BEVERLY HILLS, California (AP) — As guests filed into Sunday’s music-filled memorial for Cynthia Weil, they smiled in recognition and sang along to a string of hit songs she co-wrote that were played on speakers in a lush courtyard of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Weil, the Grammy-winning lyricist who enjoyed a decades-long partnership with husband Barry Mann and helped compose “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Walking in the Rain” and dozens of other timeless tunes, died last week at age 82.
Singer Tony Orlando, who hosted the private event from a small stage with a grand piano, admonished attendees that despite the cloudy skies the day was not to be mournful, but a sunny celebration.
“I want the applause to be loud!” he said. Orlando performed “Bless You,” the 1961 ballad that gave Weil and Mann their first top 20 hit. They were married within months of the song’s release.
White-coated waiters distributed trays of bright green apple martinis, Weil’s favorite cocktail, to her friends, family members and show business contemporaries. Among those raising their glasses were Mann, record producer Lou Adler, singer Carol Bayer Sager and songwriters Carole King, Jeff Barry, Mike Stoller and Diane Warren.
Weil and Mann were one of popular music’s most successful teams, part of a crew of young songwriters based in Manhattan’s Brill Building neighborhood, near Times Square. With such hit-making duos as King and Gerry Goffin and Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the Brill Building hit factory turned out many of the biggest singles of the ’60s and beyond.
The couple was collaborators with producer Phil Spector on songs for the Ronettes (“Walking in the Rain”), the Crystals (“He’s Sure the Boy I Love”) and other singers, and also provided hits for everyone from Lionel Richie to Leo Sayer.
Their most famous collaboration, a song that would become historic, was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” a soulful anthem produced by Spector with epic strings and sung with desperate intensity by the Righteous Brothers, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” topped the charts in 1965 and was covered by numerous other artists.
Appearing at the memorial via a recorded video, Bill Medley said Weil and Mann didn’t just write the Righteous Brothers a hit, “They wrote us a career!” According to Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), no other song was played more on radio and television in the 20th century.
Dolly Parton, who also appeared on video, recalled her career being sent “out into space” when the country star scored a crossover pop hit in 1977 with “Here You Come Again,” written by Weil and Mann.
“She left a great body of work,” Parton said.
Weil and Mann were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. They were supporting characters in the hit Broadway musical about King, “Beautiful,” which opened in 2013 and documented the intense friendship and rivalry between the two married couples. Mann and Weil’s musical “They Wrote That?” had a brief run in 2004.
On Sunday, with Paul Shaffer on piano, King performed “Somewhere Out There,” a song Weil wrote with James Horner for the soundtrack of “An American Tail.” It won Grammys in 1987 for best song and best song for a movie or television, and was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe.
Weil’s daughter, Dr. Jenn Mann, said the songwriter died last Thursday at her home in Beverly Hills, California. She remembered her mother Sunday as a loving wife to Mann, a devoted grandmother to her two girls, a lover of animals, and a soft-hearted romantic who could surprise people with her no-nonsense business sense.
While many of Weil’s peers struggled once the Beatles caught on in the mid-1960s, she continued to make hits, sometimes with Mann, or with other partners. Weil helped write the Peabo Bryson ballad “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again”; James Ingram’s “Just Once”; and the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy.” In 1997, she was in the top 10 again with Hanson’s “I Will Come to You.”
And her talents extended beyond love ballads. She and Mann wrote one of rock’s first anti-drug songs, “Kicks,” a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1966. The Animals had a hit with her tale of working class frustration, “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place.” The Crystals’ “Uptown” was a 1961 hit that touched upon race and class in ways not often heard in rock’s early years.
Appearing on video, rocker Paul Stanley of KISS recalled being a fledgling songwriter as a teenager in New York and scouring the credits on his favorite records.
“Invariably, songs that I loved, I would see her name on it,” Stanley said.