Ben E. King, “Spanish Harlem”

All the stories about Phil Spector,” said the so late Jerry Leiber, “are distorted and also wrong.”Leiber, that wrote the words that went through Mike Stoller’s music, usually, and rarely composed a song without his partner, stated this in response to my questions around the production of “Spanish Harlem,” which that wrote v Phil Spector. Every the research I did before interviewing Leiber & Stoller presented a different story. One in which Leiber to be excited to create a tune with Spector, i m sorry isn’t precise at all. Spector idolized Leiber & Stoller. Castle represented specifically what the yearned come become: lock were effective as songwriter and producers both. A an excellent song alone isn’t enough if the arrangement and also production is weak. It is the really reason castle started producing their very own records: because nobody else can hear the track the means they did, so might not lug it come its fullest potential. Lock were among the very an initial to ever be designated as music `producers, ’ although that is not the word they wanted – lock felt, as in movies, the director to be the right word. Yet they didn’t success that one. 

L-R: Mike Stoiler & Jerry Leiber. Photograph by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter

The song was an initial recorded through Ben E. King in 1960. It is credited to Leiber & Spector, and produced by Leiber & Stoller. Due to the fact that Mike Stoller wrote a piano figure for the arrangement that has actually become part of virtually every variation of the song, Leiber said plenty of times the Mike wrote several of the music, though is uncredited.Aretha Franklin videotaped a hit variation of the in 1971, transforming the lyrics slightly for more diversity: the line “”A red rose up in Spanish Harlem” came to be “There’s a increased in black ‘n Spanish Harlem. A increased in black ‘n Spanish Harlem.” It to be a #1 fight on the soul/R&B charts, and went come #2 on the pop charts. The would have gone to #1 if no for Donny Osmond’s “Go Away tiny Girl.”For Aretha’s rendition a mighty tape was assembled: Dr. John is ~ above keyboard, chuck Rainey is ~ above bass and Bernard Purdie on drums. Just the biggest players because that the Queen of Soul. Phil Spector also recorded his own version of it, and would frequently perform it live. “ got the idea for the wall of Sound indigenous us,” stated Leiber, “having 5 guitars. The difference is that we had each etc playing a different part. He’d have actually them every play the same part.” 

Spector based his wall of Sound strategy to production on the way Leiber & Stoller made records. This was ago in the days before multi-track recording, therefore to make a document that sounded big, dimensional and dynamic was a challenge. Their systems was to carry out live sessions with huge bands – very big – for this reason that instead of one instrument play a part, there were many. Bass parts were accentuated this way, and played ~ above piano along with bass, and also over it every they regularly used shimmering strings. Spector developed his wall surface of Sound in their image, then tinkered with it.

Here is the story that “Spanish Harlem” as connected in a 2005 interview I performed with Leiber & Stoller in their folk-art appointed office in the “Brill building West” — 9000 Sunset — where many other famous songwriters had their offices.

You are watching: There is a rose in spanish harlem


JERRY LEIBER: What happened is that Phil had bothered me for 3 months, four months, to write a track with him, and also I didn’t want to execute it because that a pair of reasons. And also the key reason is the Mike and also I had actually sort that a tacit understanding that us were exclusive partners. A number of people want to write through Mike and also a variety of people wanted to write with me, and we just didn’t. And want to write with me, and he to be signed to us.

Lester Sill sent Phil Spector to us. For safekeeping. Go a poor job. Lester dubbed me up one day, and also said, “Jer, I gained a child out below who’s really talented. And also he’s nuts about you guys, he worships the ground girlfriend walk on.”I said, “Well, be careful, clock out. That’s typically dangerous. Why carry out you dislike me therefore much? I never ever did anything to you.”He said, “He desires to come out and also work for you guys.”

I said, “Lester, that’s prefer fattening frogs because that snakes. Why should we take it Phil Spector in and teach him everything we understand so that he have the right to go out and compete v us? who the hell demands that? Let the go discover out because that himself.”

He said, “Jer, you owe me actual big. Execute me a favor. Take it him ~ above for 6 months or a year. Girlfriend don’t need to sign him to five years or anything like that. And let him hang out through you, in the studio, and also let him watch what friend do.”

