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Remembering songwriter Cynthia Weil, whose hits included 'Uptown' and 'On Broadway'


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. Cynthia Weil, part of the songwriting team with her husband, Barry Mann, died last week at the age of 82. Weil and Mann songs were recorded by the Drifters and The Righteous Brothers and many others. Here's a sampling.


THE DRIFTERS: (Singing) They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway, on Broadway. They say there's always magic in the air on Broadway.


THE CRYSTALS: (Singing) He gets up each morning, and he goes downtown where everyone's his boss, and he's lost in an angry land. He's a little man. But then he comes uptown each evening to my tenement, uptown where folks don't have to pay much rent.


THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS: (Singing) You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips. And there's no tenderness like before in your fingertips. You're trying hard not to show it. But baby, baby, I know it. You've lost that loving feeling.


DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: (Singing) Just a little loving early in the morning beats a cup of coffee for starting off the day. Just a little loving...


THE ANIMALS: (Singing) We got to get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do. We got to get out of this place. Girl, there's a better life for me and you.


DOLLY PARTON: (Singing) Here you come again, just when I've begun to get myself together. You waltz right in the door, just like you've done before, and wrap my heart 'round your little finger.

MOSLEY: That was the Drifters, The Crystals, The Righteous Brothers, Dusty Springfield, the Animals and Dolly Parton. When Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann teamed up in the early 1960s, they were both staff writers for a music publishing company owned by Don Kirshner. They worked in Manhattan in an office building near the Brill Building when the area was the new Tin Pan Alley. Songwriters like Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Ellie Greenwich and Neil Sedaka churned out material for the latest singers and pop groups. Unlike many songwriters of the '60s, Weil and Mann survived what was called the British Invasion. In 1999, Weil and Mann's song, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," was the most performed song of the century in the BMI publishing catalog. We're going to listen back to Terry's 2000 interview with Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. They begin with this part of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'."


THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS: (Singing) Baby, baby, I'd get down on my knees for you. If you would only love me like you used to do, yeah. We had a love, a love, a love you don't find every day. So don't, don't, don't, don't let it slip away. Baby, baby, baby, I beg you please, please, please, please. I need your love, need your love. I need your love, need your love. So bring it on back, so bring it on back.


TERRY GROSS: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, welcome to FRESH AIR.

BARRY MANN: Oh, thank you.

CYNTHIA WEIL: Thank you.

GROSS: Barry Mann, let me ask you first, what's happening in the melody of that song? Is there anything that you worked on that is particularly interesting to describe?

MANN: Well, I don't know if it would be interesting now, but when we wrote the song, it was very - it was a - very different for its time. That middle part that - of the song, the - you know, the kind of the soulful part had never been done before. And also, at the time, the record ran long, which nowadays, it's really short. It ran over three minutes. And so Phil Spector, who produced the record, even though it was - I think it was two - he put 2:58 on it, even though I think it ran around 3:10 or so. So that's about the only difference I can talk about now.

GROSS: Oh, so he lied about the length so DJs...

MANN: Yes.

GROSS: ...Would play it.

MANN: Yes.

GROSS: When you say that part of the melody hadn't ever been done before, which part are you referring to? Maybe you can hum it for us.

MANN: You know, where they go (vocalizing, singing) baby, baby, I'd get down on my knees for you - it kind of - for that period, I think it was kind of very different to come out with something like that in a ballad.

GROSS: Cynthia Weil, what was the part of the lyric that came to you first that you built everything else around?

WEIL: You know, Barry started playing that opening melody, and I'm not sure which one of us - as a matter of fact, I think it was Barry who came up with the opening line, you never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips. And it just seemed to flow. And when we hit the chorus, one of us - I think it was me - sang out, you've lost that loving feeling. And we weren't even thinking of using it as the real title. I mean, in those days, we used to write a song and kind of just fill it up with any words just so we'd remember it. And we used to call that a dummy title or a dummy lyric. And that was our dummy lyric. And then we wrote a verse and a chorus, and we called Phil, and we played it for him. And he said, that's not the dummy lyric. That's the lyric.

