First of all, this is me writing this, so you can be pretty sure the good stuff is left out – hey, I might need it for my memoirs or to blackmail someone. I was born and grew up in the Bronx. I went to PS 28 (like Artie Traum ), Horace Mann ( like Eliot Spitzer ), Brown University (like E. Howard Hunt ) and the U.S. Army (like Ulysses S. Grant). I’ve been doing music of one form or another as long as I can remember. So that’s for a least half an hour.
My father was a sea captain. We didn’t know each other too well, but he had a good sense of humor, and my love of silliness is a gift from him. My mother wanted to be a doctor, but she had a congenital hearing loss, and her zoology professor at Barnard spoke too softly for her to hear, so she ended up studying botany. She taught dance at Russell Sage in Troy, NY, where they dedicated the yearbook to her. She was incredibly sweet, gentle and loving, and she wanted the world to be high-minded and well-mannered. I get my gullibility from her. Music from both of them. One of my fondest memories is singing at Carnegie Hall around 1971 with my parents beaming up at me from the third row. I remember thinking, “For a Jewish kid from the Bronx, it don’t get too much better than this.”
I think this is already too long. I’ve made several albums, the first of which was recorded on an Edison cylinder. I’ve had songs recorded by Judy Collins, Tom Rush, Peter, Paul & Mary, Johnny Mathis, Astrud Gilberto, Tracy Nelson, Jane Olivor, Dixie Carter, Pat Benatar, Roberta Flack, the drummer from Kiss, some guys from Toto, and some others I’m not remembering at the moment. My darkest moment as a songwriter was having Frank Sinatra cut one of my songs, not like his vocal and never re-record it. Jingles recorded by everybody. My faves are a Burger King spot by Mel Tormé with a big band –little slice of heaven for Davy getting to meet and work with Mel – and – aside from Robin singing his little heart out on my Post Office song, “We Deliver For You” – maybe Richie Havens’ work on the Amtrak campaign I did, “All Aboard, America.” Oh, and Jonatha Brooke singing “Serious Freedom” for Goodyear, which has about nothing to do with tires and gives you a pretty good idea of the Alice In Wonderland qualities of the ad biz. This is an industry that hired Dr. John to do a voiceover (!), and then the woman asked him, 1) Could he put a little more smile into it, and 2) Did he have to do it in a Southern accent…. But the money was cute.
But I digress, as Rob Carlson ( one of my two, ah, supporting players in Modern Man ) would say. The best part about the rock and roll purgatory that was the late, unlamented band Pierce Arrow was meeting the aforementioned Batteau person. We certainly have had a lot of fun. For example: Singing the Everly Brothers’ classic, “Bird Dog” at a benefit with Paul Newman speaking the “He’s a bird” lines. Paul Newman! Hearing about the Peekskill riots from Pete Seeger himself. Pete Seeger! Starting to sing my verse to “Amazing Grace” at one of the Newport Folk Festivals – big finale with all your serious folk royalty onstage – and having Bonnie Raitt goose me, causing the lyrics to mutate into French or something. Bonnie Raitt! Grabbing my…attention! It’s a full life.
Last few years I’m getting my kicks writing plays and sketches and the like. The first one, my putative director James Naughton says lacks a second act. I suggest we do it as a one-act, thus saving everyone a lot of time and trouble. He does not respond. But I’m happily at work on a musical with one of my jingle mentors, the prodigious and very Protestant Jake Holmes. We have high hopes. One act. No intermission. Home in time for Law and Order. What more could anyone need?