Brill Building

Last updated

Brill Building
Brill-Building (NY).jpg
Entranceway in 2008
Brill Building
General information
Type Office building
Location1619 Broadway, Manhattan, New York
Technical details
Floor count11
Floor area175,000 sq ft (16,300 m2)
Design and construction
DeveloperVictor Bark Jr.
Main contractor Abraham E. Lefcourt

The Brill Building is an office building at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, just north of Times Square and further uptown from the historic musical Tin Pan Alley neighborhood. It was built in 1931 as the Alan E. Lefcourt Building, after the son of its builder Abraham E. Lefcourt, and designed by Victor Bark Jr. [1] [2] The building is 11 stories high and has approximately 175,000 square feet (16,300 m2) of rentable area.


The Brill Building is famous for housing music industry offices and studios where some of the most popular American songs were written. It is considered to have been the center of the American music industry that dominated the pop charts in the early 1960s. [3] The "Brill" name comes from a haberdasher who operated a store at street level and subsequently bought the building. The Brill Building was purchased by 1619 Broadway Realty LLC in June 2013 and underwent renovation during the 2010s. A CVS Pharmacy opened on the first two floors of the building in 2019. [1] [4]

Big band era

Before World War II, the Brill Building became a center of activity for the popular music industry, especially music publishing and songwriting. Scores of music publishers had offices in the Brill Building. Once songs had been published, the publishers sent song pluggers to the popular bands and radio stations. These song pluggers would sing and/or play the song for the band leaders to encourage bands to play their music.

During the ASCAP strike of 1941, many of the composers, authors and publishers turned to pseudonyms in order to have their songs played on the air.

Brill Building songs were constantly at the top of Billboard's Hit Parade and played by the leading bands of the day:

Publishers included:

Composers and lyricists at the Brill Building

"Brill Building Sound"

The Brill Building's name has been widely adopted as a shorthand term for a broad and influential stream of American popular music (strongly influenced by Latin music, Traditional black gospel, and rhythm and blues) which enjoyed great commercial success in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Many significant American and international publishing companies, music agencies, and record labels were based in New York, and although these ventures were naturally spread across many locations, the Brill Building was regarded as probably the most prestigious address in New York for music business professionals. The term "Brill Building Sound" is somewhat inaccurate, however, since much of the music so categorized actually emanated from other locations — music historian Ken Emerson nominated buildings at 1650 Broadway and 1697 Broadway as other significant bases of activity in this field.[ citation needed ]

By 1962, the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses. [5] A musician could find a publisher and printer, cut a demo, promote the record and cut a deal with radio promoters, all within this one building. The creative culture of the independent music companies in the Brill Building and the nearby 1650 Broadway came to define the influential "Brill Building Sound" and the style of popular songwriting and recording created by its writers and producers. [6]

Carole King described the atmosphere at the "Brill Building" publishing houses of the period:

Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You'd sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific—because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He'd say: "We need a new smash hit"—and we'd all go back and write a song and the next day we'd each audition for Bobby Vee's producer.

Quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith [7]

The Brill Building approach—which can be extended to other publishers not based in the actual Brill Building—was one way that professionals in the music business took control of things in the time after rock and roll's first wave. In the Brill Building practice, there were no more unpredictable or rebellious singers; in fact, a specific singer in most cases could be easily replaced with another. These songs were written to order by pros who could custom fit the music and lyrics to the targeted teen audience. In a number of important ways, the Brill Building approach was a return to the way business had been done in the years before rock and roll, since it returned power to the publishers and record labels and made the performing artists themselves much less central to the music's production. [8]


Many of the best works in this diverse category were written by a loosely affiliated group of songwriter-producer teams—mostly duos—that enjoyed immense success and who collectively wrote some of the biggest hits of the period. Many in this group were close friends and/or (in the cases of Goffin-King, Mann-Weil and Greenwich-Barry) married couples, as well as creative and business associates—and both individually and as duos, they often worked together and with other writers in a wide variety of combinations. Some (Carole King, Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Boyce and Hart) recorded and had hits with their own music.

