Wednesday 13 March 2024

Sally Stevens - I Sang That

I'm no musician, but the music business has long fascinated me and it featured in a story called 'Eternally' that I wrote about twenty years ago. As a student, although I had a burning desire to write crime fiction, I spent more time on other types of writing and wrote song lyrics with a couple of friends of mine. One of the songs, 'Easy Come, Easy Go', was set to music by an Italian physics student, Giovanni Carrea, who produced his own album. Thanks to Giv, for the one and only time in my life I featured in the Pop Page of the Oxford Mail. The album occasionally surfaces on eBay and has been known to sell for over £100 so perhaps it counts as a cult classic! Anyway, here is the song, (the second track, four minutes into the recording) so you can judge for yourself why I never became the new Bernie Taupin or Hal David...

At about the same time as the album was made, I saw on television a memorable concert featuring Burt Bacharach conducting the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in Canada. Among the stand-out moments were two songs sung by the leader of the backup singers. One of the songs, 'Charlie', has a quite lovely melody. I later discovered that the singer's name was Sally Stevens and she went on to co-write a song with Burt which featured on his album Woman, a project undertaken with the Houston Symphony Orchestra which was a commercial flop but which features some of his finest orchestral work.

To cut a very long story short, in recent years I've been in occasional touch with Sally via social media and I was delighted to learn that she'd published a memoir about her remarkable career. I Sang That is a fascinating record of Sally's contribution to musical (and film) history. She has worked with so many legendary figures, including John Barry, Henry Mancini, and Michel Legrand. I am particularly fond of her performance on the soundtrack of the suspense film La Piscine of 'Ask Yourself Why' , one of Legrand's finest melodies. 

I Sang That brims with anecdotes, and I was naturally fascinated by Sally's account of touring the world with Burt Bacharach during the Seventies. Despite the fact that he was famously a hard taskmaster, it's clear that like other musicians he worked with, she admired his perfectionism and professionalism, as well as finding him a generous colleague. Sally's description of the work she has done over the years - and continues to do - is consistently engaging. Her literary talents certainly aren't confined to writing lyrics - this is an absorbing narrative which casts fresh light on the world of backup singers, among many other things.

Sally has just published a novel, The Odyssey of Mrs Naomi Billingsley, which sounds very interesting. It's not a crime novel, but she tells me she is a fan of the genre, and her favourite authors include Michael Connolly and P.D. James - excellent taste! As for I Sang That, it's extremely readable and if you fancy an insight into an important part of the music scene that hasn't, as far as I know, been discussed too extensively in print, you certainly won't be disappointed. Recommended.

1 comment:

Sally Stevens said...

Thank you so much, dear Martin, for these kind words! IF any of your followers do decide to wander through the pages of "I SANG THAT" I hope they enjoy the journey as much as I did!