York Times, September 30, 2000
Carl Sigman, 91, Songsmith Who Made Generations Hum
Sigman, who wrote music or words for dozens of songs to which generations
have tapped their toes, including the theme song to the 1950s
"Robin Hood" television series ("Robin Hood, Robin Hood,
Riding through the glen") died at his home in Manhasset, N.Y.,
on Tuesday. He was 91.
__"Enjoy yourself, its later
than you think," the answering machine at his home chirped yesterday,
reprising in timely fashion the lyrics to a tune he wrote in 1950 to
accompany words written by Herb Magidson.
__It became one of Guy Lombardos
most popular recordings. "Crazy, He Call Me," a 1949 tune
for which Bob Russell wrote the lyrics, became a Billie Holiday standard.
__More often, though, the trim and witty
songwriter wrote the words to songs that include Duke Ellingtons
"All Too Soon" in 1940 and "What Now My Love," for
which he wrote English lyrics in 1966 to a French song written four
years earlier. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Sonny and Cher and
Mitch Ryder sang his version.
__He wrote the words to "Ebb Tide,"
a song originally composed as an instrumental by the harpist Robert
Maxwell; Vic Damone, the Platters and the Righteous Brothers, among
others, recorded it.
__In some ways his most peculiar lyrics
were written to "A Melody in A Major," a flute piece composed
by Charles G. Dawes before he became vice president in the administration
of Calvin Coolidge. For six weeks of 1958, it topped the charts as the
Tommy Edwards rocknroll hit, retitled "Its All
in the Game."
__In 1947 he and Bob Hillard collaborated
on the words and music of "Civilization (Bongo, Bongo)," for
the musical "Angel in the Wings." It was later sung by Danny
Kaye, the Andrews Sisters and Louis Prima, among others.
__Mr.Sigmans last big hit "Where
Do I Begin?," the theme song for the 1970 movie "Love Story,"
illustrated his conviction that the best songs reflected natural conversational
language. The producer had hated his first version, and in his frustration,
the lyricist muttered to his wife the words that became the songs
__The title, Mr. Sigman always said was
the hardest part.
__Mr. Sigman prowled Tin Pan Alley, as
New Yorks song-publishing district has been known since Hamptons
Broadway magazine first used the phrase in 1908. He worked in the Brill
Building, the industrys epicenter, and met his wife, Terry, there,
when he dropped in to see how Mr. Prima was doing in recording his "Civilization".
__She was Mr. Primas assistant.
rise of rock and then rap, the demand for Mr. Sigmans sophisticated
brand of elegant word play and lilting language, the hallmarks of Tin
Pan Alley at its best, seemed to subside, at least from his perspective.
__"I became totally out of it,"
he said in an interview with Newsday last year. "The sentimental
song became a rarity rather than a common occurrence."
But he was hardly forgotten, as he demonstrated by a Billboard article
in 1997 that mentioned how widespread his music still was. Woody Allen
had just used "Enjoy Yourself" in his movie "Everyone
Says I Love You," and Tony Bennett had recorded "Crazy, He
Calls Me" in an album saluting Billie Holiday.
__Billboard reported that Natalie Cole
had just recorded his "If You Can See Me Now," And the group
Deep Purple had featured the Robin Hood theme.
__Mr. Sigmans son Michael, who lives
in Los Angeles, noted that a Mercedes commercial shown during the current
Olympics used "Enjoy Yourself." He also said that many bands
in Eastern Europe have for reasons he does not begin to fathom, made
"Buona Sera," a song published in 1947, a regular part of
__Carl Sigman was born on Sept. 24, 1909,
in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. His father owned a shoe store.
His mother gave Carl the ultimatum to become either a doctor or lawyer,
and he chose law, because, at least according to family lore, the sight
of blood upset him.
__He graduated from New York University
Law School and was admitted to the bar, but never practiced. He had
studied classical piano for nine years, and was fascinated with music.
He became acquainted with Johnny Mercer, the lyricist, vocalist and
composer who, with his wife Ginger, shared many kreplach and soup dinners
at the Sigmans house. Mr. Mercer became his mentor.
1942 Mr. Sigman was drafted into the Army and served in Europe in the
crew of a glider. He was awarded a Bronze Star for heroism, but would
never discuss his combat experiences, his son said. He also wrote what
became the 82nd Air borne Divisions official song. "The All
American Soldier," receiving a $25 war bond for the achievement.
In addition to his wife and son Michael he is survived by two other
sons, Jeffrey, of Carmel, Ind. and Randy, of Hartford, Conn., and a
__One of Mr. Sigmans best-known legacies
is a phone number. In 1938 he wrote "Pennsylvania 6-5000,"
in tribute to the Hotel Pennsylvania, where the Dorsey Brothers, Benny
Goodman and Artie Shaw regularly performed. The Glenn Miller Orchestra
recorded the number.
Yesterday, if you dialed PE6-5000, you still got the hotel.
New York Times