I was never very interested in becoming a writer-writer. A songwriter, yea. I was interested in that from the day my grandfather took me to see The Music Man. I was in 4th grade. Seventy-six trombones hooked me and Till There Was You solidified my passion for music.
So that’s the dream I chased. I wrote songs. My first song was recorded on a mono tape recorder at a professional home studio in White Plains when I was 15 years old. I paid for it with money I had made caddying.
The engineer then took the taped version of the song and manufactured an acetate record of it, which, unlike plastic, is soft, and only good for about fifteen plays before the grooves literally wear down. Having the acetate in hand gave me bragging rights to tell everybody I had made a record, which, I guess you could say I did.
When I was seventeen, I recorded some songs with a band I was in. Tapes were the rage then and everyone had a tape player in their offices. I carried them to the Big City and was told how much they sucked. Undaunted, I faced continuous rejection from these same people for the next 8 years. Eventually, there was a consensus among the the big dawgs that my songs were beginning to sound like hits.
Finally in 1981, I had a hit. A big hit with The Four Tops, When She Was My Girl, a song that went to be #1 and earned me a Grammy nomination. I kept at it, and had my songs covered by Celine Dion, Kenny Rogers, and was bestowed with an award for Most Performed Country Song when Marie Osmand covered my tune Read My Lips.
I eventually began composing jingles. Jingle writing is about the most fun a person can have. Great money, too.
During those lucrative jingle years, I followed hip-hop. Back in the day, I had written and produced for Profile Records, RUN-DMC’s label. My love for the genre led my intrepid wife, herself a hugely successful music producer, and I to put some of the money we were making from Pepsi, Texaco, Disneyland and other clients towards the creation of our own hip-hop label. Our venture lasted for 2 years. Eventually, the financial hits we were taking at the label led us to bail out. But we have a lot of great memories and are honored to have been able to work with some of New York’s finest talents.
Sometime after the Trade Centers went down, our parents passed away. I think the combination of events lead to me wanting to express myself in a lengthier format than song. I had more to say. Regarding songwriting, I felt like I was done. After almost a lifetime of being a songwriter I now had no interest whatsoever.
(Please join me for Part II of my story, which will be published Thursday, July 2)