Songwriter Cynthia Weil Turns 82

by Kevin Burton

   Happy 82nd birthday to a great American songwriter you may not know much about, Cynthia Weil. 

   If her name doesn’t ring a bell, her music sure will.  She and her husband Barry Mann formed one of the most important songwriting teams of the 60s. They were contemporaries of writers you may know more about, such as Carole King and her husband Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Darin and the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

   Weil and Mann wrote hits such as “We Gotta Get Out Of this Place,” which the Animals took to number 13 (number 2 UK) in 1965, “You’re My Soul and Inspiration” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers and “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” for Mama Cass Elliott. 

   Weil and Mann and the others worked in the famous Brill Building, at West 49th Street and Broadway in New York City.  There they worked in cubicles, not shuffling papers, but creating some of the most iconic music of the era.

   That was the time of the famous pop music factory, when young writers flocked to the building to try to get ahead in the business, but tried to keep quiet what they were working on lest the other songwriters in the building would hear and steal their best material.

   But the vibe was infectious and the music just poured out of all the artists.

   “It would be impossible to imagine the last four decades of pop music without the melodies of Barry Mann and the lyrics of Cynthia Weil,” reads a bio on their website.  “One of the most successful pure songwriting teams in history; Mann and Weil have created a body of work so significant it has often been described as ‘a soundtrack to our lives.’”

  Weil and Mann wrote “On Broadway” for the Drifters, “Here You Come Again” for Dolly Parton, and “I Just Can’t help Believing” for B.J. Thomas. Weil co-wrote the Lionel Richie hit “Running With The Night.”

   “The legendary, husband & wife songwriting team of Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil is known for writing many of the greatest pop, rock, R&B, AC and country hits of the modern era,” wrote Dale Kawashima on the website www.songwritinguniverse.com.

  “From the early 60s, when they were creating hits at the Brill Building in New York City, Mann & Weil have consistently written memorable, intelligent, emotional songs which have been loved by generations of music fans.”

    But it was a freewheeling and fun time too, as Weil recalls of the time she brought Mann home to met her parents.

    “I bring home this guy who was a songwriter, and who was not a college graduate and who wore cowboy boots in 1961,” Weil said in a documentary discussing the music of those times. “My mother thought these were orthopedic shoes and he had weak ankles and this could be passed along to her grandchildren.” 

   Weil laughed through her recollection, but she, Mann and the others were writing in a time of great change, in terms of music, society and everything else. Weil talks about the feel of the old times and the new ones.

   “The old guard felt something was coming in and they didn’t understand it and felt threatened,” Weil said. “You know now I see things coming in and I don’t understand them and I understand completely.”

   “Weil was born in New York City, and was raised in a Conservative Jewish family,” according to Wikipedia.  “Her father was Morris Weil, a furniture store owner and the son of Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants, and her mother was Dorothy Mendez, who grew up in a Sephardic Jewish family in Brooklyn.  

   “Weil trained as an actress and dancer, but soon demonstrated a songwriting ability that led to her collaboration with Mann, whom she married in August 1961  She and her husband went on to create songs for many contemporary artists, winning several Grammy Awards as well as Academy Award nominations for their compositions for film.”

    As their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame biography put it, in part: “Mann and Weil’s… [works went from] epic ballads (‘On Broadway‘, ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’‘) to outright rockers (‘Kicks‘, ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place‘) [and they also] placed an emphasis on meaningful lyrics in their songwriting.

   In 1987 Weil and Mann were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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