I bought my first African American church fan in the late 1970’s but my collection really kicked into gear after I worked with James Brown in the mid-80s. He always told me my music was so hot and picked up the fan to “cool himself down”. So after that I always bought the fans when I saw them cheap enough. But the collection blasted into overdrive when I began writing The Color Purple musical in 2001. The very first time Alice Walker, the author of the original book, came over I gave her her choice of over 50 fans.  I used them all the time with Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray, my music co-writers, but sadly can’t seem to find any photos of us cooling ourselves. But anytime anyone came over to hear any of the music they always listened with church fan in hand. I think we had just finished one of the Church Ladies’ songs when this group, including Alfre Woodard, Lorraine Toussaint, Stephanie Burton, Peter Hastings, Roderick Spenser and Maggie Wheeler (Janice on Friends), came over.

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As often as they came from churches, the fans were also a hot promotional item given out by funeral homes. They usually portrayed a gorgeous, dressed in their Sunday best, peaceful looking, happy family. The fans I’m featuring today aren’t necessarily my favorites so much as I love that they all feature white hats. This first one comes from the Brown & Robertson Funeral Home in Picayune, Miss. According to the back of the fan, they offer “A Dignified Service in a Sympathetic Way”.


This next one comes from the Jones-Gaines & Sons Funeral Home in Topeka, Kansas, “Serving Topeka Area Families With Over 51 Years of Courteous and Efficient Service”.


This one’s courtesy of the Dykes Funeral home in Covington, VA. “Consideration for the Living–Reverence for the Dead”.


And finally there’s this one from John Q. Adams of Victoria, Texas that says simply “Ladies Hose & Shoes”. I’m assuming that that does not refer to a selection in the funeral home so I guess the fans were available to any business that wanted to hand them out.


I took a fan with me last night when I crawled along the 101 to Thousand Oaks to see the Second National Tour of my musical, The Color Purple. After 2-1/2 years on Broadway and a three-year First National Tour, this was going to be my first time seeing this all new production and cast.


There was a huge traffic jam on the freeway for about 7 miles because of an accident on the other side.  Los Angeles has just gotten over record-breaking heat so people were a little more cuckoo in their cars than usual. I stayed cool because I had my fan and sensible shoes for driving.


I wish I could say that the show was fantastic but I ended up staying in my car on my Ipad for most of it because an idea I’ve been attempting to massage out of my head for several weeks finally decided to spill out while I was in line at Weinerschnitzel.


So I spent most of Act 1 pounding away in a parking lot under the glow of the yellow W neon.  Having driven all the way to Thousand Oaks though, I made myself get to the theater.


I walked in during “Uh Oh”.


But this idea kept smacking against the front of my brain and I couldn’t open my Ipad in the theater because the last thing I wanted to do was distract anyone in that audience from what was going on on stage. So, knowing I had tickets to see the show the rest of the week, I joined my now-sitting-in-the-car-way-too-long-to-eat Wienerschnitzel and fan and headed back home.


/// the person shooting this video was racing back from the bathroom or had their hands occupied unwrapping candy so they wouldn’t make noise during the performance, but between the front of the song being cut off and the camera doing a tour of the wall, this version of my song, “September”, as seen through the binoculars of kitsch, gets off to an auspicious start! I’m going to also assume that the shooter is related to one of the horn players as no one else in the large ensemble is visible until midway through the first chorus. The “walk on” at :23 is really good too. Then the YouTube description says that this is performed by “one of Gramt MacEwan’s showcase bands”. I’m assuming that the shooter’s hands were also otherwise occupied multitasking when they typed that as I’m pretty sure that Gramt is Grant. When all is said and done though, this is one of the better school performances of “September” I’ve seen. Everyone’s in tune and the cowbell coming in for the last choruses is always good.

For a more through exploration of my “365 Days Of September” mission as well as details of how the song was written, go here. Until tomorrow, ba-de-ya!


I’m always happy when my work inspires folks to take on their own creative endeavors. But in this case, the spirit of my song, “September”, just might have inspired a little too much confidence in three college boys out to make a concept video. I get the fact that the guy in front suspects something is going on yet somehow misses that there are two (bad) dancers prancing behind him, but as storytelling goes this sinks like a tugboat loaded with cement. I especially love that the dancers often duck prematurely, even before the guy in front turns around to discover nothing. And sometimes the music just mysteriously stops. Best is once the innocent in front leaves the room so that the guys don’t have to mime anymore, one of them continues to silently mouth the song. Once it turns into a full-blown dance off, I can’t say I would be awarding any prize other than to advise them that their allowance money ought to go towards a new mic. Without question, the best part of this video is the toilet paper covering the door of the room across the hall.

