It was a cold and dark Sunday night when, accompanied by my wife, I was making a long drive to mid-Wales for a Monday morning Cash In The Attic shoot.
Radio 2 was running a series called The Great British Songbook and was interviewing some of this country’s finest songwriters.
On this night, it featured Don Black, a name I’d heard but I didn’t really know too much about his successes.
As I listened whilst navigating the dark roads of the Welsh mountains, it became clear that as a lyricist Don Black has achieved it all, working with the likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Barry, Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones.
He’s worked on numerous films including James Bond theme tunes, The Pink Panther, The Italian Job, Out Of Africa and Born Free, for which he won an Oscar for best original song.
He also wrote Ben, the song made famous by the late Michael Jackson.
Just a few months later I was the auctioneer for Gloria Hunniford’s Caron Keating Foundation at the exclusive Langham Hotel near London’s Regents Park, when Gloria introduced me to none other than Don Black OBE!
He told me he’d only been 28 when he wrote the Born Free song and Carl Foreman, one of the film’s producers, urged for the song to be dropped from the film as he thought it was too much of a social comment.
The rest is history. The song stayed and went on to win the Oscar.
When Don arrived at the Oscars after party, who should be there to congratulate him but the very man who, had he got his way, would have had the song dropped.
Don, being the complete British gentleman just smiled and extended his hand. As Carl Foreman firmly shook it, he leaned into Don’s ear and whispered ‘well it does grow on you after a while.’