Sammy Cahn was nominated for more than 30 Oscars, and won four times. His songs were recorded by virtually every major singer. And he wrote some of the best known of all popular songs.
He was born Samuel Cohen in New York on June 18, 1913 into a family of Jewish immigrants from Polish Galicia, and spent his childhood on the Lower East Side. He attended Seward Park High School. Early on, he learned to play the violin, and from the time he was fourteen he played in local Bar Mitzvah bands. While still in his teens, he played the violin in pit bands of burlesque houses. He became friendly with fellow band-member, pianist Saul Chaplin, and they began writing songs together. At first they wrote specialty numbers for vaudeville acts. Then, in 1935 they wrote "Rhythm Is Our Business" for the Jimmy Lunceford Band. Lunceford recorded it, and it became the Lunceford Band's theme song. In 1936 they had another success with "Until The Real Thing Comes Along".
In 1937, they adapted "Bei Mir Bist Du Shon", which they mistakenly believed to be a Yiddish folk song--it was actually a modern ?ddish theater song by Sholom Secunda--into English for the then-unknown Andrews Sisters. The Andrews Sisters had a huge hit with the song, and Cahn and Chaplin were on their way.
In 1940, Cahn and Chaplin went to Hollywood. Soon they parted ways, and in 1942 Cahn began writing with Jules Styne. They would write songs together for 19 films between 1942 and 1951. Among their songs were "I've Heard That Song Before" (1942); "I'll Walk Alone"(1944); "Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night Of The Week"(1944); "It's The Same Old Dream" (1947); and "Time After Time" (1947). In 1948, for the Doris Day film Romance on the High Seas, they wrote "It's Magic" and "Put 'Em In A Box, Tie 'Em With A Ribbon".
In 1947, Styne and Cahn wrote a successful Broadway musical High Button Shoes. Other results of Cahn's collaboration with Styne were "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow", "There Goes That Song Again", "The Things We Did Last Summer", and "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry".
With music by Nicholas Brodzsky, Cahn wrote Mario Lanza's first hit "Be My Love"(1950). Working again with Jules Styne, Cahn won an Oscar for the title song of the 1954 film Three Coins in the Fountain.
Sammy Cahn had been friendly with Frank Sinatra from Sinatra's early days with Tommy Dorsey, and many of his songs had been written for Sinatra's movies. In 1955, Sinatra introduced Cahn to composer Jimmy Van Heusen, beginning Cahn's last major collaboration. They wrote the title song for the 1955 Sinatra film The Tender Trap. Also in 1955, Cahn and Van Heusen wrote a TV musical version of Our Town, which starred Sinatra, Paul Newman, and Eva Marie Saint. It included "Love And Marriage".
In 1957, Cahn and Van Heusen wrote "All The Way" for the Sinatra film The Joker Is Wild. It won Cahn his second Oscar.
Several of Cahn and Van Heusen's songs were written as title songs for Sinatra albums, including 1957's "Come Fly With Me", 1958's "Only The Lonely", 1959's "Come Dance With Me" (and they also wrote that album's closing song, "The Last Dance"), 1959's "When No One Cares", and 1965's "September Of My Years". They were the producers of Sinatra's 1959-60 television series.
In 1959 came Sinatra's film A Hole in the Head, for which they wrote "High Hopes". The song won Cahn his third Oscar, and later (with a revised lyric) became John F. Kennedy's campaign song.
In 1960, Sinatra recorded "The Second Time Around". Cahn won his fourth Oscar, and Van Heusen his third, in 1963 for "Call Me Irresponsible", from Papa's Delicate Condition.
They wrote "My Kind Of Town" for Sinatra's 1964 film Robin and the Seven Hoods. In 1965 Cahn and Van Heusen tried their hands at Broadway with the musical Skyscraper. The show was not a success, but it included "I'll Only Miss Her When I Think Of Her".
Cahn’s long association with Frank Sinatra led to Sinatra's recording 89 of Cahn's songs, many of them more than once.