MANN: That's the title, definitely.

WEIL: Yeah.

GROSS: Now, Phil Spector has a co-writing credit on "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." What did he add?

MANN: Well, he - it was his suggestion to come up with that middle part, which was just a terrific suggestion. And, you know, after we did play those - the verses in the choruses, he's - then joined in and continued to...

WEIL: We wrote the rest of the song together.

MANN: ...The rest of the song together. And also, he produced an incredible record.

GROSS: Yeah.

MANN: I mean, it was...

WEIL: Absolutely.

MANN: ...For its time. Yeah.

GROSS: So were you writing the song on assignment? Were you writing it for The Righteous Brothers?

MANN: Yes.

WEIL: Yeah, we were living in New York at the time, and Phil - we had worked a little bit with Phil, and he wanted us to come out and work with him in LA. And he played us a record of these two singers out of Orange County, and they had two local hits. One was called "My Babe," and the other was a "Little Latin Lupe Lu." And he said, you know, just - let's think of a way to go with them that's interesting. I want to record them for my label. And we were very inspired by the Four Tops, and "Baby I Need Your Loving" was our favorite song at the time because it had this really raw passion that we wanted to capture for The Righteous Brothers. And when we wrote the song, they weren't that crazy about it.

GROSS: Really?

MANN: Well, when I sang it - I loved the Everly Brothers at the time, and I sounded like the Everly Brothers. So when I sang it to Bill and Bobby, they said, you know, this is really good - very good for the Everly Brothers. And another thing that happened is at the time, you know, the records that they had been putting out, they both sang together. And this one, Bill Medley had the lead. So Bobby said, well, what am I going to do while he sings? And I think Phil Spector says, well, you'll be walking to the bank.

GROSS: (Laughter).

MANN: So that's...

WEIL: Phil was quite confident in his abilities.

GROSS: Give us a sense of the process. When you became a songwriting team, were you assigned which singers you would be writing for back when you were working for Don Kirshner?

MANN: It went both ways. We could just sit and write a song, or there were assignments. The Drifters would be up, say, as a group, and everybody and all the music would run to write for The Drifters. But at the same time, there were songs we just sat down to write. When we originally - Cynthia and I wrote the original - there was an original version of "On Broadway," and I always had the concept to try to write a Gershwin-esque kind of contemporary song. And that's basically how "On Broadway" was written. Now, the reason for it - again, there was no specific artist in mind, so it happened all different ways.

GROSS: OK. Let's stick with "On Broadway" for a minute.

MANN: Sure.

GROSS: This was a big hit for The Drifters. You had nobody particular in mind when you wrote it. Did The Drifters have the first recording of it?

MANN: Yeah. Yes. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. They didn't.

WEIL: They had the first recording that was released.

MANN: Released, yeah.

WEIL: But it actually - Carole and Gerry were recording a group, right?

GROSS: This is Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

WEIL: Yeah.

MANN: Yeah. But also Phil Spector cut our original version of "On Broadway" with, I think, The Crystals.

WEIL: Yeah.

MANN: He never completed it. And matter of fact, I have it at home. I should have brought it here with me. It would've been very interesting to hear...

GROSS: Now, how did...

MANN: ...Their version.

GROSS: ...That version compare to the one The Drifters did?

MANN: Melodically, it was very, very close. The opening line, in fact, was instead of (singing) they say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. Ours was (singing) they say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. Bright is a very Gershwin-y kind of, you know, kind of more of a bluesy note. And so it was changed. If I remember, Mike Stoller suggested that we change it. And also, we didn't modulate three times. And that was a very good suggestion. And then lyrically, there was a different lyrical perspective. You can talk about it, Cynthia, if you want.

WEIL: Well, I think we had written it for a girl group, so it was about a girl coming to New York and dreaming of Broadway and stardom. And it was much more kind of escape from a small town. And I'm not - I'm going to make it. And when we met with Jerry and Mike and played this for them, they said, you know, we're doing The Drifters. So it would need a whole other perspective. And you can go home and do it yourself, or you can write it with us. And these guys were our idols. We thought they were great, and it would be a fantastic opportunity to work with them. So we ended up reworking the song together.

