Al Kasha, the songwriter who won Academy Awards in the 1970s for co-writing hit ballads for “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno,” died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 83. No cause of death was immediately given.
As part of a songwriting team with Joel Hirschhorn, Kasha received two Tony nominations, four Golden Globe nods and a People’s Choice award, plus a pair of additional Oscar nominations for “Pete’s Dragon” in addition to the duo’s two wins for the Irwin Allen disaster movies.
“Write in Power,” tweeted Diane Warren, who succeeded Kasha as movie-theme royalty. “A great songwriter and lovely man,” she said, adding a broken-heart emoji.
Write In Power Al Kasha. A great songwriter and lovely man💔❤🎶🎵
— Diane Warren (@Diane_Warren) September 14, 2020
“The Morning After,” from 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure,” is still remembered as one of the more indelible movie themes of all time, either despite or because of the fact that it appeared within the body of the film, being sung on the cruise ship before New Year’s Eve calamity struck. A version of the song covered by Maureen McGovern reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Making good on McGovern’s use of their song, Kasha and Hirschhorn enlisted her as they reunited with producer Allen to write “We May Never Love Like This Again” for 1974’s “The Towering Inferno.” The two songs almost invented a subgenre of sensitive ballads that could have been considered at odds with the big-budget disaster pictures they turned up in, if not for the slightest of tragic undertones that Kasha and Hirschhorn cleverly wrote into them. Although “We May Never Love Like This Again” was not the radio hit that the preceding song was, it won a People’s Choice award as well as the Oscar. (Kasha is pictured above, right, at the 1975 Academy Awards ceremony with Hirschhorn, left, and presenter Gene Kelly, center.)
The duo’s other two Oscar nods came for the 1977 Walt Disney film “Pete’s Dragon,” which picked up nominations for both its score and its song (“Candle On The Water,” sung by Helen Reddy).
“The Morning After” remains such a touchstone of popular culture that it has been used as a synch on “American Horror Story,” “The X-Files,” “King of the Hill,” “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons” and “How I Met Your Mother,” among other shows, just in the last 15 years. Amusingly, the song was generically identified in the original movie credits simply as “The Song From The Poseidon Adventure” before it picked up an obvious title when McGovern recorded her hit version.
Their Tony nominations rewarded their work on the Broadway musicals “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Copperfield.” Hirschhorn died in 2005.
Kasha co-wrote three books: “If They Ask, You Can Write A Song,” “Notes On Broadway” and “Reaching The Morning After.” He was said to have been at work on a fourth, “The Ultimate Book on Songwriting.”
The songwriter was born in New York City on January 22, 1937. After attending NYU, he became “the youngest producer at Columbia Records at 22 years old,” he told an interviewer. Kasha went on to become a Brill Building denizen, crafting material for some of the most renowned artists in pop in the 1960s. Kasha considered his first big break to be having Bobby Darin record “Irresistible You.” But his most longstanding association was with Jackie Wilson; their songs together included”I’m Coming on Back To You,” “My Empty Arms,” “Forever And A Day,” “Each Night I Dream Of You,” “Lonely Life” and “Sing And Tell The Blues So Long.” Others who recorded his material included Aretha Franklin (“Operation Heartbreak”), Charles Aznavour (“Dance In The Old Fashioned Way”) and, in 2008, Donna Summer’s No. 1 dance chart hit “I’m A Fire.”
His lesser known movie credits stretch as far back as writing the title theme song for the 1965 thriller “Who Killed Teddy Bear” and music for 1963’s “Gidget Goes to Rome.”
In later decades, he became known for his faith-based efforts, including scoring “China Cry,” a feature film produced by the Trinity Broadcasting Network in 1990.
Born into a Jewish family, Kasha became a Christian convert and hosted a Bible study for years at his home, with attendees including Donna Summer and fellow convert Bob Dylan, during the singer’s “born again period” in the late 1970s.
In recent years he co-wrote two musicals, “The Real Love” and “Loving The Silent Tears,” that he created with Ching Hai, a Vietnamese poet and religious leader whom Kasha referred to as “the Supreme Master.”
Kasha had been known to be dealing with Parkinson’s disease for many years.
“You need love even if you’re having a bad day,” Kasha said, discussing his philosophy as he promoted the “Silent Tears” musical in 2012, before it had a performance at the Shrine Auditorium. “I have a saying that I believe in: There are no bad days. There are good days and learning days. If you’re having a bad day, what did you learn from it? So a song will help you in that regard.”
Kasha is survived by his wife, Ceil Kasha, a daughter, Dana Kasha-Cohen, her husband, Randy Cohen, and Kasha’s grandson, Dean Cohen.