Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
This week on the program, we pay tribute to composer Johnny Mandel, the man behind some of the most well-known film songs from the 20th century. [Mandel passed away last month at age 94.] Johnny Mandel was more than a composer: he was also a notable brass player and arranger who found his voice towards the end of the big band era, writing for Artie Shaw, Woody Herman and more. His best work came, though, in the 1960s, when he wrote award-winning film songs like “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Emily,” and “Suicide Is Painless,” (aka the theme from M*A*S*H). On this episode, we’ll hear Mandel’s work sung by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Shirley Horn and more.
It’s A Time For Love: The Music of Johnny Mandel, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - Tony Bennett, "Close Enough for Love"
Tony Bennett, with the Johnny Mandel song “Close Enough For Love.” That comes from Bennett’s 2004 album The Art Of Romance, which was also arranged by Mandel. Songwriter Paul Williams, the man behind songs like The Carpenter’s “We’ve Only Just Begun” and The Muppets’ “Rainbow Connection,” wrote the lyrics to that tune for the 1979 Agatha, starring Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave.
MUSIC CLIP - Bill Evans, “Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)” (con't)
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re saluting the late composer and arranger Johnny Mandel. What you’re hearing in the background right now is one of Mandel’s most memorable melodies, the song “Suicide Is Painless” from the 1970 Robert Altman film M*A*S*H*...
MUSIC CLIP - Bill Evans, “Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)” (con't)
This is Bill Evans performing in 1981. The plaintive melody was reused as the theme to the television show as well, a testament to Mandel’s skill as a melodist.
Johnny Mandel got his start in the world of jazz, writing and arranging for a number of musicians, including Count Basie, Chet Baker, and Stan Getz. But he made his transition into the world of film in 1958, when he composed a moody, hip jazz-based score to the Robert Wise film I Want To Live, featuring performances from Gerry Mulligan and his jazz combo.
The success of I Want To Live established Mandel as a film composer, a title that he held proudly throughout the 1960s, leading to the theme to M*A*S*H in the 1970s...
Unfortunately, the lyrics to “Suicide Is Painless” are a bit silly—and purposefully so! According to Mandel, director Robert Altman wanted the song to be, quote, “[the] stupidest song ever written.” Altman even asked his 14-year-old son to write the lyrics. So while you might be humming along to that tuneful Mandel melody in your head right now, those lyrics are a main reason why we don’t have many good vocal versions of that tune.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other Johnny Mandel songs with excellent vocal versions that I’d like to feature in this Mandel tribute.
I’ll start with the first pop song that Mandel ever tried to write, the 1964 song “Emily,” written for the James Garner and Julie Andrews film The Americanization of Emily. Mandel was brought on to write the musical theme, but the studio wanted some words. They gave Mandel his choice of lyricists to work with, so naturally, he went with the best: Mr. Johnny Mercer. Mercer crafted a beautiful lyric, and got creative trying to find near rhymes for the title character’s name, like “family” and “dreamily.” The song became a hit, performed by Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Bill Evans, and more.
Here is Frank Sinatra that same year, 1964, from the album Softly, As I Leave You, with the Mandel and Mercer song “Emily,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - Frank Sinatra, “Emily”
Frank Sinatra in 1964 with the song “Emily,” by the “Johnnys” Mandel and Mercer. That was written for the 1964 film The Americanization of Emily/
Having proved himself as a reliable film song composer with “Emily,” Johnny Mandel was asked to write the love theme for the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor film The Sandpiper the following year. This time, instead of Johnny Mercer, Paul Francis Webster wrote the lyrics to the theme. There’s actually an interesting story about why Mercer didn’t write the lyrics to this tune, and I’ll get to that a little later.
The song was called “The Shadow Of Your Smile” and it became proof of Mandel’s gifts as a songwriter. “The Shadow of Your Smile” not only won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1965, but it also won the Grammy for Song of The Year the following year, beating out such gems as Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn’s “The September of My Years” and John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.”
The singer who made the song famous was Tony Bennett, who became the most notable interpreter of Mandel’s songs. Bennett once called Mandel, quote, “one of the great masters in American popular music.” Let’s hear his version now.
