Ben Weisman was an American composer significant for having written more songs recorded by Elvis Presley (fifty seven) than any other songwriter in history. The Mad Professor, as Weisman was nicknamed by Elvis, worked with the King from 1956 ("First in Line") to 1971 ("Change of Habit").

 

Their early association (1957–62) produced many of the most powerful rockers and poignant ballads in Presley's repertoire, including "Got a Lot o' Livin' to Do", "Follow That Dream", "Rock-A-Hula Baby", "Crawfish", "As Long As I Have You", "Pocketful of Rainbows" and "Fame and Fortune".

In recent years, covers and remixes of Weisman's classics have been worldwide hits once again.  

Rubberneckin " remixed by Paul Oakenfold was a #1 worldwide Dance Chart smash hit.   

Got A Lot 'O Livin' To Do is featured in Cirque du Soleil's "Viva Elvis" live show .

Since Ben's outward appearance was atypical for a "rock 'n' roll guy." Elvis' nickname for him was "THE MAD PROFESSOR." All within ear shot also understood that Elvis was playing off the fact that Ben was a "mad professor" of music and composition.

 

Weisman's recorded compositions number nearly 400 songs and have sold over 150 million units.  These songs have been recorded by many musical legends including, The BeatlesDean MartinBarbra StreisandSarah VaughanJohnny MathisNat King ColeDusty Springfield,  Dionne Warwick and Conway Twitty.  

At Weisman's last social gathering with "The King", Elvis proudly announced to the crowd that he had recorded more of Ben's songs than those of any other songwriter. 

 

Then he took me over to the piano, Weisman said.  Elvis wasn't looking too good. His eyes were puffy and he'd gotten very, very heavy.  He said to me, 'Benny, there's a song I love called "Softly As I Leave You." Indeed, I knew it well.

After he sang his heart out Elvis said, 'This is not a song about a man who's leaving his girlfriend. It's a song about a man who is going to die.'

I didn't know what to say, but I knew there was trouble coming. As Elvis held my arm, I could feel his hand shaking. It made me feel as though mine was shaking, too. And that was the last time I saw him.

After Presley's death Weisman composed the symphonic tribute, "The Elvis Concerto," to honor the musical partner whom he shared so many artistic achievements that were also commercial successes. After performing a worldwide tour of the concerto, Weisman, with Elvis gone, retired from public life and wrote very little music thereafter.

Elvis challenged my imagination. Weisman said.  The songs had to have a combination of bluescountryrock and pop, sometimes gospel or swamp boogie, you name it. I lived my creative life walking in his musical shoes. And what shoes they were! Elvis had so much spirit.

 

Elvis was a transformer, a rebel, like a meteorite, someone who only comes along once every few hundred years.  Astonishing to be a part of it!  And to write for him, to try and express what I knew he was going through during those crazy years.  I was there for the whole journey. How lucky can a songwriter be! 

MY UNCLE BEN

(Weisman Memorial Service 2008)

 

 

Ben was a man of few words. 

I’ll try to honor that idea right now. 

Ben knew the secret of life.

In a word, it was family. 

 

The kindness between Ben and

his brother Alfred was legendary

one might even say it was religious

 

The deep-deep love between Ben and his

wife Lisa was unparalleled

one might even say that it was divine

 

For Ben was a very special person

Rare even, and for a very simple reason:

Ben knew how to love and

Ben knew how to care for his family

 

When Ben saw that Joy

and I were truly in love

and it took him a second

to figure it out

it was like this

(snap finger)

I was family

and I would be forever

And to be part of Ben’s

family was a wonderful warm feeling

and I loved the way he accepted me

into his magical heart forever

* * *

 

I loved Ben

and I loved his music

I really loved his music

Ben used to come over to our house

I’d drag out my electric guitar

and chop away at the chords

to many of his songs.

 

I’d ask him questions like

Why a Bm here? 

And do you play this C chord

with a G in the bass?

 

I thought Ben would grow tired of

my questions.  But he never did.

He loved to answer them.

 

And I thought, here’s a guy who hung

out with Gershwin talking to me -

A guy who couldn’t even get up

the nerve to try a song out at

an open mike night

 

And he’s treating me with

the respect that he would reserve

for someone like Duke Ellington

And I couldn’t understand why

And then I figured it out

Ben judged you by what he considered

the great equalizer

 

And for Ben the great equalizer was love

the only thing that was important

to Ben was how much

love you had for something

 

If you loved what you were doing

or if you loved the people in your life

You were alright with Ben

You were family

 

* * *

 

I married into a creative, eccentric,

crazy and wonderful family

I quickly found out that

there was one song that

Ben wrote that was the

“special one” between he and Joy

 

It’s called Pocketful of Rainbows

 

The story was that when Joy

was a little girl, if she heard that

song, Pocketful of Rainbows

she couldn’t control herself

she had to dance

There’s even an old scratchy

 8 millimeter film

of a little six year old Joy

dancing to the song

 

It seemed that something in

this song Pocketful of Rainbows

 had a magical effect

on both Ben and Joy

I wanted to know why

I wanted to discover the ‘secret code’

 

First off: It’s a song about finding a way

to make “Mister heartache leave.”

Always a great goal

 

and Here’s part of the verse:

 

Mister Heartache

I've found a way to make him leave

Got a pocketful of rainbows

Got a star up in my sleeve

 

And then the chorus:

 

No more teardrops

Now that I've found a love so true

I got a pocketful of rainbows

Got an armful of you

 

Ah ha, that’s it I thought

the key is that line

“got an armful of you”

 

That’s how you make

Mister Heartache leave

 

And that’s the key to

understanding Ben

and frankly it’s also the key

to understanding my wife Joy

 

It’s what life comes down to

“an armful of you”

an act of total love

total devotion

complete surrender

 

“an armful of you”

know this secret

and you inherit the stars

 

 

*   *   *

 

I pray that Ben is now back in

Lisa’s arms – or in some magical

state of consciousness that is

as wonderful as the earthly love

we can share down here –

But if he’s not that’s okay

He led a great life

He left his mark

On millions of music fans

And on me

How did he leave his mark on me?

 

I tell my daughters Chloe and Lily

that one of the best ways to learn

a sport is to watch the best play

To see how it’s done by the pros

the legends, the immortals

and then you try to emulate them

 

Five years ago when Joy became

Ben’s lifeline to this world

I got to watch the best in action

 

But it wasn’t a sport

it wasn’t a game

it was life

and by watching

Joy and Ben together

by watching a family

that wasn’t afraid to show

their love for another

I found the pros, the legends, the immortals,

that I needed to emulate

 

I learned a lot about love

 

I learned that we only become

whole by taking care of others

 

To live for your self

one might be able to

approximate flashes of glory

 

But that was second place

Second place to an ‘armful of you’

 

* *  *

 

I know that many of us in

this room today feel like a part

of Ben Weisman’s family

and that’s how Ben would

have wanted it

 

Ben was a family guy

 

The fact that he was a musical

genius, sure, that’s impressive

but it’s not what I remember

It’s not what I’ll miss

I’ll miss the man

who showed me the way

to excellence

and to love

 

Trust me Ben, because of you

I’m gonna follow that dream

wherever that dream may lead me

Written by Stephen Auerbach