MANN: Which was...

WEIL: And it was really - it was like going to songwriting school, working with Jerry Lieber as - for me as a lyricist.

MANN: And so they have very two different approaches, lyrically. Cynthia is much more organized. She would want to write the first verse, make sure it's completed, then go to the chorus.

WEIL: Yeah. I'd stay on that second line. If I couldn't get it, I'd be there for months, you know.

MANN: And she...

WEIL: And I wouldn't move.

MANN: And...

WEIL: And Jerry just kind of jumped around and showed me that you can, you know, go different places and move things around. You don't have to be so rigid.

MANN: It was a very exciting experience.

GROSS: Why don't we hear The Drifters' recording of "On Broadway," the song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

BARRY MANN AND CYNTHIA WEIL: And Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

GROSS: Right.


THE DRIFTERS: (Singing) They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway, on Broadway. They say there's always magic in the air on Broadway. But when you're walking down that street, and you ain't had enough to eat, the glitter rubs right off and you're nowhere on Broadway. They say the girls are something else on Broadway, on Broadway, but looking at them just gives me the blues on Broadway. 'Cause how you gonna make some time when all you got is one thin dime? And one thin dime won't even shine your shoes on Broadway. Ha, they say that I won't last too long on Broadway, on Broadway.

GROSS: Now, Barry Mann, before we heard this, you mentioned that I think it was Leiber and Stoller suggested adding the modulations. We just heard one of those key changes. What does that kind of key change do to the emotional quality of a song?

MANN: Well, especially in that song, it really works because that song is basically one melody. It's a verse that's repeated three times, so it would really get very boring to just do the same melody three times in the same key. So that really uplifted the song.

MOSLEY: Songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann speaking with Terry Gross in 2000. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to Terry's 2000 interview with songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Cynthia Weil died last week at the age of 82.


GROSS: One of the types of groups that you worked for was the girl groups. You wrote a few girl-group hits, including a couple for The Crystals, "Uptown" and "He's Sure The Boy I Love." Were there any considerations lyrically writing for the girl groups? Was there a certain type of lyrics, a certain type of song?

WEIL: You know, there were. Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich really were the quintessential girl-group writers. They were really into lots of sounds, and I was never really good at that. I somehow felt that my girls-group lyrics, except for "Walking In The Rain," which was really adolescent, were kind of - I was trying to be adolescent, and I didn't know how very well. And they were just a little sharper. I mean, "Uptown" certainly is not a girls-group song.

MANN: We just wrote a song.

WEIL: It's really - it's sung by a girls group, but that's the only thing. It was one of the first sociological songs. And I just don't think that I was really a good girls-group songwriter.

MANN: I mean, if I could just kind of interject, I - when I first started writing with Cynthia, first, she showed me some of her lyrics, and I really liked them a lot. And what I saw in them was this - there was kind of a - they were very - had a show quality to them. There was a sophistication. And I really thought that that sophistication combined with rock 'n' roll would be very fresh. And I think Cynthia always has kept that kind of sophistication, unless she really had to go sideways, which was like "Walking In The Rain." And it was a great combination.

GROSS: Well, "Uptown" kind of tells a story. What's the story it tells?

WEIL: Well, it really tells a story of a man who, because of his race, is regarded one way in the workplace and then another way with his friends and family and the woman who loves him. That song had a story to it also, in that, when we had written it and Phil had recorded it, I think there were a couple of notes that Phil had changed because the singer couldn't hit them. And we went nuts. You know, we were so young and insane that those things really mattered. (Laughter) And one note could drive both of us over the edge. And we begged him to come in and record it again with another singer that we had found who happened to be Carole King and Gerry Goffin's babysitter named Eva. And...

GROSS: Oh, Little Eva...

MANN: That's right.

GROSS: ...Who did "The Loco-Motion."

WEIL: Little - so - exactly.

MANN: That's right.

