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Subject: Songwriter Norman Gimbel

Dies at 91
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Date Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 07:34:07pm


I just heard that the lyricist Norman Gimbel has died. He was 91. He wrote the lyrics to so many songs that you don't know you know by heart. The words just flew into your head and stayed there.

He was probably best known for the english lyrics he wrote to bossa nova tunes, helping to make that new sound accessible to american AM radio audiences in the 1960s. "The Girl From Ipanema," "Meditation," "How Insensitive," "Song Of The Sabia" and "So Nice" are Jobim compositions with some of Norman's most famous as well as loveliest lyrics. He took Lori Lieberman's thoughts and ideas on how she felt seeing Don Mclean and turned that into the classic lyric for "Killing Me Softly With His Song." He put English words to Legrand’s score to Umbrellas Of Cherbourg and gave us “I Will Wait For You” and “Watch What Happens.” And of course his words to "Sway," have been heard so many places and in so many ways over the last 65 years.

The passing last week of Penny Marshall brought the Laverne & Shirley theme back to our consciousness. Norman wrote those lyrics as well as those to the themes to the television shows Happy Days, Angie, Wonder Woman and many, many others with his songwriting partner of that time composer Charles Fox.

He was definitely a Hollywood lyricist, writing not only TV themes but many memorable movie songs as well, from "Ready To Take A Chance Again" (Fox) from Foul Play to the appropriately scene-setting words to the Where's Poppa? theme (Jack Elliott). His straight to the gut lyric for "It Goes Like It Goes" (David Shire) from Norma Rae earned him an Oscar. Its plaintive and truthful lyrics have made it one that every singer knows. He also wrote the lyrics to "The Phantom Tollbooth," an animated film that has developed a cult following and the scores to two Broadway shows, "Whoop Up!" and "Conquering Hero," both with music by Moose Charlap, which hastened his move west.

I became aware of Norman Gimbel in the mid aughts when I discovered his songbook while aimlessly poking around Colony Records (Remember doing that? Of course you do.) on the first floor of the Brill Building where Norman had written lyrics back in the '50s. I'd been looking for this song that Tony Bennett recorded in the '60s that just had the sweetest lyrics. And there it was in Norman's songbook! The song was "It Was Me" with a gorgeous melody by Gilbert Becaud. I discovered soon after that he had also written the english lyrics to "Let Go," (Vinicius De Moraes, Baden Powell) which was the shattering (thanks for that word, Rolf) opening number to Mitzi Gaynor's second TV special.

I decided to do a cabaret show of Norman's lyrics that would begin with "Let Go" and end with "It Was Me." With so many well-known and beautiful songs it was very easy to fill the rest of the hour. They aren't needlessly showy lyrics but they are the right lyrics. Right is Norman's word. He would say that he would think and fuss and push and pull a lyric until it was "right," happy to lose glib and clever along the way.

Norman Gimbel was a lovely man who was very kind to me. He was genuinely touched that someone took such an interest in his work and he shared a couple of his favorite and lesser known lyrics with me.

We emailed each other over the years, but I never got to meet Norman. Back in the Metropolitan Room glory days, unbeknownst to me, Norman watched a live video stream of the show from his home near Santa Barbara, California and as soon as the show was over he called the club. Liz picked up the call in the lobby and called out excitedly to me "I have Norman Gimbel on the phone" and we had a wonderful conversation.

Norman Gimbel meant a lot to me and his lyrics touched all of us.

Much love to you, Norman.

Who's the one you would find on the beach every day,
lying there on the shore while his friends swim away,
lying there in the sand only inches from you,
watching you every day till the summer was through?

It was me.

Who would help gather shells for the bracelet you made?
Who would find you the cups for the pink lemonade?
Who was always beside you whenever you'd swim,
when you sat by the sea as the daylight grew dim?

It was me.

Now that summer is gone and the warms skies are cold,
and the soft winds are crisp with their wintery chill.
Do you ever think back on the night when we kissed?
Can you ever forget?
I know I never will.

Who's the one next to you in the group photograph?
Who's the one with the face too unhappy to laugh?
Standing there looking down, so uncertain and shy,
like a boy who's in love, so in love he could cry?

It was me.

It was me.

Me, finding out it was you.

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Subject Author Date
IMDbLinkWednesday, December 26, 07:36:35pm
Confirmation? (NT).Wednesday, December 26, 11:44:55pm

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