“The Shadow of Your Smile”: Johnny as Composer
I get asked quite often what makes a great song, and it’s like a great marriage — it has to be an authentic partnership and stand the test of time. And to build a song of that caliber, the music and lyrics have to exist in the same way. “The Shadow of Your Smile,” with music by Johnny Mandel and lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, is a marriage for the ages.
But “The Shadow of Your Smile” is the quintessential song evoking a bittersweet memory of love. Johnny’s music captured that perfectly, without turning it into treacle, alongside all the expertise provided by Webster’s lyrics.
It’s the one song that gets called out most often by an audience member when I perform. It earned me an opportunity to perform at the Academy Awards — and it earned Johnny an Oscar. In fact, after the awards show, Johnny and I celebrated at my house. He was so ecstatic to have won. He said goodnight, and about five minutes later the doorbell rings and it’s Johnny: He’d been so excited that he left without his shoes!
The Art of Romance: Johnny as Arranger
Although Johnny is revered as a composer, he was also a master arranger, and, in fact, that was how he started out. I loved working with him in that regard as well.
We first met in the 1940s in New York City, at the hangout called Hanson’s Drugstore on 51st Street and Seventh Avenue. But we never worked together professionally until 1965, when I was making The Movie Song Album. The last time we truly collaborated was for an album I made called The Art of Romance, released in 2004. We recorded it in an actual theater in New Jersey instead of a studio, and Johnny conducted the orchestra for the project.
When the orchestra started to play the charts Johnny had written for “I Remember You,” it moved me so much that I started to tear up before I began to sing. As a composer or an arranger, Johnny had that kind of impact on me. I was glad to have him onboard for that album, as he arranged the music for the one and only song I ever wrote lyrics for. The words I crafted in dedication to my wife, Susan, and the title, “All for You,” was also a tribute to Django Reinhardt, whose gorgeous composition “Nuages” provided the melody.