UPDATED: Grammy-winning Songwriters Hall of Fame member Cynthia Weil — who co-wrote “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” “Walking in the Rain,” “You’re My Soul and Inspiration,” “Uptown,” “He’s So Shy,” “Kicks,” “Here You Come Again,” “Through the Fire,” “Somewhere Out There” and many other hits, mostly with her husband and Brill Building colleague Barry Mann — has died, her daughter confirmed to TMZ on Friday morning. No cause of death was announced; she was 82.
“My mother, Cynthia Weil, was the greatest mother, grandmother and wife our family could ever ask for,” Jenn Mann said. “She was my best friend, confidant, and my partner in crime and an idol and trailblazer for women in music.”
Mann, pictured above with Weil in 2013, added, “I’m a lucky man. I had two for one: my wife and one of the greatest songwriters in the world, my soul and inspiration.”
On June 11, Weil was honored with a memorial service in the courtyard of the Beverly Hills Hotel. The private event was hosted by singer Tony Orlando who performed “Bless You,” the 1961 hit that launched Weil and Mann’s long hitmaking streak. Other guests included Lou Adler, Carol Bayer Sager, Carole King, Jeff Barry, Mike Stoller, Diane Warren and virtual guests Dolly Parton and Bill Medley, both of whom scored enormous hits with Weil-Mann songs. At the event, Jenn Mann remembered her mother as a “loving wife, devoted grandmother, a lover of animals and a soft-hearted romantic who could surprise people with her non-nonsense business sense.”
A New York City native, Weil was one of the top “Brill Building” songwriters that came out of the Midtown Manhattan building of the same name and spawned literally hundreds of hits throughout the 1960s for the Righteous Brothers, the Ronettes, the Drifters, the Monkees, the Animals, multiple Phil Spector productions and many others. Along with Mann — to whom she was married for some 62 years — the coterie included two other married couples, Carole King and Gerry Goffin along with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, as well as Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Shadow Morton, Mort Shuman, Otis Blackwell and many more. Despite the title, most of the work was done a couple of blocks uptown at 1650 Broadway, where the songwriters worked in cubicles and cranked out hit after hit after hit, creating a canon of timeless, classic songs that were matched only by the anonymity of their writers, although a few, such as Diamond, King and Sedaka, would later find success as artists — Mann and Weil are actually characters in the King-inspired Broadway musical, “Beautiful.”
Her hits written with writers to whom she was not married include Lionel Richie’s “Running With The Night” and “Love Will Conquer All,” Peabo Bryson’s “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again” and the Pointer Sisters’ 1980 smash “He’s So Shy.”
The durability and timelessness of Weil’s work is exemplified by the fact that “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” her and Mann’s song of self-empowerment that was a hit for Cass Elliott in 1969, is prominent in the trailer for the forthcoming Margot Robbie-starring “Barbie” film, and was also recently used in “Mrs. America” and “Hacks.”
“Most people don’t know who we are,” Mann told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “They know our songs.”
Songwriters Hall of Fame CEO Linda Moran said on Friday, “At a time when there were relatively few major female songwriters — and even those who were working often were not sufficiently acknowledged in the credits or financially — Cynthia played a major role in paving the way for future generations of women to not only be creative, but to claim the credit due to them.
“Cynthia and Barry were more than worthy recipients of our most esteemed honor, the Johnny Mercer Award,” she continued. “But to be extolled by their daughter not only as an iconic songwriter but the best wife, mother and grandmother, is the greatest eulogy one could ask for. Cynthia would like that, I think.”
Born in 1940 to a conservative Jewish family, Weil trained as an actress, singer and dancer, but her songwriting talent shone through and she became a protégé of Tin Pan Alley songwriter Frank Loesser. One day, she recalled to the Times, “I was writing with a young Italian boy singer, the Frankie Avalon of his day, named Teddy Randazzo, when Barry came in to play him a song.I asked the receptionist, ‘Who is this guy? Does he have a girlfriend?’ She said, ‘He’s signed to a friend of mine, [publisher] Don Kirshner, and if I call Donny, maybe you can go up there to show him your lyrics and meet Barry again.’ So that’s what she did. And that’s what I did. He didn’t have a chance.”
The two actually did not begin collaborating until they had been dating for a few weeks. “At a certain point, I got very curious about her lyrics,” Mann recalled. “I really liked them. I felt they had a sophistication and a soulfulness that was a great combination, and I felt that there was a place for this kind of lyric in the pop culture that was happening, and so we started writing. And we had hits right away.”
Indeed, the duo’s first hit hit, “Bless You,” with singer Tony Orlando — later of Tony Orlando & Dawn fame — came in 1961 (also the year they got married). Yet the following year the pair recorded a song with the Crystals that helped set the tone for many future Brill Building songs that addressed inner-city, social issues, rare for the time: “Uptown,” about a young man who goes to work downtown “where everyone’s his boss and he’s in an angry land.”
But then, he comes uptown each evening to my tenement
Uptown where folks don’t have to pay much rent
And when he’s there with me, he can see that he’s everything
Then he’s tall, he don’t crawl, he’s a king.
Other Mann-Weil songs addressed the Vietnam war (“We Gotta Get Out of This Place”) and, initially anyway, societal strife in the U.S. with “Only in America.” The latter song, originally recorded by the Black act the Drifters but not released, had featured ironic lyrics that actually presaged Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”:
Only in America, land of opportunity
Can they save a seat in the back of the bus just for me
Only in America, where they preach the Golden Rule
Will they start to march when my kids go to school?
However, the song’s lyrics were deemed too controversial and the song — with altered, borderline jingoist patriotic lyrics — was given to the group Jay and the Americans. Weil and Mann were said to be unhappy with the decision, although the song was a hit.
While the Brill Building era ended as the ’60s progressed and artists began focusing on writing their own material, Weil and Mann remained very much in demand, penning “Just a Little Lovin’,” the opening track on Dusty Springfield’s legendary 1968 “Dusty in Memphis” album (which also featured songs by Goffin and King, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Randy Newman), along with minor hits for the Partridge Family, B.J. Thomas and others.
The hits continued over the next three decades, with Dolly Parton’s version of “Here You Come Again,” Quincy Jones and James Ingram’s “Just Once,” Linda Ronstadt and Ingram’s “Somewhere Out There” (which scored them a Grammy), and Hanson’s “I Will Come to You.”
In 1987, she and Mann were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and later received the organization’s highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award. In 2010 they received the Ahmet Ertegun Award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; she was the first woman to receive the honor.
Weil later worked as a novelist — beginning with “I’m Glad I Did,” a mystery set in 1963 — and in 2004, she and Mann launched the jukebox musical based on their songs, “They Wrote That?,” in which he sang their hits and she told the stories behind them.
Upon accepting the honor from the Rock Hall, Weil said, “From the bottom of my heart and with the greatest humility, I thought you guys would never ask.”
Yet, as she reflected in 2016, “I never thought the songs would live. I thought they would have their little time on the charts, and they would be over, and that would be it.”
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