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__After four fitful days of writing and discarding lyric ideas (all the while trying to stave off the pushy music publisher calling incessantly to check on his progress), Carl walked away from the song. “I decided to just take a rest, go to a movie and start thinking about it again the next day.”
__When he opened the paper to check the day’s listings, his eye was immediately captured by an ad for From Here To Eternity, the film that jump-started Frank Sinatra’s flagging career. But the image in the ad was not of the Chairman of the Board, but of the famous scene in which Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr are locked in an embrace on the beach as the tide washes over them.
__Carl never made it to the theater, but he had finally found the key to “Ebb Tide.” And it “seemed so natural and simple that I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t thought of it before.” The lyrics suddenly poured out “with scarcely a moment of reflection.”
__Carl Sigman was doubtless not the first songwriter in history to write a popular song that lacked a chorus or even the mention of the title in its lyrics (and Roy Orbison would employ that approach to considerable success in the ‘60s), but “Ebb Tide” shares both distinctions. Likening the meeting of two lovers to the flow of the tide, Carl went places he hadn’t gone before as a writer, finding drama, overpowering emotion, tenderness, and gripping poetry in the scene he had set, beginning with the first indelible image: “First the tide rushes in/plants a kiss on the shore/then rolls out to sea/and the sea is very still once more,” sung to a melody that first rises gently and subsides, then, as the song and story progress, swells and explodes in a rush of primal energy before subsiding again in a moment of tenderness and calm. In a lesson more than a few contemporary songwriters ought to heed, Carl found a way to describe that most elemental of human drives and desires — sex — in mesmerizing, poetic terms all the more erotic for being suggested rather than explicitly described. >

Carl (back row, center, with head on Sammy Cahn’s shoulder) with other charter inductees in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1972.

Cartoon from The N.Y. Post, 1948.
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