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Tribute Recalls Hits of Lyricist Sammy Cahn


Composer Sammy Cahn wrote the lyrics to some of America's most popular songs, recorded by Frank Sinatra and dozens of other artists. Cahn died 15 years ago, but Mike O'Sullivan reports, a recent tribute to the composer reintroduced his music to a new generation.

Sammy Cahn's lyrics were sometimes funny and often romantic, in hits that included Three Coins in the Fountain, the Oscar-winning title song of a 1954 movie, and a light-hearted tune about love and marriage.

Corky Hale is a noted jazz musician and was good friend of Cahn's. She produced the recent tribute to the late lyricist.

"He was an extremely witty guy," said Corky Hale. "His parents wanted him to be a violinist. As a little boy, he was playing the violin. He was miserable. That was not what he wanted to do."

Cahn played his violin in New York's vaudeville houses, and then teamed up with a friend, pianist Saul Chaplin, to write a succession of hits. One of the earliest, recorded by the Andrews Sisters in 1937, was based on a popular Yiddish song.

With Chaplin and other partners, Cahn came up with hit after hit, recorded by nearly every major artist.

One, sung by Sinatra, became a virtual anthem for the Midwestern U.S. city of Chicago.

Two versions of another hit, It's Been a Long, Long Time, reached the top of the music charts in 1945. Cahn wrote this song with his long-time collaborator Jule Styne. Here is yet another version sung by Dinah Shore and Al Jolson.

David Baron is president of the Beverly Hills Performing Arts Center, which hosted the musical tribute to Cahn as part of a fundraising effort to restore its classic theater.

He notes that the late composer would have been 95 this year, but says his work stands the test of time.

"When I think of Sammy Cahn's music and I think of his lyrics and some of those great songs, I think of some of the young artists who have taken hold of it, like Michael Buble, and others who have said, wow, these were the classics," said David Baron.

In 2007, Canadian singer Michael Buble recorded this Sammy Cahn classic made famous by Frank Sinatra.

The tribute to Sammy Cahn was called It's Magic. The name comes from another Cahn classic, sung in this 1950s recording by Dinah Washington.