Joel Hirschhorn

Oscar-winning songwriter with Al Kasha

On 30 April 1972 the songwriters Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha met the film producer Irwin Allen. He was completing a disaster movie, The Poseidon Adventure, about a luxury liner that had been hit by a tidal wave. John Williams had written a dramatic score, but, inexplicably, Allen also wanted a love theme. He told the songwriters to write one. "How long have we got?" they asked. "Twenty-four hours" was the reply. In that time, they wrote the Oscar-winning ballad of hope "The Morning After".

Joel Hirschhorn was born in the Bronx in 1938. He studied music at the High School for Performing Arts and then worked as a night-club singer and pianist. He also played in a rock band, the Highlighters, but he wanted to be a songwriter. He could write both words and music and his first film score was for The Fat Spy (1966), an appalling drive-in movie with Jayne Mansfield and Phyllis Diller.

He befriended Al Kasha, a producer at Columbia Records, and they began a songwriting partnership. In 1968 their song "Your Time Hasn't Come Yet, Baby" was in the Elvis Presley film Speedway, and became a minor hit. When Elvis Presley recorded his TV special, one fan shouted out for his latest single but Presley had no idea what it was.

In 1970 Hirschhorn and Kasha wrote songs for The Cheyenne Social Club, a light-hearted but rambling western starring Henry Fonda and James Stewart and directed by Gene Kelly. Their break came with "The Morning After" in The Poseidon Adventure, a film where the technical wizardry was as commercial an ingredient as its stars, Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters and Ernest Borgnine. Their song, reflecting the thoughts of the actress Carol Lynley, was performed by a new artist, Maureen McGovern, and nominated for an Oscar. Hirschhorn did not write an acceptance speech as he was certain that "Ben" would be the winning song, but it turned out to be "The Morning After". The publicity generated an interest in the single, which then topped the US charts.

The international success of The Poseidon Adventure led to a spate of similar movies. No one remembers Michael Balsam and Paul Michael Glaser in Trapped Beneath the Sea (1974) but Hirschhorn and Kasha were luckier with The Towering Inferno (1974) starring Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Richard Chamberlain. The film was about a blazing skyscraper but along the way there was a love theme, "We May Never Love Like This Again", again sung by Maureen McGovern and added to John Williams's score. The song led to their second Oscar but it was not a big-selling single.

In less dramatic fashion they wrote "I'd Like To Be You for a Day" for the original Freaky Friday in 1976. The following year they wrote the score for Walt Disney's Pete's Dragon, which with its mixture of live action and animation was an attempt to recapture the magic of Mary Poppins. Their score and also the song about a lighthouse, "Candle on the Water" sung by Helen Reddy, were nominated for Oscars.

They won a Tony in 1981 for their Broadway adaptation of David Copperfield, simply called Copperfield, but the musical, with David Ray Bartee, George S. Irving and a young Christian Slater, only lasted 39 performances. They won a second Tony for the songs they added to the Broadway version of the MGM film musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982), but the production, with Debby Boone, was similarly short-lived. In recent years, their version of this musical has been staged successfully in the West End and the provinces.

In 1985, Hirschhorn married the documentary film-maker Jennifer Carter, who specialised in real-life adventures. She was the first woman to dive to the wreck of the Titanic and her findings were displayed in museums. Carter and Hirschhorn wrote the book Titanic Adventure: one woman's true life voyage down to the legendary ocean liner (2003).

Kasha and Hirschhorn wrote two books about their career, If They Ask You, You Can Write a Song (1979) and Reaching the Morning After (1986), and Hirschhorn also wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting (2001). He was also a columnist and a theatre critic for the industry trade paper Variety.

In 1993 they presided over a television version of their musical Copperfield, now in animated form entitled David Copperfield, with Sheena Easton, Michael York and Julian Lennon among the voices. They wrote music for the TV series Knots Landing, South Park and The Simpsons and completed the theme song "Side By Side" for the sitcom Three's a Crowd. "The Morning After" had a new lease of life in Rugrats Go Wild! (2003).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Hertfordshire -Large Established Business

£22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before