Carl Sigman in the News
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Soundstage Magazine , December, 2003
Carl Sigman - Songs
By Joseph Taylor

It’s hard for many of us to fathom that there was a time when pop musicians, singers, and songwriters didn’t think of themselves as artists with a capital "A." Even Elvis Presley considered himself primarily an entertainer and his goal was to match the success of other multi-talented stars who preceded him, people like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, or Dean Martin (a favorite of Presley’s). The truth is that all four of them created art (I’ll leave you to decide if Martin did it as a singer), but it wasn’t a conscious decision -- they approached what they did as a craft, something they wanted to do well. These days, by contrast, everyone wants to be an Artist, from boy-band singers to guys who write advertising jingles.

I doubt that songwriter Carl Sigman, who died in 2000 at age 91, thought of himself as anything but a craftsman who wrote songs for the hit parade. Of course, it follows that he wrote them well and that many of them endure as prime examples of songwriting art. Sigman’s name appears as writer or co-writer on over 800 copyrighted songs, including "Ebb Tide," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "Buona Sera," and "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story." I can’t imagine a songwriter who can match the astonishing number and variety of singers who covered his material, among them Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Louis Prima, Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Van Morrison, and the Specials.

Carl Sigman -- Songs, gathers together 76 recordings of his songs on three CDs, beginning in 1938 with "Just Remember" and continuing through the next six decades. We get the chance to evaluate how well Sigman’s work travels by comparing, for example, five versions of "It’s All in the Game." Teddy Edwards hit with the song twice and there’s a tremendous difference between his 1951 attempt, which went to #18, and the soulful, doo-wop arrangement that spent six weeks at # 1 in 1958. The Four Tops, Van Morrison, and Merle Haggard also cover the tune and each of them has a unique understanding of the song’s simple romanticism.

Sigman wasn’t a fancy lyricist --- his poetry was in his clarity and concision. The lyrics to "Ebb Tide" (four versions here) were probably the showiest he ever wrote:

First the tide rushes in
Plants a kiss on the shore
Then rolls out to sea
And the sea is very still once more
So I rush to your side
Like the oncoming tide
With one burning thought
Will your arms open wide

The set gives us a chance to hear pop music, especially pop singing, as it developed over the years. Billie Holiday sang "Crazy He Calls Me" a year before Vanghn Monroe recorded "No Range to Ride Anymore," but Monroe seems to be calling to us from a distant century, while Holiday’s voice continues to echo in the styles of singers today. Sigman himself comes back to us over the decades because so many singers return to his straightforward, expressive lyrics and to the melodies he and his collaborators created. You can often tell which tunes Sigman did strictly as a writer for hire -- "No Range to Ride Anymore" or the theme to the TV show Robin Hood seem to fit that description -- but even those show his intelligence and care. As the liner notes to Carl Sigman -- Songs suggest, you’ll be surprised at how many of these songs you know without realizing who wrote them. You’ll also be delighted at how many great songs carry the Sigman name.

(c) Soundstage Magazine