Remembering Leslie Bricusse

The Songwriters Hall of Fame was saddened to learn of the passing of 1989 inductee Leslie Bricusse.

The Oscar and Grammy-winning songwriter wrote songs for Broadway and Hollywood including “What Kind of Fool Am I?” and “Pure Imagination," lyrics for James Bond theme songs “Goldfinger” and “You Only Live Twice,” as well as songs for movies including “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (including “The Candy Man”), “Scrooge,” “Hook,” “Doctor Dolittle” and “Superman.”

With a body of work spanning over seven decades, the London-born writer-composer sometimes worked in collaboration with others, notably SHOF inductees Anthony Newley, Henry Mancini and John Williams, serving as both lyricist and composer.

Bricusse received eight Ivor Novello Awards over the course of his career as well as the 1967 best song Oscar for “Talk to the Animals,” from the Fox musical “Doctor Dolittle,” and the 1982 song-score Oscar for the musical “Victor / Victoria,” written with Mancini. His Grammy was for song of the year in 1963, “What Kind of Fool Am I,” written with Newley for the West End musical “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off.” Oscar-nominated Bricusse-Newley song score for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” included “Pure Imagination,” sung by Gene Wilder in the film and “The Candy Man,” from the same score, with Sammy Davis Jr.

Other notable songs in the Bricusse repertoire include “Thank You Very Much,” and the musical it was written for, “Scrooge,” based on Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” starring Albert Finney, and Oscar-nominated in 1970. “Dolittle,” “Scrooge” and “Victor / Victoria” were all later adapted for theater. Moving seamlessly from stage to screen, in addition to “Stop the World,” which opened in London in 1961 and on Broadway in 1962 (with Newley starring in both), he wrote “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd,” also with Newley, a U.K. production that enjoyed bigger success on Broadway in 1965. “Who Can I Turn To,” from that show, was a hit for Tony Bennett; “A Wonderful Day Like Today” is now a standard and “Feeling Good” was recorded by numerous artists including Nina Simone.

Bricusse teamed with Cyril Ornadel for “Pickwick” for the West End in 1963; then wrote “Sherlock Holmes: The Musical,” in 1988; and with Frank Wildhorn, he penned both book and lyrics for “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical,” which reached Broadway in 1990, and “Cyrano,” which debuted in Japan in 2009.

He was a five-time Tony nominee for “Stop the World” (musical, book, score), “Roar of the Greasepaint” (score) and “Jekyll & Hyde” (book).

For film, he wrote the Oscar-nominated musical “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” with Peter O’Toole, in 1969; and, with Mancini, the songs for “Santa Claus” in 1985. He and Newley also wrote a “Peter Pan” musical for TV in 1976.

There were 10 Oscar nominations in all, five for best song and five others for best song score. His second Academy Award winner, “Victor / Victoria,” was written for Blake Edwards’ film with Julie Andrews and Robert Preston by the same name, along with its songs “Crazy World” and “Le Jazz Hot” (co-written with Mancini) for the 1995 Broadway musical version.

With John Barry, he wrote lyrics for the James Bond thrillers “Goldfinger” and “You Only Live Twice.” With Mancini, he added the words for “Two for the Road” and the Oscar-nominated “Life in a Looking Glass” for “That’s Life.” For Jerry Goldsmith, he wrote lyrics for songs from “The Sand Pebbles” and “In Like Flint.” And for John Williams, he penned the words for “Can You Read My Mind” from “Superman,” “Somewhere in My Memory” from “Home Alone” and “When You’re Alone” from “Hook,” the latter two Oscar-nominated as best song.

Born in January 1931 and educated at Cambridge, he was president of its Footlight Revue Club and founded the Musical Comedy Club; there he also co-wrote, directed and performed in his first two West End musicals, “Out of the Blue” and “Lady at the Wheel." He performed with Beatrice Lillie at the Globe Theatre and wrote his first film, “Charley Moon,” in 1956.

Bricusse is survived by his wife Evie and son Adam.