MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, a show of vocal jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
This week on the show, we’re paying tribute to arguably the most important husband-and-wife songwriting team in American Popular Music history: Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Marilyn Bergman just passed away at 93 on January 8th of this year. They began writing songs together around the time they married in 1958, and had a songwriting career that continued for many decades, earning the pair several Grammys and three Academy Awards. This hour, I’ll feature many of their songs, like “The Windmills Of Your Mind,” “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life,” and others, sung by jazz and pop greats like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and more.
It’s How Do You Keep the Music Playing?: The Songs Of The Bergmans, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - SHIRLEY HORN, “WHERE DO YOU START”
Shirley Horn in 1992 with the song “Where Do You Start,” written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, with music by Johnny Mandel. That comes from Horn’s album Here’s To Life, arranged by Mandel. That song by Mandel and the Bergman’s was introduced by Michael Feinstein in 1988 on his album titled Isn’t It Romantic, and has since become one of their standards.
MUSIC CLIP - MICHEL LEGRAND, “HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MUSIC PLAYING?”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re exploring the songs of the husband and wife team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, a songwriting pair that found success in the business for more than 40 years. Marilyn Bergman passed away at age 93 on January 8th.
Both Alan and Marilyn Bergman were born in Brooklyn, New York in the late 1920s, both from Jewish families who both happened to work in the clothing industry. However, the two didn’t meet until the late 1950s, when they were each trying to make it in the entertainment industry out in Los Angeles.
Alan was an aspiring songwriter, who had been encouraged by lyricist Johnny Mercer. Marilyn (who was Marilyn Keith at the time) had been encouraged to do the same by lyricist Bob Russell. In the late 1950s, they had each written lyrics to songs with composer Lew Spence, who ended up introducing the two. By 1958, Alan and Marilyn were married, and their joint songwriting career and lyricists began.
Before we get to that, let’s hear a song from each of them as single people, each with music by Lew Spence. First up, here is a song by Lew Spence and Marilyn Keith, sung by Nina Simone in 1959. This is “That’s Him Over There,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - NINA SIMONE, “THAT’S HIM OVER THERE”
MUSIC - SETH MACFARLANE, “THAT FACE”
Two songs with remarkably similar themes—faces, and falling in love. Just now, Joe Williams in 1965 with the Lew Spence and Alan Bergman song “That Face.” That song was originally written in 1957 for singer Fred Astaire. Before that, Nina Simone in 1959 with “That’s Him Over There,” by Lew Spence and Marilyn Keith. That song was originally written in 1954 for singer Peggy Lee.
In 1958, lyricists Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman were married, and soon their career as joint lyricists began to take off. One of their first big hit songs that they wrote together came again with composer Lew Spence, the title track of the 1960 album Nice ‘N’ Easy by Frank Sinatra. It was the only swinging tune on an album of all ballads, and even hit the Billboard charts as a single.
Here is Frank Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle in 1960 with one of Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s first songs together, “Nice ‘N’ Easy,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “NICE ‘N’ EASY”
MUSIC - FRANK SINATRA, “SENTIMENTAL BABY”
Two songs by Alan and Marilyn Bergman with composer Lew Spence, both recorded by Frank Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle in 1960. Just now, we heard “Sentimental Baby,” recorded in September 1960 and originally released on the 1962 Capitol album Sinatra Sings Of Love and Things. And before that, a song recorded just a few months earlier, the tune “Nice ‘N’ Easy,” from the album of the same name.
Alan and Marilyn Bergman continued to work with composer Lew Spence for a few years, writing songs like “Sleep Warm” for Frank Sinatra, “I Never Left Your Arms” for Dinah Shore, and “The Marriage-Go-Round” for Tony Bennett. In 1964, they had an unsuccessful venture to the Broadway stage with composer Sammy Fain, a show called Something More.
As the 1960s wore on, and music culture started shifting towards rock music and the British Invasion, the husband-and-wife team found their more traditional songwriting style was becoming less mainstream. But they did forge a path for themselves, keeping some of the musical traditions of the Great American Songbook alive by turning their attention towards film songs, particularly title songs for films. It was in this medium that the duo truly shined. Let’s hear one of their first title songs now, a tune that they co-wrote with composer Quincy Jones in 1967, which became a hit for Ray Charles.
From one of the groundbreaking films of the 1960s, starring the late, great actor Sidney Poitier, this is Ray Charles in 1967 with the title song to In The Heat Of The Night, on Afterglow.
MUSIC - RAY CHARLES, “IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT”
Ray Charles in 1967 with the song “In The Heat Of The Night,” the title track of the 1967 film of the same name, starring Sidney Poitier. That song was written by Quincy Jones, lyrics by the songwriting duo of Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
The Bergmans quickly became the in-demand theme song composers in Hollywood. For at least the next decade, an Alan and Marilyn Bergman song was attached to a major motion picture, often hitting the pop charts, and earning the songwriting duo accolades in the process.
