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June 30, 2009
Lyricist Dennis Spiegel Honored
SCL gathers notable songwriters for musicale by Jon Burlingame

Dennis Spiegel

Courtesy of Charles Bernstein

LA CRESCENTA, Calif.—Lyricist Dennis Spiegel was honored for his contributions to the movie and TV music world at a Society of Composers & Lyricists event Saturday night, June 27, at the home of SCL president Dan Foliart.

More than 50 friends and colleagues attended the dinner, which featured performances of many of the Emmy-winning songwriter's best songs, written over the past quarter-century. Spiegel's career has spanned movies (Blame It on Rio), television (High Mountain Rangers), records and the theater, and includes collaborations with some of Hollywood's finest tunesmiths.

Many members, both past and present, of the SCL board attended and thanked Spiegel for his involvement with the organization. It was Spiegel, former SCL president Bruce Broughton said, who "worked tirelessly" to promote the group of composers and songwriters and increased its membership from 50 to 450 over just a few years. He praised Spiegel as "a spectacular lyricist and a tremendously sensitive person."

Another Emmy-winning songwriter Greg O'Connor sang "Someone Needed Me the Most," a song he and Spiegel wrote for the group Chicago that was intended for The Water Horse (2007) but was ultimately not used. Foliart and Dennis Brown accompanied pianist O'Connor on acoustic guitars.

Darlene Koldenhoven sang several tunes beginning with "I Lived for a Day," another O'Connor-Spiegel song with a jazzy flair. Adam James sang "Where I Began," a touching ballad that Spiegel wrote with film composer Laurence Rosenthal for an as-yet-unproduced musical called Original Fake; and "Till Today," a bluesy, gospel-flavored song (music by Broughton) originally written for The Prodigal.

Koldenhoven also sang the country-flavored "Safe in an Innocent Heart" (music by Broughton); the clever "A Kiss and a Squeeze" (from T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous, music by Bill Ross); the Emmy-winning "Why Do I Lie?" (from Cast a Deadly Spell, music by Curt Sobel); and "Inside of You" (from Warriors of Virtue, music by Don Davis), all with Mike Lang at the piano. Of the last song, Davis said it was "better than everything else in the movie."

Jay Asher (who collaborated with Spiegel on the theme for the Family Channel's Zorro series in 1990) played and sang "All Through the Night," which he wrote with the lyricist several years ago; it was in the evening's only instance of a tune not written for stage, film or TV.

Among the evening's highlights was Elizabeth Brackenbury's performance of "Please Love," written for (but not used in) the animated Disney film Oliver & Company. Composer J.A.C. Redford said it was "filled with the hallmarks of Dennis' style: warmth and humanity." Jim Cox played piano.

Amusing moments were provided by veteran lyricist and former SCL president Arthur Hamilton, who started the evening with a new lyric (to the tune of "Mona Lisa") about the honoree, with Foliart at the piano; and famed Disney songwriter Richard Sherman, who praised Spiegel's work as "elegant, gorgeous, heartfelt" and had the crowd in stitches when he took to the piano with a funny medley about historical mishaps (from the Hindenburg to the Spruce Goose).

©2009 Jon Burlingame
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