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Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil: A Songwriting Team for the Ages

Posted in MusicWorld on April 30, 2002 by

"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," "On Broadway," "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration": These are just a few of the classic songs that husband and wife team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil has written. The wildly successful partnership has spanned nearly every genre of popular music, from pop to rock to r&b to country, with film and stage work also figuring heavily in the mix.

Such versatility is nothing less than astounding. While many of their contemporaries have focused on writing only pop songs or only r&b tunes, Mann and Weil have consistently proven themselves adept at working in a wide range of styles, often working with other songwriters either alone or as a team.

The recognition that they have received is extraordinary in itself: Mann and Weil have collected myriad accolades from BMI, including 108 Pop, Country and R&B Awards and 76 "Million-Air" Awards, denoting airplay of 1 million or more. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" is the most performed song in BMI's repertoire and is the first song ever to achieve 8 million performances.

In addition, the twosome received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Songwriters, The Clooney Foundation's Award for Legendary Song Composition, and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The Mann & Weil story has a humble beginning. While still a teenager, Mann gave up studying architecture to become a full-time songwriter. After penning "She Say (Oom Dooby Dom)," a hit for the Diamonds, Mann joined music publisher Aldon Music as a staff writer. There he co-wrote such hits as "Footsteps" by Steve Lawrence, "I Love How You Love Me" by The Paris Sisters," and "Patches" by Dicky Lee. A talented singer in his own right, in 1961 Mann recorded the hit single "Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)," co-written by Gerry Goffin.

Weil began her career as an actress and dancer, but, encouraged by famed composer Frank Loesser, soon began pursuing songwriting as a career. Before long she, too, found herself at Aldon, where a professional relationship soon began with Mann. This was the famed "Brill Building" era, during which the pair competed and sometimes collaborated with such other talents as Goffin, Carole King, Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller (with whom they wrote "On Broadway") and Phil Spector ("Lovin' Feelin'").

Songwriting was only one of Mann and Weil's collaborations, however; they married during their stay at Aldon. Professionally, as the partnership deepened and evolved, Mann would take care of the music while Weil wrote the lyrics. Weil's savvy extended well beyond the routine love songs that marked the era, and she is widely credited with helping to bring a political consciousness to the Brill Building style via such cornerstone works as "On Broadway" and "Uptown." The increasing intensity of their work became even more evident with such songs as "Kicks," a top 10 hit for Paul Revere & the Raiders, which examined the pitfalls of drug use, and "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," popularized by the Animals, which served as a desperate anthem for both Vietnam War soldiers and protesters.

Moving into the '70s, '80s and '90s, Mann & Weil were instrumental in crossing Dolly Parton over from country to pop ("Here You Come Again"), introducing James Ingram ("Just Once"), and reinvigorating the careers of Aaron Neville (the Grammy-nominated "Don't Know Much") and Sergio Mendes ("Never Gonna Let You Go"). During this period the pair also wrote with teen idols Hanson the hit ballad "I Will Come to You."

Hits have also consistently been scored with other tunesmiths: Weil wrote "Running with the Night" with Lionel Richie, "Through the Fire" with David Foster and Tom Keane, "He's So Shy" with Tom Snow and "Wrong Again," a number one country hit for Martina McBride, with Tommy Lee James. Mann has collaborated with such acts as Leo Sayer ("How Much Love"), Dan Hill ("Sometimes When We Touch") and Curtis Stigers ("Never Saw a Miracle").

The team has also made its mark in the film world, winning (with James Horner) a pair of Grammys, an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for "Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail, receiving a Grammy nomination (with Horner) for "Whatever You Imagine" from The Pagemaster, and writing the song score for Muppet Treasure Island. In addition, Weil provided the Christmas carols (again with Horner) for the big-screen version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and wrote the song "For Always" with John Williams for the A.I. soundtrack album.

Even after their many successes over the years, the team is hardly slowing down: In addition to songwriting, Mann and Weil are currently working on two Broadway projects: one based on their amazing catalog of songs, and Mask, an original rock musical based on the 1985 film.

Obviously, it is impossible to consider popular songwriting in the second half of the past century (and beyond) without including the landmark work of this phenomenal duo. Maintaining popular and critical success for such an extended time - and continuing to diligently hone their craft - Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are, simply put, a songwriting team for the ages.