Cynthia Weil‘s death, reported today, can not go without more conversation.
I spoke to another legend, Mike Stoller, another Brill Building graduate who wrote dozens of hits with his partner, Jerry Leiber. Leiber and and Stoller, Mike told me, worked with Barry and Cynthia Weil to write the all time classic, “On Broadway.”
Stoller, who’s 90, recalled: Barry and Cynthia had written a song called “On Broadway” which Phil Spector recorded with someone, but it didn’t work. Don Kirshner asked if we could re-write it. Jerry and I were working with the Drifters then. We said, Only with their permission. So we all got together at Jerry’s apartment on Central Park West. We were sitting on the floor. Jerry and Cynthia were trading lines. Barry and I were working on the melody. Cynthia was a great lyricist. She was also a sweet, dear person.”
The result of their work was magic. “On Broadway” became an all time standard for the Drifters. Twenty years later, Tommy LiPuma produced George Benson‘s version, giving it a second life.
Mann and Weil wrote dozens of other hits, many that I mentioned in my previous article. But they also wrote “Blame it on the Bossa Nova,” a monster hit for Eydie Gorme in the early days of rock and roll. They also wrote songs for the Crystals like “Uptown” (covered later by Bette Midler), “Only in America” for Jay and the Americans, “We Gotta Get Out of this Place” with the Animals, and “Just a Little Lovin’,” the song Dusty Springfield used to kick off “Dusty in Memphis.” Their contribution to the pop canon cannot be underestimated. Weil’s lyrics were urban poems set to Mann’s jazz-inflected melodies. They reek of romance and a nostalgic New York we yearn for even now.
Carole King via Instagram: “We lost the beautiful, brilliant lyricist Cynthia Weil Mann. The quartet of young songwriters in the image includes (left to right) her husband and cowriter, Barry Mann, Cynthia, my then-husband and cowriter, Gerry Goffin, and me at a BMI dinner in 1962. The four of us were close, caring friends despite our fierce competition to write the next hit for an artist with a #1 song. Sometimes we wrote in different combinations, e.g., Mann and Goffin “Who Put The Bomp?” and King and Weil “One To One.” Cynthia’s high professional standard made us all better songwriters. My favorite Cynthia lyric is, “Just a little lovin’ early in the mornin’ beats a cup of coffee for startin’ out the day.” If we’re lucky, we know this is true, but she wrote it—and then she rhymed “mornin’” with “yawnin'” in the next verse. May the legacy of lyrics by Cynthia Weil continue to speak to and for generations to come. Rest in peace with love and gratitude”
Neil Sedaka, also Insagram: “I am very saddened to hear about the passing of Cynthia Weil. We were very close during our time together at The Brill Building. It’s a great loss to American Pop Music, as she wrote some of the standards that will live on forever. My heart goes out to Barry and the family.