Famous Musicians You Never Heard Of – Bob Hilliard

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By Dave Austin, “Music Professor”

A couple of days ago I was working in my studio, and as usual, had some music going on the sound system.  Although I’m not a great country music fan, I must admit, I’ve always enjoyed country-pop singer, Ronnie Milsap. So, when his “Any Day Now” (originally released by Chuck Jackson, 1962) came through the speakers, I drew a blank as to the songwriter of that tune.  Just as an aside, “An Day Now” has also been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Percy Sledge, Franki Valli, Luther Vandross, James Brown and many others.    Upon checking, I found it was penned by Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard.  Most of all of us are familiar with many of Bacharach’s songs, but Hilliard, not so much.  It’s notable that Hilliard and Bacharach wrote more than two dozen songs together.  Over the years, I’ve seen Hilliard’s name on some song credits but never paid much attention.  Curiosity now piqued, I began some research on him.

Born in New York City as Hilliard Goldsmith, he began working in Tin Pan Alley soon after high school where he wrote his first hit, “The Coffee Song, at age 28.  The following year, he was on Broadway, writing successful scores for the musical comedies, Angel in the Wings and Hazel Flagg.  Unlike many songwriters whose careers are defined by one, perhaps two, genres, Hilliard wrote songs for Broadway, cast recordings and soundtracks, movie scores, both soft-rock pop and country artists, worked hand-in-hand with the greatest musical names of the era, and despite his many successes, (click here for a list of his songs) he is probably most remembered as the lyricist for the film score of Alice in Wonderland, including the words for the White Rabbit theme song, “I’m Late” and the unused Cheshire Cat song, “I’m Odd.”

He also wrote music for a number of Hollywood films and worked as a lyricist and composer not only with Burt Bacharach, but also Sammy FainJule Styne and several other famous composers.

With a career that spanned more than three decades, and mostly regarded as a Broadway and movie composer, Hilliard turned out quite a number of pop and country songs including “Bouquet of  Roses,” Eddy Arnold, Mickey Gilley, etc. “Dear Hearts and Gentle People, “ Dinah Shore, Gordon MacRae, Bob Crosby, etc.,  “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” Frank Sinatra, (Hilliard’s biggest hit), Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, etc., “Please Stay,”  Drifters, Jonathan Butler, Elvis Costello and others.  Hilliard also scored with the 1963 #1 pop classic, “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby & the Romantics.

Along with Bacharach, Hilliard also wrote “Tower of Strength,” a #5 Hit for Gene McDaniels.  “My Little Corner of the Word,” was a country hit for Connie Smith, and later, Marie Osmond.  Another of his country-pop songs was “A Poor Man’s Roses (or a Rich Man’s Gold),” producing hits for Patti Page, Reba McEntire and Patsy Cline.

Hilliard’s career, unfortunately, was cut short when he died in Hollywood in 1971 at the age of 53.  He was inducted into the songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983.

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