WEIL: So before Little Eva did "The Loco-Motion," we dragged her into a studio with Phil. And it was the first time she'd ever been on mic, and Phil was driving her crazy. And she didn't realize that when she was on the mic, even if we weren't recording, you could hear what she was saying in the control booth (laughter). And so she was ranting about hating Phil during the whole thing.

GROSS: (Laughter).

WEIL: And he was enjoying it so much. And when she finished, we realized that Phil had made the better record anyway, and he really just was humoring us to do this. It was very sweet of him to do it.

MANN: Humoring us and torturing her.

WEIL: Yes, exactly (laughter). But then Eva, of course, went on to become Little Eva.

GROSS: Well, let's hear The Crystals' hit version of "Uptown."


THE CRYSTALS: (Singing) He gets up each morning, and he goes downtown, where everyone's his boss and he's lost in an angry land. He's a little mad. But then he comes uptown each evening to my tenement, uptown, where folks don't have to pay much rent. And when he's there with me, he can see that he's everything. Then he's tall. He don't crawl. He's a king.

Downtown, he's just one of a million guys. He don't get no breaks, and he takes all they got to give 'cause he's got to live. But then he comes uptown, where he can hold his head up high, uptown - he knows that I'll be standing by. And when I take his hand, there's no man who could put him down. The world is sweet. It's at his feet when he's uptown. Whoa.

GROSS: That's "Uptown," written by my guests Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. Was it Phil Spector who came up with that real Latin-sounding instrumentation, the castanets?

MANN: Yes. Yeah, that's...

WEIL: Yes. That was Phil.

GROSS: Let me ask you about another song that that you wrote, "Only in America." And Jay and the Americans had the hit of this. I understand the original version was actually written for The Drifters.

MANN: It was. And it was recorded by The Drifters. But then when they tried - they brought these around to disc jockeys, the Black disc jockeys, they wouldn't play it because they felt that the lyric was a lie. And very interesting, this little, quick concept that we almost did - it wasn't really serious, but we almost wrote it the opposite way, and I would have loved to have done it. And that period was like only - instead of (singing) only in America, where they preach the golden rule, do they start to march when my kids try to go to school. Only in America, land of opportunity, do they save a seat in the back of the bus just for me, which I thought was really very - it was sort of harsh, but...

WEIL: That was the way we wanted to go. This is...

GROSS: So you wanted to go like a civil rights protest song?

WEIL: Exactly.

MANN: Absolutely.

WEIL: Exactly. And Jerry Leiber, who was the voice of reason, said...

MANN: And - yes.

WEIL: ...You'll never get this played. Don't waste your time. We have to think positively, and we have to write it from another view.

MANN: So basically, if we wrote it from a really white viewpoint, which was, you know, valid for, you know, someone who was white. And they ended up, by the way, taking that Drifters track and putting Jay and the Americans onto that track.

GROSS: So the lyric you ended up with is very kind of positive.

MANN: Yes.

GROSS: Only in America, land of opportunity, can a rich girl like you fall for a poor boy like me.

MANN: Yes. Yes.

GROSS: How did The Drifters feel when the song was taken away from them because it was felt that a Black group really couldn't sing a song about how great America was and be believable?

MANN: I don't...

WEIL: I don't know.


WEIL: We never we never discussed it with them, but I'm sure that they felt a sense of hypocrisy singing the song at the time.

MOSLEY: Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann speaking with Terry Gross in 2000. Cynthia Weil died last week at the age of 82. We'll hear more after a break. I'm Tonya Mosley, and this is FRESH AIR.


JAY AND THE AMERICANS: (Singing) Only in America can a guy from anywhere go to sleep a pauper and wake up a millionaire. Only in America can a kid without a cent get a break and maybe grow up to be president. Only in America, land of opportunity, yeah...

MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. The songwriter Cynthia Weil, who wrote many hits in the 1960s with her husband, Barry Man, died last week at the age of 82. We're listening to Terry's 2000 interview with them. Their hits included "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," "On Broadway," "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" and "Uptown."