He became a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. When his friend Johnny Mercer became ill, Mercer asked Cahn to take over as President of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
In 1974, Cahn did a one-man show on Broadway called Words and Music. He performed it again on tour numerous times in the years that followed.
Sammy Cahn died in Los Angeles, California on January 15, 1993.
Howie Richmond began working in the music business in 1935 as an intern for George Lottman, dean of Broadway press agents. Following this learning experience, Richmond set up his own press office, publicizing such soon-to-be legendary clients as Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, the Andrews Sisters, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa and bandleader, Larry Clinton.
After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Richmond worked for a time at The American Theater Wing. He then joined forces with Buddy Robbins operating Robbins Artist Bureau, a spin-off from parent company Robbins, Feist and Miller. Later, the firm was renamed American Artists Bureau and for a time represented the singer Sarah Vaughan, among others.
Richmond decided to concentrate on music publishing and set up his own office, a one-room affair on West 57th Street, where Cromwell Music, his debut music publishing venture, first saw the light of day in 1949. Richmond was soon joined in the business by fellow song plugger, Al Brackman and Abe Olman, former head of Robbins, Feist and Miller.
Working on the firm’s very first song, Richmond persuaded renowned bandleader Guy Lombardo to record the rhythm novelty, “Hop-Scotch Polka” for Decca Records. The record reached the number 16 slot on the best-selling charts. The tune was written by British music hall star, Billy Whitlock and Gene Rayburn with new lyrics by the American, Carl Sigman. The second song, “Music! Music! Music!” by Stephan Weiss and Bernie Baum and recorded by Teresa Brewer, brought Cromwell a number one hit only months after the company was founded.
Songwriters soon flocked to the hot new publisher. With activities developing on many fronts, Richmond restructured his firm under the banner of The Richmond Organization (TRO). Mitch Miller and other top record producers turned to TRO for new material for their stable of recording artists hoping for the next big hit.
In the 1950’s, the hits kept coming. “Goodnight, Irene” catapulted folk quartet, The Weavers, into stardom. Guy Mitchell’s recording of “The Roving Kind” was the next big success and when Phil Harris’ recording of “The Thing” topped the charts in December 1950, Howie Richmond was the hottest independent music publisher in the industry.
One of the most important factors in Richmond’s early success was his unique style of song plugging and promotion which centered on radio exploitation via disc jockeys. While other music publishers plugged new songs via live performances, with recordings usually made after songs were established and on the best-selling sheet music charts, Richmond and company started songs on shellac singles and plugged them with disc jockeys in numerous cities until record sales took off. Airplay didn’t guarantee a hit, but it gave the song an immediate audience and TRO was able to witness many successes for its talented songwriters via the deejay network.
Hot on the heels of his initial success, 1951 proved to be another banner year with Jimmy Rodgers hit rendition of “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and the Weavers’ “So Long It’s Been Good To Know Yuh” making the charts.
Doris Day had a solid hit in 1952 with Oscar Brand’s catchy tune, “A Guy Is A Guy,” followed by Rosemary Clooney’s recording of “Botch-A-Me.” The decade played on with many more chart hits, including “I Believe,” “Anna,” “Band Of Gold” and “Tom Dooley.”
With the momentum of TRO’s success in the United States, Richmond moved to set up international music publishing companies, hoping to develop new repertoire from every source possible. England was the first stop, with France, Italy and Germany to follow. By the early 1960’s, TRO had a presence in every major market around the world.
The folk revival was sparked by the songs of The Weavers and the great reservoir of Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie songs. Richmond partnered with Pete Kameron, who was at the center of this exciting development and the folk catalog became the foundation for TRO's early acceptance and continued international success.
Richmond acquired the vast catalog of Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, who wrote hundreds of songs and attracted audiences with his powerful voice wherever he performed. Lead Belly’s songs were inspirational to young writers and musicians such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Oscar Brand. Over the years, Lead Belly’s music has become an important resource for many artists including the Beach Boys (“Cotton Fields”), Eric Clapton (“Alberta”) and Nirvana (“Where Did You Sleep Last Night”).
