Five For Friday: Elton John & Bernie Taupin

I’ve decided that this will be the last of the Songwriting Teams series on Five For Friday, for now, anyway. I have no idea what will take its place; I’l be focusing on my duties as a host for the A to Z Challenge, so it might just be free-form for a while.

In 1967, Liberty Records put an ad in the New Music Express in the UK for songwriters. Two applicants for the positions were Reg Dwight (aka Elton John) and Bernie Taupin. They were brought together by Liberty, and have been working together ever since, writing hundreds of songs together. Well, not really "together": both men work separately, where Taupin writes the lyrics and sends them on to Elton, who composes the music. Hey, it works for them…

Here are five of my favorite Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs.

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Gonna Be A Long, Long Time)

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting


Philadelphia Freedom

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Elton John & Bernie Taupin, Your Five For Friday, March 31, 2023.

Five For Friday: Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby

I wrote about the songwriting team of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby back in 2015, when I said

Bert Kalmar had been a vaudeville performer whose career as a dancer was cut short by a knee injury, after which he turned to writing songs full-time. Harry Ruby, who had worked for Kalmar as a song plugger, got Kalmar a songwriting job at the Tin Pan Alley firm of Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder. After working with several partners, Ruby felt a compatibility with Kalmar, and by 1920 they were writing songs and comedy scripts for Broadway and Hollywood, a partnership that lasted until Kalmar’s death in 1947. The 1950 movie Three Little Words, starring Fred Astaire as Kalmar and Red Skelton as Ruby, is based on their lives and careers.

A lot of their songs were written for Marx Brothers movies, and they contributed some writing to them as well.

Groucho Marx and Cast, “Hello, I Must Be Going”/”Hooray For Captain Spaulding” (Animal Crackers, 1930)

The Marx Brothers (Zeppo, Harpo, Chico, Groucho), “Everyone Says I Love You” (Horse Feathers, 1932)

Cast, “When The Clock On The Wall Strike s Ten” (Duck Soup, 1933)

Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee, Robert Woolsey and Ruth Etting, “Just Keep On Doin’ What You’re Doin'” (Hips Hips Hooray, 1934)

Duke Ellington & His Orhestra with The Rhythm Boys, “Three Little Words” (Check And Double Check, 1930)

Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, your Five for Friday, March 17, 2023.

Five For Friday: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

I can’t believe that I missed these two. I wrote about them in 2015, the first time I wrote about songwriting teams. At that time, I said…

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards tell different versions of the story of how they started writing songs. Richards claims that their manager, Andrew Oldham, locked them in a room and told them he wouldn’t let them out until they had written a song. Jagger says Oldham merely suggested he was going to lock them in, but that was inspiration enough. Regardless of how it started, Mick and Keith have written the bulk of the songs the Rolling Stones have recorded in fifty-plus years. Like John Lennon and Paul McCartney (who might have been Jagger’s and Richards’s inspiration to become songwriters), many of their songs were written by one or the other (for example, Mick wrote “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Brown Sugar” while Keith wrote “Happy” and “Ruby Tuesday”) but credited to both, but most of their songs were written together.

As with then, I’d like to focus on songs written by Mick and Keith that were performed by other artists. Here are five such songs.

Marianne Faithfull, “As Tears Go By” (written with Andrew Loog Oldham

Johnny Winter, “Silver Train”

The Mighty Avengers, “So Much In Love”

Jimmy Tarbuck, “We’re Wastin’ Time”

Tracey Dey, “When Blue Turns To Grey”

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, your Five For Friday, March 10, 2023.

Five For Friday: Jule Styne and Betty Comden & Adolph Green

Jule Styne was born in London on New Year’s Eve 1905 to emigrants from Ukraine. He and his family moved to Chicago when Jule was eight. He started taking piano lessons and was considered a prodigy, eventually performing with the Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit Symphonies. He had been a voice coach with Twentieth Century Fox until Darryl F. Zanuck fired him in a cost-cutting measure. It was Zanuck who suggested Styne should write songs because "that’s Forever."

Stne wrote with many partners, including Yip Harburg, Stephen Sondheim, Bob Merrill, and Sammy Cahn, but many of the musicals he wrote were with the team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green. If I counted correctly, they wrote eight shows together and contributed to the musical Peter Pan. Here are five songs from their shows together.

  1. Never Never Land (from Peter Pan) – Jane Monheit
  2. It’s The Second Time You Meet That Matters (from *Say, Darling) – Dinah Shore
  3. Mu-cha-cha (from Bells Are Ringing) – Judy Holliday and Peter Gennaro
  4. Take A Job (from Do, Re, Mi) – Nathan Lane and Heather Headley
  5. It’s Good To Be Back Home (from Fade In Fade Out) – Carol Burnett

Jule Styne and Betty Comden & Adolph Green, your Five For Friday, March 3, 2023.

Five For Friday: Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn (and Frank Sinatra)

Composer Jimmy Van Heusen (born Edward Chester Babcock, 1913) and lyricist Sammy Cahn (born Samuel Cohen, 1913) wrote songs together from the 1950’s forward. They won four Academy Awards together and were nominated for more. Many of their songs were sung by Frank Sinatra in his movies, so I thought for this week I would feature Frank singing five of their songs.

  1. All The Way (from The Joker Is Wild, 1957)
  2. High Hopes (with Eddie Hodges, from A Hole In The Head, 1959)
  3. The Second Time Around (from High Time, 1960)
  4. My Kind Of Town (Chicago Is) (from Robin And The 7 Hoods, 1964)
  5. Come Fly With Me (1958)

Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, your Five For Friday, February 24, 2023.