So ns said, “Okay. Will certainly do.”

He said, “By the way, will you send me the fare because that a one-way ticket?”

And I checked out Mike and also told that what had happened, and he said, “Do it.” So ns did it. And was through us for three or four or 5 or six months. And also he wanted to come over and also work ~ above a track with us. I was somewhat annoyed since he was an alleged to come end at 6:30 and also he come over at 5:00. Mike was an alleged to come end at 6:30 to job-related with us. He came over when my children were having actually dinner. Castle were simply finishing up. Lock went, and also we were sitting over there talking, smoking, having a drink. I got a speak to from Mike, and also he said, “I’m horrible sorry, yet I can’t make it.”

MIKE STOLLER: The difficulty was the we had actually been functioning on some various other things, and some studio stuff, and also I hadn’t had dinner v my youngsters in weeks. And my wife claimed to me, “When room you walking to watch your children?” i cancelled out since I want to have actually dinner through my kids. For this reason I dubbed Jerry ~ dinner –

LEIBER: after ~ your dinner?STOLLER: ~ my dinner.

LEIBER:What time to be that?

STOLLER: Well, it can have to be 8:30.

LEIBER: that late? No, it can not be, not v children, that couldn’t have been 8:30.

STOLLER: Oh, us ate later.

LEIBER: Really?

STOLLER: Or probably it to be not only after dinner, however after bedtime story and every one of that. I called and they said, “We finished composing the song.” and I said, “Fine.”

LEIBER: Both versions might use part examining. Yet that’s that no consequence. As much as i was concerned, i waited and also waited for Mike come come over, and also he didn’t and then he finally called. And also at the time I composed “Spanish Harlem” through Phil.

What actually happened was the I had this repertoire of LPs the were related to Spanish themes. I had Segovia and also I had actually Rhapsody Espanol. I had actually one by Ravel. And I had actually this idea, “There is a climbed in Spanish Harlem, a red rose up in Spanish Harlem…”I told them the sentences. And he began to pat a melody the was prefer Jeff Barry rock and also roll. sort of jazzy and also wrong.

I said, “Let me pat you part stuff the is in the appropriate bag.” and also I play him 2 or 3 of those pieces. And also he has actually a good ear, and also he choose up other in there. Ns think he even picked increase a 3 or four-bar lick in one of the piece that were in the strings. And also we wrote it together.

That’s completely different from story I’ve read, which declared specifically that he involved you v some music, and also you choose up top top the Spanish smell in his music, and also were influenced to create this lyric.

All the stories around Phil Spector, almost every one of them, space distorted and wrong. Almost every one of them.

Did you have actually that idea – about the increased in Spanish Harlem – before working with Spector?

LEIBER: Yeah. Absolutely. It to be a quatrain trying to find a melody.

Aretha Franklin, “Spanish Harlem”

Those are an excellent opening lines. It’s visual, that sets the scene, favor “Kansas City,” yes sir a sense of ar –

It’s nice. It’s no special. “There is a rose in Spanish Harlem, a red climbed up in Spanish Harlem…” big deal.

The Mamas & the Papas, “Spanish Harlem”

I’d say it is special.

LEIBER: “It’s growing in the street right up through the concrete” is a distinct line. Yet not those opening lines. They’re rather ordinary.

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STOLLER: i agree through Paul.

Rebecca Pidgeon, “Spanish Harlem”

“Spanish Harlem” native by Jerry Leiber Music through Phil Spector

There is a increased in Spanish HarlemA red rose up in Spanish HarlemIt is the unique one, it’s never ever seen the sunIt only comes out once the moon is ~ above the runAnd all the stars are gleamingIt’s farming in the streetRight up with the concreteBut soft and also sweet and dreaming

There is a increased in Spanish HarlemA red increased up in Spanish HarlemWith eyes as black as coalThat looks down in my soulAnd starts a fire there and also then I lose controlI have to beg her pardonI’m walk to pick that roseAnd clock her together she grow in my garden

I’m going to choose that roseAnd clock her together she grow in my garden

(There is a increased in Spanish Harlem)La la la, la la la, la la la la(There is a rose in Spanish Harlem)La la la, la la la, la la la la(There is a increased in Spanish Harlem)