GROSS: As songwriters in the 1960s, you first wrote for, you know, the vocal groups of the day, like the Drifters, the girl groups like the Crystals, you know, heartthrobs, teen Idols. And then, like, the Beatles came along and the whole British Invasion and started - bands started writing their own songs. And certainly, like, after Dylan, singer-songwriters became really popular. You were expected to write your own material for the most part. Yet, you managed to have a British Invasion hit...

MANN: Yeah, right.

GROSS: ...With the Animals, "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," which was a very big hit. How did you end up writing for them?

MANN: Again, we didn't write for them. We wrote that song specifically for the Righteous Brothers. And we cut a demo that was tailored for the Righteous Brothers.


MANN: And at the time, we were being represented by Allen Klein, who represented a producer named Mickie Most. Mickie Most produced the Animals. And we forgot. I even forgot that we gave Allen the song for Mickie Most. And I had this demo that I sang on. And it was such a good demo that I was on - I was also on Leiber and Stoller's record label, Red Bird - that the demo was so great that we were about to put it out as a single for myself. And just that week we were supposed to put it out, Don Kirshner called us up and told us that the Animals had released it, and it was No. 2 in England at the time.

GROSS: So you didn't even know?

MANN: No, we didn't even know.

GROSS: So that killed your record, huh?

MANN: Absolutely killed my - right.

WEIL: Absolutely.

MANN: Yeah.

GROSS: Now, were you disappointed that your record wasn't going to be released or really glad because another group had a really big hit with it?

WEIL: We were crushed.

MANN: Yeah, especially Cynthia.

WEIL: I was really upset. The Animals had left out parts of the lyric. And, you know, they had made a great record for the Animals and done what they should have done for themselves. But they had, you know, changed lyric. And I felt, you know, I had compromised the song in certain ways.

GROSS: What didn't they do that you had written? How did they change it?

WEIL: Well, if you listen to Barry's version on "Soul & Inspiration," his album, you will hear the way it was written. And you can hear the difference.

MANN: In the lyric.

WEIL: Yeah. I mean, just play one after the other and it's pretty striking.

GROSS: Why don't we do that? Why don't we hear the Animals' version, followed by the Barry Mann version from the new CD, "Soul & Inspiration," and compare the two.


THE ANIMALS: (Singing) In this dirty old part of the city, where the sun refused to shine, people tell me there ain't no use in trying. Now, my girl, you're so young and pretty. And one thing I know is true, you'll be dead before your time is due, I know. Watched my daddy in bed a-dying, watched his hair been turning grey. He's been working and slaving his life away. Oh, yes, I know. Yeah. He's been working so hard. Yeah. I've been working too, baby, yeah, every night and day. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We got to get out of this place, if it's the last thing we ever do. We got to get out of this place because, girl, there's a better life for me and you.


MANN: (Singing) In this dirty part of the city, where the sun forgets to shine, people say there just ain't no use in trying. There ain't no use in trying. Whoa, girl, now you're young and oh so pretty. Staying here would be a crime because you'd just grow old before your time. Yes, you will, girl. I know that you will. Oh, I know it. Yeah. Yeah, I know it, yeah. I say, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I can't take it no more. What are we waiting for? We got to get out of this place, if it's the last thing we ever do. We got to get out of this place because, girl, there's a better life for me and you.

GROSS: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, now that it's been years since the Animals' hit - and now, Barry Mann, you have this new version on your CD, Soul & Inspiration - which one do you prefer now, still like the original better?

MANN: You know, it's like apples and oranges, really. I like my version only because it kind of projects the way I had originally written it. And the Animals' version really has, you know, its charm. I want to say charm...

WEIL: I cast my vote for the Barry Mann version.


MANN: Well, thank you, honey. That's very nice of you. I mean, Animals - truthfully, the Animals, like, they were, like, from a coal-mining town, you know? So it really kind of has that kind of quality to it, a very raw coal-mining rawness to it that mine doesn't have. And - but...

WEIL: Well, yours has raw Brooklyn.


MANN: All right. That's right. You know what I'm saying? Yeah (laughter).

WEIL: You're raw from Flatbush.

MANN: That's right.

GROSS: What are some of the surprising contexts that you have heard this song performed in?