Other musicians who were headquartered in The Brill Building:

Among the hundreds of hits written by this group are "Yakety Yak" (Leiber-Stoller), "Save the Last Dance for Me" (Pomus-Shuman), "The Look of Love" (Bacharach-David), "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (Sedaka-Greenfield), "Devil in Disguise" (Giant-Baum-Kaye), "The Loco-Motion" (Goffin-King), "Supernatural Thing" (Haras Fyre-Gwen Guthrie), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (Mann-Weil), and "River Deep, Mountain High" (Spector-Greenwich-Barry).


The following is a partial list of studio musicians who contributed to the Brill Building sound:

Aldon Music—1650 Broadway

Many of these writers came to prominence while under contract to Aldon Music, a publishing company founded in 1958 by industry veteran Al Nevins, and aspiring music entrepreneur Don Kirshner. Aldon was not initially located in the Brill Building, but rather, a block away at 1650 Broadway (at 51st Street).

A number of Brill Building writers worked at 1650 Broadway, and the building continued to house record labels throughout the decades.

Toni Wine explains:

There were really two huge buildings that were housing publishing companies, songwriters, record labels, and artists. The Brill Building was one. But truthfully, most of your R&B, really rock & roll labels and publishing companies, including the studio, which was in the basement and was called Allegro Studios, was in 1650 Broadway. They were probably a block and a half away from each other. 1650 and the Brill Building. [12]

Businesses at 1619 Broadway (Brill Building) and 1650 Broadway

1619 Broadway

  • Broadway Video
  • Postworks LLC/Orbit Digital
  • Famous Music
  • Fiesta Records [13]
  • Coed Records, Inc.
  • Mills Music
  • Southern Music
  • Red Bird Records
  • TM Music
  • SoundOne (Primarily Film Sound Editing) AND Sound Mixers (Sound Studio for Jingles and Music Albums)
  • Helios Music/Glamorous Music
  • KMA Music
  • New Vision Communications
  • Paul Simon Music
  • Key Brand Entertainment
  • Maggie Vision Productions
  • Alexa Management – President/CEO- Shafi Khan
  • Mission Big
  • Studio Center

1650 Broadway

The 1996 film Grace of My Heart is in part a fictionalized account of the life in the Brill Building. Illeana Douglas plays a songwriter loosely based on Carole King. Similarly, Broadway musical Beautiful depicts King's early career, including her songwriting at 1650 Broadway.

In Sweet Smell of Success , J.J. Hunsecker and his sister Susie live on one of the upper floors of the Brill Building. The title of the 2014 New Pornographers power pop album Brill Bruisers is a reference to the 1960s-era Brill Building studio sound. [14] In the HBO series Vinyl, the fictitious record label American Century is headquartered in the Brill Building.

Jack Dempsey's Broadway Restaurant was located in Brill Building's first floor on Broadway.

Features in several episodes of the Broadway themed NBC musical drama Smash.

Renovations and current use

In 2017, musician Jimmy Buffett's hospitality company considered the building for a Margaritaville restaurant. It had investigated taking 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) across the ground floor, second floor, and 11-story roof. The deal fell through when CVS Pharmacy leased some of that space instead. [15] [16] The CVS opened in 2019.

See also

Related Research Articles

Carole King American singer-songwriter

Carole King Klein is an American singer-songwriter who has been active since 1958, initially as one of the staff songwriters at the Brill Building and later as a solo artist. She is the most successful female songwriter of the latter half of the 20th century in the US, having written or co-written 118 pop hits on the Billboard Hot 100. King also wrote 61 hits that charted in the UK, making her the most successful female songwriter on the UK singles charts between 1962 and 2005.

