It Started with a Dream
- Disc 1
Recently I was invited by the Nashville Writers’ Society to play for them – a rare privilege. When I started into the vamp that characterizes the song “Some Kind of Music,” a few writers started snapping their fingers, and in no time I was playing to the accompaniment of one hundred country writers, all coolly snapping on the second and fourth beats. I knew then that I had to start this album with this song.
“Witchcraft” was my first big hit. I don’t know if it’s possible to describe the elation that Carolyn Leigh and I shared when we first heard Frank Sinatra’s glorious rendition of our song. For this album, I wanted to do something different – hence the Latin-style tempo. Mike Berniker and I put together this arrangement, beginning the cut with the first tune I wrote for Carolyn Leigh’s “Witchcraft” verse (a tune we liked, but didn’t use back then). Of course, the superb finishing touch is Brad Dechter’s luscious and inventive orchestration.
Tony Bennett is my favorite singer today. He has introduced so many of my songs that he represents a large part of my career. I’ve always wanted to hear him sing “The Colors of My Life” from my show Barnum, and here was the perfect opportunity. Since Tony has become world-renowned not only for his singing but for his painting, which can be found in the best collections and at top museums, the song couldn’t be more representative of him both artistically and philosophically.
“Nothing To Do But Dance” is the product of my brief collaboration with Christopher Gore in the ’70s. His lyrics have an existential flavor worthy of Sartre or Camus, spiced with a deadly touch of irony. Sadly, his untimely death deprived us of a unique and extraordinary talent.
I dedicate the combining of two songs, “I Love My Wife” and “It Amazes Me,” to my beautiful wife, Shelby, who has brought me such great happiness and comfort, and filled in all the empty spaces in my life. She will gladly share this dedication, I know, with our precious daughter, Lily Cye.
I didn’t start out as a beach person, but at a fairly young age turned into one. That, coupled with my fondness for autumn, and my strong feeling that September is when exciting things start to happen, inspired me to write this tone poem, “September’s Coming.”
“The Best Is Yet To Come” started life as an instrumental featuring my trio and me. Carolyn Leigh heard it and wanted to write a lyric to it. I told her that I didn’t think it would work as a song because singers wouldn’t take to the intervals. Needless to say, I have never been so happy to be wrong. It’s now one of the most performed compositions in my repertoire.
“I Really Love You” is another of the Christopher Gore songs. The orchestration is purposely so romantic and lush that it’s possible to miss the wry cynicism of the lyrics. It is a contemporary bittersweet statement.
“Atlantic City” is the last of the Christopher Gore songs presented here. Bob Fosse was so taken with this song that he encouraged Christopher and me to try to write a show around it. He said that he could easily choreograph twenty minutes around this number alone. Our work on the project was left unfinished when Christopher died. Although this was written for a different period in the history of Atlantic City, it seems to have an even stronger resonance today.
“Bad Is for Other People” was not scheduled for this album. I just had an overwhelming need to include it at the recording session. I wrote it with Bob Wells, a wonderful writer and friend with whom I collaborated in writing Shirley MacLaine’s very first night club act in the ’70s and her subsequent TV specials which won three Emmys for me. Again, Brad Dechter’s masterful orchestration of my piano solo is a deft and original touch.
“I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life” was one of my earliest songs, and the second big record of my writing career. It was beautifully sung by the fabulous Nat King Cole. Joseph Allan McCarthy was my lyricist at the time and felt the music for his title should be very upbeat, in the manner of “Just One of Those Things.” I was going through the end of a love affair and the musical setting reflected my emotional condition, so it turned out to be the sad, poignant ballad you hear today.
“Three By Three” is a medley of songs set in a jazz waltz tempo that I wrote for various occasions, including “Real Live Girl,” a show-stopping number in the musical Little Me, brilliantly staged by Bob Fosse as an ethereal song and dance for some WWI soldiers in the trenches; “Sweet Talk,” a song I started to write but never got around to finishing – I called Floyd Huddleston, one of our great country writers, who liked it and finished it with some of the saltiness and humor that characterizes country-pop songs –; “Meat and Potatoes,” a song written with Dorothy Fields for a show that never was. When Mike and I were going through material for this album, I couldn’t recall the entire lyric so I scatted on the melody. Mike was so taken with it that he insisted I perform it that way on the recording. I have to agree that it adds a special touch to the cut.
“Somebody” was a song waiting to be written. I simply had to express these sentiments musically and lyrically. After I’d written it, I sent it to Pearl Bailey. She loved the song but she had no record contract at the time (a gross injustice!) so she couldn’t put it on an album. She felt it had an important message and should be heard.
The title song of this album, “It Started with a Dream,” is a tribute, even a love letter, to creative people everywhere. The message of this song resonates very deeply. It was written for a musical currently being prepared for Broadway which is based on a lovely children’s book called Pamela’s First Musical. The book is by Wendy Wasserstein, who is also doing the libretto. The lyrics are by David Zippel, with whom I successfully collaborated, along with Larry Gelbart (Book) on City of Angels, a proud achievement for all of us. The song is almost biographical and reflects the rest of this recording, which in turn represents so much of my work and creative life. My guest artist, Lillias White, is a singing and acting phenomenon. She was featured in my musical The Life, and stopped the show regularly every night singing “The Oldest Profession.” I am thrilled that she could join me in this interpretation of our title song.
– Cy Coleman
Cy Coleman, piano and vocals
Tony Bennett appears courtesy of Columbia Records
Lillias White appears courtesy of World Blue Records
Orchestrated and conducted by Brad Dechter