Norman Gimbel, Oscar, Grammy-Winning Lyricist, Dies at 91

Norman Gimbel, an Oscar and Grammy-winning composer whose lyrics graced hit songs such as Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and Jim Croce’s “I Got a Name,” died at the age of 91 on December 19 at his longtime home in Montecito, Calif.

His death was confirmed by BMI, which paid tribute on its website, noting: “BMI was greatly saddened to learn of the passing of renowned songwriter Norman Gimbel, a truly prolific and gifted writer who will be greatly missed by his many friends and fans here.”

The Brooklyn native wrote the words to both “The Girl from Ipanema” and the “Happy Days” theme, earning an Academy Award with David Shire for Jennifer Warnes’ “It Goes Like It Goes,” the Best Original Song winner for 1979’s “Norma Rae,” which also garnered Sally Field her first of two Best Actress Oscars.

With his longtime writing collaborator Charles Fox, Gimbel’s lyrics to Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” earned them the Song of the Year Grammy in 1973. The chart-topper was covered years later by the Fugees in a hip-hop version.

Croce’s “I Got a Name,” released the day after his death in a plane crash in September, 1973, was yet another Gimbel-Fox creation.

In their 30-year partnership, Gimbel and Fox wrote more than 150 songs together, earning Oscar nominations for Olivia Newton-John’s “Richard’s Window” (from 1975’s “The Other Side of the Mountain”) and Barry Manilow’s “Ready to Take a Chance Again” (from 1978’s comedy “Foul Play’).

In addition to “Happy Days,” Gimbel and Fox also wrote the themes for such TV shows as Garry Marshall’s “Laverne & Shirley” (“Making Our Dreams Come True”), “Paper Chase,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and “Wonder Woman.”

The 1984 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee’s English lyrics for “The Girl from Ipanema,” made the Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz standard an international sensation and one of the most covered songs of all time, winning the Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965.

Born in Brooklyn, Nov. 16, 1927, Gimbel worked for music publishers David Blum and Edwin H. Morris, writing the words to Teresa Brewer’s hit “Ricochet Romance” and Andy Williams’ 1956 chart-topper, “Canadian Sunset.”

He also collaborated with Broadway composer Morris “Moose” Charlap on the musicals “Whoop-Up” in 1958 and “The Conquering Hero,” with a book by Larry Gelbart, in 1961, after a stint with Frank Loesser, who wrote the currently controversial, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

In the ‘60s, Gimbel provided English translations to music by Brazilian composers like Antonio Carlos Jobim, then for Michel Legrand’s 1964 musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” an acknowledged major influence on Damien Chazelle’s celebrated “La La Land.”

When Gimbel moved to the west coast in 1967, he worked with composers including Lalo Shifrin, Elmer Bernstein, Bill Conti, Quincy Jones, Burt Bachrach and Nelly Gimbel, his daughter.

His songs were heard in films like “The Phantom Tollbooth” (1970), “Where’s Poppa?” (1970), “A Troll in Central Park” (1994) and “Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp’s Adventure” (2001).

Gimbel is survived by his sons Tony and Peter and daughters Nelly and Hannah. Tony has overseen his father’s Normans Music Publishing Co. (now Words West LLC) for the past 25 years.

More Music

  • London's CODA Agency Formally Becomes a

    Paradigm Agency Formally Absorbs London's CODA Into the Fold

    After five years of working together, London’s CODA Agency has formally become a part of Paradigm and will continue under its U.S. partner’s banner. The London office of what is now a fully integrated Paradigm will continue to be led by Alex Hardee, Tom Schroeder, James Whitting and Dave Hallybone. In a statement otherwise laden [...]

  • Mariah Carey

    Mariah Carey Signs With CAA

    Mariah Carey has returned to CAA for representation worldwide after moving to UTA in 2015. Throughout her 30-year career, the five-time Grammy winner has released some of the best-selling albums of all time, including “Music Box,” which racked up more than 28 million in sales, and “Daydream,” which sold 20 million copies. Her other albums, [...]

  • Art Neville of The Meters performs

    Art Neville of the Meters and the Neville Brothers Dies at 81

    Art Neville, one of the key figures of New Orleans music as a member of the Meters and later the Neville Brothers, died Monday. He was 81. Neville’s manager, Kent Sorrell, confirmed the death. “It was peaceful,” Sorrell told Nola.com. “He passed away at home with his adoring wife Lorraine by his side. He toured [...]

  • Roddy Rich

    Roddy Ricch Signs Wide-Ranging Deal With Kobalt

    Kobalt has signed Roddy Ricch to a wide-ranging exclusive worldwide deal in which the company will have full administration of the rapper, singer, songwriter and producer’s catalog, as well as publishing, creative services and synch for his future works. Ricch is a relative newcomer, first emerging onto the music scene in 2017 with the release [...]

  • Kenya Barris Kid Cudi netflix

    Kenya Barris, Kid Cudi Team for Netflix Animated Series Based on Cudi's New Album

    Kenya Barris and Kid Cudi have set an adult animated music series at Netflix with an added twist. The series will be based on Cudi’s upcoming album, “Entergalactic,” which is set to be released by Republic Records. The series will showcase music from the new album, which is said to follow a young man on [...]

  • Michael Lang to Appear at Woodstock

    Michael Lang to Appear at Woodstock Anniversary Events at Morrison Hotel Gallery

    While the problems surrounding the troubled Woodstock 50 festival have certainly dominated conversation about the forthcoming anniversary of the original festival next month, cofounder Michael Lang is scheduled to take some time to look back at a pair of events held at the Morrison Hotel Galleries, in Los Angeles and New York on Aug. 7 [...]

  • Roc Nation Label Names Shari Bryant

    Roc Nation Label Names Shari Bryant and Omar Grant Co-Presidents

    Roc Nation has named Shari Bryant and Omar Grant co-presidents of the Roc Nation Label, the company announced today. The two will lead the Roc Nation team to develop strategies for signed artists while continuing to build the talent roster, according to the announcement. “There is no better way to celebrate my 20th anniversary in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content