Sing us a song
A Long and Winding Road features songs from some of the most prolific and influential composers in American history. Learn more about these composers.
Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman) composed songs that became anthems for both the Civil Rights Movement and protests against the Vietnam War. While expanding and personalizing musical forms, he has explored many traditions of American song — including folk, blues, country, gospel, rock 'n' roll, rockabilly, jazz, and swing. In his career, Dylan has won many awards for his songwriting, performing, and recording. His albums have earned Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Awards. He is inthe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame. His most recent studio album, Together Through Life, released April 28, 2009, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and UK album charts.
Simon and Garfunkel
In early 1964, Simon and Garfunkel auditioned with Columbia Records, whose executives were impressed enough to sign the duo to a contract to produce an album. Their first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., was released Oct. 19, 1964, and comprised 12 songs in the folk vein, five written by Simon. The album initially flopped, but East Coast radio stations began receiving requests for one of the tracks, Simon's "The Sounds of Silence." The single eventually went to No. 1 on the pop charts in the U.S. "The Sounds of Silence" was also featured the opening credits of the film The Graduate. After the duo released their very popular album Bridge over Troubled Water, Simon pursued solo projects. Occasionally, he and Garfunkel reunited, as in 1975 for their Top 10 single "My Little Town." Together, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Following an unsuccessful career stint in New York, James Taylor moved to London in 1967 and made his first solo demo tape. The tape sparked the interest of producer Peter Asher, who signed Taylor to The Beatles' Apple Records. Taylor then released his debut album, James Taylor, in 1968. The album contained his classic "Carolina in My Mind." In 1969, Taylor moved to California and signed with Warner Bros., where he recorded Sweet Baby James with a band that included guitarist Danny Kortchmar and Carole King on piano. Its phenomenal success helped usher in an age of "new troubadours," including singer-songwriters Joni Mitchell; Jackson Browne; and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Taylor has received tremendous acclaim for his more recent albums, New Moon Shine (1991) and Hourglass (1997). In 1998, Hourglass received the coveted Grammy Award for Best Pop Album.
Canadian-born Joni Mitchell moved to New York in 1967, performing mainly in nightclubs and coffeehouses before receiving her big break when David Crosby attended one of her performances. Crosby took Mitchell to Los Angeles and signed her with Reprise Records in 1968. That same year, Mitchell released her debut album, Song to a Seagull, and started to tour around the country. She released her second album, Clouds, one year later. Clouds won Mitchell her first Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance. During the next 30 years, Mitchell released more than ten albums. In 2007, she moved back to Canada and served as an advisor for the Alberta Ballet Company's premiere of The Fiddle and the Drum.
A proficient pianist from age 4, Carole King started writing songs by her early teens. When friend and neighbor Neil Sedaka embarked on his recording career, she followed him to the New York, recording demos, singing backup, and helping arrange occasional sessions. King then enrolled in Queens College and met her future music partner and husband, Gerry Goffin. With Goffin, she completed a handful of singles, including "The Right Girl" (1958), "Baby Sittin'," "Queen of the Beach" (1959). The duo was signed to Aldon Music Empire and wrote hits for Aretha Franklin ("You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman"), Dusty Springfield and the Byrds ("Goin' Back"), and the Monkees ("Pleasant Valley Sunday"). In 1967, Goffin and King split and King moved to Los Angeles. She began a solo career in 1970, fully asserting her independence with Tapestry. This radiant selection contained several of the singer's most incisive compositions, notably "You've Got a Friend," "It's Too Late," and "So Far Away." After a number of years keeping a relatively low profile, King released Love Makes the World in 2001. She tours occasionally and recently directed and performed in a DVD of her latest concert, titled Welcome to My Living Room.
Stephen Schwartz became a prominent composer for Broadway musicals during the 1970s. In 1971, he wrote the music and updated lyrics for Godspell, for which he won several awards, including two Grammys. This was followed by the English texts in collaboration with Leonard Bernstein for Bernstein's Mass, which marked the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1971. The following year, he wrote the music and lyrics for Pippin and, two years later, The Magic Show. At one point in 1974, Godspell, Pippin, and The Magic Show were all running simultaneously on Broadway. In the 1990s, Schwartz transitioned into film, collaborating with composer Alan Menken on the scores for the Disney animated features Pocahontas (for which he received two Academy Awards and another Grammy) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He also provided songs for DreamWorks' first animated feature, The Prince of Egypt, for which he won another Academy Award for the song "When You Believe."
The Beatles are one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed bands in the history of popular music, selling more than one billion records internationally. The band (consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr) released its first single, "Love Me Do," in 1962. Two years later, thanks in part to The Beatles' multiple performances on The Ed Sullivan Show and tours around the U.S., the song reached the top of the U.S. singles charts. Following their success with "Love Me Do," The Beatles starred in their first major motion picture, A Hard Day's Night, and released a slew of successful albums including Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The White Album (1968), and Abbey Road (1969). Unfortunately, tensions started to rise within the group. They disbanded in 1970 and decided to pursue solo careers. In 1980, John Lennon was killed by a stalker and obsessive fan, Mark David Chapman. Lennon's body was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., but his ashes were kept by his wife, Yoko Ono. Today, the legacy of The Beatles lives on. Their 1990 commemorative album, One, featured 27 of their No. 1 hits and soared to the top of the charts.
Tom Lehrer is best known for the pithy, humorous songs he recorded in the 1950s and '60s. His work often parodied popular song forms, notably in "The Elements," where he sets the names of the chemical elements to the tune of the "Major-General's Song" from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. Lehrer's early work frequently dealt with trivial subject matter, but he also produced a number of songs dealing with the social and political issues of the day, particularly when he went on to write for the U.S. version of the TV show That Was the Week That Was.