L.A. Times, October 4, 2000
Carl Sigman; Wrote Lyrics for Many Well-Known Songs
MYRNA OLIVER Times Staff Writer
wrote the songs. Boy, did he write songs.
__And most people can warble a line or
two from several of them.
__He threw everything from a telephone
number to rejiggered French or Italian phrases into what he called "conversational
lyrics." And with that formula, he wrote himself an indelible legacy.
__Carl Sigman, the lawyer who hated the
law and tuned to writing lyrics and sometimes music for dozens of standards,
died Sept. 26 at his home in Manhasset, N.Y. He was 91.
__His songs are as old as 1940 and as new
as a commercial for the 2000 Summer Olympics- "Pennsylvania 6-5000,"
"What Now My Love," "Arrivederci, Roma," "Where
Do I Begin?," "Its All in the Game," "Enjoy
__"I was always listening, reading
or looking for everyday expressions," Sigman told Newsday in an
interview a year ago. "I strive to make conversational lyrics-thats
my strength like Did anyone call? or Ill
never forgive myself. "
__His first big hit was " Pennsylvania
6-5000" six decades ago- a tribute to New Yorks Hotel Pennsylvania
where Swing Era icons- the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman and Artie
Shaw-performed regularly. The Glenn Miller Orchestra recorded the song
and it became a classic, not only still recorded but used over and over
by Hollywood, from the 1945 film "The Glenn Miller Story"
to the 1999 "Any Given Sunday." The hotel still answers to
the phone number.
__Sigman took a common adage, "Enjoy
yourself, its later than you think" and turned that into
the popular song "Enjoy Yourself" in 1950. He also used the
phrase on his telephone answering machine. Woody Allen added the song
to the soundtrack of his 1996 motion picture "Everyone Says I Love
You," and viewers of the Olympics heard it again, accompanying
a Mercedes-Benz commercial over the last two weeks of September.
Brooklyn-born lyricist and composer often Americanized European melodies
or sentiments. Usually, he had to start from scratch on the words, he
said because "the accents and meter are different."
__But for the 1966 hit "What Now My
Love," he simply translated the French title, creating a catchy
phrase in English.
__His theme for "Love Story,"
the 1970 tear-jerker starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan ONeal, came
out of Sigmans frustration.
__"I wrote a lyric, made a demo for
the movie," he told Newsday three years ago. "Bob Evans, the
producer hated it. So I come and sit down with Terry (his wife) and
say, "I dont know how to rewrite this. Where do I begin?
And thats how I wrote it."
__His exquisite result pops up repeatedly,
not only in recordings, but also in movies, including the goofy 1989
musical comedy "Earth Girls Are Easy," starring Geena Davis
and Jeff Goldblum.
__Another Sigman song considered the perfect
addition to many a motion picture represents perhaps the lyricists
most unusual collaborative effort.
__"One day I got a call from Warner
Bros. Music, telling me that Dawes had just died and left this tune
to which he thought I should write a lyric," Sigman told Billboard
__Dawes was U.S. Vice President Charles
G. Dawes, who served with President Calvin Coolidge, and the tune was
a classical piece composed in 1912 called "A Melody in A Major."
__"After hearing it, I thought its
two-octave range made such an assignment difficult," Sigman said.
"We took a few high notes out, and I wrote the words."
__The resulting song was called "Its
All In The Game" which became a hit recording in 1951 and again
in 1958 for singer Tommy Edwards. On screen, it has re-surged in "Diner"
in 1982, "Losin It" in 1983 and "October Sky"
__Other Sigman songs that have sounded
as welcome to movie and concert goers as the old familiar phrases on
which the lyrics were based include "Ebb Tide," which he originally
wrote in 1953 to Robert Maxwells instrumental melody; "Bongo,
Bongo, Bongo (Civilization)," from Sigmans 1947 Broadway
musical "Angel in the Wings," and "Buona Sera,"
memorable in the movies "Big Night," and last years
"Mickey Blue Eyes."
__Television, too, loved Sigmans
work. When CBS brought "The Adventures of Robin Hood" to the
small screen from 1955 to 1958 starring Richard Greene as the good bad
guy of Sherwood Forest, it was Sigman who introduced him each week with,
"Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding though the glen; Robin Hood, Robin
Hood with his band of men
" For those too young to remember,
the group Deep Purple recently featured the ballad on an album.
__And in 1955, Perry Como urged the nation
to take Sigmans cozy advice, "Dream Along With Me (Im
on My Way to a Star)." The Como theme song has made the theatrical
circuit in recent years in the tuneful "Forever Plaid."
__Singers like Sigman songs, recording
them repeatedly and incorporating them into stage acts. In addition
to Como, Sigman songs have been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima,
Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass, Sonny and Cher, Danny Kaye, the Andrew
Sisters, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett and Nat King Cole. And now a younger
generation is recording them. Coles daughter, Natalie, brought
out Sigmans assertive "If You Could See Me Now" on her
1997 CD "Stardust."
by his mother he must become a doctor or a lawyer, Sigman, who couldnt
stand the sight of blood, duly graduated from New York University Law
School, passed the bar and practiced for a year, hating every minute.
__"I worked as a typist, a piano teacher,"
he said, all while "trying to find time to go to the Brill Building,
where all the songwriters hung out."
__One of the songwriters he befriended
was the legendary Johnny Mercer, who gave him some pragmatic advice:
"A band has 15 musicians who can write tunes to one person who
can write a lyric. You have a flair for it; youll get songs published."
__Sigman even turned his World War II Army
services into a song. Sent to Europe in a glider crew, he earned a Bronze
Star for heroism and wrote what became the 82nd Airborne Divisions
official song "The All American Soldier." His pay? A $25 war
__He was inducted into the song writers
Hall of Fame in 1972.
song writer is survived by his wife, Terry, whom he met when she was
working for Louis Prima and he stopped by to hear Prima recording "Bongo,
Bongo", three sons, Michael of Los Angeles, Jeffrey of Carmel Ind.,
and Randy of Hartford, Conn. And one granddaughter.
__Able to spin a lyric until the end Sigman
told Newsday last year "With the advent of rap music, I became
totally out of it
Theres no real outlet for my type of song
__Anybody who attends a concert listens
to a record album, turns on the radio or sees a movie might beg to differ.