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‘Tonight Will Not Swing, Tonight Is For Serious.’ – Stan Cornyn, R.I.P. [Updated]

15 May 2015 @ 09:30

And, indeed, it shall be for it was seventeen years ago yesterday that Francis Albert Sinatra passed away and, sadly, yesterday that Stan Cornyn passed on at age eighty-one.

‘Stan Cornyn’?, you ask, ‘Who was that cat?’

From the Los Angeles Times, Steven Chawkins reporting:

When he was 32, it was a very good year.That’s when a writer named Stan Cornyn – who later came to be known as “king of the liner notes” — won his first Grammy.

It was for the 1965 Frank Sinatra album, “September of My Years.”

“Tonight will not swing. Tonight is for serious,” Cornyn wrote, describing the intense anticipation in a recording studio just before Sinatra arrived.

“Outside, in the hall, the uniformed guards wait and wonder what to do with their hands.”

“Unruly fiddle players, who love recording like they love traffic jams, tonight they bring along the wives, who wait to one side in black beaded sweaters.”“And these wives and these fiddle players and all of these are different tonight. For in a few minutes a poet will begin to speak of years ago.”

Cornyn, a Warner Bros. recording executive who wrote with sophisticated wit and later developed promotions that were alternately tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top for the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Petula Clark, Bob Newhart, Dean Martin and many other recording stars, died Monday at his home in Carpinteria. He was 81.

Big tip of the fedora to Paul Mock, a new Friend In The Ether and a Sophisticated Gentleman to boot, for the quote that is the title of this post.

More from the obit to give you a flavor of the man:

Cornyn’s self-deprecating humor drew plenty of attention.

The faux classified ad he placed in the company’s weekly “Circular,” a publication for retailers and radio stations, was typical:

“QUALIFIED GIRLS: Major record company now interviewing girls to be used in a series of paternity suits to bring fame to some of our less fortunate artists. Send scatological resume of past experience to Box 5949, Columbus, Ohio.”

He had quite a way with words…

His liner notes drew five Grammy nominations. The notes for the 1966 album “Sinatra at the Sands” earned him his second Grammy, and again struck a melancholy chord.

“A thin, gray-haired man who looks as if he hides under mushrooms to avoid the sun’s rays walks to the piano,” Cornyn wrote. “This is Bill Miller, Sinatra’s piano player.”

“Sinatra turns to the audience and tells them he’s going to sing a saloon song. And silently you can almost hear the perfumed ladies think “Yeah” and the close-shaved, shiny-cheeked men think “Yeah” and the waiters stop in doorways and think “Yeah.”

“And with just piano behind him, Sinatra turns actor. The man whose broad’s left him with some other guy and all of the loot…And there is silence all about, for this audience is watching a man become that last lucked-out guy at the bar, the last one, with nowhere to go but sympathy city.”

One of the greats; one of the most original personalities who brought life to the dirty business of dreams.

Requiescat in pace.

UPDATE on 16MAY2015 at 1717…

Mark Steyn has penned a wonderful tribute/obit to the man who ‘raised liner notes to the level of art’.

A highlight:

…When I was a teenage disc-jockey, I got out Strangers In The Night, intending to say something about whichever track I was going to play. And then my eye fell on Cornyn’s back-of-the-LP riff, and I thought wow, no point competing with this guy. They were the first and last liner notes I ever read on air. The whole thing, soup to nuts:

The brilliant bronze doors are green with neglect. On one side wall, the chalk legend: “The Animals Are Loved Only by Girls Named Josephine.”

Animals may come, and they sure do go, but Sinatra stayeth. He stays to sing. Whatever it says at the top of your calendar, that’s what Sinatra sings like: 65, 66, 99… He isn’t with the times. More than any other singer, he is the times.

If the guitar were dis-invented tonight, a few thousand singers would be out on the amps. But not Sinatra.

He defies fad. He stayeth. He has known more and felt more about the stuff songs are made of, the words of poets. He’s been a Stranger in the Night, and you have to be long rid of baby fat to be that Stranger. You can’t sing the way he does until you’ve been belly to belly with Reality a few times.

Always wanted to write like that, but could never quite pull it off….

Me too, but you ain’t so bad yourself, Mark [and a tip of the fedora to you for the link].

4 Comments leave one →
  1. formwiz permalink
    15 May 2015 @ 15:43 15:43

    He wrote the liner notes for Bill Cosby’s albums, nice ones.

    Considering the times, they were both funny and put forth the idea it was OK to find a young black man with incredible talent likable.

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