This is Tony Bennett in 1965 with the Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster song “The Shadow of Your Smile,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - Tony Bennett, “The Shadow of Your Smile”
MUSIC - Tony Bennett, “A Time For Love”
Two Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster film songs performed by Tony Bennett. Just now, we heard “A Time For Love,” from the 1966 film An American Dream. Before that, we heard the award-winning song “The Shadow of Your Smile,” from the 1965 film The Sandpiper. That song was also arranged by Johnny Mandel. We’ll hear more from Tony Bennett a little later in the hour.
Before Johnny Mandel became an Academy-Award winning film composer in the 1960s, he was a skilled trombone player, arranger, conductor, and jazz composer. For instance, he became known for his jazz compositions like “Not Really The Blues” for Woody Herman’s Orchestra, and “Pernod” for Stan Getz in the 1950s…
MUSIC CLIP - Stan Getz, “Pernod”
And he also served as the arranger on a number of icon vocal jazz and pop albums, including Frank Sinatra’s Ring-A-Ding Ding in 1960…
MUSIC CLIP - Frank Sinatra, “Ring A Ding Ding”
... all the way to Natalie Cole’s Grammy-award winning album Unforgettable… With Love from 1991...
MUSIC CLIP - Natalie Cole, “Unforgettable”
That particular arrangement was especially tricky because Mandel had to incorporate elements of the Nelson Riddle arrangement from Nat King Cole’s original 1951 recording in order to get Nat and Natalie’s voices to work together.
But, I want to feature another album that Mandel arranged, because it relates back in an interesting way to the song we just heard “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
Johnny Mandel was the arranger of the 1956 Hoagy Carmichael album Hoagy Sings Carmichael, a really fantastic album featuring the veteran songwriter performing some of his own well-known tunes. One of those songs was the Hoagy Carmichael song “New Orleans.” I mentioned earlier how Johnny Mercer declined to write the lyrics to Mandel’s “The Shadow of Your Smile.” The reason Mercer did that was because he noticed the first six notes of “The Shadow Of Your Smile” were identical to the first six notes of Carmichael’s “New Orleans.” Mercer and Carmichael were old friends and former collaborators, so Mercer felt uncomfortable writing lyrics to a new song that he felt was too similar to his friend’s older song.
Whether Johnny Mandel intentionally lifted that melodic phrase from Carmichael can’t be said for certain. But given the fact that Mandel arranged “New Orleans” for Carmichael to perform a decade before he wrote “The Shadow of Your Smile,” it seems that we have a case of, at the very least, subliminal inspiration.
For what it’s worth, years later Johnny Mercer told Hoagy Carmichael the story of why he didn’t write the lyrics to “The Shadow of Your Smile,” saying that it had the same opening melody as “New Orleans.” And Hoagy replied, quote, “they do? I never noticed.”
Here’s that song now. This is Hoagy Carmichael in 1956 performing his original tune “New Orleans,” as arranged by Johnny Mandel, on Afterglow.
MUSIC - Hoagy Carmichael, “New Orleans”
Hoagy Carmichael from his 1956 album Hoagy Sings Carmichael, performing his original song “New Orleans.” That album was arranged by our man of the hour Johnny Mandel.
By the mid 1960s, Johnny Mandel was considered to be among the most respected people in the music business, beloved for both his arranging and composing skills. He had many famous friends, including singer and lyricist Peggy Lee. In 1965, Mandel was tasked with writing the music to the comedy film The Russians Are Coming, and he asked his friend Lee to write the lyrics to the love theme. She painted for him a word picture that included two lovers embracing on a beach. Mandel was amazed because he wrote this particular music for a scene almost exactly like that in the film, and he had never told Peggy Lee about it. Lee chalked it up to her supposed “spiritual powers.”
Here’s that song now. This is Peggy Lee in 1966 with the song she wrote with Johnny Mandel, “The Shining Sea,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - PEGGY LEE, “THE SHINING SEA”
From the 1966 film The Russians Are Coming, that was Peggy Lee with “The Shining Sea,” a song she wrote with Johnny Mandel. Fun fact, the line in the song “his hands, his strong brown hands” was likely a subtle reference to Quincy Jones, whom Lee was romantically attached to around this time.
