Melissa Manchester among Great American Songbook Hall of Fame inductees

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Legendary lyricist Sammy Cahn, singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester and composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn will be honored in an upcoming online event as the 2021 inductees to the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame.

Premiering at 8 p.m. Nov. 13 on the Great American Songbook Foundation’s Facebook and YouTube channels, the 2021 Songbook Hall of Fame Virtual Induction also will video testimonials, interviews and tribute performances by Songbook Foundation founder Michael Feinstein; Manchester; Alyce Claerbaut, niece of the late Strayhorn and president of Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc.; Galen Demus, nephew of Strayhorn and board member of Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc.; Tita Cahn, widow of Sammy Cahn; and rising NYC-based jazz singer Anaïs Reno, an alumna of the foundation’s annual Songbook Academy summer intensive for high school performers.

Besides the video induction, the foundation will unveil new opportunities at TheSongbook.org for viewers to continue celebrating and learning about the musical legacies of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees. Videos and interactive learning opportunities will include bassist/composer Marlon Martinez’s Strayhorn Sundays; Songbook Academy masterclass moments with Manchester; a peek at the Emmy Award won by Cahn and frequent collaborator Jimmy Van Heusen for “Love and Marriage,” courtesy of Van Heusen’s great nephew Brook Babcock; music playlists and more.

The program is free to view. For event reminders and viewing links, register at bit.ly/2021SongbookHOF.

The Songbook Hall of Fame celebrates composers, lyricists and performers who have “created the soundtrack of our lives” with their contributions to American popular music. Hall of Fame inductees are selected based on factors including musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, and overall musical excellence.

Previous inductees include Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli and Rita Moreno.

About the inductees:

  • Sammy Cahn (1913-1993), Legend Award: Cahn put words to some of the best-known popular songs of all time, including “Come Fly with Me,” “Love and Marriage,” “My Kind of Town,” “The Second Time Around,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and hundreds more. His work was recorded by virtually every major singer of his era, most notably Frank Sinatra but also Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Doris Day and many others. His songs for film earned him more than 30 Academy Award nominations and four wins.
  • Melissa Manchester (born 1951), New Standard Award: A songwriter since her teen years, Manchester was a backup singer for Bette Midler before scoring her first Top 10 hit in 1975 with “Midnight Blue.” In 1980, she became the first recording artist to have two Academy Award-nominated movie themes in a single year, “Through the Eyes of Love” from Ice Castles and “I’ll Never Say Goodbye” from The Promise. She performed both on the Oscar telecast. She received a 1980 Grammy nomination for “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and won the 1982 Best Female Vocalist award for “You Should Hear How She Talks About You.” Feinstein presented the Hall of Fame award to Manchester in May during a joint performance at the Songbook Foundation’s headquarters at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
  • Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967), Legend Award: Originally a classical pianist, Strayhorn joined Duke Ellington’s big band in 1939 and spent three decades as a composer, arranger and the bandleader’s closest collaborator, though he was not always credited. His compositions include Ellington’s theme, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” as well as “Chelsea Bridge,” “Lush Life” and other classic songs. 

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