WEIL: Well, the fact that it became an anthem in Vietnam...

MANN: Right.

WEIL: ...Was amazing to us and very moving. And...

MANN: We're friendly with David Kennerly, do you know - the photographer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Vietnam photojournalism. And he told us that it was - that song meant a lot to the GIs over there.

GROSS: So after the British Invasion and after, you know, Bob Dylan, when singer-songwriters and bands writing their own songs became really popular, who did you write for that you weren't writing for before? I mean, what kind of changes did you have to make in your lives as professional songwriters?

MANN: Yeah. I think the biggest change melodically that happened was that songs became more guitar-oriented, as opposed to keyboard-oriented. And I had to try to think a little bit more guitar-y, even though it's very difficult to do. So we did - I would sometimes come up with bass riffs or a guitar riff on the piano to begin songs. And an example, matter of fact, is "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place." It's a bass riff that really starts the song off. And the song "Kicks" that Paul Revere and the Raiders sang - it's a guitar-oriented record - same thing with "Hungry." And "Kicks" also started off with a bass riff. So that was a very big change.

WEIL: But it seems to me that throughout our careers, to be completely honest with you, every time something new happened, we were sure this was the end. And, you know, I mean, the first end was when the British invasion happened. And we were sure, this is it, our careers are over. I remember when disco came in, we thought it was all over. There just have been so many times in so many fads that we thought, our songs are not going to be happening anymore.

And yet somehow we always seem to either just keep doing what we were doing and it came into style again, or else adapt just a little bit. And we were able to - our careers were able to continue through the '70s and '80s and '90s. It just - but it was not as easy as it looked because there were plenty of times where we felt that it wasn't going to continue.

GROSS: Why don't we hear one of your hits from the '70s? And this is a Dolly Parton recording of "Here You Come Again." Did you intend this to be a country song?

MANN: No. No, we just wrote a song. Matter of fact, I think that one we had B.J. Thomas in mind, who did...

WEIL: Yeah, we did write it for B.J.

MANN: For B.J. Thomas, yeah.

GROSS: And how did Dolly Parton end up recording it?

MANN: I think one of the publishers - our publisher at the time brought it to Dolly Parton, and she ended up recording it. In fact, I think she recorded - I had recorded it myself. I was - I had a deal on Arista Records. As you'll see throughout my career, I've had many record deals.


WEIL: I think we once counted 13 labels. And...

MANN: (Laughter) But anyway, and I got - my version was really very good. It was very, very similar to the Dolly Parton record. As a matter of fact, Dean Parks, who was the guitar player on my record, ended up doing the arrangement for Dolly. And so it's very, very similar.

GROSS: Well, let's hear her 1977 hit.


PARTON: (Singing) Here you come again, just when I've begun to get myself together. You waltz right in the door, just like you've done before, and wrap my heart around your little finger. Here you come again, just when I'm about to make it work without you. You look into my eyes and lie those pretty lies, and pretty soon I'm wondering how I came to doubt you.

All you got to do is smile that smile, and there go all my defenses. Just leave it up to you and in a little while, you're messing up my mind and filling up my senses. Here you come again, looking better than a body has a right to, and shaking me up so that all I really know is here you come again, and here I go.

MOSLEY: That's Dolly Parton. We're listening to Terry's 2000 interview with songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to Terry's 2000 interview with songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Cynthia Weil died last week at the age of 82.


GROSS: Well, you know what I found interesting? Like three of the most important women songwriters of the early rock and roll era, you, Ellie Greenwich and Carole King, were all married to their songwriting partners. Do you feel like...

WEIL: And we are the only ones who are still married.

MANN: That's right.

GROSS: Yeah, you're the only one of those three still married.

WEIL: Yes.

GROSS: That's right. Well, do you think that having a male partner was helpful - I don't mean artistically, but just in terms of getting the kind of business respect that you needed to, because there was a man there? So, like, for somebody who might only respect a man in a business relationship, there was a man to deal with.