One of their best came the following year in 1968, when they were tasked with writing the theme to the new film The Thomas Crown Affair. Here, they teamed up with French composer Michel Legrand, who once said of the Bergmans, quote, “Their words say exactly what my music says—always.” (end quote)
On this song, titled “The Windmills Of Your Mind,” the Bergmans paint an evocative picture of a spiral, a wheel, an ever-spinning wheel, as Legrand’s melody tumbles around in a circle. The tune was originally performed by Noel Harrison and later popularized by Dusty Springfield, later earning the songwriting team an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Let’s hear a later version by jazz singer, and fellow film song composer, Tierney Sutton. From her 2019 album called ScreenPlay, this is the Tierney Sutton Band with the song “The Windmills Of Your Mind,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - TIERNEY SUTTON, “THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND”
The Tierney Sutton Band in 2019 with “The Windmills of Your Mind,” by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
MUSIC CLIP - MICHEL LEGRAND, “THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND”
We’ll have more music written by the Bergmans coming up in just a bit. Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - MILT JACKSON, “THE SUMMER KNOWS”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring the songs of the husband and wife team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman this hour. Marilyn Bergman recently passed away at age 93. And what you’re hearing right now, of course, is one of their most famous songs, “The Way We Were,” sung by Barbra Streisand, with music by Marvin Hamlish.
MUSIC CLIP - BARBRA STREISAND, “THE WAY WE WERE”
“The Way We Were” is a classic tune, and celebrated one too. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1975, which made megastars out of both Streisand and Hamlish. However, instead of shining yet another spotlight onto what’s once been called “one of the most recognizable songs in the world,” I thought I would spend some time focusing on other songs written by that inimitable songwriting pair, the Bergmans—and maybe some versions you haven’t heard.
Let’s turn again to some work they did with French songwriter Michel Legrand, arguably their most fruitful partnership. This next song was another film song, written for the 1969 film The Happy Ending. The song was first recorded by Michael Dees on the film soundtrack, but has since become a standard sung by Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Anita O’Day, Mel Torme, and dozens of others. Let’s hear a great recording from jazz singer Carmen McRae, recorded live in 1972 with guitarist Joe Pass.
This is Carmen McRae with the Michel Legrand, Alan Bergman, and Marilyn Bergman song “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - CARMEN MCRAE, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE”
MUSIC - MEL TORME, “PIECES OF DREAMS”
Two live recordings of songs written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, with music by Michel Legrand. Just now, Mel Tormé from his 1982 album Encore At Marty’s with the song “Pieces Of Dreams,” originally from the 1971 film of the same name. Before that, Carmen McRae in 1972 with “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life,” originally from the 1969 film The Happy Ending.
Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s songs, particularly their film songs, have been performed by some of the most acclaimed American singers—Barbara Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, the list goes on. But my personal favorite interpreter of their music is the great Tony Bennett. I think his voice and style really lends itself to the Bergmans’ lyrics, plus Bennett has always had impeccable taste for accompaniment, whether it’s his regular pianist Ralph Sharon or the marvelous Bill Evans. Here’s a song by the Bergmans that he recorded with Evans in 1977.
The song is “You Must Believe In Spring,” another film song from the 1967 French film Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. Michel Legrand wrote the music again, with original French lyrics by the film’s director Jacques Demy. The Bergmans wrote the English lyrics to the song about five years later.
Here is Tony Bennett and Bill Evans in 1977 with the tune “You Must Believe In Spring,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - TONY BENNETT AND BILL EVANS, “YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING”
MUSIC - TONY BENNETT, “THE PLAYGROUND”
Tony Bennett in 1998 with the song “The Playground,” off of his children’s album of the same name. The music there was written by pianist, and occasional Bennett duet partner, Bill Evans in 1970 under the title “Children’s Play Song,” the final track on his album called From Left To Right. The lyrics, commissioned especially for Bennett’s album, were by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Before that, we heard Tony Bennett and Bill Evans in 1977 from their album called Together Again performing another song with lyrics by the Bergmans, the tune “You Must Believe In Spring,” music by Michel Legrand. Evans recorded that same song as a solo artist that same year.
Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote the lyrics to dozens of songs over the course of their storied and decades-long career, many of which I had to leave on the cutting room floor for the sake of time. Some notable omissions include “So Many Stars,” written with Sergio Mendes, or “The Summer Knows,” written with Michel Legrand for the film Summer of ‘42.
But to close off this hour, our tribute to the late Marilyn Bergman I want to play a song that, in many ways, seems to be autobiographical for their particular story. It’s a song about art and love, creativity and longevity, and keeping that spark of passion (be it music or a relationship) alive, year after year. To put it in their own words: “How do you make it last? How do you keep the song from fading too fast?”
To pose that question for us, here again is Tony Bennett in 1986 with the Alan and Marilyn Bergman song “How Do You Keep The Music Playing,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - TONY BENNETT, “HOW DO YOU KEEP THE MUSIC PLAYING”
Tony Bennett with “How Do You Keep The Music Playing,” music by Michel Legrand, and lyrics by the husband and wife duo of Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Marilyn Bergman passed away earlier this month at age 93.
And thanks for tuning in to this tribute to the Bergmans, on Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - BILL EVANS, “YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING”
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.