jazz standards, include “Blue Moon,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” “Falling in Love with Love,” “I Could Write a Book,”"With a Song in My Heart,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” and “Isn’t It Romantic?” Rodgers and Hart had a twenty-year partnership that ended only because of Hart’s premature death in 1943. They created songs for 26 Broadway musicals, including Babes in Arms and Pal Joey. Hart was a closeted gay man and an alcoholic, under five feet tall, whose fundamental loneliness and self-loathing infused his songs, conveying a “heart-stopping sadness,” in the words of Stephen Holden. To see the great Barbra Streisand singing “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” in 1963, look below.
“Blue moon, you saw me standing alone, without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own.” —Lorenz Hart
Barry Mann (Imberman), whose catalog includes more than 600 songs, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1939. Mann sang lead on “Who Put the Bomp?” — cowritten with Gerry Goffen, who eventually became Carole King‘s songwriting and marital partner. Mann then teamed up with lyricist Cynthia Weil (they, too, got married) and began decades of a remarkably productive partnership. They introduced a strain of class-conscious and socially conscious songs to the Brill Building’s output with “Uptown” (for the Crystals), “We Gotta Get out of This Place” (the Animals), “Magic Town” (the Vogues), “On Broadway” (the Drifters), and “Kicks” (Paul Revere and the Raiders). They also wrote the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” and (with Phil Spector) “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” the most-played radio hit in history. Mann has worked as producer, arranger, and instrumentalist with John Lennon, The Pointer Sisters, Michael Bolton, Mavis Staples, Gladys Knight, and many other monster musicians, and has scored music for stage and screen. He is, of course, an inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“We lived, ate, and breathed pop songs.” —Barry Mann
Jerome Kern, who wrote more than 700 songs for stage and film, including “Ol’ Man River,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” and “A Fine Romance,” was born in New York on this date in 1885. In the course of a four-decade career, Kern created dozens of Broadway musicals and Hollywood films and collaborated with such lyricists and librettists as Oscar Hammerstein II, Dorothy Fields, Ira Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, and Yip Harburg. His most fruitful collaboration was with Hammerstein, with whom he created Showboat, considered to be the first modern musical and certainly Kern’s most enduring full-length creation. In Hollywood, he collaborated with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on Swing Time and also wrote songs for Cary Grant and Abbott and Costello movies. Kern was nominated eight times for an Academy Award, and won twice. He died at 60 in 1945 and was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
“Mr. Kern was a small, jovial man, with white hair and keen blue eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses. He spoke in sporadic outburst and had a tremendous amount of nervous energy. He was an avid collector of rare books, and . . . (when), in January, 1929, he disposed of his great collection because it had become too much of a responsibility, the library brought $1,729,462. The next day he passed a bookshop, saw a rare volume and bought it–out of habit, he is supposed to have confessed.” —New York Times obituary
Lee Julian Pockriss, who wrote the melodies for three hit songs — “Catch a Falling Star” (Perry Como, 1957), “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (Brian Hyland, 1960), and “Johnny Angel” (Shelley Fabares, 1962) — was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1924. Pockriss served as an air force cryptographer during World War II and studied music and musicology at Brooklyn College and NYU. Pockriss also wrote lots of Broadway music and several songs for Sesame Street, but his bikini song (with lyrics by Paul Vance, who also wrote the lyrics for “Catch a Falling Star”) was his money-machine. The song’s popularity helped the bikini (invented in France in 1946 and named for the Bikini Atoll, where early tests of nuclear weapons took place) make its way from the French Riviera to the beaches of America — where it actually evolved into a more modest and wearable two-piece design. Pockriss died at 87 in 2011.
“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket,/never let it fade away . . .” —Paul Vance
Song lyricist Adolph Green was born in the Bronx on this date in 1914. Green collaborated on words and ideas with Betty Comden for more than six productive decades, and worked as a team with numerous melody-makers to create show tunes (and librettos and screenplays) for Broadway shows and movies that included Gene Kelly’s Singin’ [...]
Ben Weisman, who wrote fifty-seven songs for Elvis Presley, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on this date in 1921. Weisman’s songs produced sixty gold records, record sales of over 75 million, and thirty movie scores, including for Jailhouse Rock. Other recording artists who made hits of his songs are Barbra Streisand, Nat King Cole, [...]
Singer-songwriter Laura Nyro (Nigro) was born in the Bronx on this date in 1947, the daughter of a Jewish mother and an Italian jazz trumpeter father. Nyro began writing songs at a very young age and attended the High School of Music and Art. She sold “And When I Die,” to Peter, Paul and Mary [...]
Michael Feinstein, who worked closely with Ira Gershwin during the last six years of the great lyricist’s life to catalogue and preserve his and brother George Gershwin‘s unpublished sheet music and rare recordings, was born in Columbus, Ohio on this date in 1956. Feinstein has dedicated much of his career to promoting the “Great American [...]
Israeli singer and songwriter Naomi Shemer, who wrote “Yerushalayim shel zahav” (Jerusalem of Gold) in 1967 and won the Israel Prize in 1983 for her contributions to Israeli culture, was born in the Galilee on this date in 1930. Her song was released before the Six-Day War, and she expanded it after the reunification of [...]
Songwriter Burt Bacharach was born in Kansas City, Missouri on this date in 1928. His best-known hits, written with lyricist Hal David, include “Blue on Blue” (Bobby Vinton), “The Look of Love” (Dusty Springfield), “Baby, It’s You” (The Shirelles), “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (Gene Pitney), “What the World Needs Now Is Love” (Jackie [...]