MUSIC CLIP - STAN GETZ, "EMILY"
Coming up after a short break, we’ll hear more from composer and arranger Johnny Mandel, including songs sung by Tony Bennett, Shirley Horn, and more. Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - AHMAD JAMAL, "SUICIDE IS PAINLESS"
MUSIC CLIP - ARTIE SHAW, “KRAZY KAT”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring the music of the late Johnny Mandel this hour, a composer and arranger who had a career that stretched for well over 50 years.
For instance, what you’re hearing in the background right now is one of Mandel’s earliest recordings. It’s a 1950 recording of Artie Shaw’s big band performing “Krazy Kat,” a impressively difficult bebop head written and arranged by a 24-year-old Johnny Mandel….
MUSIC CLIP - ARTIE SHAW, “KRAZY KAT” (con't)
...And now here’s something from 54 years later, two songs written and arranged by a 78-year-old Johnny Mandel. It comes from the Tony Bennett album The Art of Romance. Bennett and Mandel’s relationship was already 40 years old by this point. Remember, Bennett recorded one of Mandel’s first big hits, the song “The Shadow of Your Smile,” winning a Grammy Award that year. On this album, which also won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Album, he recorded a number of Johnny Mandel originals, including these next two songs.
The first was a song that did not come from a film, featuring lyrics by the husband and wife songwriting team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Mandel came to them with a melody, and they wrote the lyrics, which Mandel described as, quote, “the best lyric about two people breaking up I’ve ever heard.”
This is Tony Bennett with “Where Do You Start,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - TONY BENNETT, “WHERE DO YOU START”
MUSIC - TONY BENNETT, “LITTLE DID I DREAM”
Two songs by composer Johnny Mandel, off of the 2004 Tony Bennett album The Art of Romance. Just now, we heard “Little Did I Dream,” lyrics by Dave Frishberg, and before that “Where Do You Start,” lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Mandel also did the arrangements for this album.
Jazz songwriter Dave Frishberg, of Schoolhouse Rock fame, was also a frequent Johnny Mandel collaborator over the years. Mandel once said of Frishberg, quote, “I don’t think there’s a better writer than Dave: he can write anything … capable of infinite compassion, tenderness, and sensitivity.” One of their most famous songs together was the tune “You Are There.” Mandel had been working on the melody for quite some time, handing it off to different lyricists, but it was only Frishberg who was able to mold it into its final form.
Let’s hear that song now, performed by Frishberg himself. I’ll follow this one up with another song with lyrics again by the Bergmans. First, this is Dave Frishberg and the song he wrote with Johnny Mandel, “You Are There,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - DAVE FRISHBERG, “YOU ARE THERE”
MUSIC - ABBEY LINCOLN, “SUMMER WISHES, WINTER DREAMS”
Another song by Johnny Mandel with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. That was singer Abbey Lincoln and saxophonist Stan Getz with “Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams.” Before that, one of my favorite Johnny Mandel songs, “You Are There,” performed by Dave Frishberg. That one was also performed by Dave Frishberg.
Johnny Mandel continued to arrange and compose well into the 21st century. In addition to his five Grammy awards, he’s also be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was named an NEA Jazz Master in 2011. Mandel passed away at age 94 at his home in California on June 29, 2020.
I’ll close off this tribute to Mandel with one of the last songs he composed. Mandel worked with singer Shirley Horn on two albums, 1992’s Here’s To Life, which featured a couple of his songs, including “A Time for Love” and “Where Do You Start,” and 2001’s You’re My Thrill, which featured this next song. The lyrics again are by his old friends Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
This is Shirley Horn in 2001 with the Johnny Mandel song “Solitary Moon,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - SHIRLEY HORN, “SOLITARY MOON”
Shirley Horn and arranger Johnny Mandel from the 2001 album You’re My Thrill, with the Johnny Mandel song “Solitary Moon,” lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
And thanks for tuning in to this tribute to the late Johnny Mandel, on Afterglow.MUSIC CLIP - MARIAN MCPARTLAND, "CLOSE ENOUGH FOR LOVE"
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow.