Sammy Cahn

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Sammy Cahn
Sammy Cahn 1950s.JPG
Cahn circa 1958
Background information
Birth nameSamuel Cohen
Born(1913-06-18)June 18, 1913
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJanuary 15, 1993(1993-01-15) (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Sammy Cahn (June 18, 1913 – January 15, 1993) was an American lyricist, songwriter and musician. He is best known for his romantic lyrics to films and Broadway songs, as well as stand-alone songs premiered by recording companies in the Greater Los Angeles Area. He and his collaborators had a series of hit recordings with Frank Sinatra during the singer's tenure at Capitol Records, but also enjoyed hits with Dean Martin, Doris Day and many others. He played the piano and violin. He won an Oscar 4 times for his songs, including the popular song "Three Coins in the Fountain".

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

Frank Sinatra American singer, actor, and producer

Francis Albert Sinatra was an American singer, actor and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

Capitol Records American record label

Capitol Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group through its Capitol Music Group imprint. It was founded as the first West Coast-based record label "of note" in the United States in 1942 by Johnny Mercer, Buddy DeSylva, and Glenn E. Wallichs. Capitol was acquired by British music conglomerate EMI as its North American subsidiary in 1955. EMI was acquired by Universal Music Group in 2012 and was merged with the company a year later, making Capitol and the Capitol Music Group both a part of UMG. The label's circular headquarter building in Hollywood is a recognized landmark of California.


Among his most enduring songs is "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!", cowritten with Jule Styne in 1945. [1]

"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!", also known as "Let It Snow", is a song written by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne in July 1945. It was written in Hollywood, California during a heat wave as Cahn and Styne imagined cooler conditions.

Jule Styne British-born American songwriter

Jule Styne was a British-American song writer and composer known for a series of Broadway musicals, which include several famous and frequently revived shows which also became successful films, including Gypsy, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Funny Girl.

Life and career

Cahn was born Samuel Cohen in the Lower East Side of New York City, the only son (he had four sisters) of Abraham and Elka Reiss Cohen, who were Jewish immigrants from Galicia, then ruled by Austria-Hungary. [2] [3] His sisters, Sadye, Pearl, Florence, and Evelyn, all studied the piano. His mother did not approve of Sammy studying it though, feeling that the piano was a woman's instrument, so he took violin lessons. After three lessons and following his bar mitzvah, he joined a small dixieland band called Pals of Harmony, which toured the Catskill Mountains in the summer and also played at private parties. This new dream of Cahn's destroyed any hopes his parents had for him to be a professional man. [4]

Lower East Side Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City

The Lower East Side, sometimes abbreviated as LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan, roughly located between the Bowery and the East River, and Canal Street and Houston Street. Traditionally an immigrant, working class neighborhood, it began rapid gentrification in the mid-2000s, prompting the National Trust for Historic Preservation to place the neighborhood on their list of America's Most Endangered Places.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Galicia (Eastern Europe) Historical region in Central Europe

Galicia is a historical and geographic region between Central and Eastern Europe. It was once the small Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia and later a crown land of Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, which straddled the modern-day border between Poland and Ukraine. The area, named after the medieval city of Halych, was first mentioned in Hungarian historical chronicles in the year 1206 as Galiciæ. In 1253 Prince Daniel of Galicia was crowned the King of Rus or King of Ruthenia following the Mongol invasion in Ruthenia. In 1352 the Kingdom of Poland annexed the Kingdom of Galicia and Volhynia as the Ruthenian Voivodeship.

Some of the side jobs he had were playing violin in a theater-pit orchestra, working at a meat-packing plant, serving as a movie-house usher, tinsmith, freight-elevator operator, restaurant cashier, and porter at a bindery. At age 16, he was watching vaudeville, of which he had been a fan since the age of 10, and he witnessed Jack Osterman singing a ballad Osterman had written. Cahn was inspired and, on his way home from the theater, wrote his first lyric, which was titled "Like Niagara Falls, I'm Falling for You – Baby." Years later he would say "I think a sense of vaudeville is very strong in anything I do, anything I write. They even call it 'a vaudeville finish,' and it comes through in many of my songs. Just sing the end of 'All the Way' or 'Three Coins in the Fountain'—'Make it mine, make it mine, MAKE IT MINE!' If you let people know they should applaud, they will applaud." [4]

Much of Cahn's early work was written in partnership with Saul Chaplin. They first met when Cahn invited Chaplin to audition for him at the Henry Street Settlement. Cahn said, "I'd learned a few chords on the piano, maybe two, so I'd already tried to write a song. Something I called 'Shake Your Head from Side to Side.'" Billed simply as "Cahn and Chaplin" (in the manner of "Rodgers and Hart"), they composed witty special material for Warner Brothers' musical short subjects, filmed at Warners' Vitaphone studio in Brooklyn, New York.

Saul Chaplin was an American composer and musical director.

Henry Street Settlement United States national historic site

The Henry Street Settlement is a not-for-profit social service agency in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City that provides social services, arts programs and health care services to New Yorkers of all ages. It was founded under the name Nurses' Settlement in 1893 by progressive reformer and nurse Lillian Wald.

Rodgers and Hart American songwriting partnership

Rodgers and Hart were an American songwriting partnership between composer Richard Rodgers (1902–1979) and the lyricist Lorenz Hart (1895–1943). They worked together on 28 stage musicals and more than 500 songs from 1919 until Hart's death in 1943.

"There was a legendary outfit on West 46th Street, Beckman and Pransky ... they were the MCA, the William Morris of the Borscht Belt. I got a room in their offices, and we started writing special material. For anybody who'd have us—at whatever price." They did not make much money, but they did work with up-and-comers Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, Phil Silvers, and Bob Hope. [4]

MCA Inc. was an American media company founded in 1924. Originally involved only in the music business, the company next became a major force in the film industry, and later expanded into television production. MCA published music, booked acts, ran a record company, represented film, television, and radio stars, and eventually produced and sold television programs to the three major television networks, but had an especially good relationship with NBC.

Borscht Belt area with (now mostly defunct) summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains, in the Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster counties, New York; so called because many Eastern European Jewish Americans from New York City would vacation there in the 1920s–1970s

Borscht Belt, or Jewish Alps, is a nickname for the summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains in parts of Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster counties in New York. Borscht, a soup associated with immigrants from eastern Europe, was a metonym for "Jewish". These resorts were a popular vacation spot for New York City Jews between the 1920s and the 1970s. Most Borscht Belt resorts hosted traveling Jewish comedians and musicians, and many who later became prominent began their careers there.

Milton Berle American comedian and actor

Milton Berle was an American comedian and actor. Berle's career as an entertainer spanned over 80 years, first in silent films and on stage as a child actor, then in radio, movies and television. As the host of NBC's Texaco Star Theater (1948–55), he was the first major American television star and was known to millions of viewers as "Uncle Miltie" and "Mr. Television" during the first Golden Age of Television.

One of his childhood friends was Lou Levy, who had gone from neighborhood bum to blackface dancer with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra.

Lyric writing has always been a thrilling adventure for me, and something I've done with the kind of ease that only comes with joy! From the beginning the fates have conspired to help my career. Lou Levy, the eminent music publisher, lived around the corner and we met the day I was leaving my first music publisher's office. This led to a partnership that has lasted many years. Lou and I wrote "Rhythm is Our Business," material for Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra, which became my first ASCAP copyright. I'd been churning out "special lyrics" for special occasions for years and this helped facilitate my tremendous speed with lyric writing. Many might have written these lyrics better—but none faster! Glen Gray and Tommy Dorsey became regular customers and through Tommy came the enduring and perhaps most satisfying relationship of my lyric writing career – Frank Sinatra. [5]

The song became the Orchestra's signature song. The duo then worked for Glen Gray's Casa Loma Orchestra and their premiere at Paramount Theatre. They also worked for Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy and they wrote Until the Real Thing Comes Along . [4]

Cahn wrote the lyrics to "Love and Marriage," which was used as the theme song for the FOX TV show Married... with Children . The song originally debuted in a 1955 television production of Our Town , and won an Emmy Award in 1956. This was only one of many songs that Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen wrote for Frank Sinatra. They were "almost considered to be his personal songwriters." [6]

Cahn contributed lyrics for two otherwise unrelated films about the Land of Oz, Journey Back to Oz (1971) and The Wizard of Oz (1982). The former were composed with Van Heusen, the latter with Allen Byrns, Joe Hisaishi, and Yuichiro Oda.