Gerry Goffin American lyricist

Gerald Goffin was an American lyricist. Collaborating initially with his first wife, Carole King, he co-wrote many international pop hits of the early and mid-1960s, including the US No.1 hits "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "Take Good Care of My Baby", "The Loco-Motion", and "Go Away Little Girl". It was later said of Goffin that his gift was "to find words that expressed what many young people were feeling but were unable to articulate."

<i>Dusty in Memphis</i> 1969 studio album by Dusty Springfield

Dusty in Memphis is the fifth studio album by English singer Dusty Springfield. Initial sessions were recorded at American Sound Studio in Memphis, while Springfield's final vocals and the album's orchestral parts were recorded at Atlantic Records' New York City studios. The album was released on 18 January 1969 in the United States by Atlantic Records, and Philips Records distributed the record outside the U.S. To make the album, Springfield worked with a team of musicians and producers that included Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, Tom Dowd, conductor Gene Orloff, backing vocalists the Sweet Inspirations, bassist Tommy Cogbill, and guitarist Reggie Young.

Don Kirshner American songwriter, publisher, music producer, and manager

Donald Clark Kirshner was an American music publisher, music consultant, rock music producer, talent manager, and songwriter. Dubbed "the Man with the Golden Ear" by Time magazine, He was best known for managing songwriting talent as well as successful pop groups, such as the Monkees, Kansas, and the Archies.

Howard Greenfield American lyricist and songwriter

Howard Greenfield was an American lyricist and songwriter, who for several years in the 1960s worked out of the famous Brill Building. He is best known for his successful songwriting collaborations, including one with Neil Sedaka from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, and near-simultaneous songwriting partnerships with Jack Keller and Helen Miller throughout most of the 1960s.

Jack Keller (songwriter) American composer, songwriter and record producer (1936-2005)

Jack Walter Keller was an American composer, songwriter and record producer. He co-wrote, with Howard Greenfield and others, several pop hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including "Just Between You and Me", "Everybody's Somebody's Fool", "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own", "Venus in Blue Jeans" and "Run to Him". He also wrote the theme songs for TV series including Bewitched and Gidget, and later worked in Los Angeles – where he wrote for, and produced, The Monkees – and in Nashville.

On Broadway (song) 1963 single by The Drifters

"On Broadway" is a song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in collaboration with the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen 1961 single by Neil Sedaka

"Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" is a pop song released in 1961 by Neil Sedaka. Sedaka wrote the music and performed the song, while the lyrics were written by Howard Greenfield. The song is noted for being similar in musical structure to Take Good Care of My Baby by Bobby Vee, and additionally for its resemblance to the melody of the Chiffons' subsequent 1963 hit "One Fine Day". Both of these songs exhibiting similarity to "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" were penned by the team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. The song reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart.

Alfred Kasha was an American songwriter, whose songs include "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure.

Aldon Music

Aldon Music was a New York-based music publishing company, founded by Don Kirshner and Al Nevins in 1958. Aldon is regarded as having played a significant role in shaping the Brill Building Sound in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Associated Recording Studios, familiarly known as Associated, was based in the music district of New York City from 1946 to 1985, near the famous Brill Building. As New York's major independent recording studio for almost 40 years, Associated was used by all types of musicians, singers, songwriters, producers and publishers in New York's thriving music industry. First located on Broadway, Associated moved a few blocks to a larger space in 1961 at 723 7th Avenue, near 48th Street, at the northern end of Times Square. Associated was owned and operated by Nathan “Nat” Schnapf and Paul Friedberger, who met while working as radar technicians at Western Electric during World War II.

<i>Midstream</i> (album) 1978 studio album by Debby Boone

Midstream (1978) is the second studio album by Debby Boone. The album's title refers to the change in producers "midstream" on the album. The first seven songs were produced by Brooks Arthur; the remaining five songs were written and produced by Joe Brooks who was responsible for Boone's "You Light Up My Life." Brooks' songs were all written for his film, If Ever I See You Again. Another "Midstream" track, "When You're Loved," was one of three songs recorded by Boone for "The Magic of Lassie" soundtrack.

