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Women behind the songs: Cynthia Weil, writer of 'You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling'

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'VE LOST THAT LOVIN' FEELIN'")

THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS: (Singing) You've lost that loving feeling.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" was one of the most played songs of the 20th century. It was written by Cynthia Weil with her husband and songwriting partner Barry Mann and producer Phil Spector. Alongside contemporaries like Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Weil changed the sound of popular music in the 1960s. She's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. And her writing has helped sell an estimated 200 million records. Weil died this month at the age of 82. In 2019, Meredith Ochs profiled her for our series The Women Behind The Songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON BROADWAY")

THE COOKIES: (Singing) I hear the neon lights are bright on Broadway.

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: Cynthia Weil wrote big-sounding songs in a tiny office on Broadway. She'd grown up just a few blocks north on Manhattan's Upper West Side, dreaming that one day she'd work as a playwright and director on the city's most infamous stretch of asphalt. She studied theater in college but was encouraged by a family friend to try her hand at writing song lyrics. When she met musician Barry Mann, he immediately recognized her unique amalgam of sophistication and empathy. You can hear it in the original version of the duo's song "On Broadway," written for the all-girl group The Cookies. A native New Yorker, Weil had the ability to perceive the city's wonder through the eyes of an outsider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON BROADWAY")

THE COOKIES: (Singing) They say that you can be someone, and it don't matter where you are from. I swear I've got to get there, or I'll die.

OCHS: Weil is one of the architects of the Brill Building sound, an era of urbane teenage pop by writers who were barely out of their teens themselves. She didn't just write about young love and broken hearts. Weil's lyrics also reflected her social conscience. When she and Mann teamed up with famed songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to rework "On Broadway" for the all-male group The Drifters, it went from upbeat and wide-eyed to a much grittier tale of hunger, poverty and struggle.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON BROADWAY")

THE DRIFTERS: (Singing) And you ain't had enough to eat. The glitter rubs right off, and you're nowhere on Broadway.

OCHS: As girl groups and brotherly duos gave way to the British invasion, Weil stayed relevant with dark, prescient songs that reflected massive cultural change, like this one recorded by U.K. band The Animals.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE")

THE ANIMALS: (Singing) In this dirty, old part of the city where the sun refused to shine...

OCHS: Sung by Eric Burdon in his tough, cavernous baritone, it became emblematic of the Vietnam War and of U.S. military conflicts ever since. It spoke directly to baby boomers and their dawning epiphany that they didn't want to live like their parents. One of them is Bruce Springsteen, who says this song is at the heart of his entire career.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GOTTA GET OUT OF THIS PLACE")

THE ANIMALS: (Singing) We got to get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do. We got to get out of this place. Girl, there's a better life for me and you.

OCHS: Though she wrote dozens of hits, Weil enjoyed a reputation as a songwriter's songwriter. When country singer Dolly Parton was looking to expand into pop music in the late 1970s, she recorded Weil and Mann's "Here You Come Again."

(SOUNDBITE OF DOLLY PARTON SONG, "HERE YOU COME AGAIN")

OCHS: Parton is a renowned composer herself. Yet it was this song that launched her massive crossover success as an artist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE YOU COME AGAIN")

DOLLY PARTON: (Singing) Here you come again. Just when I'd begun to get myself together, you waltz right in the door just like you've done before and wrapped my heart 'round your little finger.

OCHS: In the new millennium, Weil finally made it to a theater on Broadway as a character in the hit musical "Beautiful" about her old friend Carole King. She also found a new calling as an author of young adult novels. Weil says that successful songs are a lot like novels with a beginning, a middle and an end.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE YOU COME AGAIN")

PARTON: (Singing) All you got to do is smile that smile, and there go all my defenses.

SHAPIRO: That was music critic Meredith Ochs. Songwriter Cynthia Weil died on Thursday at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 82.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE YOU COME AGAIN")

PARTON: (Singing) ...And filling up my senses. Here you come again, looking better than a body has a right to and shaking me up so that all I really know is here you come again, and here I go. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Meredith Ochs