Carole Bayer Sager wrote the soundtrack for my life. “It’s My Turn” was my theme song for decades. “Nobody Does It Better” conjures up sizzling romantic memories from my law school days. “Arthur’s Theme” always makes me smile. “That’s What Friends Are For” and “The Prayer” trigger reflective moments.
Ms. Sager was romantically involved with Marvin Hamlisch and married to Burt Bacharach. Be still my heart. Sadly, I learned in her memoir, They’re Playing Our Song, that both men were more in love with her talent than with her. Been there. Fortunately, her third marriage to Bob Daly, a former executive with CBS and Warner Brothers, brought unconditional love and support into her life.
Ms. Sager had a complicated and difficult relationship with her hyper-critical and narcissistic mother Anita:
Love shouldn’t diminish you; it should enhance you. Lord knows where I got this idea when my mother, who adored me, was also so relentlessly critical. But I believed it, despite the absence of proof, and I still do. . .
I would feel like she was inserting a soda straw into me, trying to suck the life from me and make it hers. It didn’t feel good, which is one reason I lived across the country in L.A.
I know these lyrics resonate with most of y’all. I first heard them shortly after my divorce and cried a river of tears because they rang so true.
“Someone Else’s Eyes” has a similar anthem and should have given me a clue that her romantic life wasn’t something anyone should have envied:
This is my song. . .And for too long I sang to someone else’s melody. . .It wasn’t really me. . .Somehow I took myself for granted. . .In someone else’s eyes. . .I saw reflections of the girl I was who caught me by surprise. . .Seeing a woman who’s defined by you, I never realized. . .I can’t love you, I can’t love me. . .Through someone else’s eyes.
Neil Simon wrote the Broadway hit They’re Playing Our Song based on Ms. Sager’s relationship with Mr. Hamlisch. During the show’s three and a half year run, the couple broke up. I’ve never heard “Home to Myself,” but the lyrics are quite healing:
I woke up and see. . .The light of the day. . .Shining on me, Make my own time; it’s mine to spend. . .Think to myself, my own best friend, It’s not so bad all alone, Coming home to myself again.
Time heals, and there are no shortcuts to wisdom.
– Carole Bayer Sager, They’re Playing Our Song
Ms. Sager shares her wisdom in her lyrics as well as in her memoir:
I look back now and see all the times that something outside of myself became the only thing that made me feel alive ~ when I was so hungry to do more, accomplish more, or when I thought the person I was with made me feel like more. Today there is nothing outside myself I covet. I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve made a delicate peace with myself. That is not to say there might not be border skirmishes, but I’ve learned that external validation is like cotton candy. As you taste it, it bursts into nothing.
Getting off the hamster wheel, I’ve found that happiness comes from within, and multiplies when shared with others.
This morning I was surprised to discover that Ms. Sager wrote Hillary Clinton’s “Stronger Together” campaign theme song. I still believe that we are indeed stronger together, and we’re going to need out combined strength to weather an abusive, narcissist-in-chief as POTUS.
We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love.
– Carole Bayer Sager, “The Prayer”
This is my prayer for you. Happy New Year!