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From the Land of Band Box Records

Connais-tu

UPDATE: – December, 2017:

“Hi, Just came across your terrific tribute to my dad, Carl Sigman.  As you may know, Alison Krauss has  been nominated for her soulful rendition of “Losing You.” But great as it is, it can’t beat Brenda’s version! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLpuId3BNcU
 
Best,  Michael Sigman”

Renard

I was working my way through the Decca picture sleeves and came to one of my very favorites – Brenda Lee’s “Losing You” from the Spring of 1963 (#6 Billboard).

There are many Brenda Lee songs which I am very fond of – her early rockers “Sweet Nothins'”, “That’s All You Gotta Do”, and “You Can Depend On Me” being right up there toward the top.  But “Losing You” is special.  For me, the track has it all, lyrics, melody, production – and who thought to inject the trumpet in all the right places?

The trumpet player was one Don Sheffield I have learned (some say it was William K. McElhiney) – Doesn’t really matter much – Just glad it happened.  Sheffield would perform with the studio project “The Neon Philharmonic” who scored a hit of sorts in 1969 with “Morning Girl”.

“Losing You” is heart wrenching – for anyone who has every ‘lost’ anyone or for anyone who is planning to do so.  Looking back on this song now I wish that I had lost someone back then (I had no one) just to get into the spirit of this fabulous song.

“Losing You” was a two-step project  between French composer Jean Gaston Renard and American composer of note – Carl Sigman, who did not work together on this song.  Renard composed the melody to “Connais-tu” in 1960 – This translates to “Do You Know” in French.  Sigman came along in 1963 and wrote English lyrics bringing his magic to the recording, resulting into a fantastic haunting song as delivered by the 19 year old Lee, who at the point in time and already charted 27 times!

Enter Carl Sigman

Sigman & Brenda Lee

Carl Sigman was far from a one-time hit composer.  He was born in September of 1909 in New York in Brooklyn.  He started off studying law – receiving his degree – but was persuaded by writer – singer Johnny Mercer to turn back to his love of music composition.  That is just what Sigman did.  Some of his first compositions would include (most successful chart occurrences listed – although multiple artists recorded these):

  • “Pennsylvania 6-5000” – Glenn Miller – 1940 – #5
  • “Ballerina” (Dance Ballerina Dance) – 1947 – #1 for 10 Weeks
  • “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” – Guy Lombardo – 1950 – #10
  • “My Heart Cries For You” – Guy Mitchell – 1951 #2 – Dinah Shore – 1951 – #3 & Vic Damone – 1951 – #4
  • “A Marshmallow World” – Bing Crosby – 1951 – #24
  • “Ebb Tide” – Frank Chacksfield – 1953 – #2
  • “Answer Me My Love” – Nat King Cole – 1954 – #6
  • “Shangri La” – The Four Coins  – 1957 – #11
  • “It’s All in the Game” – Tommy Edwards – 1958 – #1
  • “The Day the Rains Came”  – Jane Morgan – 1958 – #17
  • “Till” – The Angels – !962 – #14
  • “You’re My World” – Cilla Black – 1964 – #26
  • “Ebb Tide” The Righteous Brothers – 1966 – #5
  • “What Now My Love” – Sonny and Cher – 1966 – #14
  • “Fool” – Elvis -1977 – #90

The above “It’s All In the Game” is – as we all know – a song melody composed way back in 1911 by Charles Dawes who would serve as Vice President under President Calvin Coolidge.  Sigman came along in 1951 and added the sorrowful lyrics – much in the same vein as “Losing You” and hit it big.

Sigman at the piano – Phil Ingalls and Bob Hilliard Looking On

Where Do I Begin?

Sigman stayed on the top of his game going into the 1970’s composing the lyrics for “(Where Do I Begin?) The Theme from Love Story” (tune by Francis Lai).  Oddly, Sigman’s first set of lyrics submitted to Robert Evans – a Paramount movies executive – were ridiculed as being uninspiring and sexually “suggestive”.  Sigman was not pleased but after a day or so – cooled off – and while still stymied, turned to his wife and posed the question “Where do I begin?”  He was on his way with another smash hit set of lyrics.

The title song charted in 1971 by both Andy Williams with a vocal (#9) and an instrumental by Henry Mancini (#13).

Edwards first recorded the song after the lyrics were added in 1951.  That version failed to make a dent.  Then in a 1958 MGM recording session, there was time for one more cut – and so it was decided to re-record “It’s All in the Game” in stereo adding the more youthful oriented piano accompaniment and background vocals – this time sending the song to the top of the charts – staying at the top for six weeks!

Sigman’s composing collaborations included Bob Russell, Bob Hillard, Duke Ellington and others.  He was inducted into the “Songwriters Hall of Fame” in 1972 where he certainly belongs – if for no other reason (for me at least) for putting words to that great melody “Connais-tu”.

Nothing was lost in the translation!

Carl Sigman passed away on September 26th, 2000 at the age of 91 – working in music right up until his death.

 

 

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