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
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?