Woody Guthrie, found a musical home at TRO. Richmond gave Guthrie a portable tape recorder which Guthrie used at home and wherever inspiration led him. His tapes often started with the phrase “Here’s another song for the Weavers”. While others were writing popular love songs, Guthrie wrote songs about common people and their struggles. “This Land Is Your Land”, “Deportee”, “So Long It’s Been Good To Know Yuh” and “Pastures Of Plenty” are only a few of the hundreds of songs Guthrie wrote.
Less than a year after Gordon Jenkins’ arrangement of “Goodnight, Irene” reached number one, The Weavers’ meteoric rise to stardom ended. Their strong social and political beliefs resulted in blacklisting in 1951 as part of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt. The Weavers waited five years before their triumphant return to Carnegie Hall in late 1955. The political activism of the Weavers, Woody Guthrie and others had already inspired the folk music revival lasting into the sixties.
In 1954, Richmond teamed up with Bart Howard, who wrote “Fly Me To The Moon”. Originally titled “In Other Words”, the song was performed nightly in many New York cabarets. Soon after, a dozen artists including Portia Nelson, Kaye Ballard and Felicia Sanders had recorded it and at Peggy Lee’s suggestion, the title was changed to “Fly Me To The Moon.” Joe Harnell’s 1962 instrumental recording with the new bossa nova beat for Kapp Records produced immediate chart activity. The song quickly became TRO’s first classic pop standard. Over a thousand recordings have been made worldwide, most notably by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Peggy Lee. In 1994, Bennett performed the tune live on MTV Unplugged, and to everybody’s surprise and delight, won over a whole new audience of young people. Over the years, “Fly Me To The Moon” has become one of his most requested songs.
TRO expanded into the jazz field by signing pianist Bill Evans, who wrote “Waltz For Debby,” a standard performed and recorded by hundreds of singers and jazz instrumentalists.
Richmond was always on the lookout for new and talented songwriters. He traveled overseas and worked closely with budding international songwriters like Tony Newley, Leslie Bricusse and Charles Aznavour, finding new and established artists to record their extensive repertoire.
In 1960, London had become the new hot spot for popular music and Richmond was at the forefront. Musicals were the rage and TRO tapped the talents of Lionel Bart (Oliver!) whose output included show standards “Where Is Love?” and “As Long As He Needs Me” and Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley (Stop The World-I Want To Get Off and Roar Of The Greasepaint-The Smell Of The Crowd). Their memorable songs, “What Kind Of Fool Am I?” and “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” became hits for Newley, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett. In 1964, Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray’s Broadway show High Spirits (based on Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit) opened and produced “You’d Better Love Me” introduced by Petula Clark.
From France came the music of Charles Aznavour, whose 1969 hit song “Yesterday, When I Was Young,” (with a lyric by The United Kingdom’s Herbert Kretzmer) was recorded by country music artist Roy Clark and became a major international hit. Aznavour’s one-man shows continue to mesmerize audiences with appearances on Broadway and throughout the world.
The sixties were a time of protest and “We Shall Overcome” became the rallying cry for the Civil Rights Movement. In tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, TRO issued a special sheet music edition with Dr. King’s photograph on the cover. Other protest songs were also popularized, such as “If I Had A Hammer,” written by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger, which Trini Lopez and Peter, Paul and Mary recorded. Folk rock was born when the Byrds recorded Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
During this period, TRO had become the hub of an independent music publishing explosion. On both sides of the Atlantic, TRO was hot. When Paul McCartney was looking for a debut song for Apple Records in 1968, he remembered a live performance at the London nightclub Blue Angel by the American folk duo Gene and Francesca Raskin. Before long Mary Hopkin’s rendition of Gene Raskin’s “Those Were The Days” was on every radio play list around the world.
