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Michael Sigman
Michael Sigman is a writer/ editor, media consultant and the president of Major Songs, a music publishing company.

Prior to his current activities, Sigman was the president and publisher of LA Weekly, the nation’s largest alternative newsweekly, from 1990-2002. He joined LA Weekly in 1983 as general manager and was named publisher the following year.

Sigman was also the founding publisher of OC Weekly, sister paper to LA Weekly, when it was launched in 1995.

Prior to joining LA Weekly, Sigman was a music journalist, and served as a reporter, then managing editor, then editor-in-chief of Record World Magazine, a leading music industry weekly, from 1971 to 1982.

Michael Sigman graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude, with a BA in Philosophy, from Bucknell University in 1971. He currently serves on several Boards, including InsightLA and Society for Singers, and is Chairman of the Board of the Wright Institute, a non-profit psychoanalytic institute which provides inexpensive long-term psychotherapy to the poor.

Entries by Michael Sigman

Brooklyn, Blintzes, Baseball and Ballads With Johnny Mercer

(0) Comments | Posted September 24, 2015 | 6:16 PM

(My father, songwriter Carl Sigman, was born on Sept. 24, 1909. He died on Sept, 20, 2000. Portions of this blog were published last summer.)

Rae Sigman, Carl's strong-willed mother, was proud of her son's ability to navigate Beethoven sonatas and improvise pop tunes at the piano....

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A Meeting of the Mindful

(1) Comments | Posted September 21, 2015 | 1:07 PM

A momentous meeting of the mindful will take place November 15 when pioneers of the Western meditation and mindfulness movements come together for Living with a Joyful Spirit and a Wise Heart, a day of celebration, stories, teachings and practice at the Broad Theater in Santa Monica, CA.

The program...

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Lost in Translation: The 'Translational Fallacy' in Analyzing Lyric Writing

(0) Comments | Posted September 2, 2015 | 1:54 PM

In the aftermath of Britpop icon Cilla Black's recent death, some observers committed what I call the "Translational Fallacy" when they asserted that the lyrics to "You're My World," Black's 1964 No. 1 UK smash (and her only Top 40 U.S. hit) were translated from an original Italian lyric.

I know this to be false. I was in the living room when my father, Carl Sigman, wrote the words to "You're My World." Inspired by Umberto Bindi's haunting melody, Carl evoked Gino Paoli's Italian title ("Ill Mio Mondo" or "My World.") But he created a wholly original English lyric -- as you can see in the side-by-side comparison below.

John Shepard, paying tribute to Black in The Independent, went so far as to claim that George Martin, who produced "You're My World," personally performed the translation! Shepard changed his tune after I gave him the facts, but his new language -- "Martin commissioned a translation of the song to English" -- perpetuated the basic error. (Carl spoke no language other than English and would have been a decidedly poor choice for anyone looking to "commission a translation.") Shepard ignored a follow-up plea for accuracy; his error will echo throughout eternity on the Internet.

Carl's lyrics are a frequent target for the translational fallacy. That's because when the rock 'n' roll revolution and then the British Invasion threatened the careers of the Great American Songbook writers, he stayed relevant in the pop game by becoming a go-to guy for writing English lyrics -- never translations -- to melodies that originated abroad.

In 1953, at the dawn of the rock era, Carl was asked by Bourne Music to write a lyric to "Mutterlein," a stunning tune by German composer Gerhard Winkler. Though a confirmed agnostic, Carl felt the melody's simple opening motif demanded the English words, "Answer Me, Lord Above." ("Mutterlein," lyricist Fred Rauch's title, means "matriarch"; Carl, who had a tough mother, had no interest in writing about that.)

"Answer Me" overcame a BBC ban -- the stodgy network objected to the religious overtones -- to become the only song in British chart history to reach No. 1 by two different artists simultaneously, David Whitfield and Frankie Laine. For the U.S. market, Carl, at the behest of the publisher, nixed the higher power and substituted "Oh, My Love" for "Lord Above." Nat King Cole had a Top 10 hit with "Answer Me, My Love" and a standard was born.

Sometimes Carl kept a foreign-language title intact. He'd fallen in love with the sounds of the Italian language while serving in Sicily during World War II and was delighted when the opportunity arose to write a song featuring the word, "Arrivederci." "Arrivederci, Roma" -- composed by Renato Rascel with Italian lyrics by Pietro Garinei and Sandro Giovannini -- was published in 1955 as part of the soundtrack of the eponymous film. Carl's romantic ballad has been sung by virtually every Italian American crooner from Vic Damone ("Victor Moan" to my pre-teen ears) to Jerry Vale and Dean Martin.

