Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's Norman Gimbel on the line, Mr. Bananas

The last known surviving
songwriting partner of Al Hoffman
also wrote a few other songs
you might know.

Norman Gimble co-wrote "Whale of a Tale" with my great uncle Al Hoffman for the 1954 movie "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea."

Gimbel also wrote the lyrics to Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song", "The Girl From Ipanema", the lyrics to "Makin' Our Dreams Come True" from "Laverne and Shirley", "Happy Days", "Wonder Woman" as well as scores for over 90 movies. He's been a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame since 1984.

I called him two years ago because as far as I know, he's the only person alive who co-wrote with my great Uncle Al Hoffman. We traded phone messages.

"Wonderful guy, Al." he said. "Send me the disc when it's done."

I'd called him two weeks ago and offered to send, and he finally called back yesterday. He asked what I did with myself and I told him, which was kind of like telling Mickey Mantle about your sandlot ballgames.

All his pals are gone, Norman said. He's 81 and lives in California. We blabbed the stock market, the presidential election and the Santa Barbara weather.

"Send me the disc," he finally said. "I'll check it out and get back to you."
"Will do."

I thought about it a second, then called back.



"When you wrote the line 'Strumming my pain with his fingers', in "Killing me softly', was 'pain' the first thing that came into your head? Was it 'soul' or anything, or was that your first choice?"

"The line was written the way you heard it. Over the years the rumor has flown that the song was written about Don McClean, but that's baloney. I had to write ten songs for this artist named Lori Leiberman on Capitol Records, and that was one of them. I got it from a book I was reading."


"That it?"


"Bye bye."

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