I was so sorry to read on Mark Evanier's website that the wonderful Ray Jessel passed away a few weeks ago, on July 17, at the age of 85. I met him several times and always enjoyed the occasion. He came across as a good guy and was very funny.
People here might recall that I've posted several of his songs, like this hilarious tribute to Shirley Temple. As I wrote at that time --
"Ray Jessel had a long, successful career writing in television, on series that included The Bob Newhart Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Love Boat and more. He also had success on Broadway, co-writing the score of Baker Street, a musical about Sherlock Holmes that even produced a moderate hit, 'A Married Man', recorded by RIchard Burton, no less, more spoken than sung. (It was performed in the show by Dr. Watson). And he wrote some of the lyrics for I Remember Mama that had music by Richard Rodgers.
"But later in his life, he's reinvented himself as a cabaret performer, singing his own songs in a wonderfully entertaining act. Some of the songs are quite tender, but the centerpiece is the comedy numbers with sharp, witty, impressively clever lyrics that are truly funny, with thoroughly enjoyable melodies."
[Note: I also posted a recording of Jessel himself singing his hit song, "A Married Man," here and doing it wonderfully, and with great tenderness]
It turns out that only last year, Ray appeared on America's Got Talent -- and rightly so blew the judges and audience (and host) away. They were likely expecting a doddering old man and got an impish elf. What they also didn't realize that this was a talented craftsman who had written two Broadway musicals, including one with Richard Rodgers.
Here's that appearance --
Because I liked Ray so much and his work, I'm going to post a bunch of songs from his terrific CD, The First Seventy Years, which you can buy here. Most of them are wildly funny, but he also has some wonderful ballads, from work-in-progress musicals. Plus, I've come across a few videos of him in performance, so I'll try to get to those.
So, just know that you'll be getting a bunch of Ray Jessel in the coming days. And I think you'll feel the same as I do that it's not enough.
For instance, as you might have notice from the image above, Ray bears a striking similarity to a famous physicist, known for the Theory of Relativity. And so, he wrote an extremely clever song with exceedingly witty rhymes about Albert Einstein's view of his fellow competition, a song called, "I'm a Genius."
And don't forget to check out the links to the two songs above, about Shirley Temple and "A Married Man."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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