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Songbook (A tribute to Mooney Shapiro)
If Mooney Shapiro had existed, we wouldn't have had to invent him. SONGBOOK is our tribute to this amazing songwriter and human being. To us he is as real as Sondheim, Porter, Coward and Waller.
His story ...
Born Michael Mooney is Liverpool, England 1908, love child of an Irish tweeny, he was raised at St Cecilia's Orphanage where he played honky-tonk harmonium when the nuns were out of earshot. At sixteen, in trouble with the Mother Superior over a girl, he made a dash for the docks and stowed away on a boat to New York.
Adopted by Lower East Side music teacher, Abraham Shapiro, he changed his name to Mooney Shapiro and began his song writing career with EAST RIVER RHAPSODY, which expressed the immigrant Mooney's affection for his new home town.
1927 found Mooney in Hollywood married to Swedish film star, Astrid Kalmar. It was the year of The Jazz Singer. The musical movie was born and Mooney was right there on the spot - TALKING PICTURE SHOW. Then, the Wall Street Crash. Astrid blamed Mooney for losing her fortune. She kicked him out. Back in New York, a drunken failure, his experience of the gutter led to MR DESTINY, one of the most popular songs of the Depression. Back on his feet again, Mooney tried for a reconciliation with Astrid by long distance telephone to Hollywood - YOUR TIME IS DIFFERENT TO [sic] MINE was the result. Mooney was divorced in 1933.
The footloose tunesmith, armed with introductions to the Hemingway set, headed to Paris, France. He had been signed by Busby Berkeley to write the title song of a new movie. PRETTY FACE was one of the first Americans-in-Paris songs. This was soon followed by JE VOUS AIME MILADY, inspired by socialist socialite Lady Arabella Klintoch, who was to become the love of his life. Bella showed him another side of Paris, including a landmark that no longer exists - the market of LES HALLES.
Bella and Mooney married and honeymooned in Berlin as guests of Bella's sister, Lady Charity Klintoch, a close friend of the Führer. It was 1936 and Mooney penned a stirring OLYMPIC SONG. But two events led to rapid disillusion with Nazi Germany; his left wing wife in trouble with the Gestapo; and Hitler's snubbing him on account of his Jewish surname, a fellow feeling he shared with the black athlete Jessie Owens, also a victim of Hitler's bad manners. Back in New York, Mooney rocked Manhattan café society with the outrageous PARTY POOPER which he sang at his welcome-home party.
The age of storm clouds was also the era of Swing. Among Mooney's more popular songs was 1938's big hit I'M GONNA TAKE HIM HOME TO MOMMA. With the outbreak of World War II, Mooney returned to England and began his career of morale-boosting war songs: BUMPITY BUMP for Cecily Courtneidge, and VICTORY V for the Combined Allied Forces.
Mooney had a good war and was immediately snapped up by Hollywood for the era of the great post-war musicals. APRIL IN WISCONSIN was his first Frank Sinatra song. But the later forties also saw the beginning of McCarthyism of which he and Bella were victims. Mooney was blacklisted and did not work for five years.
In the more liberal climate of Broadway he made his comeback. In 1954 the curtain rose of HAPPY HICKORY. His one important contribution to the American Musical Theatre, HAPPY HICKORY was an international hit.
With success Mooney became, if not big-headed, somewhat high-minded. For his next musical he chose a more significant subject - racial prejudice. Inspired by Emile Zola's J'Accuse, his hero was a black US Army Captain wrongly accused of selling secrets to the North Koreans. The anti-American number I ACCUSE outraged the first night audience and the show closed in Boston.
Mooney suffered all the heartaches of a Broadway flop and got it out of his system with MESSAGES.
In 1960 the Shapiro family moved to London. The times they were a-changin' and Mooney tried to change with them. On a trip down memory lane to his birthplace, Liverpool, he employed a group to record his new-style song I FOUND LOVE. The ageing songwriter jumped on all the Swinging Sixties bandwagons, and fell off each. Badly bruised he found comfort in the arms of an 18 year old budding pop singer, Bonny Brown. That old song of Mooney's DON'T PLAY THAT LOVE SONG ANYMORE suddenly became poignant for his wife Bella. She left, and so did Bonny.
Totally alone at 64, Mooney painted an unflattering self-portrait in GOLDEN OLDIE. But all was not lost. Typically he landed headfirst on his feet again, when Bonny Brown made it to the top of the charts with his golden oldie CLIMBIN'.
That was the beginning of Mooney Shapiro, Cult Figure. Reconciled with Bella he went to live in Ireland. He devoted his last years to a lifelong obsession with finding the missing black notes between E & F and B & C. In 1977 he died - electrocuted by his synthesiser.
His last song, found stuffed in a bottom drawer, was NOSTALGIA.