Bob Dylan, now that was a really amazing collaboration. That happened when my girlfriend, Carol Childs, who was dating Bob at the time, and I think she convinced him that writing with me was a great idea and somehow he thought that that might be fun himself so he called me and we arranged for a time to write at his barn in Malibu. And it was really weird. I’d say something and he’d say he liked, it but he was all the way over on the other side of the room and he was covering his paper as if I was going to look and cheat. It was the most private collaboration…. I mean it’s hard to call it a collaboration because we were never exactly doing anything together at the same time. And at the end of the day he really didn’t use a whole lot of my lyric, maybe a third, but he gave me a credit. I thought, ‘Why is he giving me a credit?’ He basically lost most of my words, but he said he wouldn’t have written it without me in the room. He was a very generous, brilliant guy, as you all know, and I got to write ‘Under Your Spell’ with Bob Dylan on the Knocked Out Loaded record.
Bruce Roberts has been a friend of mine for almost as long as I can remember. We started out in New York City and we wrote songs for The Moments and for Tony Orlando and Dawn. Through the years, no matter who I wrote with, I’d always call Bruce…he wrote songs with me and Foster, he wrote songs with me and Bert he wrote songs with me and Marvin. Because I just like to see Bruce and he has so much musicality, he’s always a plus to any collaboration. He’s still a good friend; one of those friends that going to stay in my life and pop up here and there, and there and here, forever, I hope.
Burt was my former husband, we were married for ten years, and as most would agree, he’s one of the great songwriters of all time. Frank Sinatra once made a comment he didn’t like in Vegas – he said that he wrote in half-sizes, because everything’s like 5 6/8 and 3 7/8. Burt didn’t think that was very funny. But anyway, he’s the only one who I ever wrote with that insisted that his melodies not be touched. So I filled in the lyrics to his melodies and I had to be precise. We had a few arguments over that, like in ‘That’s What Friends Are For.’ He played da da da da da da da, and I wrote, ‘I never thought I’d feel this way’ and he said ‘That’s not what I played, I played da da da da da da da.’ So I said ‘OK, so just say ‘I never thought I’d feel this way.’ And he said ‘No. I need that pickup. I need da da.’ I said ‘Fine, just say and. And I never thought I’d feel this way.’ So we wrote it down and the record as you know, or you might know, was a huge success with Dionne and Stevie Wonder and Elton John and Gladys Knight and we gave the money to AMFAR (American Foundation for AIDS research). But when I hear it on the radio today, and I hear ‘and I,’ I think ‘gosh, its really better.’ Plus, its better lyrically without my even knowing it because you feel like you’re coming into the middle of a conversation. So in that regard I guess he’s sort of a melodic genius. Then we wrote ‘On My Own’ together, which was a big hit with Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald, and ‘Heartlight’ with Neil so we had a good collaboration, the best of which being our now 21-year-old son, Christopher, going on 22 in December. So, you know, it was what it was, and its OK now.
Two women that I’ve written with in the last couple of years were my idols years before that. And, you know, the funny thing is that when you have someone you have that much respect for, no matter what time you get with them, even if they’ve had their greatest creative spurt 20 years ago like Carol King or Carly Simon, the idea of sitting in a room with them and writing with them and hearing their voices and writing songs with them is spectacular. That’s the thing, you just never get blasé because there’s always someone that can come along that can just do it for you and you’re just so thrilled to be writing that song, and that’s how I feel about Carol and Carly. Carol and I wrote the theme to Nora Efron’s fabulous movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, ‘You’ve Got Mail.’ And with Carly I’ve been lucky enough to write a number of songs, some are going to be appearing on her new album for Starbucks. So those are two women I missed in the beginning but them in the middle-ish – middle-ish.
David Foster’s been in my life since 1977 or 8, I think. Really quite a long time and continues to be a great force in my life, collaboratively. Not only did he come up with the very cool figure at the start of ‘Heartlight’ which I wrote with Neil Diamond, he did the strings on ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ which I wrote with Burt Bacharach. He’s just been a presence. Then, of course, we got to write some songs together, I think the biggest being ‘The Prayer’ with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, which he then recorded with Josh Grobin and Charlotte Church and Donny McClurklin and Melinda Adams and gosh, it keeps being recorded. I think, thanks to David, he single-handedly made it a standard without ever being on the radio. But David is great to write with. We both think similarly, we write rather quickly together and he’s fun and he’s a friend and that’s what friends are for.
Writing with Kenny was and is a thrill because he’s one of my favorites throughout the years. When he did the record ‘Waiting To Exhale, I thought these are some of the best songs and productions all in a row – the whole album’s just was magical. Together we wrote ‘Its Still OK To Dream’ which is a song that heads up a record of the same name that we gave all the proceeds to Save The Children. We had songs by Eric Clapton and James Taylor and Sting. It was a wonderful compilation of songs and I was thrilled that Kenny and I could write the main song for it. We wrote the last Whitney song that’s been played since she sort of took a break, a long break. I hear that she’s coming back and I hope I can be a part of that. We wrote ‘Try It On My Own.’ We also wrote a song for Michael Jackson’s last record ¬before he (we seem to write before people take their breaks), we wrote Michael’s record for his song ‘Invincible.’ I just love Kenny – he’s current and he’s soulful and he’s a friend…good friend.
