Monday, March 28, 2005

You Know It's a Tough Business When...

I met the songwriter Jimmy Webb ("Wichita Lineman", "Up Up and Away", "By The Time I Get To Phoenix") back in the '90s in Nashville during one of the Tin Pan South events held by the NSAI. That was back in the days of Executive Director Pat Rogers (now at SESAC). Those really were the good old days when every Tin Pan South week would begin with a Songwriting Legends Concert. And not just country songwriters either. I remember seeing Charles Fox, Cy Coleman, Marilyn and Alan Bergman among other luminaries, sing and tell about their songs. Thrilling, just thrilling. But I digress...

It was a special Jimmy Webb concert, where he sat at a piano and played and talked and played and talked. I could have sat there listening forever. He was pushing his new book Tunesmith a combination anecdotal/how to songwriting book which I was more than happy to buy. We stood in line, waiting for a signature.

When it was my turn at bat, I screwed up enough courage to admit to Jimmy that actually I was working on writing a musical (Plane Crazy, of course!).

It was then that Jimmy said "Wow, that's a tough business". Boy, oh boy, when a songwriter tells you something is a tough business, it's TOUGH! He then said he had his own musical, Tuxedo, that was giving him problems.

Needless to say, I felt supercool at that moment, to be working in the same genre as one of my songwriting heros.

I always wondered what became of Jimmy's Tuxedo musical so the other day I googled it.

Turns out it was never produced (tough biz!). However Michael Feinstein has recorded a new CD "Only One Life -- The Songs of Jimmy Webb" on which is a song "These are All Mine" which is from the score of the unproduced Tuxedo!

Not only that but apparently Jimmy has written the music and lyrics to a new musical based on the movie A Bronx Tale. Feinstein recorded a doo-wop-flavored song from the show, Belmont Avenue. The show is being readied for a pre-Broadway tryout next fall. Fingers crossed!

I found Tunesmith on my shelf and flipped it open to the signature. It read "Suzy, the road to paradise is paradise". In this tough business, that is so true...


Interesting that that article doesn't list Webb's two other unproduced musicals, which are somewhat higher profile. The title song off Only One Life comes from an piece called The Children's Crusade, which Webb and librettist John Heilpern wrote under the aegis of Michael Bennett. A few years later, Bennett brought Webb on as the composer and lyricist for his legendary, lost Scandal.
Seems everyone has a musical or two in 'em!


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