TRO developed close and lasting relationships with many of the talented artists and songwriters. Notably, Shel Silverstein, a multi-talented artist, poet, playwright and songwriter. Silverstein, who early on penned “The Unicorn”, created such classics as “Cover Of The Rolling Stone” and “A Boy Named Sue.”
Another was Anne Burt, wife of the late composer Al Burt who began The Alfred Burt Christmas Carols in the early forties as family greeting cards. Through the years the Burt Carols have been recorded by such stars as Nat King Cole and recently by pianist George Winston.
Richmond was at the forefront of Skiffle music, a British interpretation of traditional American folk music, enjoyed major popularity in England in the mid-fifties and early sixties. Lonnie Donegan scored impressive hits with “Rock Island Line” and “Midnight Special” both songs identified with Lead Belly. With its vast folk repertoire as a vital source of music, TRO’s UK affiliate, Essex Music, attracted many young musicians, looking for new opportunities.
In partnership with David Platz, Richmond’s Essex Music helped in the early development of The Who (“My Generation”), Procol Harum (“A Whiter Shade of Pale”), The Moody Blues (“Nights in White Satin”), T-Rex (“Bang a Gong”), David Bowie (’Space Oddity”), Joe Cocker (“Woman to Woman”) and Black Sabbath (“Iron Man”) among others.
A spectacular brand of success came to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” released in the USA in early 1973, and quickly rising to number one on the charts. The album remained on the Top 100 for a record 375 weeks and continues to this day on the Top Pop Catalog Album Chart, after an amazing 32 years.
TRO was fortunate to work with Buck Ram on “Only You” and “Twilight Time” recorded by The Platters. Alec Wilder brought his standards to TRO, “I’ll Be Around,” “While We’re Young” and “It’s So Peaceful In The Country.” A little known but highly acclaimed children’s songbook Lullabies And Night Songs by Wilder and Engvick (with illustrations by Maurice Sendak) inspired Shawn Colvin to perform many of its songs in her 1998 Christmas recording Holiday Songs And Lullabies.
Richmond recalled first hearing “September Song” performed by Walter Huston in 1938 in the musical Knickerbocker Holiday on Broadway. He never could have imagined Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weill’s widow, choosing him to be Weill’s American music publisher. Weill collaborated with many of America’s greatest lyricists of the time including Maxwell Anderson, Ira Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner, Ogden Nash, Langston Hughes, Paul Green, Ann Ronell and Arnold Sundgaard. Even when the music wasn’t developed from manuscript, it found its way to TRO’s doorstep.
In 1969, together with Johnny Mercer and Abe Olman, Richmond co-founded the National Academy of Popular Music and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame to honor songwriters for their lifetime contributions to popular music. In 1983, Howie Richmond received the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s first ever Abe Olman Publisher of the Year Award.
Richmond continues as Chairman of the Board of The Richmond Organization and The Essex Music Group, one of the largest and last remaining independent music publishing companies in the world.
In his long and eclectic career, Willie Nelson has recorded country music, standards, gospel, and much more. Now with the release of Milk Cow Blues, his third album for Island Records and his first blues release, Willie Nelson leaves his mark on yet another chunk of the American musical landscape.
Milk Cow Blues combines the talents of Nelson, an array of special guests, and the cream of the Austin, Texas blues community. Guest stars on the album include B.B. King, Dr. John, young singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, Keb’ Mo’, Francine Reed (who usually duets with Nelson’s fellow Texan, Lyle Lovett), and blues prodigies Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Additionally, Willie surrounds himself with a who’s-who of Austin blues players, many of whom are charter members of the house band at Antone’s nightclub, the city’s world famous “home of the blues.”
These players -- including guitarists Jimmie Vaughan and Derek O’Brien, keyboardist Riley Osbourn, drummer George Rains, bassist Jon Blondell -- have played with everyone from the Three Kings (you know, B.B., Albert and Freddie) to Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, and an entire galaxy of Chicago and Louisiana blues stars who have come through Antone’s doors.
So when Nelson decided to host a blues session, he didn’t have to look far for some players. “These guys are the best there are, and it just so happened they were right here in Austin,” said Nelson with affection. “So they were here and I was here, and I had never done a blues album...” The rest, as they say, is history.
