December 18, 2020
TITLE: “A FORGOTTEN CHRISTMAS TREASURE”
For all of us, this time of year is usually packed with reunions and lots of hugs and laughs reliving old family memories and making new ones with those we love.
Like all of you, I’m heartbroken that this year none of that will be possible.
But, as I was bemoaning a Christmas without hugging my Grand-daughter or overeating with my brother, a nice thing happened.
I got a call from my friend, radio personality Brian “Mr. Rock ‘n Roll” Beirne.
We did some catching up—we’ve been known to talk for over an hour—then exchanged Holiday wishes and were about to say goodbye when Brian said, “Now, I’m going to pour myself a cocktail, sit down and listen to my favorite Holiday song!”
“Which is what?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s a little number written by a buddy of mine called “The Family Time of Year”.
Of course, I loved his answer since I’m the guy who wrote that song.
Here’s how it happened.
At one point in my checkered career, I moved to New York to try accomplishing every songwriter’s dream of writing a hit Broadway musical.
My composer collaborator Roy M. Rogosin and I created a score telling the story of the founding in 1917 Dallas of the Neiman-Marcus Fashion Empire by the extraordinary Marcus family, whose crown prince Stanley became the show’s staunchest advocate.
In my next book, I’ll tell about the nerve-racking evening Roy and I had to audition the score for 30 Marcuses who had gathered to give a thumbs up or down to our project.
It took place in the richly appointed living room of Stanley Marcus’s exquisite Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home located at One Nonesuch Lane in the poshest section of Dallas.
Before our presentation, Stanley proudly took us on a tour through his hallways which were lined with artfully lighted glass display cases containing artifacts that some experts have called one of the finest collections of Pre-Columbian art in the world.
It was a heady evening capped off with the family’s enthusiastic approval.
Of course, any show about Neiman-Marcus with their fabled Christmas catalog had to have a major Christmas scene.
Stanley had one request. Could we please have that scene revolve around the enormous Marcus dining table and three generations gathered together to celebrate the season? “After all,” he smiled, “Christmas is all about family”… then he winked and quipped, “especially for an old Jew like me!”
He was an elegant and enormously cultured man with a delightful self-deprecating sense of humor.
Getting to know him was one of my richest adventures. (It’s all in the next book.)
So, we create a lavish yuletide scenario in which the director Jack Lawrence has Herbert Marcus, the aged, nearly-blind family Patriarch, seated at the head of the table and singing to his loved ones gathered there.
It was one of those songs where the title is a no brainer—“The Family Time of Year”.
The show did not survive the minefield of Broadway musicals and closed quickly.
I moved back to L.A. and became a pole dancer at a sushi bar.
Fast forward to 2014, when after 60 years of recording, I finally get around to cutting a Christmas album with the then-current members of the Preps.
“Family Time” was in that album which is how Brian Beirne discovered it.
Here’s a little behind the scene story about the arrangement.
When you listen, you will hear a short instrumental interlude between each verse.
That device was originally employed to accommodate various pieces of stage action between stanzas—a child crawling up on the old man’s lap—a huge turkey being brought to the table—an extra star being hung on the tree, etc.
But, when we got ready to record the song in ’14 I instructed our arranger, W. Michael Lewis, to eliminate the musical interludes and go directly from one verse to the next.
Michael worked on it for a while and then called me.
“Are you sure you want to lose those little bridges?! I kind of like them!”
When a genius like Michael speaks, I listen. The format would go unchanged.
As I’ve told you before, all songwriters have the ideal voice in mind for each song they create.
You want your baby in good hands.
The 2014 Preps included one of the most naturally gifted bass singers I’ve ever shared the stage with. A giant both in stature and talent named Skip Taylor.
When he stepped to the mic, all I told him was “sing it the way you feel it.” He did, and his rich, caramel voice is just what the song needed.
Until now, I had no idea how to reach out to all of you during this subdued and solitary Christmas.
Then Brian called, and I got back in touch with a song I’d sort of forgotten.
I realize my lyrics are sadly ironic this time around, but hopefully they’ll evoke some warm family memories for each of you and get you looking forward to next Christmas when “hugs and hellos at the door” are back in season.
I hope you enjoy the song and its sentiment.
My warmest wishes to you all and a big virtual hug to each of you.
Take care of yourself and each other.
CLICK HERE to play/download "The Family Time of Year"
(Note: you may need to use right-click to save the mp3)
THE FAMILY TIME OF YEAR
LYRIC: BRUCE BELLAND
MUSIC: ROY M. ROGOSIN
© SHADOW BEE MUSIC ASCAP
All in all – whenever i recall
The moments of my life i hold most dear
I realize I love this season best of all
Because it is the family time of year
The table spread – the breaking of the bread
The loved ones from afar who now are near
The gathering of the clan – and clasping of the hands
The warmth within this family time of year
Kinship ringing – friendship singing
Hugs and hellos at the door
And if when the snowfalkes come again
I am far away and you are here
Then as a family – celebrate for me
Full of love and full of cheer
This family time of year