Winter 2012


Hal David, who passed away on September first, was arguably the most recorded and celebrated songwriter of his time in American music, and his songs captured the heart and soul of that era. Songs such as Alfie, A House is Not a Home, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, One Less Bell to Answer, Close to You, What’s New Pussy Cat, Walk on By, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and Say a Little Prayer will live in our hearts and will continue to live in hearts as long as a song is sung. Although his technique was seamless–so effortless, that it appeared the words simply flowed from his genius like a fountainhead–as well as his wonderful love lyrics, his messages were often profound and dealt with the uneasiness of the world he was experiencing.

I was fortunate to sit on the ASCAP Board of Directors with Hal for over three years and he was truly a mentor. On many occasions, I had the wonderful opportunity of walking him to the apartment that he shared with his lovely wife, Eunice on 53rd Street. We would talk about many things, but it gave me the rare opportunity to discuss songs with him. I told him that one of my favorites was The Windows of the World. He told me that he was deeply troubled about the Viet Nam war and how it was impacting so many young men and women’s lives. He told me that it was hitting home in his own family and was concerned about his son and the role that he might have to play in it, and it was in this context that he wrote:

The windows of the world are covered with rain…

When will all those black skies turn to blue?

Everybody knows when boys grow into men

They start to wonder when their country will call.

Let the sun shine through.

His collaborator, Burt Bacharach played this song as his final tribute to Hal at his memorial service. Ironic that the timeless subject it addressed is still as relevant today.

Perhaps one of the seminal moments in my life was when Hal told me one day, “let’s make a stop before we head back to the apartment.” We got in a cab and he told the driver to stop at 1619 Broadway. In a few minutes we arrived at the famed Brill Building. We took an elevator to the sixth floor and headed to the end of the hallway. It was here that he and Burt produced some of the great songs of their illustrious careers. Hal showed me where Burt’s piano was situated and it didn’t take much to envision the magic that flowed from that office during their days with Famous Music. Although their most celebrated era began with the discovery of the young Dionne Warwick, as a pre-teen I was captivated by listening to the classic songs that came from their early years such as Blue on Blue, Only Love Can Break a Heart, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, True Love Never Runs Smooth, Wives and Lovers and Be True to Yourself among many others that were realized in this small room.

As well as the prolific life of a creator, Hal decided to devote much of his later years to championing the cause of the songwriter and composer as president of ASCAP. After serving as its chairman of the board, he continued his strong role of advocacy, and it was during that era that he and I became friends. I was fortunate to see Hal in that position, not only on the board, but also on trips to Washington, D.C. Hal’s presence in a congressional office was always a welcomed one. He was able to articulate the salient points of the moment and enlist support from both sides of the aisle. He was the most convincing spokesperson that we, as a community, could have hoped for. I remember on one trip to Washington, Hal was a featured performer at the yearly event that ASCAP hosts, We Write the Songs. At the end of the program Hal, Jackie de Shannon and an auditorium full of members of congress were singing What the World Needs Now is Love. This one moment united the group in ways that speak legions to the power of music and song as it celebrated the importance of our craft and moved our agenda forward in such an effective way.

In saying good-bye to a member of our community, it is always difficult, but Hal’s passing touched me in a deeper way than most. Perhaps it’s in knowing that the leadership and passion that he felt is something that only comes around once in awhile and in recognizing that there are so many mountains to climb and challenges to address that would benefit from his wisdom. I know it would be his hope that each of us does his or her part in helping shape the future of our industry. I will miss his creativity, his guidance and leadership, but most importantly, his friendship.

What the world needs now

Is love sweet love.

It’s the only thing

That there’s just too little of.

What the world needs now

Is love, sweet love—

No not just for some

But for everyone….

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVII, Number Four, Winter 2012]


Fall 2012


I was honored last May to be asked by ASCAP to join with several esteemed creators to participate in their 2012 installment of We Write the Songs. For the past four years, under the aegis of the ASCAP Foundation, a concert has been presented to members of Congress and their guests at the Library of Congress for the purpose of celebrating the joy of music and song and reaffirming the value that music and lyrics have to our society as a whole. Thankfully, as demonstrated by the number of supporters that we have on both sides of the aisle, our craft that is not shackled by political boundaries. This year’s participants ran the gamut of genres and styles including such favorites as Melanie and Ray Parker Jr. As well as my good friend, Stephen Schwartz, I was particularly privileged to stand next to Irving Burgie, the writer of Jamaica Farewell, as I had recorded two of his songs with the great calypsonian, Count Bernadino in the Bahamas a few years ago.

