Sammy on Sammy
I had a marvelous, marvelous mother. Typical Jewish mother. Instead of the typical Jewish family, which has four sons and one daughter, I had four sisters and me, an only son. And at a very, very early age I started to go bad. By bad, I meant that I got acquainted with musicians. My mother insisted that I play the violin. Had she insisted that I play the piano it might have made all the difference in the world. I adored my mother because my mother was the kind of lady you could make a deal with. And I made a deal with her that I would play the violin up to and until my Bar Mitzvah, my thirteenth birthday.
And there was a twist of fate. On my thirteenth birthday, we had the usual typical party. And we had a little orchestra playing there, I think it was a six piece orchestra, and about one o’clock in the morning my mother said to me, “Let us pay the orchestra.” And we paid the orchestra from the presents I received, the envelopes with the checks.
And that was the most astonishing thing I ever heard. I never realized that these six fellows that were playing and having such a great time all night got paid. And as I was paying them I instinctively said, “Do you do a lot of this?” They answered, “Oh yes, we play all kinds of affairs, parties, weddings, engagements.” I said, “Well, gee, how do I get to do that?” “Would you like to do that?” I said, “I’d love to do that.” Have fun and get paid, I guess you could call that the slogan of my life, because ever since that time, I’ve had fun and they paid me for it. Writing songs is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life to this day. And if I couldn’t write lyrics I would be a very, very unhappy fella. I love writing songs and if they don’t let me write songs for money I write ‘em for free and that’s ninety percent of the songs I write. (KB)
When I write music I hear the orchestra, I don’t hear a piano. I play piano orchestrally, too. I hear the brass, I hear the woodwind. George Gershwin made a sound at the piano that he learned from a player piano he heard on the corner. He was playing the orchestra all the time. He felt more than he knew and that’s a wonderful thing. Feelings is the whole ball game. If you don’t have feelings you can’t compose you can’t sing. You can act feelings. I think that when Sinatra in the ’40s sang I think he was getting feelings that he hasn’t got. He was falling in love when he sang, he was talking to somebody. He just didn’t sing the words. He was inside the song. Sinatra always made the song his song. He took that song. Time After Time
Fox thought they had a bomb on their hands with the picture We Believe in Love, when producer Sol Siegel approached composer Jule Styne and lyricist Sammy Cahn to write a title tune for the film. Styne asked Siegel why the film wasn’t titled after the book on which it was based, Three Coins in the Fountain. Siegel asked if it would be easier to write for that title and Cahn replied, “It’s a helluva lot easier than ‘We Believe in Love.’” The team worked all night and the next day played the new song for Siegel and Zanuck. Spyro Skouras, then the studio chief, didn’t like it and commented, “the other title had ‘love’ in it and that’s a good thing.” It seemed that the song was dead, but Zanuck told Styne that if he could get a big name to sing it, he could get it into the movie.
Styne had written several hits for Frank Sinatra and he was determined to extract a return favor. Learning that Sinatra was returning to LA from Europe with a stopover in New York, Styne booked himself on the same flight and got a seat next to him. He implored Sinatra for help and, worn down, the singer agreed to record the song the very next morning—but he didn’t want to be paid. Rather, there was a certain painting in a gallery that he admired. Sinatra got his painting, and both the record and the film were smash hits. PS: the song won the Academy Award. As Jule Styne said, “The difference was Frank Sinatra. Without him, it wouldn’t have gotten off the ground.”Three Coins in the Fountain
“The song was written for Doris Day, then still unknown. Jule Styne and I brought her to the attention of Mike Curtiz at Warner’s, who gave her her first important chance in the movies which catapulted her to stardom. Another interesting fact about this song is that Jule Styne had played the melody for me for two years, and I kept passing it by because it had a slightly Spanish flavor. Only after I had seen the script for Romance on the High Seas, and saw the song as a number for Doris Day and Jack Carson in a Latin nightclub scene, did the song come into focus for me and I was able to do the lyrics.”It's Magic
James Van Heusen explained to author David Ewen, “The song was written to dramatize Joe E. Lewis’s loss of his voice [in the film The Joker Is Wild] and the big jump musically at the end of the second bar to the middle of the third bar was specifically designed to be difficult for him to sing, and he was supposed to break down dramatically.”All the Way