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05 June 2023

Cynthia Weil, Legendary American Songwriter, Dies Aged 82

Cynthia Weil Dies 82
Cynthia Weil with Barry Mann - Photo: WENN Rights/Alamy Stock Photo
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Cynthia Weil, the prolific US songwriter behind You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling and countless other hits, has died aged 82, US media report. At the time of writing, no cause of death has been revealed.

Weil’s daughter, Jenn Mann, told TMZ that her mother died on Thursday night. In her statement, Mann described Weil as “the greatest mother, grandmother and wife our family could ever ask for”, Ms Mann said. “She was my best friend, confidant, and my partner in crime and an idol and trailblazer for women in music.”

The Grammy winning songwriter was renowned for a number of evergreen hit songs, including On Broadway, Make Your Own Kind of Music, Walking In The Rain and Uptown.

Cynthia Weil initially rose to prominence in the 1960s, when she co-wrote many hits with her husband Barry Mann, whom she was married to for 62 years.

The pair met while working at the Brill Building song factory in Manhattan and formed a writing partnership. It was around this time that they collaborated on several records with producer Phil Spector, who would gain notoriety decades later for the murder of Lana Clarkson in 2003.

Despite the building’s name, however, most of the work was done a couple of blocks uptown at 1650 Broadway, where the songwriters worked in cubicles and cranked out hit after hit after hit, creating a canon of timeless, classic songs that were matched only by the anonymity of their writers, although a few, such as Diamond, King and Sedaka, would later find success as artists — Mann and Weil are actually characters in the King-inspired Broadway musical, Beautiful.

Weil and Mann eventually became two of the most popular songwriters of their era. They were invited into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

The pair worked with some of the most popular artists in the US, including Carole King, Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond and The Monkees.

In addition to writing with Mann, Weil also co-wrote hits with Lionel Richie (Running With The Night and Love Will Conquer All,) Peabo Bryson (If Ever You’re In My Arms Again) and the Pointer Sisters’ 1980 smash He’s So Shy.

The enduring quality of Weil’s work is exemplified by the fact that Make Your Own Kind of Music, her and Mann’s song of self-empowerment that was a hit for Cass Elliott in 1969, is prominent in the trailer for the forthcoming Margot Robbie-starring Barbie film, and was also recently used in Mrs. America and Hacks.

Born in 1940, Cynthia Weil trained as an actress, singer and dancer, but her songwriting talent shone through and she became a protégé of Tin Pan Alley songwriter Frank Loesser. One day, she recalled to the Los Angeles Times, “I was writing with a young Italian boy singer, the Frankie Avalon of his day, named Teddy Randazzo, when Barry came in to play him a song. I asked the receptionist, ‘Who is this guy? Does he have a girlfriend?’ She said, ‘He’s signed to a friend of mine, [publisher] Don Kirshner, and if I call Donny, maybe you can go up there to show him your lyrics and meet Barry again.’ So that’s what she did. And that’s what I did. He didn’t have a chance.”

The two actually did not begin collaborating until they had been dating for a few weeks. “At a certain point, I got very curious about her lyrics,” Mann recalled. “I really liked them. I felt they had a sophistication and a soulfulness that was a great combination, and I felt that there was a place for this kind of lyric in the pop culture that was happening, and so we started writing. And we had hits right away.”

The duo’s first hit hit, Bless You, with singer Tony Orlando — later of Tony Orlando & Dawn fame — came in 1961 (also the year they got married). Yet the following year the pair recorded a song with the Crystals that helped set the tone for many future Brill Building songs that addressed inner-city, social issues, rare for the time: Uptown, about a young man who goes to work downtown “where everyone’s his boss and he’s in an angry land.”

Later in her career, Weil worked as a novelist — beginning with I’m Glad I Did, a mystery set in 1963 — and in 2004, she and Mann launched the jukebox musical based on their songs, They Wrote That?, in which he sang their hits and she told the stories behind them.

Speaking in tribute, Songwriters Hall of Fame CEO Linda Moran: “At a time when there were relatively few major female songwriters — and even those who were working often were not sufficiently acknowledged in the credits or financially — Cynthia Weil played a major role in paving the way for future generations of women to not only be creative, but to claim the credit due to them.

“Cynthia and Barry were more than worthy recipients of our most esteemed honour, the Johnny Mercer Award,” she continued. “But to be extolled by their daughter not only as an iconic songwriter but the best wife, mother and grandmother, is the greatest eulogy one could ask for. Cynthia would like that, I think.”

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