Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann's 10 greatest songs ever, ranked
5 June 2023, 12:45
After Cynthia Weil's passing, we round up the very best of her work with husband Barry Mann.
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Right up there with the best of them was the wife-and-husband duo of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.
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Both Weil and Mann also wrote songs alone and with others, but from the start of the 1960s to the end of the century, their very best work was done together, being recognised by joint inductions into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Cynthia sadly passed away at her home in Beverly Hills, California, on June 1, 2023, at 82. To celebrate her life and work, we've rounded up ten of her very biggest songs and ranked them all the way to the very best.
We've had to leave off some absolute classics – Paul Revere's 'Kicks', Ray Charles's 'None of Us Are Free' and Arthur Alexander's 'Where Have You Been (All My Life)', among others – but what we've got left is a collection of some of the finest music of the 20th century.
I Just Can't Help Believing
ELVIS PRESLEY - I Just Can't Help Believing (Las Vegas 1970) New Edit 4K
After his first run of fame, many top songwriters shied away from writing for Elvis Presley because of the machinations of his manager Colonel Tom Parker, who insisted on giving the man himself writing credits and a slice of the royalties.
Weil and Mann didn't actually write this song for The King, and it was actually a massive hit for BJ Thomas before Elvis got his hands on it, going to number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.
It was later the same year when Elvis recorded his take for the That's the Way It Is album. The following year a live version reached number 6 in the UK singles chart.
Here You Come Again
Dolly Parton - Here You Come Again (Official Video)
While Weil and Mann's heyday was in the age of singers-who-weren't-songwriters, sometimes even the very best in the business don't mind getting a helping hand.
So Dolly Parton – the woman who wrote 'Jolene' and 'I Will Always Love You' in the same day – gladly took receipt of 'Here You Come Again' as the title track of her 1977 album, helping push her from country superstar to mainstream pop icon, going all the way to number 3 on the US singles chart.
One of the earlier Weil/Mann hits, 'Uptown' was recorded by The Crystals, produced by Phil Spector, and went all the way to number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962.
Apparently, it was originally written for Tony Orlando, but Spector twisted their arm so he could have it for his group, changing a few words and shifting a couple of notes to better The Crystals.
Walking in the Rain
The Ronettes - Walking In The Rain (Official Audio)
Phil Spector actually got a co-writing credit on 'Walking in the Rain' alongside Cynthia and Barry for 'Walking the Rain', a single from The Ronettes' Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica album.
A number 23 hit for the group in 1964, it was later covered by Jay and The Americans, The Walker Brothers, Erasure and many more over the years.
Shades of Gray
Shades of Gray
Headquarters was a key album for The Monkees, with the band finally getting the chance to make a serious contribution to writing and playing on their own material, rather than relying solely on songwriters for hire and session players.
With that said, they were still happy to get numbers from the likes of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and also 'Shades of Gray', by Weil and Mann.
The song had actually been recorded by little-known folk trio Will-O-Bees first, but their version didn't do much. Sons of Champlin recorded their take around the same time as The Monkees, but the Prefabs got theirs out first.
Barry and Cynthia are also credited with the Monkees song 'Masking Tape', which was unfortunately never finished by the group.
Just A Little Lovin'
Dusty Springfield - Just A Little Lovin’ (Live 1970)
The sultry, sexy 'Just A Little Lovin'' opened Dusty Springfield's 1968 masterpiece Dusty in Memphis, her first album since her move to Atlantic records.
It perfectly set the tone for the album, maybe the best blue-eyed soul record of all time, and is every bit the equal of its singles 'Son of a Preacher Man', 'Breakfast in Bed' and 'The Windmills of Your Mind'.
Make Your Own Kind of Music
Make Your Own Kind of Music ( Mama Cass Elliott )
Mamas and the Papas star Mama Cass Elliot had already scored a summer hit with the Weil/Mann composition 'It's Getting Better' before they teamed up again for the follow-up 'Make Your Own Kind of Music'.
The song wrapped up a message in its bubblegum wrapper and perfectly blended with Cass Elliot's voice to make a hit that only just scraped into the top 40 on release in 1960, but has become an enduring classic that got a new lease of life as a TV hit and TikTok meme in the 21st century.
What happens if you get not one but TWO of the best songwriting duos in pop history together to come up with a song with maybe the greatest R&B/soul vocal group ever? You get 'On Broadway' by The Drifters, one of the all-time classics.
The first version of 'On Broadway' was written by Mann and Weil and recorded by The Cookies and The Crystals, before they sent it the way of Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber for The Drifters.
Leiber and Stoller switched it up from its shuffly original into a more bluesy, rock song with new lyrics, shifting the perspective from someone trying to get on Broadway, to someone actually being there.
The follow-up to to their Gerry Goffin/Carole King-written classic 'Up on the Roof' (produced by Leiber/Stoller), The Drifters' 'On Broadway' also featured a guitar solo from Phil Spector, helping to propel it to number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.
Over the years it's been covered by Neil Young, Jimmy Scott and Gary Numan, among others.
You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
The Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (1964) 4K
Another Mann/Weil song co-written with Phil Spector, it was recorded by the producer with The Righteous Brothers.
Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield scored their first number one single with the track, and much has been made of Spector's production, with the track hailed as maybe the ultimate example of his Wall of Sound.
"This advert is not for commercial gain, it is taken as something that must be said about the great new PHIL SPECTOR Record, THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS singing "YOU'VE LOST THAT LOVIN' FEELING"," read a newspaper advert by fellow producer Andrew Loog Oldham.
"Already in the American Top Ten, this is Spector's greatest production, the last word in Tomorrow's Sound Today, exposing the overall mediocrity of the Music Industry. Signed, Andrew Loog Oldham."
But before Spector and the Righteous Brothers even got their hands on it, the Mann/Weil song was a classic waiting to happen.
Covers by Cilla Black (which apparently enraged Oldham), Dionne Warwick, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway and Hall & Oates more than prove that.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
The Animals "We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place" on The Ed Sullivan Show
After laying down their piano-powered demo with Mann singing, Barry and Cynthia were planning on giving 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place' to The Righteous Brothers, which wasn't a bad idea given how much critical and commercial success came from 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin''.
Things shifted though, with record label Red Bird wanting Mann to release it himself. Around this time, Allen Klein heard the demo and passed it over to The Animals' producer Mickie Most, and he managed to get his group to record it before Mann even had the chance – and thank god he did.
Despite the recent departure of keyboard player Alan Price, the song became one of the most iconic of all The Animals' hits, being powered by Chas Chandler's bass and, of course, Eric Burdon's incredible vocals.
Written by a pair of New Yorkers, made famous by a gaggle from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the song was adopted as an anthem by US Armed Forces stationed out in Vietnam. It's also become one of the most powerful, enduring rock songs of the era.