In 1958, Carl contributed an English lyric to a verdant French tune by Gilbert Becaud. Pierre Delanoe's French lyric, "Le Jour où la Pluie Viendra," inspired Carl to use the title, "The Day the Rains Came." Dave Kapp came up with a unique formula for a hit single on his namesake label: Jane Morgan sang Carl's lyric on the A-side and Becaud's tune with Delanoe's French words on the B-side.

Three years later, Carl scored one of his greatest international successes with another Becaud/Delanoe number, "Et Maintenant." Carl quickly came up the English words "What Now My Love" (a nod to the French title "And Now") to go with the opening melodic phrase. A very young Shirley Bassey led the way and the song has since been covered by thousands of artists including Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Willie Nelson, Sarah Vaughn, Bobby Darin, Herb Alpert, Frank Sinatra, the Temptations, the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, and Roy Orbison. Several years ago French chanteuse Patricia Kass recorded "What Now, My Love" -- in English!

In the mid-sixties Carl wrote an English lyric he titled "A Day In The Life Of A Fool" to Luis Bonfa's groundbreaking bossa nova tune "Manha de Carnival," the theme from the classic Portuguese-language film "Black Orpheus." Jack Jones hit the charts with his rendition, but Frank Sinatra's 1969 reading for his own Reprise label remains definitive. Mysteriously, Rosemary Clooney's cover evokes Carnival with a coda that Carl never dreamed of: "Will romance fly away/On this Carnival day/Or will love come to stay in my heart?"

Translating lyrics can be a noble calling. It's simply not what Carl did. When writing a lyric -- whether or not there was an already existing foreign-language one -- he focused on one thing and one thing alone: creating the perfect "wedding" of words and music.

That's not to say Carl wasn't pleased when his songs were translated. In 1967, French singer/songwriter Charles Aznavour adapted (not quite translating) Carl's lyric to "The World We Knew (Over And Over)," a collaboration with German composer Bert Kaempfert. French superstar Mireille Mathieu recorded a near identical arrangement to Frank Sinatra's English version.

A few years later, Carl was thrilled when his biggest song -- "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story," French composer Francis Lai's theme from Love Story, the 1971 blockbuster film starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw -- was translated (yes, translated) into various languages all over the world.

(This story first appeared in ASCAP's Playback Magazine.)

"You're My World"

You're my world, you're every breath I take
You're my world, you're every move I make
Other eyes see the stars up in the skies
But for me they shine within your eyes

As the trees reach for the sun above
So my arms reach out to you for love
With your hand resting in mine
I feel a power so divine

You're my world, you are my night and day
You're my world, you're every prayer I pray
If our love ceases to be
Then it's the end of my world for me

With your hand resting in mine
I feel a power so divine
You're my world, you are my night and day
You're my world, you're every prayer I pray

If our love ceases to be
Then it's the end of my world for me

"Il Mio Mondo" literal translation: My World

My day started from you.
My night will come to me from you.
You smile,
and I smile, too.
You make a gesture,
and I cry.
I got my energy thanks to you,
whenever you believed in me.
You gave me
the world never did!
My world started from you.
My world will end with you.
And if you
leave me,
I will die in a moment.

You gave me
the world never did!
My world started from you.
My world will end with you.
And if you
leave me,
in a moment,
everything will end
with you, for me!

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Chris Morris Writes the Book on a Great American Band

(0) Comments | Posted August 25, 2015 | 11:32 AM

On May 4, 1980, Los Angeles Reader music critic Chris Morris went to see punk heroes PiL (John Lydon's post-Sex Pistols lineup) at the suitably seedy Olympic Auditorium near downtown LA.

Morris and his "plus-one," a saxophone whiz named Steve Berlin, could never have dreamed that...


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Lyricist Yip Harburg's Son Ernie: How My Dad Inspired Me To Become a Scientist (Part 2)

(0) Comments | Posted August 7, 2015 | 11:35 AM

My friend Ernie Harburg and I are both sons of songwriters -- in his case, that songwriter was the transcendent genius Yip Harburg, who wrote the lyrics for such gems as "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"...

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Lyricist Yip Harburg's Son Ernie: How My Dad Inspired Me to Become a Scientist

(3) Comments | Posted August 6, 2015 | 12:15 PM

My friend Ernie Harburg and I are both sons of songwriters -- in his case, that songwriter was the transcendent genius Yip Harburg, who wrote the lyrics for such gems as "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and all...

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Sam Cooke, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles -- and Allen Klein

(0) Comments | Posted June 24, 2015 | 3:16 PM

To my regret, I never got to know Allen Klein. Nevertheless, I enjoyed an up-and-down relationship with -- as Fred Goodman describes him in his fascinating new book -- Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out The Beatles, Made The Rolling Stones, and Transformed Rock and Roll.

