Words & Music

One Great Lyricist &
One Great Composer
Who Never Collaborated

SAMMY CAHN (1913-1993)
JIMMY McHUGH (1894-1969)

YouTube Preview

The phrase “Words & Music” describes the two essential elements of song, and the most frequently asked question regarding song is “Which comes first?” The question acknowledges the equal importance of both lyricist and composer in the creation of a great song, and the answer varies with every collaboration.

This Lecture-in-Song appropriately entitled “Words and Music” deals with one great lyricist and one great composer, and the answer to The Question about which came first is “Neither” since these two never worked together. They did work separately in the same era with a host of worthy collaborators, and both merit a close look. Both were prolific, and both were consistently good, often great.

Composer Jimmy McHugh, of Boston-Irish origins, began like nearly everyone in his time, working for the music publishers in the Twenties, gaining first fame with “When My Sugar Walks Down The Street” and “I Can´t Believe That You´re In Love With Me.” Teaming up with young novice Dorothy Fields in 1928, the duo forged a formidable partnership that took them to the top in Hollwood thru the mid-Thirties: “I Can´t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” “Diga Diga Doo,” “Exactly Like You,” “On The Sunny Side Of The Street,” “Don´t Blame Me,” “I Feel A Song Coming On,” “I´m In The Mood For Love.”

When Fields went on to collaborate with Jerome Kern, McHugh continued his winning streak of hits throughout the Thirties & Forties with a variety of other lyricists: “I´m Shooting High,” “You´re A Sweetheart,” “South American Way,” “Where Are You?”; a trio of hits with Frank Loesser (“Say It,” “Murder She Said,” “Let´s Get Lost”); a different trio of songs that introduced Frank Sinatra to movie audiences (“I Couldn´t Sleep A Wink Last Night,” “The Music Stopped,” “This Is A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening”); “Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer,” “It´s A Most Unusual Day.”

In the 1980s, McHugh´s songs provided the score for the Mickey Rooney-Ann Miller Broadway vaudeville/burlesque, SUGAR BABIES.

Lyricist Sammy Cahn was a full-blooded New Yorker, stagestruck early by the theatre & vaudeville. In 1935, Cahn penned English lyrics for an old Yiddish tune and launched two sensational careers: his own and the Andrews Sisters (“Bei Mir Bist Du Schon”). Over the next 4 decades, Cahn would enjoy virtually unbroken success. “Until The Real Thing Comes Along” was followed by his legendary partnership with Jule Styne providing the core of Frank Sinatra´s early career: “I´ve Heard That Song Before,” “I´ll Walk Alone,” “Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night In The Week,” “As Long As There´s Music,” “Come Out, Come Out,” “Five Minutes More,” “There Goes That Song Again,” “I Should Care” [with Paul Weston], “Guess I´ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry,” “Day By Day” [Weston], “Let It Snow,” “I Believe”; the Broadway score for HIGH BUTTON SHOES (“The Things We Did Last Summer,” “I Still Get Jealous,” “Papa, Won´t You Dance With Me”); “It´s Magic,” [for Doris Day´s film debut]; and with Nicolas Brodszky for Mario Lanza, “Be My Love,” “Because You´re Mine.”

The Fifties were even more successful: “Teach Me Tonight” [Gene DePaul], “The Christmas Waltz” [Styne], “Three Coins In The Fountain” [Academy Award winner with Styne], “I´ll Never Stop Loving You” [Brodszky]; the legendary partnership with composer Jimmy Van Heusen for Frank Sinatra´s luminous Capitol Years (“Love and Marriage,” “The Tender Trap,” “All The Way,” “All My Tomorrows,” “Come Fly With Me,” “To Love And Be Loved,” “High Hopes” [Oscar winner], “Come Dance With Me”); “The Second Time Around” [for Bing Crosby], “My Kind Of Town,” “Call Me Irresponsible” [Oscar winner]….

More than 40 years into his career, Cahn provided Sinatra with the perfect comeback lyric: “Let Me Try Again.”

The extraordinary, eternally fresh quality of these two song catalogues makes a Lecture-in-Song celebrating Jimmy McHugh & Sammy Cahn an absolute necessity…and a perfect delight.

If you would like to engage Fred Miller for one of his Lectures-in-Song, please contact him directly at any time. For a full listing of all Lectures, click here.

Fred Miller’s Lectures-In-Song comprise a series of solo programs, each an historical, anecdotal and musical profile of some great personality or important aspect of American Popular Song. These Lectures are delivered by singer/pianist/narrator Miller at the piano, and each reflects his lifetime passion and appreciation for great music. He studied classical piano in his hometown of Albuquerque from ages 7-15 but early on gave up any notion of music as a profession. At that time, Fred assumed a musical career was either one devoted to the rigid discipline of classical music or being a freewheeling rock star, and he accurately decided he had no aptitude for either. However, at age 22, upon hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter, he found his calling and life’s mission.

Through the Seventies and Eighties, Miller studied and absorbed in minute detail the life and times and songs of nearly all the great American composers and lyricists who thrived during Broadway & Hollywood’s Golden Age between the two World Wars. In 1987, he founded Silver Dollar Productions in order to produce operettas, dramas, musicals and small cabarets. Silver Dollar Productions required ensemble casts, props, costumes and, most significantly, the challenges of publicity and selling tickets, and for a dozen busy years, the company presented an unbroken string of varied and highly lauded performances.

In 1999, Miller was simultaneously underwritten by both his local Hunterdon County Library and the Art Alliance of Philadelphia to present a series of six solo Lectures-In-Song, each devoted to one of the premiere Broadway/Hollywood songwriters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen.

In presenting history, biography and psychology while sitting at a piano singing the superlative songs of his heroes, Miller has found a single performing medium that utilizes most of his intellectual and musical passions.The list of Lectures-In-Song that began with six in 1999 is now more than seventy(and growing!), a joyful tribute to the boundlessly rich field of American Popular Song.