Remembering Ray Jessel

I was so sorry to belatedly read that the wonderful Ray Jessel passed away three weeks ago, on July 17, at the age of 85. I met him several times and always enjoyed the occasion. He came across as a good guy and was very funny.

I've written about several of his songs previously and posted some, like this hilarious tribute to Shirley Temple. As I wrote at that time --

"Ray Jessel had a long, successful career writing in television, on series that included The Bob Newhart Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Love Boat and more. He also had success on Broadway, co-writing the score of Baker Street, a musical about Sherlock Holmes that even produced a moderate hit, 'A Married Man', recorded by Richard Burton, no less, more spoken than sung. (It was performed in the show by Dr. Watson). And he wrote some of the lyrics for I Remember Mama that had music by Richard Rodgers.

"But later in his life, he's reinvented himself as a cabaret performer, singing his own songs in a wonderfully entertaining act. Some of the songs are quite tender, but the centerpiece is the comedy numbers with sharp, witty, impressively clever lyrics that are truly funny, with thoroughly enjoyable melodies."

[Note: I also posted a recording of Jessel himself singing his hit song, "A Married Man," here and doing it wonderfully, and with great tenderness]

It turns out that only last year, Ray appeared on America's Got Talent -- and rightly so blew the judges and audience (and host) away. They were likely expecting a doddering old man and got an impish elf. What they also didn't realize that this was a talented craftsman who had written two Broadway musicals, including one with Richard Rodgers.

Here's that appearance -

Because I liked Ray so much and his work, I'm going to post a bonus song, this from his terrific CD, The First Seventy Years, which you can find here. Most of the songs on the CD are wildly funny, but he also has some wonderful ballads, from work-in-progress musicals.

This is one of those selections. As you might have notice from the image above, Ray bears a striking similarity to a famous physicist, known for the Theory of Relativity. And so, he wrote an extremely clever song with exceedingly witty rhymes about Albert Einstein's view of his fellow competition, a song called, "I'm a Genius."

And...well, you know, as long as this is a goodbye to Ray Jessel, I think at the last minute I'm going to add one more bonus. This is his aforementioned song, which was his one Top 40 hit, "A Married Man," from the 1965 Broadway musical about Sherlock Holmes, Baker Street, written by Ray and Marion Grudeff.

In the show, the number is sung by Dr. Watson. In trying to decide which version to include here, I thought about the original cast recording, or even Ray's own wonderful rendition (which you can hear by clicking here, and is highly recommended, even after listening to the one below), but I thought we'd give the last word to that hit recording itself, slightly shorter than the original, and sung -- or rather, more spoken -- by Richard Burton.

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To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.