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Elliot Horne's Hiptionary: Dig We Must!

(2) Comments | Posted May 26, 2015 | 12:58 PM

In the melancholic aftermath of the recent deaths of record industry giants Stan Cornyn (The Coast/Warner Bros.) and Bruce Lundvall (The Apple/CBS, Blue Note), I was drawn to The Hiptionary, a boss tome penned in 1963 by RCA Records publicist Elliot Horne. The wondrous sights and...

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Jeb: All Dough, No Doughnuts, No Fun

(0) Comments | Posted May 1, 2015 | 11:21 AM

If George W. Bush won two presidential elections in part because he was the candidate you'd rather have a beer with, brother Jeb is shaping up as the candidate who better not have a beer with you.

While bingeing on donor dough, Jeb has been purging doughnuts and other comfort...

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Cassandra Wilson Says 'Happy 100th, Lady Day'

(0) Comments | Posted April 7, 2015 | 1:41 PM

Of the many tributes to Billie Holiday's 100th birthday today (April 7), the most compelling I've heard is Cassandra Wilson's Sony Legacy album Coming Forth By Day, a strange, atmospheric brew produced by Nick Launay (whose credits include music by Nick Cave and Arcade Fire) with shimmering string...

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Bob Durst, Camp Counselor

(0) Comments | Posted March 25, 2015 | 4:03 PM

Like millions of others, I watched Andrew Jarecki's The Jinx to its riveting conclusion -- when Robert Durst, the subject of the six-part HBO documentary, all but outed himself as a serial murderer. It was a conclusion powerful enough to prompt the FBI to arrest Durst on suspicion...

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My Mind Misremembered, Not Me

(0) Comments | Posted February 7, 2015 | 11:20 AM

It was late on a Friday night in May of '03, just weeks after the U.S. had invaded Iraq. I was on my way from Manhattan out to the Hamptons -- all of them -- in a jitney with a band of (erstwhile frat) brothers.

We were having a...

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Elvis! 80!

(0) Comments | Posted January 8, 2015 | 1:40 PM

I was once, just once, this close to Elvis Presley, who was born 80 years ago today.

It was June 1972, a heady time to be in the music business, a time when there were still lots of small, independent labels run by colorful -- if sometimes crooked -- characters...

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'Enjoy Yourself' at 65

(0) Comments | Posted December 31, 2014 | 11:42 AM

New Year's Eve gets a bad rap, but I look forward to it because of a special kinship with a certain song.

The first time I heard "Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)" I hadn't been born yet. Neither had the song. We were gestating -- me in my...

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On Memory, Medication, and Meditation

(5) Comments | Posted December 28, 2014 | 4:11 PM

A few months ago, not for the first time, I forgot something important. My wife suggested I talk to my doctor about my memory.

I got defensive. She had to be wrong.

I was always the guy who remembered everything, from baseball stats to the B-sides of obscure singles...

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PR Guru Schools Hollywood Moguls on Email Fallout

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 11:21 AM

Last week, hackers published email exchanges between Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal and movie producer Scott Rudin that insulted Hollywood royalty. Angelina Jolie? She's a "minimally talented spoiled brat." Leonardo DiCaprio's behavior? "Despicable." Pascal and Rudin joked that President Obama probably favored such movies...

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Book Excerpt: Softball, The Music Biz and the Me Decade

(0) Comments | Posted December 12, 2014 | 11:31 AM

(This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Field Notes from a Music Biz Life.)

Once in a great while, the exploits of a sports team transcend the playing fields to illuminate something profound about a particular time and place.

Consider the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals,...

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Book Excerpt: Management, and Fun, by Wandering Around

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2014 | 11:47 AM

(This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Field Notes from a Music Biz Life.)

January, 1973.

PARIS, FRANCE U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese leader Le Duc Tho sign a cease-fire agreement that, according to President Richard Nixon, "brings peace with honor in Vietnam...

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Fred Goodman: Songwriter, Singer, Parodist Extraordinaire

(4) Comments | Posted November 24, 2014 | 4:49 PM

On Christmas Day 1994, the veteran singer/songwriter Fred Goodman met his future wife Chris's extended family. When caroling time arrived, Fred, the only Jew in a houseful of Catholics, sat at the piano and led the guests through classic after classic, including all the verses -- in Latin -- of...

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Torn Between Two Bosses, Not Feeling Like a Fool

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2014 | 1:41 PM

(This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Field Notes from a Music Biz Life.)

Question: What to do when you have two bosses who hate each other so much they automatically disagree about everything and speak to each other only through you?

Answer: You learn to play...

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