My mission was to demonstrate the work and thought process that goes into creating a piece that accompanies a specific visual rendering and sets the tone for a television program that may run as long as ten years. I thought that I would share with you, many who may writing their first theme, some of the points and anecdotes that I shared with the audience that night last May.

Unlike a traditional song, a theme song must get to the point, make it’s case and complete it’s thought in a short space of time; kind of like a three act play in the space of a minute. The two themes that I performed, Roseanne and Home Improvement were originally about that long, but unfortunately, my current theme to The Secret Life of the American Teenager is confined to a shorter duration. There was a moment when one network wanted to do away with theme songs all together, but what they learned was that it served a huge function and was well worth the short amount of time that it took away from advertising. It signaled to the guy in the kitchen that the show he wanted to watch was starting up in the family room. It adds a familiarity that is intangible and that identifies the program in a way that only music can.

In the case of Roseanne, the producer of the show came to me and my then partner, Howard Pearl and said, “guys there’s this new comedienne that’s going to do this domestic goddess routine,” and he told us a little about how Roseanne, John Goodman and the kids were going to interact. There was nothing to suggest that this was going to be the hit show that it would become. What we came back with couldn’t have been more off base. It was this kind of electronic dance piece with lots of synthesizers. Matt Williams the creator told us in as gentle way that he could, that this really wasn’t going to cut it; it was too slick and didn’t have any of the earthy elements that were needed to introduce these rural characters. Well, knowing that the job was on the line, we did our best to get inside the soul of the show over the next couple of weeks. We added a harmonica, a dirty sax performed by Gary Herbig and took the producers to the most rocked out studio that we could find, a place called Sound City. Dylan and the Band had recorded there and it was imbued in rock n’ roll residue that gave it the authenticity that we were looking. I didn’t shave for a couple of days, wore an old tee shirt and took my most beaten up guitar into those worn walls, snuggled into an industrial park in Van Nuys. Well, the musicians and I started playing and looping the piece around and a short while later when we came into the recording booth, the response was immediate, “now that’s more like it!” I’ve been happy that Roseanne has seen the longevity it has, since its premier almost twenty-five years ago.

Home Improvement came around a few years later. Once again, Matt Williams was the creator and this time he took me with him to the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles so I could actually see this other comedian work in front of a crowd. Tim Allen was without a doubt, the funniest guy I had ever seen. He kept doing these cavemen grunts and it became apparent that night how I wanted to score him. I had recently been to the Red Earth festival in Oklahoma and witnessed all of these tribal drumming routines where ten or twelve Native Americans would sit in a circle and hit these big drums, and I knew that channeling the essence of that texture was the underpinning that would make it all work. Tim played the host of a tool show, though at home he was absolutely incompetent in any kind of home repairs—much like myself–but he wanted More Power! So with these ingredients in hand: tool sounds (I probably incorporated twenty different ones), lots of drums and percussion, a power guitar lead featuring Laurence Juber, with a flute representing Tim’s wife Jill’s feminine touch and finally Tim’s grunt, I put the whole package together and in this case was successful the first time out. I remember that we recorded this in Evergreen; a studio owned by one of the greatest theme writers of all, our SCL Ambassador, Charles Fox.

I’ve volunteered to judge in the Emmys the last two years, and am happy to say that the theme song is alive and well and thanks to the advocacy of past SCL president, Ray Colcord, it is still being duly recognized. There is some excellent work being done out there, much of it by our SCL membership. Our first SCL Ambassador, Earle Hagen was one of the pioneers of the theme song, and I know that his vision has a lot to do with the fact that we’re still watching most of the shows he was associated with, such as the Andy Griffith Show. Undoubtedly, with the intense competition among programmers there will always be a move to shorten the time it takes to get from one program to another, but the theme song sets the stage and introduces the program in a way that only our craft can.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVII, Number Three, Fall 2012]


Summer 2012


Recently I was at a meeting that featured Congressman, Howard Berman, a great supporter of intellectual property rights, and in the context of preservation of copyright, a voice from the crowd asked the Congressman, what he, as an individual writer, could do to help in this endeavor. As we reflect on Kennedy‘s iconic phrase, now proverbially written in the scriptures of time, asking not what your country can do for you, perhaps it’s worth investigating in these days of striking change how we can favorably affect the way that we are being compensated, while helping sculpt the way we are perceived within the industry at large.

