Grammy Award winning vocalist/ producer Steve Tyrell brought That Lovin’ Feeling to the GRAMMY Museum’s Clive Davis Theater on March 4 to a sold out, standing-room-only audience. The BMI Foundation proudly joined forces with the Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) and the GRAMMY Museum to present this very special evening, moderated by veteran reporter, writer and producer Janine Sharell.
The evening opened with a video presentation that included clips of Tyrell in the studio recording standards for That Loving Feeling, after which, SHOF West Coast Committee member and event chair, BMI’s Barbara Cane made glowing opening remarks. Steve Tyrell then took the stage, along with SHOF inductees Jeff Barry (“Chapel Of Love”), Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”) and Mike Stoller (“Stand By Me”) for a round of discussion.
Each panelist provided remarkable details behind the process of penning or collaborating to produce classic hits including “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” Chapel of Love,” “On Broadway,” “Walking in the Rain,” “Don’t Know Much,” “Through the Fire,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” “Love Potion #9” and many more. They also elaborated on the long standing friendships they have developed through their legendary songwriting careers as architects of the American Popular Songbook.
Tyrell spoke of That Lovin’ Feeling, his eleventh album, and how it represents growing up with music from the Brill Building. He moved to New York at the age of nineteen with the desire to get to know the songwriters who were making the hit songs of the day. He said, “These songs are the great American songbook and will live forever.”
The panel dove into the rich history of popular music and how the methods of writing and delivery of songs to the public was so very different then as compared to present day. Mike Stoller described how The Brill Building at 1619 Broadway was the mecca of song in the heyday of the 6os, and each floor contained band leaders, music publishers, songwriters, and other related professionals. New songwriters and recording groups would take the elevator to the eleventh floor to knock on doors, then take the stairs down to each subsequent floor to do the same as they tried to sell their musical wares.
Barry Mann said, “There was a lot of competition in the building. We’d write songs and run to a studio to cut a demo. We always had to be on the charts to feel that we amounted to something.” Tyrell added he once congratulated Mann at the time when they had six songs at the top of the Billboard chart. Mann’s response was “yeah, but one is coming down.” Cynthia Weil said she and Barry used to have to go on vacation with Carole King and Gerry Goffin “to make were they weren’t writing when we were away.”
Jeff Barry talked about how he and his cowriter, the late Ellie Greenwich, approached selling their songs a different way by started their own label called Red Bird Records with Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, and making their own recordings. “We would write a song and make it,” he said. “It was a direct line to the public.”
Tyrell said he learned the importance of the lyric by listening to Hal David/Burt Bacharach songs in the booth while they were recording. “I’m a big fan of the people who write the lyrics,” he said. Weil said, “Being in the cubicle next to Carole (King) & Gerry (Goffin), I learned more about lyric writing than I could from any book.”
Weil related in a side story that she met Steve Tyrell just after giving birth in the hospital and woke up to see a “strange man” in her room. He introduced himself and told her she’d had a baby girl and that they were “going to make some beautiful music together.” And they did.
Sharell asked; “Did you ever think that some 50 years after you wrote these records that you’d still be talking about them and they’d have such a great shelf life?”
Cynthia responded; “I never thought they’d last more than their time on the air, and that freed us to experiment.” Barry said, “I wonder, if we knew what was coming, if we would have tried to make them (the songs) better. I would have probably written words instead of ‘Doo wah diddy.’” Mann said, “We were the bridge between the old Tin Pan Alley and rock & roll.” Stoller spoke of the camaraderie between songwriters and music business professionals, and how they would hang out in the neighborhood bar that was full of songwriters, publishers, A&R etc. “It was a real community, and that doesn’t exist anymore.” Mann agreed and pointed out that “everyone has their own recording studio now, and are isolated.”
Tyrell talked about his process of recording classic songs for That Lovin’ Feeling, and said “These songs let you make them your own. If you can’t find a new way to do them you should not touch these songs. They have to have the heart and soul of the originals.”
Sharell spoke to the original idea for the record which, Tyrell said, came from two places of inspiration. The first was Stoller’s birthday party a little over a year ago where Tyrell performed many of the songs now on the record. He talked about how it was a fantastic night and the audience had such enthusiasm for these songs. The next night, he went to see Carole King’s Broadway show Beautiful, and “saw these songs were resonating so strongly.”
After the discussion, Tyrell took the stage once more to perform chart topping hits by each of the panelists, including “Stand By Me,” “On Broadway,” “Be My Baby” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” backed by key members of his band. It was a fitting end to a memorable evening.
Special thanks go to SHOF Board Member & West Coast Projects Committee Chair Mary Jo Mennella, Event Chair Barbara Cane and members Tom DeSavia, Loretta Munoz, Randy Poe, Casey Robison and Kathy Spanberger for producing this, and all West Coast events.