Something for Thursday: Rachmaninoff at 150

Two syrupy 1970s love ballads today!

The lead artist here is singer-songwriter Eric Carmen, who was a big star in the 70s and has had a good career all along. You generally can’t go wrong with the 1970s, where power ballads are concerned. The first, “All By Myself”, is actually one of the iconic power ballads of that era. The second, “Never Gonna Fall In Love Again”, is probably less well-known, but it’s a very representative song of its genre.

I remember hearing “Never Gonna Fall” the first time…on the Muzak system at work. I wasn’t really processing the song playing in the background, because that’s the whole point of Muzak: it’s background music you don’t process. It’s aural wallpaper. We can discuss the virtues, or lack thereof, of Muzak another time…but I remember walking along, vaguely thinking about the song that was playing. Then, it suddenly snapped in to place.

And this is where our 150th Birthday Composer comes in to play.

Both of these songs take their main melodies from Rachmaninoff.

“All By Myself”‘s main tune (not the chorus, but the verses) is from the second movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and “Never Gonna Fall In Love” gets its tune from the third movement of my beloved Symphony No. 2. Carmen apparently had classical training before he switched to pop music, and thus his familiarity with those two works and his decision to use them in two of his songs.

Unfortunately for Mr. Carmen, he also made some incorrect assumptions regarding the copyright status of Mr. Rachmaninoff’s music. Rachmaninoff was dead by this point and his music was public domain in the USA, but not abroad, where he eventually had to agree to share profits with the Rachmaninoff estate to be able to sell and perform those records. This does not seem to have been a particular contentious affair, but it explains why you might see Rachmaninoff, who died in 1943, credited with a couple of 1970s power ballads.

I’ve seen some arguments occasionally that the suitability of a couple of Rachmaninoff’s melodies to such a use demonstrates their lack of seriousness, but…that’s just goofy. I ignore that stuff. Who’s got time for any of that?

More on the Second Concerto and the Second Symphony to come. In the case of the Symphony, much more to come. That one’s been percolating in my head for years….

This entry was posted in music and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Something for Thursday: Rachmaninoff at 150

  1. Roger says:

    You KNOW how much I love a good pop music lift of a classical song, but I did not know about this one.

  2. Roger says:

    FYI, Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles cites both Rach swipes. BTW, All By Myself went to #2 pop for three weeks, #6 adult contemporary. Never went to #11 pop but #1 AC, both in 1976.

Comments are closed.