Born Barry Imberman, 9 February 1939, Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York City
Together with his wife, lyricist Cynthia Weil, songwriter Barry Mann has composed innumerable pop hits since 1959. They were married on October 29, 1961*, are still together and still writing songs.
As a youngster, Barry Imberman took piano lessons sporadically. "I can barely read and write music", he once told an interviewer. He did, however, acquire "a real knowledge of chords and their relationships to each other. I also picked up the ukelele and learned every chord there is in different keys." He always wanted to be a songwriter. His first composition to be recorded and released was "Stranded" by Bobby Pedrick, Jr., the flip-side of "White Bucks And Saddle Shoes" (# 74, 1958). Not much later, in early 1959, Mann scored his first hit with "She Say (Oom Dooby Doom)" by the Diamonds (# 19), co-written with Mike Anthony. Next he was signed by Aldon Music, the publishing company of Al Nevins and Don Kirshner in the Brill Building on Broadway. In the beginning, Mann worked with a variety of lyricists. His next big hit, "Footsteps" by Steve Lawrence (# 7 in May 1960) was a collaboration with Hank Hunter. Other partners were Larry Kolber, Jack Keller, Joe Shapiro, Howard Greenfield and Gerry Goffin.
In mid-1960, Nevins and Kirshner signed Mann to ABC-Paramount as a singer, hoping to emulate the success of another Aldon writer, Neil Sedaka. Barry's first two singles, co-written with Howard Greenfield, flopped, but his third, "Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)" reached # 7 in September 1961. The lyrics, from the pen by Gerry Goffin, poked fun at the Marcels' recent doo-wop send-up of "Blue Moon" and similar gimmicky records like "Rama Lama Ding Dong". Mann sang it with a straight face and the vocal backing by the black group the Halos was very effective. The flip, a crisp rocker called "Love True Love", wasn't bad either.
Cynthia Weil (born October 18, 1940, Manhattan) hung around the Aldon office hoping that Barry would notice her. "My whole career really started because I was stalking Barry", she said. Mann found her lyrics interesting. "The kind of lyrics she was writing had this Broadway kind of quality", he said. They wrote their first song together ("Mine Till Monday") in March 1961 and wed in October of that year. By then the couple was working in the cubicles of the Brill Building, with just a piano and two chairs, alongside other famous songwriting teams like Carole King / Gerry Goffin and Neil Sedaka / Howard Greenfield. The first Mann-Weil collaboration to hit the charts was "Bless You" by Tony Orlando (# 15, October 1961).
It was the beginning of an almost endless list of hits, recorded by a broad range of artists. A few examples : "Uptown" and "He's Sure the Boy I Love" (The Crystals), "On Broadway" (The Drifters, co-written with Leiber and Stoller), "Blame It On the Bossa Nova" (Eydie Gorme), "Hungry", "Kicks" (Paul Revere and the Raiders), "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" (The Animals), "I Just Can't Help Believing" (B.J. Thomas), "I'm Gonna Be Strong" (Gene Pitney) and, most famous of all, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers, allegedly the most-played record on US radio in the 20th century. Another # 1 by the Righteous Brothers was the Mann-Weil composition "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration" (1966).
Like all great songwriters, Barry and Cynthia adapted well to different styles and themes. By the late 1960s, the couple left Aldon and moved to Hollywood. Changes in the pop marketplace subsequently reduced their hit output, but there were some notable successes in the 1970s as well (for instance Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again", # 3, 1977). Their song "Somewhere Out There" (# 2 by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram) won two Grammies in 1988, one year after Mann was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. In 2010 Mann and Weil were inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame, in the category Non-performers. Although Mann has always chosen to channel the bulk of his creativity into songwriting, he used to be frustrated by his lack of recognition as a singer. After "Who Put the Bomp", he had three other chart entries in 1964, 1970 and 1976, but they got no higher than # 94, # 93 and # 78 respectively.
* The wedding date October 29, 1961 comes from Ken Emerson's book "Always Magic In the Air : The Bomp And Brilliance Of the Brill Building Era" (Viking, 2005, page 103). Most Internet sources say August 1961.
More info on their official homepage :
Acknowledgements : Ken Emerson, their official website, Wikipedia.
Dik, October 2012
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