By Mahriah Blackwolf
ASCAP member Blossom Dearie was a jazz singer, pianist and songwriter active in the ‘50s through the ‘70s, known for her girlish voice and beloved supper club performances ‘round the world. She died on February 7th, 2009. To commemorate the anniversary of her passing, ASCAP songwriter Mahriah Blackwolf – co-writer of some of Dearie’s best-known songs – recounts how they started working together.
I was living in London in 1967, representing a well-known Italian record company that wanted to sell the publishing rights of their #1 hits to publishers in England. I eventually met up with Alan Keen of Alan Keen Music, who obtained the rights to do this, and I made a stable connection with his company for the future.
When I heard the English lyrics to the beautiful Italian songs, I didn't like them at all, and thought “If lyrics like those could represent #1 hits, why don't I give it a try?” So I asked a friend of mine who I thought was a good musician if he would write a song with me, and when it was finished, we made a demo so that I could slip it in with my Italian recordings for Alan Keen to listen to.
Next time I saw him, I handed him the demo like it was another Italian song. As soon as he heard an English voice singing he was very surprised and said, "What's this?" I smiled and told him it was a song written by a friend of mine and wanted to know what he thought. I used the name of “Arthur King” as lyricist because there weren't any female lyricists at the time and it seemed logical to do so. “Arthur King” is King Arthur backwards, and because of my strong connection with King Arthur, I thought it would be lucky for me. "Wellll," said Alan, "I really like the lyrics, not too crazy about the music. We're always looking for good lyricists, why don't you have Arthur call me!" I grinned from ear to ear and told him I would do so.
I eventually made an appointment with Alan for Arthur King and showed up at his office in a black mini-skirt with high black leather boots and a bright pink short-sleeve blouse. His secretary looked at me as though nothing was unusual in her very busy day, and asked what I wanted. I told her to let Alan know that Arthur King was here. She didn't even crack a smile, buzzed Alan, and with her very straight English accent told him that Arthur King had arrived. "Oh, send him in," said Alan and I opened the door and walked in. Alan looked at me in shock. "You're Arthur King?" he asked. "Yes, Alan," I said smiling, "I'm Arthur King!"
Alan started laughing so hard he couldn't stop and actually fell off his chair onto the floor. When he got up, he reached for my right hand, professionally shook it, and said "Let's go out to lunch, Arthur." So we did and he told me that he would like to put some music to my lyrics, as he was also a musician, and since he was a publisher, could have a really good demo made to get it out there. "I didn't know you wrote music," I said very seriously and we both laughed!
Alan Keen represented Blossom Dearie Music in London and when Blossom arrived for her next series of performances, I received a call from Alan that Blossom was interested in writing her own songs and was looking for a lyricist. "Why don't you come down here tomorrow afternoon and meet Blossom, Arthur!" So I did, and when I walked into Alan's office, he said "Blossom, this is Arthur King - Arthur, this is Blossom." Blossom smiled, then laughed and said, "Pleased to meet you Arthur."
Blossom invited me to hang out in her apartment in London, so that we could get to know each other and explore a creative connection. She started talking about her husband, Bobby Jaspar, who was a well-known jazz saxophone player, and how much she loved him. It was a total tragedy when he suddenly had a heart attack and died. She had tears in her eyes when she told me this and I held her hand and let her feel my compassion as I very softly said, "How do you feel inside a silent tear?" She looked tearfully and very deeply into my eyes and I could see her mind traveling, as she moved towards the piano and started playing some very gentle, caressing chords singing, "Inside a silent tear..." I gently stood behind her and the words just tumbled out of me.
We finished our first song "Inside a Silent Tear" in less than an hour! When Blossom started integrating "Inside a Silent Tear" into her performances and I was in the audience, she would say "The next song is written by myself and Arthur King. I wrote the music, Arthur King the lyrics. Would you please stand up, Arthur," and I would do so to good, hearty laughter every time.
I wrote more songs with Blossom that she continued to sing throughout her career, including "I Like You, You're Nice" and "Touch the Hand of Love." When I first sent her the lyrics to "I Like You, You're Nice," I didn't receive a response for about a year and a half and then one day the phone rang and when I picked it up and said “Hello,” I heard "Hi, guess who this is?" Blossom had a very unique, high-pitched voice and of course I immediately responded with clarity, my heart smiling, and said "Blossom Dearie!" "How'd you know it was me?" "How could I not know it was you!" She laughed and said "Remember those lyrics you sent me, 'I like you, you're nice?' Well, I finally put some music to them and sang the song at a concert Saturday. The next day I received a telegram from Johnny Mercer that said, 'I Like You, You're Nice!’”
Visit Blossom’s publishing company on the web: www.blossomdeariemusicpublishing.com
Blossom’s record label, Daffodil Records: www.blossomdearie.com