Cahn became a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. He later took over the presidency of that organization from his friend Johnny Mercer when Mercer became ill. [7]

Personal life

Sammy Cahn's grave Sammy Cahn grave at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Brentwood, California.JPG
Sammy Cahn's grave

Cahn died on January 15, 1993, at the age of 79 in Los Angeles, California from heart failure. His remains were interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. [8]

He changed his last name from Cohen to Kahn to avoid confusion with comic and MGM actor Sammy Cohen [9] and again from Kahn to Cahn to avoid confusion with lyricist Gus Kahn.

He was married twice: first in 1945 to vocalist and former Goldwyn girl Gloria Delson [10] with whom he had two children. They divorced after 18 years of marriage. In 1965, she re-married world class tennis player, Mike Franks. In 1970, he married Virginia (Tita) Curtis, a former fashion coordinator for the clothes designer Donald Brooks. He was the father of Laurie Cahn and jazz/fusion guitarist Steve Khan [6] who, early in his career, changed the spelling of his last name to Khan in order to "create a separate identity from [his] famous father" and because he was "so hurt and angry with him for so many childhood things." [11]

Composer Garrison Hintz exchanged numerous letters with Cahn regarding musical composition and credits Cahn with teaching him the craft of lyric writing. [12]

Honors, awards and legacy

Over the course of his career, he was nominated for 31 Academy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, and an Emmy Award. He also received a Grammy Award nomination, with Van Heusen, for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Show for the film Robin and the 7 Hoods . He has won the Christopher Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Theatre World Award (for Best Newcomer to Broadway). [13]

In 1988, the Sammy Film Music Awards (the "Sammy"), an annual award for movie songs and scores, was started in his honor. [14] When notified by Roger Lee Hall, Cahn said he was "flattered and honored" that these awards were named after him. [15] He was chosen because he had received more Academy Award nominations than any other songwriter, and also because he received four Oscars for his song lyrics.

In 1993, taking up the sentiments expressed in the song, "High Hopes," the Cahn estate established the "High Hopes Fund" at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. The former Joslin patient and songwriter's goal was to provide hope and encouragement to kids with diabetes while supporting research into the causes of the disease.

The lyrics he wrote for Sinatra are the subject of a chapter in Gilbert Gigliotti's A Storied Singer: Frank Sinatra as Literary Conceit, "Come [Fly, Dance, and Waltz with] Us on Equal Terms": The Whitmanesque Sinatra of Sammy Cahn," published by Greenwood Press in 2002.


Cahn wrote lyrics for many songs, including:

Academy Award winners
Academy Award nominees
Other well-known songs

Lyrics for film musicals include Journey Back to Oz (1971) (music by Van Heusen) and The Wizard of Oz (1982) (music by Joe Hisaishi).


Cahn wrote the lyrics for the following Broadway musicals:

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  1. "About this person: Jule Styne", New York Times, Retrieved 2013-12-16
  2. Bloom, Nate (December 19, 2006). "The Jews Who Wrote Christmas Songs". InterfaithFamily. Retrieved December 19, 2006.
  3. Bloom, Nate (December 22, 2014). "All those Holiday/Christmas Songs: So Many Jewish Songwriters!". Jewish World Review.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Nolan, Frederick, American Song Lyricists, 1920–1960, Gale, ISBN   978-0-7876-6009-3, 2002
  5. Sammy Cahn Songbook. Warner Bros. Publications Inc. 1986. ASIN B000EA1TTW.
  6. 1 2 Holden, Stephen, "Sammy Cahn, Word Weaver Of Tin Pan Alley, Dies at 79",The New York Times, January 16, 1993.
  7. "Songwriters Hall of Fame". Archived from the original on October 1, 2006.
  8. Sammy Cahn at Find a Grave
  9. "Sammy Cohen (I) (1902–1981)", IMDb.
  10. Gloria Delson, IMDb.
  11. "Steve Khan "JAZZIZ" 20 Questions".
  12. Ascap Composer Sammy Cahn's signed letters to Garrison Hintz from Beverly Hills, New York, and Chicago all dated prior to 1992 relating to song writing.
  13. "Sammy Cahn Interview 1975 Brian Linehan's City Lights" . Retrieved August 27, 2019 via
  14. The Sammy Film Music Awards
  15. A Guide To Film Music: Songs and Scores. PineTree Press. 2007. p. 60.
  16. Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN   978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC   31611854. Tape 2, side A.