For a more through exploration of my “365 Days Of September” mission as well as details of how the song was written, go here. Until tomorrow, ba-de-ya!



The concept of this “Foaming  Musical Hand Soap for Kids!” is really crazy. Theoretically kids can “wash & learn” at the same time. But the biggest thing they’re going to learn is that the quality of the speaker in this thing is so poor that the only one who could possibly hear the music clearly is an insect who somehow slipped through one of the speaker holes and got trapped in the goo, forced to listen to the nearly inaudible and annoying little gremlin voice singing something about washing around your face and continuously spelling S-O–A.–P.


Honestly, you have to hover so close to the bottle to hear anything that all most kids are going to get is a big squirt of soap in their mouths. In this case, it’s berry scented so perhaps there’s some nutritional value to it.


Not having kids perhaps this isn’t as novel of product as I think it is. What’s really novel these days though is having a hit in the music industry. I have a big fat hit right now, “Jungle Animal” by Pomplamoose and Allee Willis, but we made and released it independently so relatively few coins will accompany the constant viewing of the song on YouTube or listening to it on itunes or playing the game on my site. This is because I “washed my hands” of the music industry long ago.


I was much happier making music on my own so total creative control stayed with me and whoever I wrote with. The practice of getting songs on the radio often felt too “dirty” for my tastes, not to mention I thought most people in the industry were deaf, dumb and blind to the Internet throughout much of the 90’s, during which time had they not been so arrogant and clueless they would’ve had a chance to help define the medium and figure out how to derive income from it as the public more and more obtained their music for free. No one should ever turn their back on technology.


This was a big topic of discussion last night as I attended the ASCAP Love Fest, an annual party thrown to celebrate the ASCAP songwriters, of which I’m not one – I’m BMI – but have been lucky enough to be included in on the festivities every year as I write with so many ASCAP writers and love a lot of the people who work there.

I had an incredible time at the party because I go so far back with so many people there. The first person I bumped into was the first singer who ever heard a song of mine. In 1972, Bette Midler came to my apartment in Manhattan to hear the first two songs I ever wrote, “Childstar” and “Ain’t No Man Worth It”. She actually rehearsed both of them for her show but it wasn’t until years later with a song called “One More Round” that I finally got on one of her albums. I totally associate my first baby steps into show business with Bette. She was the first big global star that came out of my first show biz clique and that made it very exciting for all the rest of us as we struggled along to fame.


I know that photo’s a little blurry but I liked it better than this one:


Here I am with Allan Rich, Jason Gould and Marsha Malamet.


I go as far back with Allan and Marsha as I do Bette. By night I was the hat check girl at Catch a Rising Star which, along with the Improv, was the biggest comedy club in NY. By day, I slapped posters on telephone poles for the acts at Reno Sweeney, the most popular cabaret at the time. Allan sang at both clubs and Marsha played piano. When I moved to LA in 1976 I left my hat checking gig to Marsha. A few years later when Allan finally moved to LA he got his big break when he sold a pair of shoes to Barry Manilow, who we all knew from when he played for Bette, and slipped him a cassette with some of his songs on it.

Here I am with Holly Palmer, aka Cheesecake of Bubbles & Cheesecake, and Jon Lind, who I co-wrote “Boogie Wonderland” with.


I’m very proud of my technique of being able to take a photo with three people in it without having to ask someone I don’t know to take the photo.  It works a little better with two people in it though as I can hold my arms a little lower:


Stephen Bishop and I both had an excellent run of hits in the 80’s. Every time we went to a big songwriting event they seated us at the same table because we were always the sharpest dressers.


Having seen so many old friends I’m really glad that before I left the house I smacked the top of my Soap Tunes – not because I got to hear the annoying, barely audible song again but to make sure I was clean and smelling nice.  The part about using the soap is true but the part about smelling nice isn’t. As many people as I hugged last night I was completely aware that I smelled like a car air freshener the whole time. Thank God they all knew me for decades and know that a) I can write a good song and b) I’m capable of not smelling like a fruit orchard.


If for no other reason, this is fantastic for the player’s voice announcing what he’s about to perform at the top of this ‘2groovy postparody :D’ vid.  CharisC22 indeed plays a most spirited version of my first hit, “September”.  I seriously love how tinny his keyboard sounds and how heavy he lays on the pedal as if Bigfoot is in the band. The brief narration noting the shift in mood at 2:11 slays me and the 60’s-Sondheim-kind-of-staccato-ishy-little-chord-juts-that-someone-like-me-who’s-sold-50,000,000-records-should-know-the-musical-term-for is outstanding as well.