Marvin Hamlisch was another extraordinary melody writer. He was very prolific. One of the big differences between writing with Marvin Hamlisch and Burt Bacharach was that Marvin thought I was slow and I thought Burt was slow, so he was just rapid fire. But we wrote some good songs together. He fought for me to be able to write for the ‘Bond’ film ‘Nobody Does It Better’ and it was the first time they had not used a major songwriter for the screen. I was new to film and Marvin had to really push all the broccolis who produced all the James Bond films at the time to let me write ‘Nobody Does It Better.’ I’m really grateful for that because I’ve had a great time writing for films since then. Then, of course, Neil Simon bought our off-stage collaboration to life onstage when he decided to write ‘They’re Playing Our Song’ about two songwriters who didn’t quite get along as well as they should have. I mean, if it was up to Neil Simon, I guess Marvin and I would still be together. But it wasn’t quite like that. We wrote some great songs together, we never married as some people think we did but we did not. We lived together for about a year, we dated for about two. Marvin is still a great friend of mine, and one of the most brilliant musical minds that I’ve ever encountered.
Melissa Manchester occupies a very special place in my heart as a friend and a special relationship as a collaborator because most of my collaborations up until that time were with men. The fact that two women could feel into the same place at a time when women were sort of struggling, in the 70s, with their identities. I think Melissa and I in our lyrics and our melodies helped a lot of women along the way. Because they used to come up to us, and still do, and say ‘Gosh, that song that you wrote with Melissa Manchester really helped me through a difficult time.’ And I think just by writing about the things we were going through, we were able to tough the hearts of women who were also struggling, so I’m very proud of those songs. ‘Come In From The Rain’ and ‘Home To Myself’ and ‘Midnight Blue.’ I really love Melissa.
The first song I wrote with Neil Diamond was a song called ‘On The Way To The Sky’ and it was just such a thrill to write with Neill Diamond. Just to hear his voice and go ‘That’s Neil Diamond. We grew up on that voice and now I’m writing with him.’ It’s that kind of thing. That’s how I felt my whole life when I would hear people that I idolized for so many years sing my songs. From Aretha Franklin to Barbra Streisand, its like ‘Oh my god, these voices are singing some song that I wrote the lyrics to.’ So writing with Neil was spectacular, and then when I started to go out with Burt, I wanted to share my experiences in writing with Burt so we wrote together sometimes with a third person and Neil was one of them and we wrote ‘Heartlight.’ We had a lot of fun together, we really did, and I keep those memories of Neil in my writing because they’re very special to me.
Oh, I loved writing with Neil Sedaka. He was the first major songwriter that I ever got to write with. He was a star when I was at Screen Gems and I asked him would he write with me sometime and he said ‘Oh yes, I’d love to.’ He was just so filled with life and fun and music – so filled with music. His wife, Liba, would send him to the city; he was like a kid, with a certain amount of money that he could use on the subway to get home. It was almost like he had a nametag but we had so much fun. We had songs recorded by the Monkees and by Steve Lawrence and Mimi Gourmet. What I loved mostly is when he sat down and played a song, you could hear his joy in his melodies. It was a lot of fun for me and a great honor.
God, I loved writing with Peter Allen. He was smart and funny and it came through in our songs. He had this edgy humor and that came through also sometimes. I think, as an aside, I am somewhat of a chameleon, because I think when I write with different people, they bring out different parts of me. And what Peter brought out was the New York City side. Though, in fact, my favorite songs that I wrote with Peter are the more sensitive ones like ‘I’d Rather Leave While I’m In Love,’ which he recorded and I recorded and several people since have recorded and that was a kind of a sad song. ‘You And Me (We Wanted It All)’, gosh, that was a song that, I think, was a smart lyric and Peter helped me through that one. We held it for two years for Frank Sinatra, we were afraid to give it to anyone else, but it was worth it, he did record the song. And, of course, after Peter’s untimely death, Hugh Jackman starred in the story of his life on Broadway in ‘The Boy From Oz.’ Peter and I had nine songs that we wrote together in that show. Hugh Jackman brought Peter back to life so perfectly each night that I will always love him (Hugh) for bringing Peter back in that way. I felt like I was with him again.
Toni Wine was the first person that I started to write with when I got to Screen Gems. Screen Gems was this amazing place that had all these fabulous hit writing teams: Goffen and King, Mann and Lyle, Sedaka and Greenfield. Toni was young and I was young and we were sort of low-end of the totem pole. But one of the first songs that we wrote together was ‘Groovy Kind Of Love’ and it was fantastic because it was the first songs we wrote together and it went to number one by an English group called The Mindbenders. And then, of course, it was re-recorded in something like 1999 by Phil Collins and it was the biggest record of the year at BMI so that taught me about songwriting. Songwriting, if you write something good, you never know when it can come back at in another form and have another life. I loved writing with Toni – we wrote some other things, we had a song ‘With Love‘ but we never had anything quite like that, that first moment of ‘Oh my god, my first number one record.’