The Brilliance of Brill … Weil/Mann

[Silverback Digest is on cruise control this week, as we look at some of the songwriting teams who created so many of the memorable tunes of our formative years. Each day we will focus on a different songwriting team whose share the connection of working in the same building. Sit back and flash back. SB SM]

Even though it’s about breaking up, we’ve all made out to this song.

(from Wikipedia: Many significant American and international publishing companies, music agencies, and record labels were based in New York, and although these ventures were naturally spread across many locations, the Brill Building was regarded as probably the most prestigious address in New York for music business professionals.

By 1962, the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses.[5] A musician could find a publisher and printer, cut a demo, promote the record and cut a deal with radio promoters, all within this one building. The creative culture of the independent music companies in the Brill Building and the nearby 1650 Broadway came to define the influential “Brill Building Sound” and the style of popular songwriting and recording created by its writers and producers.

 In the Brill Building practice, there were no more unpredictable or rebellious singers; in fact, a specific singer in most cases could be easily replaced with another. These songs were written to order by pros who could custom fit the music and lyrics to the targeted teen audience. In a number of important ways, the Brill Building approach was a return to the way business had been done in the years before rock and roll, since it returned power to the publishers and record labels and made the performing artists themselves much less central to the music’s production.)

Probably not what Cynthia & Barry envisioned when they first gave this song to The Drifters.

Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann

Weil was born in New York City on October 18, 1940. She grew up on the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side of Manhattan in a Conservative Jewish family.[3][4][5] 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.[4] Weil trained as an actress and dancer, studying theater at Sarah Lawrence College, but soon demonstrated a songwriting ability that led to her collaboration with Barry Mann, whom she married in August 1961.[3][6] The couple had one daughter, Jenn Mann.

Barry Mann was born as Barry Iberman on February 9, 1939– sharing the same birthday as SB SM!  Mann chose to channel his creativity into songwriting, forming a prolific partnership with Weil,[5] a lyricist he met while both were staff songwriters at Don Kirshner and Al Nevin’s company Aldon Music, whose offices were located in Manhattan, near the composing-and-publishing factory the Brill Building. Mann and Weil, who married in 1961,[5] developed some songs intended to be socially conscious, with successes such as “Uptown” by The Crystals, “We Gotta Get out of This Place” by the Animals, “Magic Town” by The Vogues, and “Kicks” by Paul Revere & the Raiders.[5] Mann and Weil were disturbed when “Only In America”, a song they had written with the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and conceived originally for and recorded by the Drifters as a protest against racial prejudice, was re-worked by Leiber and Stoller into an uncontroversial success for Jay & The Americans.

Here’s a truncated version performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. Weil & Mann were among the few songwriting teams who survived the British Invasion.
Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann always tried to incorporate a social message in their songs. Somehow the message got lost amidst the silliness of Paul Revere and the Raiders.
Intended as a protest song for a black group, this sanitized version became a hit for Jay and the Americans. U-S-A! U-S-A!!

2 thoughts on “The Brilliance of Brill … Weil/Mann

  1. They also wrote You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ sung by the Righteous Brothers pictured above. Great song!!

    1. Did you watch the AC/DC video of the guitar solo on their cover of On Broadway? One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in rock and roll.

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