For a more through exploration of my “365 Days Of September” mission as well as details of how the song was written, go here. Until tomorrow, ba-de-ya!



For any of you reading this who might not know “Pigmy Will” because this is the first animated one of the under-60-seconds series we’ve done in quite a while, it’s a horribly drawn/ much beloved chronicle of Pigmy Will, a diminutive yet eternally optimistic being whose best friends with a palm tree named Feathers and a pineapple on a tricycle named Whiska. They’re all the creations of me and Prudence Fenton, much more heavily tilted toward the latter, who IS Pigmy Will as she possesses an unnatural ability to thrust her voice into the ozone and come out with a sound that makes dogs hide under the nearest couch. If you remember the hi-pitched voice of the flowers in the window box in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse that was Prudence (who also created Penny).  We write these, record them, voice them, score them, direct them and work with our animator, Alfonso, and engineer, Scott, to finish them. Here are two of my favorite “Pigmy Will”s:

“See My Dive”


…and “The Counter”


Usually Pigmy Will appears twice daily as a still on his Facebook pages as well as on, which we really just use as an archive. Both Prudence and I are fanatic photo takers so the Pigmy  finds himself, Feathers and Whiska in a variety of exotic locales and situations. These aren’t even my favorites and none of them show off his foreign travels but they were sitting in an open folder so I just grabbed them to give you some idea:

PWTictacToastBig PW-YieldtoPresentRR pigmy-cake sprinklers-make-me-happyRR

I just realized that none of these stills contain Feathers or Whiska so am giving them their  close-ups now.



…and Whiska:


I asked Pigmy Will where he’s taking all of this and here’s what he said: “I’m available for TV, film, magazine, newspaper and web syndication, coffee mugs, washrags, salt ‘n pepper shakers, sneakers, flip-flops, T-shirts, night shirts, hair shirts, hats, goggles, intimates, lamps, rugs, shower curtains, tricycles, surfboards, cutting boards, pie franchisings, and TicTac spokesman.”

Deet deet deet deet!


I was never into The A-Team when it came out in the 1980’s. But lately, as I flip through channels in the wee hours of the morning trying to find something to fall asleep to, I’ve gotten completely obsessed with the reruns on Centric. I love all the low camera angles as truck tires screech by and slam dirt into the camera and explosions blow up right in your face. The direction has a clear POV and things that hover near the ground get as many close-ups as the actors do. And, of course, there’s always Mr. T, whose memorabilia I’ve slowly but surely collected over the years – banks, gold chain bubblegum, coloring books, puffy stickers, lunchboxes, air fresheners, and this Mr. T radio I recently received as a gift.


I have no idea what the significance of the shape is but I love that there’s a wrist strap so Mr. T can always swing by my side.


I’m one of the few songwriter/musician types who actually loves to hear their own music coming out of something as lo fi as this. In the old days, before the mid ’90s, it was imperative to listen to mixes of your songs over really crappy speakers so you could hear them as the average person was going to hear them. Most people, including myself, had little Auratone speakers in their recording studios, all in an effort to hear which instruments and vocals were audible and which weren’t in case someone was still pumping the sound out of one of these little Mr. T-like pocket jobs. Here I am in my studio in 1981 with one of my Auratones.


To test how a record would sound out of a more expensive radio, I had my first boombox, the heavier-than-a-bowling-ball/ first-of-its-kind stereo Sony cassette player that all the guys in Earth, Wind & Fire had the day I met them and started “September”. I bought myself one the next day, a huge extravaganza as I was broke, but it felt like the musical waters were shifting and I was on the brink of my first hit so the purchase felt justified. So as soon as I’d finish a mix I’d  listen to it coming out of the Aurotones, then I’d pop a cassette of it into the fancy Sony and, last but not least, if I had any way of rigging an input into one of my transistor radios, I’d listen on that.  Just to the other side of the Auratone in the photo was my collection of vintage transistor radios. It’s not a tragedy that they’re out of camera range as Mr. T was not yet among them. These, however, were:


By comparison, my Mr. T radio is pretty down and dirty basic. It doesn’t have fancy rhinestone eye dials like the owl or a wing that lifts to reveal the speaker like the ladybug.  But it does come with a belt clip, which would be an excellent feature were it not for the fact that by using it the speaker holes would be jammed up against your body muffling what little sound this thing puts out in the first place.


These days people own Mr. T Flavorwave Turbo Ovens. I’m content with my 1983 A-Team radio and reruns.


