Ebb Tide ∑ (Where Do I Begin) Love Story ∑ Itís All In The Game ∑ What
Now My Love ∑
Pennsylvania 6-5000 ∑
Dance Ballerina Dance ∑ Crazy He Calls Me ∑ Shangri La ∑ Till
Arrivederci Roma ∑
All Too Soon ∑
Answer Me, My Love ∑
Enjoy Yourself ∑
Losing You ∑
The World We Knew ∑
Youíre My World ∑
Itís A Marshmallow World ∑A Day In The Life Of A Fool ∑ If You Could See Me Now ∑ I
Could Have Told You ∑
Buona Sera ∑
Hand Me Down Love ∑
Come In Out Of The Rain ∑ Dream Along With Me ∑ Homesick For New England ∑
Little Bird ∑
Letís Give Love A Chance ∑ The Last Dance ∑ Robin Hood ∑ You
Are Everything To Me ∑ The Value Of Love ∑ Believe In Me ∑
Bottle Up The Moonlight ∑ Iíll Go ∑ Paint Yourself A Rainbow ∑ Remember Me Wherever You
Oceans Of Love ∑
River Of Smoke ∑
Story Of My Life ∑
Summer In New York ∑
Carl Sigmanís songs have touched our hearts for more than
60 years. Since his death last year at age 91, his son Michael has been reintroducing
Carlís songs and discovering new ones that have never been recorded. We talked
with Michael about his dadís song writing career and the valuable legacy he has
given to us all.
Q. Your father
practiced law for a year before launching his career as a songwriter. What
caused such a dramatic change in his career goals?
A. He never aspired to be an attorney. His mother wanted him
to study law, but his heart wasnít in it. His real love was music. He studied
classical piano as a child and young adult and later gave piano lessons. The
piano was always his main instrument.
Q. He wrote lyrics
rather than melodies in a majority of his songs. Why did he choose to work in
the verbal rather than the musical language?
A. When he started out, he wrote melodies. His first song
was Just Remember, a collaboration with Johnny Mercer, where dad wrote
the music and Mercer wrote the words. Mercer became dadís mentor and gently
nudged him in the direction of writing lyrics. At the time, there were many
musicians in the big bands who could write melodies but very few could write
lyrics. From that time on, dad concentrated mainly on lyrics.
Q. What was his
method when collaborating with a composer? Did he set his words to an existing
melody or did he create the lyrics first?
A. Most often the melody came first, but there were various
ways he worked. At times he collaborated directly with a composer and at other
times, someone in Italy might send him a melody and they would never speak to
each other. Sometimes he was given a theme or a title and other times nothing
at all. For example, What Now My Love was originally a French song with
the French lyric Et Maintenant, translating to And Now. He took
those words and wrote the song. Another example is with Ebb Tide. Robert
Maxwell had written the melody and gave it the title. Dad had to write the
song, and it was very difficult because, what does ebb tide mean?
Q. He said the title was the hardest part. Why?
A. The title suggests the story and must fit into the melody
in a significant way. It should also contain key words that are in the song.
Q.† His conversational lyrics have touched the
hearts of millions. How did he capture the essence of everyday feelings and
make them so memorable?
A. He was a very sensitive guy who was always picking up
phrases from the vernacular. He would read and listen for everyday expressions
that had meaning and they often found a place in his songs.
Q. A successful
artist has the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one. How did your dad discern
what ideas would make a good song?
A. When he wrote a lyric he would go over it and over it,
play if for our family and friends and get everyoneís input. In those days the music
publishers were the powerhouses and they had to believe in a song for it to be
recorded. So there was a system of checks and balances. With the theme of Love
Story, he wrote a lyric about a woman who died, because thatís what the
movie was about. The people at Paramount wanted the focus to be on a love song,
not a woman who died, so he had to rewrite it. Out of frustration, he said to
my mother ďwhere do I begin?Ē That phrase became the opening lyric for the new
Q. One of his songs was a direct descendent from a
classical piece. Tell us about it.
A. Itís All In The Game came from a tune that was a
classical piece composed in 1912 entitled A Melody in A Major. It was
written for the flute by Charles Dawes before he became vice president of the United
States under President Calvin Coolidge. The piece had a classical melody with a
wide range that was difficult to sing. Dad rearranged the melody and then wrote
the lyric. It became a hit for singer Tommy Edwards in 1958.
Q. Your dadís songs spanned from the 1930s to the 1990s
and remain popular today. How was he able to touch the heartstrings of such a
A. Itís amazing that he wrote songs for more than 60 years.
What makes him unique is his eclecticism over a long period of time. He was a
musician for any genre and wrote big band songs, calypso, blues, jazz, country,
Q. Did he work at the piano?
A. Yes, for hours and hours and then he played golf almost
every day. He tried to create a wedding between the words and the music. You
canít accomplish this unless you spend lots of time with the melody. The song The
World We Knew has a melody that goes from very low to very high. The words
ďover and over, I keep going over the world we knewĒ go very well with that
Q. You have said that by working with your dadís songs you
feel connected to him. In what way?
A. Dad lived in his songs. He wasnít the most expressive
person in his day-to-day dealings with people, but his most emotional and
deepest self came out in his songs. He seems to live on in his songs.
Q. As president of Major Songs, tell us about your plans.
A. Weíre compiling a boxed set of 3 CDs of some of the best
versions of dadís best songs. It will include well-known hits from the Ď30s and
Ď40s as well as Ebb Tide by Frank Sinatra and the Righteous Brothers. Itís
All In The Game by Tommy Edwards and by Van Morrison will also be included.
We hope to get these songs promoted with todayís artists and in the movies. Dad
wrote hundreds and hundreds of songs.†
Iím going through all of them to find the interesting ones that nobody
knows about. I found a song he wrote with Robert Maxwell, his collaborator on Ebb
Tide. Itís called Pathfinder, and itís a great song thatís never
been recorded. Weíll be recording it and then see if thereís interest. Weíre
also trying to promote his songs in Europe, Japan and South America through the
publishers in those countries.
Q. Is there any difference between the songs your father
wrote and the songs being written today?
A. Most of the songs of the last 30 years have been written
on the guitar and are structured on three or four basic chords. Dadís songs
were written on the piano and were structured with complicated jazz chords,
sharps, flats, and diminished and augmented chords. They were born on the
piano, written by a pianist, and theyíre great for us to play on the piano