As for Willie himself, he is no stranger to the blues. Growing up in the farming country of Central Texas, Nelson found himself working alongside migrant and tenant farmers. “I was raised and worked in the cotton fields around Abbott with a lot of African-Americans and a lot of Mexican-Americans, and we listened to their music all the time. I guess that’s why I was influenced a lot by those around me -- there was a lot of singing that went on in the cotton fields,” said Nelson during a break at this year’s Fourth of July Picnic.
When, at a tender age, he began playing in honky-tonks, where the jukeboxes were ruled by the Western Swing, jazz and jump blues of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. “I’ve always sung ‘Milk Cow Blues’,” Nelson continued, “It was one of the first songs I played when I started working in beer joints. From that, I really got into the blues, and learned a lot of other blues songs. Then, later on, I would visit other beer joints around Texas -- one time I used to deliver laundry and linens, so I made it to a lot of beer joints, and I heard a lot of great music on those jukeboxes. I got really addicted, and then I started trying to find out where all this good music could be found on the radio.”
That lifetime of appreciation figures heavily in the selection of songs that Nelson personally selected for Milk Cow Blues. In addition to the title track, the album also includes distinctive Willie-esque renditions of B.B. King’s hit “The Thrill Is Gone,” the Wilbert Harrison/Leiber & Stoller classic “Kansas City,” “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” (recorded by Billie Holiday and numerous others), Bob Wills’ “Sittin’ On Top of the World,” Larry Davis’ signature song “Texas Flood,” (which also became a trademark tune for Stevie Ray Vaughan), Charles Brown’s mournful “Black Night,” and others. Nelson also dips into his own catalog for blues-tinted versions of his own “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy,” “Rainy Day Blues,” “Wake Me When It’s Over,” and “Night Life.”
Country fans familiar with the classic C&W renditions of the Willie standards might be initially taken aback (though soon won over). But longtime Willie Nelson fans have come to expect the unexpected from one of the iconoclastic musicians in a state filled with musical rule-benders.
Born in 1933 in the tiny Central Texas farming community of Abbott, Willie Nelson grew up in a world permeated with music: The gospel songs of the grandparents who raised him; the blues and Mexican corridas that eased the labor of the cotton fields; the country and Western Swing hits filling the airwaves from Nashville and Fort Worth...and the inner music that percolated up ceaselessly inside of him. Melodies are easy, he says of his songwriting; if he needs one, he just plucks one out of the air. The air, he says, is full of music.
Since waxing his first single in 1957, he has given birth to concept albums (his first, Yesterday’s Wine, as recorded in 1971), gospel albums, jazz albums, movie soundtracks, myriad duet projects (at this point, Willie has recorded with everyone this side of Regis Philbin), Christmas albums, live albums, and an album of standards (1978’s Stardust) which has become a standard in itself.
His around-the-beat blues-flavored vocals set the Nashville musical establishment on its ear. His spare-sounding breakthrough album, 1975’s Red-Headed Stranger, went so against the Music City grain of the day that his record company president first thought Nelson had presented him with a demo. His early-Seventies merger of the traditional country and long-haired hippie audiences was called suicidal at the time, and has since come to be regarded as visionary. Outside the recording studio, Nelson established himself as a champion for the family farmer with his annual Farm Aid concerts. His Fourth of July Picnics have for the past quarter-century served as a rite of musical passage in Texas. His films include The Electric Horseman (with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda), Songwriter (with Kris Kristofferson), Wag the Dog (with Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman), and many others.
Today, Nelson divides his time between the road and his beloved Pedernales recording studio/golf course in the Hill country outside of Austin, Texas. Often asked when he plans to retire, Nelson invariably replies with a smile, “All I do is play music and golf -- which one do you want me to give up?”
Johnny Mercer Award
Abe Olman Publisher Award
Howard S. Richmond
Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award
Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award
Howie Richmond Hitmaker Award