Q&A with Dave Frishberg | Music | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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Q&A with Dave Frishberg


Last Updated: 08/07/2013 7:49 pm

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Sparrow: Yeah, I heard. That's interesting, that you live there.

Frishberg: Well, I put 15 years in, in New York City, and then I put another 15 years in, in Los Angeles. So I'm entitled to Portland.


Sparrow: [Laughs.]

Frishberg: [Laughs.] Paid my dues!


Sparrow: And did you write a number of songs for "Schoolhouse Rock"?

Frishberg: Well, I wasn't the chief writer. The chief writer was Bob Dorough. Bob got so busy with doing that that he had to farm out a lot of his work, or some of it, to other composers and songwriters. I'm one of 'em. And I think I contributed maybe a half a dozen songs, three of which are from the recent, the more recent "Schoolhouse Rock," which came maybe 15 years after the classic period of "Schoolhouse Rock." So there was a period in which it was off the air, and then it was renewed again, the interest in it, so then I wrote three songs for the newer thing. But my most famous song for "Schoolhouse Rock" was "I'm Just a Bill."


Sparrow: So you had to research how a bill is processed...

Frishberg: Yeah, exactly. I've written a lot on assignment, for different things. And I think I do, I have my best ideas when I'm told what to write. So I really, I really kind of need someone to tell me what to write. In this case, they gave me three choices on what subject to write, and I chose how a bill becomes a law in Congress. I don't know why. And you're right, then I had to do research. I think that might have been my first contribution to the series. So I, I remember, I was saying, "I have to do my homework on this." So I researched it, and then I wrote the little scenario that goes with it. I don't know if you're familiar with that piece.


Sparrow: Yeah, I've seen it!

Frishberg: Oh, well, the little bill, and all that, sitting on the Capitol steps, and all that. That became one of the flagship songs of "Schoolhouse Rock" series. And many people might only be familiar with that one of my songs! Not knowing that I wrote it. That was 1972, or 1973. That's how long it's been on the television. But people really respond to that song. And one of the weirdest things that I've heard recently is that freshman Congressmen and Senators who are arriving in Washington, D.C. for the first time -- just been elected -- go through a couple of days of orientation, and part of it is they watch that cartoon: how a bill becomes a law in Congress, "I'm Just a Bill." And when I heard that, I was very complimented, of course, but at the same time I was kind of appalled. [Laughs.]


Sparrow: [Laughs.] Right. You wrote that song for eight year olds!

Frishberg: Right! That's right.


Sparrow: That might be the song of yours that had the most widespread play.

Frishberg: Well, that and "Peel Me A Grape," which Diana Krall made into a hit of a kind.


Sparrow: And you wrote that a while ago.

Frishberg: Oh, yes, that was one of the very first songs I wrote, when I started writing in New York. I began to write songs when I got to New York. I got there in the late '50s, after I got out of the Air Force.


Sparrow: What song did Tony Bennett sing?

Frishberg: He recorded a song called "Little Did I Dream." That's my lyric and title, and the music by Johnny Mandel. It was on an album called "The Art of Romance."


Sparrow: And that's not a funny song?

Frishberg: No. It's a benign song, but it's not funny.


Sparrow: [Laughs.] In your performance, will you play an instrumental song?

Frishberg: I usually do, yeah. I usually do at least one instrumental solo.


Sparrow: That you wrote, usually?

Frishberg: No, no, uh uh. Usually some kind of a standard piece. I play a lot of Duke Ellington music.


Sparrow: Do you have any new songs you will play?

Frishberg: Yeah. I certainly have songs that people haven't heard. And I get requests for certain songs that I know I have to plan to sing them. Among them is "My Attorney Bernie." And another one is "Van Lingle Mungo" -- that's a man's name. He was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, mainly for the Brooklyn Dodgers, back in the 1930s and '40s. The song is a list of players from that era. That was back in the late 1960s that I wrote that.


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