The kids at Fairview High do a noble job of singing and a much more ambitious job dancing than a lot of other high schools I’ve seen do “September” on Youtube. But, as the Grand Pooh Bah of Kitsch, the standout for me is the performance by the horn section.  Either someone didn’t do their homework before they came to band practice or they’re just plain tone deaf. What it really sounds like to me is that the horn players got the big riffs down after the choruses and just figured they could coast through the single note accents. Which would have been fine had they managed to find the key. Far be it for me to not encourage someone to go farther in music because they’re un-schooled. I still don’t know how to read, notate or play a note of music, including “September” and anything else I’ve written, so I’m all in favor of doing it just for the love of it. I’m just sayin’, the horns are a standout, wayyyyy stand out.

For a more through exploration of my “365 Days Of September” mission as well as details of how the song was written, go here. Until tomorrow, ba-de-ya!


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The Bakersfield High School Chorale is much more in tune and way more in the swing than most high school groups I’ve seen who attempt “September”.  Whoever wrote the school chorale arrangement they all seem to sing felt the urge to throw in an abnormal amount of distinctively Caucasian “hey, hey, hey’s” as well as some very-suburban-no-soul-within-ear-range harmonies. Thankfully, the Bakersfield High School Chorale limit the “heys” to the intro and actually sound good despite the liberties taken with the harmonies and chords. I also love how excited the audience gets over the “ba doo doo’s” at the end of each chorus. I do have one question about the lyric though. Having written it, I know that the third verse begins “Now December brought the love that we shared in September/ ONLY BLUE TALK AND LOVE,  remember…”  yet these kids sing ” was it Jew taught me love, remember” or maybe they’re saying ” was it you taught me love, remember”? Either way it’s wrong. So I wish that the person who was hired to write the arrangement all these high schools sing would think of themselves more as a transcriber than a co-author, especially if they get the gig on another one of my songs. In the meantime, enjoy the best version of the corrupted arrangement I’ve seen so far – The Bakersfield High School Chorale.

For a more through exploration of my “365 Days Of September” mission as well as details of how the song was written, go here. Until tomorrow, ba-de-ya!



Every Sunday morning growing up the ritual was to go with my dad to the deli and buy bagels, lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions and white fish, the latter of which I never liked but all the foodstuffs named prior to it remain my favorite meal in life. The smell of bagels toasting in the kitchen, especially on Sunday, has remained intoxicating to me ever since. Had I lived in Texas in 1979 I would only hope that this would’ve been the license plate slapped on the front of my ’55 DeSoto. Seeing as it belonged to someone else I can only assume they had similar such love for the Jewish baked good by giving it such props as to adorn their car with it.

These days their license plate, acquired on Ebay, hangs in my kitchen over the toaster and has lots bagel friendly kitchen utensils to bond with, like this bagel knife and cream cheese spreader.


I don’t know why bagels always look so fake on bagel themed items. Like what’s the yellow ooze melting out around the cream cheese?


I’ve always thought that the bagels on this oven mitt look burnt, more like bagel chips than their legitimate older brother bagel self.


I think my matzoh oven mitt looks much more realistic.


I’m so completely exhausted by the activities of the last week, which included not only the release of my thankfully amazingly viral video, “Jungle Animal” by Pomplamoose and Allee Willis, but rehearsing conducting an imaginary 300 piece marching band in front of 82,000 imaginary people to get ready for my trip in a week and a half to my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, where the real 300 strong marching band is going to play three of my songs, “September”,  “Boogie Wonderland” –  both hits in 1979 when this BAGLS license plate hung on a car from which these songs were most likely pouring out of the radio – and “I’ll Be There for You (the theme from Friends)”, as I conduct them in front of 82,000 real people at the Homecoming football game. You would think that this would come natural to the writer of the songs, and bouncing around to them certainly does, but I don’t read a stitch of music, and marching band versions differ from the records, and I’m going to conduct them two separate times, first at the tailgate party and then inside the stadium to kick off the show. So I intend to spend a large chunk of the day today making sure I have all the accents down cold.


As my normal Sunday stay-at-home routine is either to hunch over my computer barely moving as I catch up on work, or to lie in bed watching TV, even thinking about the amount of exercise I’m going to get from conducting makes me hungry.  So I’m going to do warm up exercises –  I’m going to stand up, stretch, walk into the kitchen and work my upper arm muscles by sawing through some bagels, stretch my arms by reaching for the toaster and give my lats a workout by using the fake bagel looking cream cheese spreader to smooth a layer of the white stuff across insides of the bagels once they’re toasted, and then repeat the entire exercise again. Then I’m going to take what will probably be a long hike around my house to find the two missing bagel salt shakers that go with these two loyal bagel pepper shakers.


It’s going to be a bagel kind of day.