Cynthia Weil, the celebrated songwriter who helped craft timeless hits like the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire,” died Thursday, June 1. She was 82.
Weil’s daughter, Jenn Mann, confirmed her death, though no cause was given. “My mother, Cynthia Weil, was the greatest mother, grandmother and wife our family could ever ask for,” Mann said. “She was my best friend, confidant, and my partner in crime and an idol and trailblazer for women in music.
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“She was a great businesswoman and a terrific negotiator. But to us, her family, she was a loyal and devoted wife, a soulmate to her daughter, a loving friend to her son-in-law and the greatest Grammy her granddaughters could ever ask for,” Mann added. “Her strong opinions, great sense of humor, and animal advocacy will be greatly missed.”
Barry Mann, Weil’s husband and creative partner, said, “I’m a lucky man. I had two for one: my wife and one of the greatest songwriters in the world, my soul and inspiration.”
Weil and Mann were key figures in the Brill Building scene, helping to shape the sound of American pop and rock and roll in the early Sixties alongside other luminaries like Carole King, Burt Bacharach, and Neil Diamond. The two continued to find success, whether working together or with others, in subsequent decades, scoring hits with an array of artists in various genres through the 1990s.
Born and raised in New York City, Weil found her talent for writing song lyrics early. She began her career working at Frank Loesser’s music publishing company before joining the Brill Building cohort after moving to Don Kirshner’s Alton Music. She and Mann married in 1961, the same year they wrote and notched their first hit together, “Bless You,” which crooner Tony Orlando took to Number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.
With Weil writing the lyrics and Mann composing the music, the couple quickly became one of the Brill Building’s most reliable partnerships. Their tunes included the Crystals’ “Uptown,” Paul Petersen’s “My Dad,” and the Drifters’ “On Broadway” (which they wrote with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller). Their first Number One finally came in 1964 when they partnered with Phil Spector to pen the Righteous Brothers’ classic ballad, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”
“I think it was a great marriage of song and production,” Weil said of the tune in a 2016 interview alongside Mann. “It seems that it touches a universal chord in everybody.”
The pair explained that they wanted to write something in the vein of their favorite song at the time, the Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving” (penned by the iconic Motown team of Holland-Dozier-Holland). “We wanted to write something with that same feeling of yearning,” Weil said.
Over the next few years, Weil and Mann wrote songs like “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” (another Number One), and two Top 10 tunes for Paul Revere and the Raiders (“Kicks” and “Hungry”). As the Brill Building era started to wind down in the mid-Sixties, major hits became a bit more elusive, but Weil and Mann were never deterred.
Mama Cass enjoyed success with two Weil/Mann tunes (“Make Your Own Kind of Music” and “It’s Getting Better”); Dusty Springfield opened her classic album Dusty in Memphis with “Just a Little Lovin’”; and B.J. Thomas and Elvis Presley made hits out of “I Just Can’t Help Believing” in the U.S. and U.K., respectively.
In the Seventies, Weil and Mann wrote for artists like the Partridge Family and Blood, Sweat & Tears, but their biggest hit of the decade, “Here You Come Again,” was recorded by Dolly Parton. The song peaked at Number Three on the Hot 100, becoming Parton’s first pop crossover hit (and a rare smash she didn’t write herself).
Weil and Mann continued to effortlessly adapt to the changing tides of pop in the Eighties. In 1981, they wrote “Just Once” for Quincy Jones, which featured James Ingram on vocals, and “Don’t Know Much,” which peaked at Number Two for Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville. Five years later, Ronstadt and Ingram joined forces on arguably Weil and Mann’s biggest song since “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Somewhere Out There.”
Co-written with James Horner for the animated movie An American Tail, “Somewhere Out There” reached Number Two and earned Weil and Mann their first (and only) Grammys: Song of the Year and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television. It also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song but lost to Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun (which, of course, famously featured a scene with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”)
Weil also collaborated with others besides Mann in the Eighties, writing hits like the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy” with Tom Snow and “Running With the Night” with Lionel Richie. With David Foster and Tom Keane, she co-wrote Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire” in 1985; nearly 20 years later, Kanye West sampled the song on his breakout single, “Through the Wire.”
Weil’s career wound down in the Nineties, but not before she added two more hits to her discography. In 1997, she and Mann co-wrote “I Will Come to You” with Hanson, while the following year, Weil and Tommy Lee James scored a Number One country song with “Wrong Again,” recorded by Martina McBride.
Weil and Mann were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987, and in 2010 they were honored with the Ahmet Ertegun Award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Weil was the first woman to receive the honor). Though she stepped away from songwriting, Weil continued to write, publishing two novels and a children’s book in the 2010s.
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