By Dan Kimpel
With multiple Academy Award, Golden Globe and Grammy nominations, songwriter Allan Rich is no stranger to the upper echelons of the music industry. While his catalog of hits includes “I Don’t Have the Heart” (James Ingram); “I Live for Your Love” (Natalie Cole); “I Drive Myself Crazy” (‘N SYNC) and “Run To You” (Whitney Houston), these days, he and his longtime writing partner, Jud Friedman, are intent on creating diverse outlets and fresh opportunities for their songs.
Rich, who has written for a roster that includes Barbra Streisand, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, Oleta Adams, Barry Manilow, Peabo Bryson, Toni Braxton, Charice, and many others, has a spectrum of new cuts: records both stateside and abroad, a song in a new musical debuting in London’s West End, and the end title for an upcoming major motion picture.
“With the industry being what it is, you need different streams of income,” Rich says. “It used to be that if you wrote a great song you could pitch it and it would find a home. That’s not the way it works now. Artists have become more involved in writing songs rather than leaving it to professional songwriters, because there is a lot of money in publishing.”
Rich and Friedman are casting a worldwide net for outlets. The two cowrote “E’ L’Amore Che Conta/Hostage,” a No. 1 hit with Italian diva Giorgia; “Sexaholic” with Right Said Fred, and have cuts with artists ranging from Rachael Leahcar, the star of the Australian The Voice, as well as X Factor winner Melani Amaro, Canadian Tenors, composer/performer Yanni, and other artists in Russia and India.
Rich and Friedman are on the big screen with “After the Rain,” the end title to Playing for Keeps, released this Christmas, with Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Rich will be traveling to London for the December premiere of the musical The Bodyguard, starring Heather Headley. The show will include the Oscar- nominated song “Run to You,” performed as a duet. “Heather also put it on her own album with Keith Thomas producing. It is so beautiful that it will make you weep,” enthuses Rich.
A persuasive emotional quotient drives the Rich/Friedman collaborations. “Our greatest strength is the ability to move and touch people in a song,” Rich confirms. “Today, when it’s more about great beats and great sounds, this is still something that is very meaningful to us.”
While Rich, who considers himself “electronically challenged,” lets Friedman generate the electronic wizardry, he provides a valuable service. “Jud uses me for my ears,” Rich explains. “He calls me his ‘emotional Geiger counter.’”
Even with over two decades of collaborations with Friedman, Rich says there are challenging moments. “If he says he doesn’t like an idea, or if I don’t like one of his, it still hurts. We’re obviously big enough to say, ‘Let’s move on,’ but I think we both get a little disappointed sometimes. We like our ideas to be appreciated.”
As a mentor at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Rich is energized and inspired by the next generation of hit crafters. Among those whom he has advised is Sunday Lane, an independent artist whose songs have been included on the CW’s One Tree Hill and Separated at Birth and E!’s Mrs. Eastwood & Company.
Rich is encouraging but realistic. “Young songwriters have to want this so bad that their desire has to overcome the rejection that happens every day. And in addition to learning their craft, they have to be enterprising and they need to be detectives.”
Networking, he says, is crucial. “I’m a true believer that the person sitting next to you could be the most important collaborator in your life, or the person who creates your sound.”
For this Brooklyn-born songwriter who is devoted to the sincerity of the song, Rich says that fortitude and fortune go hand-in-hand. “No matter how much success we’ve had, most of us are still out here kicking and screaming, and wondering how the next big thing is going to happen.”