Oh! Carol 1959 single by Neil Sedaka

"Oh! Carol" is an international hit written by Neil Sedaka in 1958. Co-written with Howard Greenfield, the song is noted for Sedaka's spoken recitation of the verse, the second time around.

Albert "Al" Nevins was an American musician, producer, arranger, guitarist and violinist. He was also a member of pop trio The Three Suns, and is considered one of the major forces behind the evolution of the 1950s music into the early 1960s pop/rock music.

Lesley Gore: It's My Party is a five disc box set from Bear Family Records released June 21, 1994, that includes every Mercury Records release by Gore between 1963 and 1969. It also includes foreign language versions and never-released songs.

"It Hurts to Be in Love" is a song written by Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller which was a Top Ten hit in 1964 for Gene Pitney. The song was one in a long line of successful "Brill Building Sound" hits created by composers and arrangers working in New York City's Brill Building at 1619 Broadway.

I Cant Stay Mad at You 1963 single by Skeeter Davis

"I Can't Stay Mad at You" is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It was originally recorded by American country artist Skeeter Davis, becoming her second top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963. "I Can't Stay Mad at You" followed on the popular success of Davis' earlier 1963 crossover hit "The End of the World". The song was one of the first Goffin-King compositions to be recorded by a country music performer.

<i>Beautiful: The Carole King Musical</i>

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is a jukebox musical with a book by Douglas McGrath that tells the story of the early life and career of Carole King, using songs that she wrote, often together with Gerry Goffin, and other contemporary songs by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Phil Spector and others.

<i>Monkeemania (40 Timeless Hits)</i> 1979 greatest hits album by the Monkees

Monkeemania is a Monkees compilation released in Australia in 1979. It contains 40 of the Monkees' songs, including hit singles, B-sides, album tracks and three previously unreleased tracks: "Love to Love," "Steam Engine" and a live version of "Circle Sky."

Brill Building (genre)

Brill Building is a subgenre of pop music that took its name from the Brill Building in New York City, where numerous teams of professional songwriters penned material for girl groups and teen idols during the early 1960s. The term has also become a metonym for the period in which those songwriting teams flourished. In actuality, most hits of the mid 1950s and early 1960s were written elsewhere.



  1. 1 2 Gray, Christopher, "Streetscapes: The Brill Building: Built With a Broken Heart", The New York Times , December 30, 2009.
  2. New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, "Brill Building" Archived July 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine , New York City, March 23, 2010
  3. D.H. (October 16, 2017). "The first biography of George Martin, the Beatles' only producer". The Economist .
  4. Klocksin, Scott, "Report: Brill Building Up For Sale Amid Loan Foreclosure", Bisnow, January 26, 2017.
  5. Shepherd, John; Horn, David (March 8, 2012). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World Volume 8: Genres: North . p. 93. ISBN   9781441160782 . Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  6. "Don Kirshner". The Daily Telegraph . London. April 18, 2011.
  7. Frith, Simon (1978). The Sociology of Rock. ISBN   0-09-460220-4.
  8. Covach, John Rudolph. What's That Sound?: An Introduction to Rock and Its History (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton, 2009, ISBN   978-0393937251
  9. "The Work of Claus Ogerman". Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  10. "Tom & Jerry meet Tico & The Triumphs". Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  11. "Bobby Darin and the Brill Building". Archived from the original on May 18, 2008. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  12. "Toni Wine : Songwriter Interviews". May 8, 2007. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  13. "Fiesta – CDs and Vinyl". Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  14. Anderson, Stacey (September 5, 2014). "New Pornographers Debut New Album at The Legendary Brill Building". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  15. Cuozzo, Steve (January 10, 2017). "Margaritaville restaurant planned for NYC falls through". Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  16. "1619 Broadway | Jimmy Buffet". January 10, 2017. Retrieved February 22, 2020.


Further reading

Coordinates: 40°45′40″N73°59′04″W / 40.7611°N 73.9845°W / 40.7611; -73.9845