At the end of January, further congressional action was tabled on two important pieces of legislation: PROTECT IP and Stop Online Piracy Acts. A hurricane of opposition came from internet companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and e-bay, which was steeped in misrepresentations that effectively squelched legislation that would have aided in combating the rising wave of piracy that has pervaded our industry and our work around the world. The misinformation disseminated about the legislation extended as far as leading some people to think that Netflix would no longer be available and that First Amendment rights would be stifled.

In a word, the voice from the Internet companies was louder than ours. My concern is that in moving forward, the ability to introduce legislation even more germane to our interests as songwriters and composers may have been served a severe blow. So how do we move forward? A letter to your member in Congress can do a lot to help spread our message as pertinent issues arise. From what I understand, the disproportionate number of letters and e-mails denigrating this legislation was staggering. It’s essential that we continue to help champions of ours in Washington instill in their fellow members the tenet that as creators, the fair compensation for our work is integral to keeping our small businesses afloat and families fed in these economically difficult times.

Besides the misinformation and misdirection embodied in their verbiage, the arguments submitted by those opposed to SOPA also ignored the fact that protection of our rights were put into place by the framers of the Constitution. In Section 8, the language so specifies that The Congress shall have the power “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive rights to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

In dealing with copyright advocacy, it’s important to separate the accessibility factor from being fairly compensated for our work. The ease in which the public has access to our creative outpourings is a good thing and should not be discouraged, but as we all know, it is indeed a two edged sword. Never has there been more of an outlet for our music and song, but the problem is that those who are using our music are finding every avenue not to pay us. It’s not an exaggeration that Internet companies are created every day that are using our repertoire as venture capital. In many cases, by the time that we have the opportunity to challenge their use of our music in the courts, they have profited from our work and evaporated into thin air.

In another matter critical to our community, a case heard last summer is still pending judgment in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. That case, regarding the background service provider, DMX, could have long term impact on whether carve out licenses can be allowed through the consent decree that both ASCAP and BMI operate under. In the past, the SCL has been a valuable resource in providing our members with information on the mechanics of the blanket license, which is part of what is at risk here. We are planning further evenings to help you explore your choices should you be asked to direct license.

I am pleased to report that our numbers in the SCL continue to grow. We have seen a significant increase in our New York membership over the past year thanks to the exceptional work of a dedicated steering committee headed by board member, Joel Beckerman. Our reach is extending to our colleagues in Australia, through their fine organization, AGSC, whose members are now receiving this publication and who I send out a hearty welcome to here.

I have spent time with our colleagues around the world, including advocacy groups such as FFACE in Europe, who have been instrumental in raising the awareness and prestige of film music in countries under their jurisdiction. Having a united community is essential in times such as this, and encouraging your fellow composers and songwriters to join our organization can have a significant impact on our influence, giving us needed power in spreading our message.

Another thing that is imperative to enhancing our voice is to continue to elevate the quality of what we do. Our adversaries would minimize the importance of our contributions. I even had a music editor indignantly summarize film composition to holding down middle-C on the keyboard. Naturally, we had an exchange of words regarding his disrespect, but it’s this kind of misperception that must absolutely be dispelled.

Recently the SCL held a well-attended symposium at the Musicians Union in Los Angeles, mirroring one that had been done two years ago in New York. The emphasis was put on the contracts that are available to the composing sector and was co-sponsored by Musicians Local 47 and the RMA. I have repeatedly said that I wouldn’t have advanced past by first job without the exceptional talents of the fine musicians of Los Angeles behind me. They have enhanced my scores for thirty years and your inclusion of live musicians will certainly aid not only the quality of your work, but also the quality of our profession.

