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The curse of the musical interlude

It's not that I hate songs in movies; My Fair Lady is usually a nose ahead of 2001: A Space Odyssey for the top slot in my all-time favourite films. It's not even that I hate musical interludes in movies per se, as they can provide a fascinating insight into character, or introduce a new character in a spectacular and meaningful way...

But for every musical interlude as memorable as Jessica Rabbit beguiling down-at-heel tec Bob Hoskins with 'Why Don't You Do Right?' in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), there are hundreds, if not thousands, of songs that are cynically slotted into movies to sell records, 'cover all bases' or just generally pause the plot. These are the musical interludes that follow the original 1930s principle of musical interludes: something for everyone.

It's a democratic idea, to be sure, but it's the kind of thinking that means no-one can totally
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Songwriters Hall Of Fame Finds a Home

Songwriters Hall Of Fame Finds a Home
Most songwriters, even successful ones, toil alone or with a single collaborator. To call them unsung would be oxymoronic, but with a few exceptions they remain unknown to the lovers of their music. You think Barry Manilow wrote "I Write The Songs"? Think again: that tune was penned by former Beach Boy Bruce Johnston. When Olympian songwriter Johnny Mercer joined music publishing legends Abe Olman and Howie Richmond to found the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1969, it wasn't much more than a noble idea: To recognize the tunesmiths and lyricists who "write the songs that make the whole world sing." I attended the group's first induction ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan in 1970, when I was a college student and my dad, Carl Sigman, was among its first members. (Carl always said he got in only because...
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My Heart Cries for Mitch Miller

My Heart Cries for Mitch Miller
Mitch Miller, the musical maven of middle-of-the-road pop who died in Manhattan Saturday at 99, became a household name via his early-'60s TV show Sing Along With Mitch. Long before that, he -- along with Frank Sinatra and a guy named Al Cernick -- provided my dad, songwriter Carl Sigman, with the flukiest hit of his career. in 1950, Carl and composer/orchestra leader Percy Faith -- perhaps most famous for his1960 recording of Theme From a Summer Place -- were good friends and often went to the racetrack ("the trotters") at Long Island's Roosevelt Field to blow off some steam. An old French tune that played repeatedly on the track's Pa haunted Percy. One day, he jokingly asked Carl if he thought they could write a hit song in 10 minutes using that melodic phrase. They did just that, and...
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Field Notes from a Songwriter's Centennial -- Part II

How long does it last? Can love be measured by the hours in a day? September 24th is the centennial birthday of my late father, the songwriter Carl Sigman (1909-2000), who wrote nearly a thousand songs, including "It's All In The Game," "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story," "Ebb Tide," "What Now, My Love," "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" and "Arrivederci, Roma." In the second of two parts, I offer some not altogether random notes on the years 1959-2009. When my dad awoke to the '60s, it dawned on him that the times they were a'changin'. Determined to keep writing hits, he got in on the girl-group craze with The Angels' heavenly "Till" and had a Top 5 smash with Brenda Lee's heart-wrenching "Losing You," produced by Nashville legend Owen Bradley. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yf8TpILBCc In 1964, at the height of Beatlemania --...
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Field Notes From a Songwriter's Centennial

Many a tear has to fall but it's all in the game... September 24th is the centennial birthday of my late father, the songwriter Carl Sigman (1909-2000), who wrote nearly a thousand songs, including "It's All In The Game," "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story," "Ebb Tide," "What Now, My Love," "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" and "Arrivederci, Roma." In the first of two parts, I offer some fun facts and observations on his first half-century. Also born in 1909: Johnny Mercer, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Maybelle Carter, Burl Ives, Colonel Tom Parker and, absurdly, Eugene Ionesco. Johnny Mercer, the genteel Georgian who would become one of the greatest American songwriters, lived down the street from my dad in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, and became his mentor. Johnny would show up at the Sigman apartment most nights around dinnertime...
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'Civilization' and its Disc Contents

The best Father's Day tribute I can think of is to reflect not too seriously on one of my dad's not-too-serious songs. When he got home from World War II -- where he was awarded a Bronze Star I only discovered after his death in 2000 -- my father, Carl Sigman, picked up his songwriting career in earnest. And as is so often the case in life, a failure produced a turning point. He and his partner Bob Hilliard were doing well writing special material for New York's renowned hot spot the Copacabana. But their song "Civilization" -- a send up of the post-War rush to modernization -- was rejected out of hand. They were given no reason, but perhaps the song's refrain -- "Bongo, bongo, bongo I don't want to leave the Congo /Oh no no no no no/...
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