NEW YORK — Cynthia Weil, a Grammy-winning lyricist of notable range and endurance who enjoyed a decades-long partnership with husband Barry Mann and helped write “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Walking in the Rain” and dozens of other hits, has died at age 82.
Weil’s daughter, Dr. Jenn Mann, said that the songwriter died Thursday at her home in Beverly Hills, California, “surrounded by her family.” Mann, the couple’s only child, declined to cite a specific cause of death.
Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, married in 1961, were one of popular music’s most successful teams, part of a remarkable ensemble recruited by impresarios Don Kirshner and Al Nevins and based in Manhattan’s Brill Building neighborhood, a few blocks from Times Square. With such hit-making combinations as Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the Brill Building song factory turned out many of the biggest singles of the ’60s and beyond.
“I grew up around a lot of music and two incredible, brilliant, creative geniuses,” Jenn Mann said. “My parents inspired each other to write great songs. My mom always said that when things were good they had each other, and when things weren’t as good they had their music.”
Weil and Mann were key collaborators with producer Phil Spector on songs for the Ronettes (“Walking in the Rain”), the Crystals (“He’s Sure the Boy I Love”) and other performers, and also provided hits for everyone from Dolly Parton to Hanson. “Somewhere Out There,” a collaboration with James Horner for the soundtrack of “An American Tail,” won Grammys in 1987 for best song and best song for a movie or television, and was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe. “Don’t Know Much,” a Linda Ronstadt-Aaron Neville duet they helped write, was a top 5 hit that won a best pop performance Grammy in 1990.
Their most famous song, a work of history overall, was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” an anthem of “blue-eyed soul” produced by Spector as if scoring a tragedy and sung with desperate fury by the Righteous Brothers. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” topped the charts in 1965 and was covered by numerous other artists. According to Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), no other song was played more on radio and television in the 20th century.
But when Weil and Mann first played “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers, the response from singers Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield was “dead silence.”
“Bill said, ‘Sounds good for The Everly Brothers not the Righteous Brothers,'” she told Parade magazine in 2015. “We thought ‘Oh, God.’ Then Bobby said, ‘What am I supposed to do while the big guy’s singing?’ and Phil (Spector) said “You can go to the bank.'”
While many of Weil’s peers struggled once the Beatles caught on in the mid-1960s, she continued to make hits, sometimes with Mann, or with such partners as Michael Masser, David Foster and John Williams, with whom she wrote “For Always” for the soundtrack to Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” Weil helped write Parton’s pop breakthrough “Here You Come Again”; the Peabo Bryson ballad “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again”; James Ingram’s “Just Once”; the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy”; and Lionel Richie’s “Running With the Night.” In 1997, she was in the top 10 again with Hanson’s “I Will Come to You.”
“When they are successful, songs are like little novels. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. You feel what the person is feeling who’s singing it and it paints a picture of the human condition,” Weil, who eventually published the novel “I’m Glad I Did,” told Parade.
Her talents reached well beyond love ballads. She and Mann wrote one of rock’s first anti-drug songs, “Kicks,” a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1966. She also had a knack for lyrics about ambition and aspiration, such as “On Broadway” and its unforgettable opening line, “They say the neon lights are bright/on Broadway.” The Animals had a hit with her tale of working class frustration, “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place.” The Crystals’ “Uptown” was a 1961 hit that touched upon race and class in ways not often heard in rock’s early years.
Downtown he’s just one of a million guys
He don’t get no breaks
And he takes all they got to give
‘Cause he’s got to live
But then he comes uptown
Where he can hold his head up high
Uptown he knows that I am standing by
Weil and Mann were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, with King introducing them at the Rock Hall ceremony. Mann and Weil were supporting characters in the hit Broadway musical about King, “Beautiful,” which opened in 2013 and documented the intense friendship and rivalry between the two married couples. Mann and Weil’s musical “They Wrote That?” had a brief run in 2004.
“Cynthia’s high professional standard made us all better songwriters. My favorite Cynthia lyric is, “Just a little lovin’ early in the mornin’ beats a cup of coffee for startin’ out the day,'” King wrote on her social media accounts Friday, quoting from the Mann-Weil ballad “Just a Little Lovin,'” covered by Dusty Springfield among others.
“If we’re lucky, we know this is true, but she wrote it – and then she rhymed ‘mornin” with ‘yawnin” in the next verse. May the legacy of lyrics by Cynthia Weil continue to speak to and for generations to come.”
Weil, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, was born in New York City and studied piano and ballet as a child. She majored in theater at Sarah Lawrence College, but was encouraged by an agent to try songwriting. By age 20, she was working for the publishing company of “Guys and Dolls” composer Frank Loesser, and would soon meet her future husband.
“I was writing with a young Italian boy singer, the Frankie Avalon of his day, named Teddy Randazzo, when Barry came in to play him a song,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “I asked the receptionist, ‘Who is this guy? Does he have a girlfriend?’ She said, ‘He’s signed to a friend of mine, Don Kirshner, and if I call Donny, maybe you can go up there to show him your lyrics and meet Barry again.’ So that’s what she did. And that’s what I did. He didn’t have a chance.”
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