Sing a Song
Last night, I was invited to a songwriters charity event by my friend Mike Stoller, who was going to perform there. I've written about Mike here before, and beyond being a wonderful fellow he is quite simply a brilliant songwriter -- one of the greatest pop music songwriters in American history (and honestly that's not an exageration), but he rarely performs in public. So, even without an invitation, when Mike is going to perform...you go. Without hesitation.
As I said, that is not hyperbole about Mike. Why he and his longtime writing partner, the late Jerry Leiber, have never received the Kennedy Center Honor, is utterly beyond me. I've written several articles about that, and have yet to figure it out. More than perhaps any American songwriter other than Stephen Foster, they songs served as the proverbial "soundtrack of a generation." Among their many -- MANY -- songs that they wrote alone or collaborated with others are "Houndog," "On Broadway," "Is That All There Is," "On the Roof," "Spanish Harlem," "Love Potion No. 9," Kansas CIty," "Poison Ivy," "There Goes My Baby," "I'm a Woman (W-O-M-A-N)" "Ruby Baby," "Yakety-Yak," "Stand by Me," "Jailhouse Rock," "Searchin'" and on and on and on.
When he sat at the piano last night, he began by noting that there are two reasons he does not generally perform in public "One reason is that I can't sing. The other is that I can't play. And I'm going to try tonight to do both at the same time."
In fact, he plays fine (Mike was the composer half of the team) with richness and character, and he carries a tune well-enough to have made it all a total joy. Mike is really quite a treasure.
But I'm going to play a video from someone else there performing. There are plenty of videos of Mike's song, and they're easy to track down. But this is something you'd otherwise miss.
It's the songwriter Jeff Silbar, who along with Larry Henley wrote the big hit, "Wind Beneath My Wings." By the way, if you think that it was written for the film Beaches and origially performed by Bette Midler, it wasn't. It actually was written seven years before and had about a half-dozen other recordings beforehand. The first was sung by British artist Roger Whitaker.
I'm singling this out because his rendition was unlike others I've heard, and it was wonderful. Most versions soar on the melody. His was haulting and introspective, and I thought it gave the song such richness and meaning, making it very personal. He's a good singer, though not polished. But in some ways, that made it all the more touching.
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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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