Norman Gimbel, Lyricist of Iconic Pop Hits, Dies

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Norman Gimbel (Photo: Songwriters Hall of Fame)

Norman Gimbel, who wrote the lyrics to such pop hits as “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” “The Girl From Ipanema” and “I Got a Name” as well as the theme songs for such TV shows as Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, died on Dec. 19 in Santa Barbara, Calif. No cause of death has been noted; Gimbel was 91.

In 1963, Gimbel was introduced to a group of Brazilian composers including Antonio Carlos Jobim and would go on to write the English lyrics for many of their songs. The 1964 single for “The Girl From Ipanema” featuring Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz was a big worldwide hit and earned the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1965.

Gimbel’s well known lyrics begin with Tall and tanned and young and lovely, The girl from Ipanema goes walking, and when she passes each one she passes goes “Aaah…”

Gimbel enjoyed numerous pop success with his longtime collaborator, Charles Fox. Roberta Flack’s 1973 cover of their “Killing Me Softly With His Song” was a #1 pop hit. The song begins with the lyrics: Strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words.

That same year, Jim Croce recorded the Gimbel-Fox song, “I Got a Name.” The song was released on Sept. 21, the day after the singer-songwriter died in a plane crash. It ultimately reached #10 on the Hot 100.

During the ’70s, the Gimbel-Fox team also collaborated on theme songs for such popular TV series as Happy DaysLaverne & ShirleyWonder Woman and The Paper Chase, for which they earned an Emmy Award. In 1979, Gimbel earned an Academy Award for co-writing (with David Shire) “It Goes Like it Goes,” from Norma Rae. (The song was performed by Jennifer Warnes.) Gimbel’s songs have appeared in 70 motion pictures.

Gimbel was born Nov. 16, 1927, in Brooklyn, NY. His early career success was on Broadway, where he co-wrote two musicals, Whoop-Up and The Conquering Hero. Gimbel moved to Hollywood in 1967, where he became active in film and television. According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 1984, Gimbel worked with such composers as Lalo Shifrin, Elmer Bernstein, Bill Conti, Maurice Jarre, Quincy Jones and Burt Bacharach.

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