Joseph “Joe” Brooks (March 11, 1938 – May 22, 2011) was an American composer, director, producer, and screenwriter, who was a prolific writer of advertising jingles and wrote the hit songs “My Ship Is Comin’ In”, “If Ever I See You Again”, and “You Light Up My Life,” the latter being composed for the hit film of the same name that he also wrote, directed, and produced. Brooks was born Joseph Kaplan on March 11, 1938, in Manhattan, New York, and grew up in Manhattan and Lawrence, Long Island, New York. As a child, he claimed to have started playing piano at age 3 and writing plays at age 5, following his parents’ divorce. He later attended five different colleges, including Juilliard, but did not graduate from any. In the late 1950s, Brooks pursued a career as a singer-songwriter, adopting the name “Joey Brooks,” later changed to “Joe Brooks” or “Joseph Brooks.” He released several records on the Canadian-American label as “Joey Brooks,” and on Decca as “Joey Brooks and the Baroque Folk.” When his singing career failed, he drifted into advertising and occasional songwriting work, although he sporadically released several more records throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
In the 1960s, Brooks composed advertising jingles for clients including Pepsi (“You’ve Got a Lot to Live”) and Maxwell House (“Good to the Last Drop Feeling”). He received numerous Clio Awards for his work, as well as a People’s Choice Award. Credited as “Joey Brooks,” he also wrote the song “My Ship Is Comin’ In,” a Top Ten UK hit in 1966 for the Walker Brothers. In the 1970s, Brooks, who had become wealthy from his advertising work, at one point claiming to have 150 commercials on the air, began composing for films. He wrote music for the American release of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970), Marjoe (1972), and The Lords of Flatbush (1974). He wrote “Blue Balloon (The Hourglass Song)” which was sung by Robby Benson as the theme song for the film Jeremy (1973).
Brooks next developed his own film project, You Light Up My Life, which he wrote, produced, directed and scored on a budget of approximately $1 million. The romantic drama about an aspiring singer, starring Didi Conn, became a box office success despite poor reviews. The title song Brooks composed for the film was an even bigger success; a cover version by Debby Boone reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and held the top position for 10 consecutive weeks, at that time the longest Number One reign in the chart’s history. With sales of over five million copies, the song ultimately became the biggest hit of the 1970s, and earned Brooks a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe Award and an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award.
Brooks attempted to follow up his success with a similar romantic drama, If Ever I See You Again (1978), for which Brooks not only co-wrote, produced, directed and scored, but also played the leading role, a successful composer of TV commercial jingles, much like himself in real life, despite having no significant prior acting experience. Although the title song became a moderate hit for Roberta Flack, peaking at #24 on the Hot 100 chart, the movie received sharply negative reviews and was a box-office bomb. Brooks was subsequently involved in several other films, including directing and scoring Invitation to the Wedding (1983) in which Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud appeared, and co-producing Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) which Brooks did not score. In the late 1990s, he and his wife Christina Bone began developing a film entitled Sara’s Life Before It Became a Movie, which was never released.
Brooks also worked on stage productions, composing and writing for the 1989 West End musical adaptation of Metropolis and writing, directing, and producing the Broadway musical In My Life (2005), a love story about a female Village Voice personals editor with obsessive-compulsive disorder and a musician with Tourette’s syndrome who are brought together by jingle-singing. Brooks’ career was curtailed by a stroke which he suffered in 2008. It left him unable to play the piano and thus negatively affected his ability to compose. He may have had a second stroke shortly before his death. On May 22, 2011, Brooks was found dead from asphyxia at his Upper East Side condominium apartment in New York City by a friend arriving for a lunch date. Brooks was the older brother of Gilbert Kaplan, the founder of Institutional Investor magazine, aficionado of Gustav Mahler, and amateur conductor.
My collection includes the following work by Joe Brooks:
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970): Micol’s Theme.