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Former L.A. Weekly publisher Michael Sigman is celebrating his father Carl Sigman’s centennial by refocusing attention on the late Songwriter’s Hall of Fame inductee’s valuable song catalog.
Carl Sigman, who died in 2000, would have been 100 on Sept. 24. He wrote over 800 songs contributing the lyrics, music or both. These include such 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s standards as “It’s All In The Game,” “Ebb Tide,” “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story),” “What Now, My Love,” “Crazy He Calls Me,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000″ and “Arrivederci, Roma.”
Frank Sinatra recorded 16 Sigman tunes, with the legion of vocalists who also recorded Sigman classics including Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Joni Mitchell, The Four Tops, the Righteous Brothers and Willie Nelson.
Even Miss Piggy, The Cheetah Girls and The Pussycat Dolls have covered Sigman songs.
“I think my dad would be most amazed to find that some of the songs that would not be considered the cream of the crop are being kept alive in ways no one would have imagined,” says Michael Sigman, who is now a writer and media consultant in addition to promoting his father’s catalog in conjunction with music publishing company Music Sales Corporation. “Also, his ‘Great American Songbook’ songs keep coming back in all kinds of usual and unusual ways.”
Of Carl Sigman’s lesser known songs, Sigman points to “Robin Hood,” the theme song of the ‘50s British TV series that aired in the U.S.
“It was originally a hit for Dick James,” says Sigman. “Then I started talking about the song with Stanley Weiser, who was writing the screenplay for W.—whom I went to camp with when we were 10 years old! Somehow he got the song to [director] Oliver Stone and they used it several times in the movie: Every time Bush and his gang get together to do something warlike, they play the song like a battle cry.”
Another surprise Sigman catalog usage came with the release of Pussycat Dolls’ 2005 album PCD, which included “Right Now,” a song written by Sigman and Herbie Mann.
“Mel Torme recorded it, but nothing happened,” says Sigman. “Then lo and behold, it was on the Pussycat Dolls CD that sold five million copies worldwide—and became a commercial featuring the Dolls as NBA cheerleaders!”
Bigger Sigman songs, too, are finding new life. Jug band music legend Jim Kweskin has just recorded “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think),” which Sigman wrote with Herb Magidson and is still a New Year’s Eve favorite thanks to Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians’s 1949 recording. Michael Sigman notes that another seasonal standard, “It’s A Marshmallow World,” a Peter DeRose collaboration that was a 1951 hit for Bing Crosby and a famous 1963 recording by Darlene Love on the historic A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector Christmas album, was included on the 2005 Cheetah Girls Christmas disc. And opera star Renee Fleming, who sang “Answer Me” on her 2005 album Haunted Heart, performed the 1954 Nat “King” Cole hit (co-credited to Gerhard Winkler and Fred Rauch) last year on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle: Elvis Costello With… TV series.
“The point is the diversity and versatility of his songs,” says Michael Sigman, noting “Answer Me”’s various classical, jazz, jug band and traditional pop versions. He adds that “It’s All In The Game,” one of his father’s most famous songs (written to a melody by Calvin Coolidge’s vice president Charles Dawes, it was a massive No. 1 hit in 1958 for Tommy Edwards), has been recorded in every possible genre.
“I think of him as the utility player on the all-star team,” Sigman concludes. “Think about the greatest songwriters, like Gershwin. You hear a Gershwin song and you know it’s a Gershwin song. But you can’t say that about a Carl Sigman song, because they’re so diverse. And he saw himself as a craftsman rather than a great artist: He mostly wrote on assignment instead of being a great artist working in the middle of the night, making music out of his dreams. He was the go-to utility guy–and that’s how he thought of himself. He thought ‘Ebb Tide’ and ‘It’s All In The Game’ were inspirational works of art, but the rest was craft.”