WEIL: You know, I never really thought about it, but I have a feeling that if Carole and I had written something great together, we would have gotten a great record. We just never - when we wrote together, we were never really serious enough to bear down and do it right. We'd kind of get sidetracked, but we did have a few records together. And I never felt that it stood in the way at all of getting a recording.

GROSS: So what's the secret to your marriage? Why did your marriage and songwriting partnership last when your two friends, you know, Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Ellie Greenwich and...

MANN: Jeff Barry.

GROSS: Jeff Barry, yeah.

MANN: Right.

GROSS: Yeah. Thank you.

MANN: That's OK.

GROSS: While their relationships broke up.

WEIL: Well, I have - well, I mean, I think that it's a certain amount of tenacity and stubbornness and hanging on through everything. And I also think that our neuroses happened to mesh in a very good way.

MANN: It's true. Yeah. I also think that underneath it, we're really friends. And also I really think that songwriting is something that holds us together. And probably most marriages - you know, people who are in the same field probably have a lot of problems because of it. But I think it helped our marriage a lot. It's so much in common.

GROSS: Back in the early '60s, when you started writing near the Brill Building, you had - what? - an office in a high-rise building. And you'd come to work each day and sit down in your office and write tunes.

MANN: Not all the - sometimes we would be writing at home too.

GROSS: Yeah?

MANN: It was very half and half, yeah.

WEIL: Yeah.

GROSS: What was your office like? Did it have, like, a typewriter and a piano in it?

WEIL: It just had a piano and a bench and a chair.

MANN: That was it.

WEIL: And an ashtray.

MANN: Yeah. And then they'd give us stale bread every once in a while.


WEIL: But, you know, the great thing about coming in to write was that you heard what everybody else was doing because the walls were quite thin. And so we would hear what Goffin and King were pounding out in the cubicle next to us. And it was always inspirational, and it was always - it really kind of fed your creative hungers. And, you know, now, when everybody has their own home studio and we're all kind of isolated, you really have to make an effort to get that input.

GROSS: Wasn't it distracting to hear other people writing?


WEIL: No, not really. You just played louder, that's all.

GROSS: Now, did you compete with each other about whose song The Drifters would do? Like, you know...

MANN: Oh, incredible.

WEIL: Absolutely.

MANN: Oh, it was very competitive.

WEIL: Absolutely.

GROSS: What was that process like? How would you try to get The Drifters your song instead of letting Carole King get the next one with them?

WEIL: Well, we really didn't have control over that. Our publisher would have us all writing for, for example, The Drifters. And then he would go over and pitch all the songs. That was Don Kirshner or somebody who worked for him.

MANN: Who was a great publisher. He was an incredible salesman.

WEIL: And so we would just be sitting out waiting to hear the verdict, you know.

MANN: It got so powerful at that period that - Donny did, and that publishing company - that, say The Drifters were up, and Donny would play them a song, and they would love the song...

WEIL: And he would say, you can only have it if if my publishing company gets the B-side also...

MANN: Right.

WEIL: ...You know, or gets the next single, or...

MANN: And record - some record companies would give in to that because, you know...

WEIL: They wanted the song so bad.

MANN: That's right. And they knew that we were writing so prolifically that they'd always get another good song from us.

GROSS: OK. Well, thank you both enormously for talking with us about your songs.

MOSLEY: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil speaking to Terry Gross in 2000. Cynthia Weil died last week at the age of 82. Here's Barry Mann singing another one of their songs, "Soul And Inspiration."


MANN: (Singing) Girl, I can't let you do this - let you walk away. Girl, how can I live through this when you're all I wake up for each day? Baby, you're my soul and my inspiration. You're all I got to get me by. You're my soul and my inspiration. Without you, baby, what good am I?

I never had much going, but at least I had you. How can you walk out knowing I ain't got nothing left if you do? Baby, you're my soul and my inspiration. You're all I've got to get me by. You're my soul and my inspiration. Without you, baby, what good am I? Oh, what good am I?

MOSLEY: Coming up, Justin Chang reviews the new film "Past Lives," one of the most acclaimed movies at this year's Sundance. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF KITTEL AND CO.'S "ALPENA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.