The Worst Songwriter of All Time
From "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" to Barbra Streisand's "People."
Hey, Mambo!Mambo Italiano ...Go, go, Joe!You mixed-up Siciliano
The guy who wrote that gets hammered from both ends. To those who love the great American standards, Merrill is the man who single-handedly produced the worst songs of the decade and so debauched the currency of mainstream Tin Pan Alley that it had no moral authority to resist rock 'n' roll. And, for baby-boom rockers, when all other musical, lyrical, and sociopolitical claims for the rock 'n' roll revolution have collapsed, the memory of growing up with the Bob Merrill songbook will always be justification enough.
Merrill moved on to Broadway and Hollywood. Having been told he was too complex for pop music, he was now regarded as too simple-minded to write show scores. But, 33 years after he gave Barbra Streisand "People," she's still singing it. These days, over the instrumental break, she's prone to toss in a homily about world peace and how, whether we're in America, Bosnia, Rwanda, the Middle East; are young, old, black, white, gay, straight, or transsexual, we're all still people, people who need people. When she first sang the song, in the musical biography of Fanny Brice, Funny Girl, it was about precisely the opposite: Fanny was so obsessed with her public identity that she'd neglected the personal; she could love audiences but not individuals. Only James Brolin and the more assiduous tabloid reporters know whether that's true of Barbra in private, but it's increasingly the case professionally: She declaims her love songs as if addressing an audience of millions rather than "one very special person." Ostensibly Bob Merrill's most general lyric, it is, in fact, the most specific of all.
Mark Steyn, who hosts the live opera broadcasts on Channel 4 in Britain, is the film critic of the Spectator in London. He also writes for London's Daily and Sunday Telegraph.
spacerAudio Creditsyeshyperlink"People," performed by Barbra Streisand; words by Bob Merrill, music by Jule Styne. Copyright © 1964 Chappell & Co., Inc./ASCAP. From People (Columbia Cat No. CK-9015). All rights reserved."If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake," performed by Eileen Barton with the New Yorkers; words and music by Al Hoffman/Clem Watts/Bob Merrill. Copyright © 1950 Golden Bell Songs, Al Hoffman Songs, Inc. and Colgems-EMI Music Inc., copyright © Denon Records. From Sentimental Journey, Pop Vocal Classics, Vol. 2 (1947-1950) (Rhino Cat No. R2 71250) © 1993 Rhino Records."(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" performed by Patti Page; words and music by Bob Merrill. Copyright © 1953 712 Stone Avenue Music. From Patti Page's Greatest Hits (Columbia Cat No. CR 9326). © Columbia. All rights reserved."She Wears Red Feathers," performed by Guy Mitchell; words and music by Bob Merrill. Published by 712 Stone Avenue Music. From Guy Mitchell: 16 Most Requested Songs. © 1991 Sony Music Entertainment."Mambo Italiano," performed by Rosemary Clooney; words and music by Bob Merrill. Copyright © 1954 712 Stone Avenue Music. From Big Night Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (TVT Cat No. TVT 804D-2). © 1996 TVT Soundtrax.11111false21999112485600PMWednesdayNovNovember2011/25/1999 1:56:00 AM6307907376000000002001101953008AMFridayOctOctober510/19/2001 9:30:08 AM631390662080000000