Interview: Norman Gimbel (The Girl from Impanema, Killing Me Softly with his Song, Canadian Sunset). How to Start Your Own Publishing Company, AGAC AskaPro- A Lyric Writing Forum with Bobby Weinstein and Norman Dolp, "The Autobiography of a Copyright", NSA's Linda Bolton "Above all Have Patience..."
Excerpt from Norman Gimbel
A little background on the man you're going to read about. He's a lyricist born in New York who started out writing for Broadway. His credits on the stage include "Whoop-up" and "The Conquering Hero." His movie work boasts some thirty eight picture songs during his California residence including the Academy Award nomination for I Will Wait For You from "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," and song scores for "The Phantom Tollbooth," "Where's Poppa?" "The Star Spangled Girl" and "Pufnstuf." He also had another Academy Award nomination for Richard's Window from "The Other Side Of The Mountain." On television h-e has theme songs in three currently running shows, "Happy Days," "Laverne And Shirley" and "Wonder Woman." He has collaborated with Carlos Antonio Jobim, Burt Bacharach, Michel Legrand and Charles Fox, among others. He has eight BMI million performance awards which ties him with the Beatles in that respect. His Pop standards include such titles as Watch What Happens, Bluesette, Summer Samba (So Nice), Live For Life, Canadian Sunset and bossa nova classics such as The Girl From Ipanema, Meditation, How Insensitive, Aqua De Beber, and his most recent hits, I Got A Name and Killing Me Softly With His Song.
"Strumming my pain with his fingers,
Singing my life with his words.
Killing me softly with his song,
Killing me softly with his song.
Telling my whole life with his words,
Killing me softly with his song."
We didn't do much talking in this interview. Normally the conversation in our interviews is aggressively pursued by us. In this one, all we had to do was ask a concise question and it was like turning on a faucet. ..the answer came pouring out. I learned a lot from talking with Norman and I hope you do reading him. I'm going to turn on the faucet and leave you guys alone now. You're about to find out that Norman Gimbel has something to say.
"My first preoccupation when I started writing was to be clever. There was no sense of life, or understanding, but it was clever.
"When I began as a writer, there was a whole title orientation that existed. Do you have a title?' 'Yes, I have a great dream title. ..I Have Dreamed.”
I have to live with songs a long time before I can tell if a song is good or bad. With the lyrics I write to my dummy melody, I will however, decide if I think the lyric is good or not on the spot. I could be wrong, but I'll say it. I'll get a good hot flash of heat through my body of satisfaction when I think I've done something good. I don't know what kind of song it will be and then I have to struggle and pray and wait for the music to match it. I feel good about a lot of lyrics I've written that nobody's heard of. ..some I've put a lot of work into.
"The theme for 'Happy Days' came hard to me. During that whole era in the fifties, I was flirting with the theatre. I remember asking Charlie Fox, 'What do you do with this song? Give me a list of things those kids did. The resolution. ..Monday, Tuesday, Happy Days. ..was a simple little thing. But I exhausted myself trying to come up with it.
"Very rarely do I get lucky and does it really explode. I usually have to work my ass off. Even after all the things I've written, I have a lot of problems to be looser. ..to be freer. ..just to have the lyric speak for itself. And yet I think it's valuable that I go through that struggle.
"When I think of the new music. I think of what rock lyrics and the kids on the street have done to the music business. They come in with a raw song, and what makes it work is their passion, and what they have to say. It doesn't matter about technique any- more. It's nice to have technique. ..I'm very glad to have it. I know I can attack any kind of situation and not go in worrying about it. I can sit in a motion picture committee meeting and know that I can synthesize their film for them in two or three minutes. That comes from my training at synthesizing a story in a three minute lyric for so many years. I've got the technique, and the skills, and the machinery to do that.
"But what really matters to me is to write a really good song….a really good, honest song that talks about what I feel now. It's difficult to throw off all that discipline and free myself. I struggle with that every time I write. I have a tendency to polish too much and to try to be too perfect. The fact of the matter is that I think my songs are rewritten, rather than written. I never do it just once. ..I'm always going back. But I'm learning to trust. I've learned when to stop and I've learned when to trust myself. That comes with repeated doing.
"I don't like to consider myself extraordinary. I'm just a hard working guy who loves to work and has a lot of bills and mortgages and all kinds of stuff. I really have to keep my ass moving, you know? I don't know what else I could do. I mean, I know I can do this, you see. This is my craft. I'm a mechanic and I ~can still go out and run the computer, so then my reputation keeps on feeding me work and I do it.
"But I think the greatest satisfaction is writing a really terrific song. That's where it's really at for a songwriter
wherever it comes from. I just believe it's a manipulation of an attitude and a feeling and a sensitivity I was born with. It could have come out in law, maybe, or in a novel, or it could have come out in politics. ..just happens I'm doing this. I don't think being a lyricist is a gift. ..I think it's just using and sort of surviving with what you have ...your sensitivity and feelings.
"I'm not trying to play. ..you know ...be self-effacing. I really think that it's a lucky game that you can play and have a certain amount of freedom and privacy, not be under the gun, and I make that much money. But I'm not going to get pompous and think myself as a superior individual because I'm lucky.
Also in the eBook: AGAC - ASKAPRO -:A lyric writing forum with Bobby Weinstein and Norman Dolph”, “Composition How to determine large chord forms” by Ladd Mclntosh, “How To Start Your Own Publishing Company” by Allan McDougall, “Practical Aspects To I Securing A Recording Contract” by Neville L. Johnson and David w. Lang