Carla Gordon and Jan Slavin will perform works by some great Jewish women songwriters at Davenport's Cabaret at 7 p.m. on April 21 and 28. Their show is called The Mavenettes.
Which is as good an excuse as any to honor some of the great American Jewish women songwriters altogether. Of course, Jewish women have been writing songs since Miriam and Deborah, but we're talking about Jewish women who wrote the songs you'd hear on the radio, on your headset, or in a theater.
Many of these artists have won Oscars, Emmys, and of course Tonys and Grammys for their work. Many are in the Songwriters, Rock and Roll, or other halls of fame. And of course they have racked up gold and platinum records by the dozen.
But their names are linked to their stories, so let's just talk about some of their best-known songs. After all, their works speak (sing?) for themselves. So here -- in somewhat chronological order -- are my picks for the 20 best American Jewish women songwriters. Who are also, as you'll see, some of the best American songwriters altogether:
1. Dorothy Fields: "Big Spender," "I'm in the Mood for Love," "If My Friends Could See Me Now," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Pick Yourself Up," and "The Way You Look Tonight."
2. Sylvia Fine: Songs for the movies of her husband, Danny Kaye, including The Court Jester, The Inspector General, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and The Five Pennies.
3. Betty Comden: The stage musicals On The Town, Subways Are for Sleeping, Peter Pan, and A Doll's Life. The film musicals Singin' In The Rain, and The Band Wagon. Songs from these include: "The Party's Over," "New York, New York," and "Lonely Town."
4. Carolyn Leigh: Songs from many musicals, including: "The Best is Yet to Come," "Young at Heart," "Firefly," "Witchcraft," "I Gotta Crow," "I Walk a Little Faster," "Hey, Look Me Over," and "A Doodlin' Song."
5. Mary Rodgers: Once Upon a Mattress, Working, The Madwoman of Central Park West and some of Free to Be... You and Me.
6. Ann Ronell: "Who's Afraid Of the Big Bad Wolf?" "Willow Weep For Me," "Rain On The Roof," and the musicals Count Me In, Champagne Waltz, The Story of G. I. Joe, One Touch of Venus, plus Love Happy for the Marx Brothers.
7. Ellie Greenwich: "(And) Then He Kissed Me," "Be My Baby," "Chapel of Love," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," "I Can Hear Music," "Leader of the Pack," "Look of Love," and "River Deep, Mountain High."
8. Cynthia Weil: "Blame It on the Bossa Nova," "Saturday Night At The Movies," "You're My Soul and Inspiration," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "If Ever You're in My Arms Again," "Just Once," "Looking Through the Eyes of Love"… and "Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail.
9. Carole Bayer Sager: "Don't Cry Out Loud," "Everything Old is New Again," "Groovy Kind of Love," "Heartbreaker," "Heartlight," "It's My Turn," "That's What Friends Are For," and the movie tracks "Best That You Can Do" And "Nobody Does It Better."
10. Carole King: "It's Going to Take Some Time," "Been to Canaan, "Jazz Man, "Loco Motion, "One Fine Day," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Some Kind of Wonderful," "Up on the Roof," and "You Light up My Life," plus of course "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," "You've Got a Friend," "A Natural Woman," and the rest of the amazing Tapestry album.
11. Janis Ian: "At Seventeen," "Society's Child," "Jesse," "Amsterdam," "God & The FBI," "Here Comes the Night (Theme From The Bell Jar)," and both "Memphis" featuring Willie Nelson and "Paris in Your Eyes" featuring Dolly Parton.
12. Laura Nyro: "And When I Die," "Eli's Comin', "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Stoney End," "Wedding Bell Blues," "Billy's Blues," and "New York Tendaberry."
13. Carly Simon: "Anticipation," "Attitude Dancing," "Do the Walls Come Down," "Haven't Got Time for the Pain," It Happens Every Day," "The Right Thing to Do," "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," "You Belong to Me," and of course, "You're So Vain," plus the movie tracks "Coming Around Again" And "Let the River Run."
14. Marilyn Bergman: Songs from the movies Tootsie, The Thomas Crown Affair, Same Time, Next Year, A Star is Born, Ode to Billy Joe, Major League, Micki & Maude, Never Say Never Again, Author! Author!... and of course, The Way We Were and Yentl.
15. Melissa Manchester: "Midnight Blue," "Whenever I Call You Friend," and her Grammy-winner, "You Should Hear How She Talks About You."
16. Lynn Ahrens: Lyrics to Once on This Island, My Favorite Year, A Christmas Carol, Ragtime, Seussical, A Man of No Importance , and Rocky… plus "Interplanet Janet," "The Preamble," "A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing," and many others for Schoolhouse Rock!
17. Jullie Gold: "From a Distance," and also "Heaven," "Southbound Train," "Good Night New York," "Mountain of Sorrow," "Thanks to You," and "Dream Loud."
18. Diane Warren: "How Can We Be Lovers (If We Can't Be Friends)," "How Do I Live," "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," "I Get Weak," "If I Could Turn Back Time," "Rhythm Of The Night," "Set The Night To Music," "Solitaire," "If You Asked Me To," "Don't Turn Around," "Time, Love and Tenderness," and "Unbreak My Heart."
19. Lisa Lambert: The Drowsy Chaperone.
20. Lucy Kaplansky: Well, you probably don't know her songs, because she's a folksinger-songwriter. But if you like her former duo partner, Shawn Colvin, you'll love Kaplansky's songs, too.
Ever since it was possible to write songs professionally, Jewish women have been doing exactly that. From Tin Pan Alley to The Brill Building, from Broadway to Hollywood, from Greenwich Village to Nashville—not a minute goes by without their songs being shared and enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Miriam and Deborah would be proud.