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

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


His first hit was “Ricochet,” written with Larry Coleman and Joe Darion and recorded by Teresa Brewer in 1953. The saucy, country-tinged pop song (“If you’re careless with your kisses, find another turtle dove”) rose to No. 2 on the charts.

Mr. Gimbel soon moved to Los Angeles, where he worked more widely in television and film. In addition to his work on the “Laverne and Shirley” (“Schlemiel, schlimazle, Hassenpfeffer Incorporated”) and “Happy Days” (“Sunday, Monday, happy days”) themes, he wrote themes for the 1970s series “Wonder Woman” and “The Paper Chase.”

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984.

Back in New York, he wrote lyrics for two Broadway musicals, “Whoop-Up” (1958) and “The Conquering Hero” (1967), working with the composer Moose Charlap. The first show, set on an American Indian reservation, earned two Tony nominations, and the second, starring Tom Poston as a fake war hero, had a book by Larry Gelbart. Despite some positive reviews, both musicals flopped at the box office and closed early.

Both of Mr. Gimbel’s marriages, to the fashion model Elinor Rowley and to Victoria Carver, a lawyer, ended in divorce. In addition to his son Tony, survivors include another son, Peter; two daughters, Nelly Gimbel and Hannah Gimbel Dal Pozzo; and four grandchildren.

Mr. Gimbel gave relatively few interviews. In a six-minute segment as a contestant (alongside Burt Bacharach and Jerry Leiber) on “Play Your Hunch,” an early Merv Griffin game show, he spoke only three words.

That verbal reticence, though, served him well professionally. “Norman had the extraordinary ability with his lyrics to capture the human condition with never an excessive word to describe a feeling or an action,” Mr. Fox, the composer, said in a statement after his writing partner’s death.

He went on to praise Mr. Gimbel’s ability to conjure an entire song with its first line, and he offered examples: “Tall and tan and young and lovely.” “Strumming my pain with his fingers.” “If it takes forever, I will wait for you.”



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