On Friday, March 24, the Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) and the USC Thornton School of Music spring Master Session Series presented the incomparable 1987 SHOF inductee, Carole Bayer Sager, on the USC campus.
“Carole is the ultimate collaborator,” said Chris Sampson, vice dean of the Division of Contemporary Music and founding director of the Popular Music program. “As a lyricist, her ability to distill powerful emotions into only a few, but essential words is unmatched. Our students also noticed her uncanny ability to fuse a lyric to a melody which has made her songs unforgettable and timeless.”
"Beginning with the 1965 classic hit 'Groovy Kind Of Love,' Carole’s unique and impressive catalog contains songs that are embedded in the world’s musical vocabulary,” commented SHOF President & CEO Linda Moran. “This was such a wonderful opportunity for the USC Thornton students to experience her songwriting craft!”
Before class, Sampson announced SONGS Music Publishing founder/CEO and SHOF Board Member Matt Pincus, along with the Songwriters Hall of Fame, will sponsor twenty SHOF student memberships for the second year in a row.
President – North America of Universal Music Publishing Group and SHOF Board Member Evan Lamberg's introduction of Sager highlighted her prolific and extensive catalog of songs that have helped define the American popular songbook. Sager has won an Academy Award ("Arthur's Theme"), a Grammy Award ("That's What Friends are For") and two Golden Globe Awards ("Arthur's Theme" and "The Prayer"). She’s also penned some of the most popular songs of the 20th century.
Carole Bayer Sager's new book, "They're Playing My Song," served as a timely syllabus for the afternoon session. Sampson’s interview showcased her stunning array of collaborations, behind the scene stories and insights from collaborating with hit songwriters including Melissa Manchester and Peter Allen ('Don't Cry Out Loud'), sessions with Bette Midler and Bruce Roberts ("You're Moving Out"). Her songs have been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Dolly Parton to Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Melissa Manchester, Christopher Cross, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, The Doobie Brothers, Gladys Knight, Roberta Flack, Johnny Mathis, Leo Sayer, Carly Simon, Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, El DeBarge, Bob Dylan, Kenny Rogers and even Carole herself.
Sager described the process behind some of her greatest hits and spoke about her working relationships with SHOF inductees Marvin Hamlisch ("Nobody Does It Better," and "They're Playing Our Song") and Burt Bacharach ("On My Own," "That’s What Friends are For"), and educated students on how the process for writing songs for artists differs for films and Broadway. She also shared marvelous anecdotes and stories about working and writing with SHOF inductees Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan and David Foster ("The Prayer") during her extraordinary career, which continues to flourish.
The theme of the day was “collaboration.” Sager relayed her expertise in the role as lyricist explaining the techniques of adapting to each writing session and having a destination and purpose for each song.
As a perfect conclusion to the school year, the extraordinarily talented USC students Madeleine Meyer and Michael Arrom wrapped up the session with a heartfelt tribute performance of Sager’s hit song, 'That's What Friends Are For.”
The Songwriter Hall of Fame and USC's special bond has been forged and nurtured through the leadership of SHOF West Coast Committee Chair and Board Member Mary Jo Mennella, Events Chair Barbara Cane, who was in attendance, along with West Coast Committee Vice-Chair Kathy Spanberger. Now in its fourth year, the SHOF/USC Master Sessions educational series has included world renowned songwriters, producers and music executives including Bill Withers, David Foster, Billy Steinberg, Benny Blanco, Graham Nash, Donovan & Ralph Peer, Carole Bayer Sager, Desmond Child, Dan Reynolds, Evan Lamberg and Lamont Dozier.