Charles Fox: Documenting Life and Song

(left to right) SHOF West Coast Committee chair Mary Jo Mennella, SHOF inductees Paul Williams and Charles Fox, West Coast Committee vice chair Barbara Cane, SHOF inductee Mike Stoller, composer Alain Boublil, Filmmaker Danny Gold and GRAMMY Museum Chief Program Officer Rita George

2004 Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee Charles Fox and award-winning documentary film producer Danny Gold took the stage of the Clive Davis Theater at the GRAMMY Museum on December 1 for a special screening of Gold’s documentary film surrounding Fox’s life called Killing Me Softly With His Songs. The event was kicked off by SHOF West Coast Committee chair Mary Jo Mennella and the subsequent interview was moderated by SHOF West Coast Committee vice chair and BMI VP, Worldwide Creative & Advisor Barbara Cane.

Killing Me Softly With His Songs is a musical documentary about the life and work of composer Charles Fox, known for pop hits such as Killing Me Softly With His Song, I Got A Name, and Ready To Take A Chance Again, as well as iconic television show themes for Happy Days, Laverne & ShirleyThe Love Boat and Wonder Woman. He is also the composer of numerous salsa records, and the film follows Fox’s life and career from the streets of the Bronx to his education at the Fontainebleau music conservatory near Paris where he studied with the legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger (who taught Aaron Copeland, SHOF Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Awardee Quincy Jones, Elliot Carter and SHOF inductee Michel Legrand among many others). It then documents his fabled career in Hollywood, and finally to Havana, Cuba where Fox “returns to his musical roots.” 

All of this is interspersed with live music featuring Anne Sila (winner of French version of The Voice), Common (Academy award winning songwriter and performer), A.J. Croce (son of the legendary SHOF inductee Jim Croce, and a gifted artist), Henry Winkler (Happy Days, Barry), Paul Williams (SHOF inductee, SHOF Johnny Mercer Awardee and Academy Award winning songwriter), Diane Warren (SHOF inductee, Grammy, Emmy and Academy Award winning songwriter), Rita Wilson (songwriter, actor, producer), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, and Tony Award winner), Alexandre Desplat (two-time Academy Award winner) and Alain Boublil (Tony award winning composer known for Les Miserable and Miss Saigon), the film is joyous, funny, poignant and above all intimate.
In the post-screening interview, Cane went over the many awards, nominations and accolades Fox has been recognized with over decades of songwriting, including Emmys, Oscars, Golden Globes, GRAMMYs and a Society of Composers & Lyricists Ambassador Award for Life Achievement. Cane shared that Fox had been honored with the BMI Richard Kirk Award for Outstanding Life Achievement, and there have been 18 million radio & TV performances of Happy Days, Killing Me Softly With His Songs, I Got A Name and Ready to Take a Chance Again.

Cane asked, “How did you begin this beautiful collaboration?” Gold and Fox talked about meeting each other in Poland shooting a film and the connection they made at that time. Fox subsequently learned Gold was working on a film about the Bronx and spoke to Paul Williams about writing “A song about the Bronx and friendship” which they did.

The Killing Me Softly With His Songs documentary film happened after Fox decided he wanted to make a Latin record ­­and through various channels he received a call from the Cuban Minister of Culture asking if he’d like to come to Havana to do some concerts. Gold said he’d like to film that, and the rest is history.

“It’s not one of those experiences I know if I’ll ever have again,” Gold remarked. “It was seeing the collaborations that were happening in the studio…it was incredible.”

“This whole thing started out to be about Cuba and my alter ego called Carlos Zorro, which was the name I had written under to be accepted by the Cuban community. The film was originally supposed to be called The Return of Carlos Zorro,” Fox said. Gold and Fox then went into how the premise of the film morphed to encompass Fox’s entire life from the Bronx to Paris. “It was a kind of out of body experience to make this,” said Fox.

“A village raised this film with their contributions,” said Gold.

Fox then took to the piano, first thanking the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Mennella and Cane for their support of the evening and the many people who gave of their time and talents in the creation of the documentary. He launched into And The Feeling’s Good and Ready To Take A Chance Again, both songs he cowrote with SHOF inductee Norman Gimbel.

A thunderous standing ovation capped off the evening of “life, film and concert,” as Cane described it.