Finally, we are in changing times; change in the way that we do our business, change in the way that our music is distributed and change in how we are perceived and what our contributions are worth. As we facilitate this change, keeping the spirit of camaraderie and collegiality alive will united us and help spread the vision that we want from our community around the world.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVII, Number Two, Summer 2012]


Spring 2012


I was back visiting my father in Oklahoma City in October. He was about to turn 92 and a car battery fire had incinerated much of the garage. Fortunately my father, and even his cars survived, but I had the task of cleaning through some of the debris that had collected in the aftermath. Positioned in the corner of the garage was an old trunk. You know, the kind that people used to use as they traveled either by train or ship and it was easily capable of storing personal items that one might need for an extended stay in one place or another. Not knowing what I would find, I gingerly opened it in the late Indian summer light that had begun to settle over my childhood home.

My father’s parents had come from Ireland on his mother’s side and South Dakota on his father’s side to settle in the Indian Territory in the late 1800s, prior to Oklahoma statehood. In fact, my great grand father had made one of the land runs, where a few hearty souls would stake claims in this land that could be harsh in the winter and boiling in the summer. Nevertheless, there was a promise of better days in the territorial towns that would crop up throughout the west.

My father’s mother came from a hearty stock that lived in dugouts nestled in the red clay country that some thirty years later would be ravaged by over toiling of the land depicted in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. As I prepared to look inside this trunk, I reflected on Kennedy’s words in October ‘63. It was one of his final speeches and was given as a commencement address at my alma mater, Amherst College to a graduating class, a decade before my arrival. He spoke of the entitlement that small private colleges were prone to foster. He encouraged those graduating students to utilize the education they had acquired to better the lives of those less privileged. I thought about how my father had risen from humble beginnings to a master of the courtroom in the heartland and how I had done little to earn the luxury of attending a school so steeped in Yankee tradition and privilege. It caused me to reflect on what things I might have achieved in the years that had passed since my departure from college to make the world a better place for my children and those that will come afterwards.

As I opened the trunk, I dusted off ash that somehow seeped into the interior fabric of the piece and what I found were simple things. The collection of day to day activity, accumulated over the lives of my grandparents, and yet they were part of their legacy that they had wanted passed down to my father and his children’s children. Here was a photo of a boating party, with men in their straw hats and women in their Victorian dresses, much like those Impressionistic paintings from the same era by Monet and Renoir. Though the photo was aged and curled at the edges, it clearly spoke to the magic of that particular day of relaxation from the labors of the week. It was my grandfather as a young man, so different from the weathered face that I remember from trips to see him in my own youth. His visage held the innocence of youth, emboldened by aspirations of a life ahead of him, which belied the world wars that were just around the corner.

There was also book of penmanship. You see, he was a teacher and he had hoped, from what my dad said, that this book would be embraced by the public school system and it would be in every classroom across the country. Although this never was to come to pass, I was in possession of this delicate treatise with my father’s name spelled out in beautiful cursive and elegant penmanship in a multitude of styles and shadings. There was even a picture of my father sitting at a school desk, demonstrating the proper posture to achieve the desired result.

Then there were the schoolbooks that had obviously been used in his class room curriculum. They had C.R. Foliart, Ocala, Florida, inscribed, where he had traveled with his family for a few years of teaching and administrating, before returning to Oklahoma. There were books of elementary history, English, science, as well as collected works of Victor Hugo and an early collection on the History of Civilization, as it was perceived in the late 19th century. Then there were more photos. Photos of friends, colleagues and relatives, most with no designation, which left me to wonder who these people were and what place they served in my life. There was a plague honoring my grandmother on her service in the local community. There were Christmas cards, graduation notices accumulated through the years, and stylized books from 1910 with selected photos that were given to family members and friends as a gift for the new year to come.

After a few hours of meticulously cleaning and looking at these items, it gave me pause. What will I leave for generations to come? What will be my place within my time? I then realized that it would mostly be my music. That is what we, as composers and lyricists, will leave future generations. I know that what we do at times seems an act of servitude depending on the conditions of employment. But in the larger sense, our craft and the magic that we bring to our profession is steeped in the joy of creating wonderful music and song. That is one aspect that makes me adamantly opposed to replacing a colleague’s work with my own, as has sometimes been the case in our profession, to either make an older work more contemporary or as a cost saving measure when it goes from one medium to another. So as you sit down to write today, know that what we do is gift that will be passed on. Write it the best you can and think that some rendering of it may be enjoyed by generations to come, found in some half hidden trunk down the road, or airing on some yet to be conceived transmission in the distant future, somewhere in time.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVII, Number One, Spring 2012]