June 29, 2011
The Songs of Our Lives, Vol. 4
Revered songwriters show that oldies are still goodies, raising funds for disadvantaged college-bound high schoolers by Jon Burlingame
BRENTWOOD, CA—An enthusiastic crowd of nearly 700 heard the songwriters of "The Girl From Ipanema," "Killing Me Softly," "Neutron Dance," "Through the Years" and "Groovin'" perform their own hits at a fundraiser Monday, June 13th at the Wadsworth Theatre.
Tony Danza hosted the three-hour event, the fourth in the annual "Songs of Our Lives" series produced by composer Charles Fox and his wife Joan for the Fulfillment Fund, which provides mentoring, classroom instruction, counseling and scholarships for approximately 1,700 Los Angeles area young people. Ninety-one percent of Fulfillment Fund participants go on to college, Fox said.
Felix Cavaliere opened the show with three of his 1960s hits for his group, the Young Rascals: "A Beautiful Morning," "Groovin'" and "People Got to Be Free." He was followed by Steve Dorff, who regaled the crowd with the stories behind "I Just Fall in Love Again," "Through the Years" and the theme from TV's Growing Pains.
Allee Willis – while claiming that her last public appearance was in the lunch room at Ohio State in 1974 – proved to be the evening's funniest tunesmith, sharing stories and singing key parts of "September," "Boogie Wonderland," "Neutron Dance" and the theme from Friends.
Veteran Brill Building songwriter Jeff Barry closed the first half of the show, inviting the audience to join him a medley of some of his 1950s and '60s standards including "Tell Laura I Love Her," "Sugar, Sugar," "Leader of the Pack," "Da Doo Run Run," "Doo Wah Diddy" and "Be My Baby." He offered a touching rendition of the Olivia Newton-John hit "I Honestly Love You," and finished the first act with a spontaneous sing-a-long of "Chapel of Love."
David Pack opened the second half with songs from his time with 1970s and '80s rock group Ambrosia: "Holdin' on to Yesterday," "How Much I Feel," "You're the Only Woman" and "Biggest Part of Me" -- including an amusing anecdote about performing at President Clinton's inaugural ball.
One of the highlights of the evening was a half-hour segment with Fox and his longtime lyricist partner Norman Gimbel, sharing stories and performing excerpts from key songs of their past, including the Roberta Flack hit "Killing Me Softly With His Song" and the TV theme from Happy Days. Guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves joined Fox and Gimbel on stage to perform two of Gimbel's collaborations with Antonio Carlos Jobim, "How Insensitive" and "The Girl From Ipanema," the latter sung in warm straight-tones by jazz artist Dianne Reeves. Then two of Gimbel's lyrics set to Michel Legrand's score for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, "I Will Wait for You" and "Watch What Happens," were sung by Fox and Tony Danza, respectively. Danza emerged from the wings to accompany himself on ukelele.
Richard Marx had the audience in stitches with stories about his diverse career, closing the show with several contemporary numbers including his hits "Endless Summer Nights," "Don't Mean Nothing," "Right Here Waiting" and his new single "When You Loved Me."
©2011 Jon Burlingame