Joseph Brooks (songwriter)

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Joseph Brooks
Joseph Brooks (songwriter), 1978.jpg
Joseph Brooks in 1978 as he appeared in
If Ever I See You Again
Background information
Birth name Joseph Kaplan
Also known as Joe Brooks, Joey Brooks
Born (1938-03-11)March 11, 1938
New York City, United States
Died May 22, 2011(2011-05-22) (aged 73)
New York City, United States
Genres Pop music
Occupation(s) Composer, director, producer, screenwriter, musician
Instruments Piano
Associated acts Joey Brooks and the Baroque Folk, The Joe Brooks Group, Debby Boone, Kvitka Cisyk

Joseph Brooks, born Joseph Kaplan[1] (March 11, 1938 – May 22, 2011),[2] and also known as Joe Brooks or Joey Brooks, was an American composer, director, producer, and screenwriter. He was a prolific writer of advertising jingles and wrote the hit songs "My Ship Is Comin' In", "If Ever I See You Again", and "You Light Up My Life", the latter being composed for the hit film of the same name that he also wrote, directed, and produced. In his later years he became the subject of an investigation after being accused of a series of casting-couch rapes. He was indicted in 2009, but committed suicide on May 22, 2011, before he could be brought to trial.

Early life and singing career[edit]

Brooks was born Joseph Kaplan[1] on March 11, 1938 in Manhattan, and grew up in Manhattan and Lawrence, Long Island, New York.[3] In later interviews, he claimed to have started playing piano at age 3 and writing plays at age 5, following his parents' divorce.[2] As a child, he also developed a severe lifelong stutter that, according to his production partner Robert K. Lifton, would disappear when Brooks sang or acted.[2][4] He later attended five different colleges, including Juilliard, but did not graduate from any.[2]

In the late 1950s, Brooks pursued a career as a singer-songwriter, adopting the name "Joey Brooks"[5] (later changed to "Joe Brooks" or "Joseph Brooks"[1]) He released several records on the Canadian-American label as "Joey Brooks", and on Decca as "Joey Brooks and the Baroque Folk".[6] When his singing career failed, he drifted into advertising and occasional songwriting work,[2] although he sporadically released several more records throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Advertising, film and stage career[edit]

In the 1960s, Brooks composed advertising jingles for clients including Pepsi ("You've Got a Lot to Live") and Maxwell House ("Good to the Last Drop Feeling"). He received numerous Clio Awards for his work, as well as a People's Choice Award.[7] He also wrote (credited as "Joey Brooks") the song "My Ship Is Comin' In", a Top Ten UK hit in 1966 for the Walker Brothers.[8]

In the 1970s, Brooks, who had become wealthy from his advertising work (at one point claiming to have 150 commercials on the air),[2] began composing for films. He wrote music for the American release of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970), Marjoe (1972), and The Lords of Flatbush (1974) (in which he was also an investor).[2][9][10] He wrote "Blue Balloon (The Hourglass Song)" which was sung by Robby Benson as the theme song for the film Jeremy (1973),[11] and further claimed to have written, cast and directed most of Jeremy, although Arthur Barron was the sole writer and director of record.[9][12] Brooks' claim was recognized by New York Times film critic Roger Greenspun, who wrote that "it seems fair to suggest that, in whatever proportion, both men were involved in the authorship of the film."[13]

Brooks next developed his own film project, You Light Up My Life, which he wrote, produced, directed and scored on a budget of approximately $1 million. The romantic drama about an aspiring singer, starring Didi Conn, became a box office success despite poor reviews.[2][4][14] The title song Brooks composed for the film was an even bigger success; a cover version by Debby Boone reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and held the top position for 10 consecutive weeks, at that time the longest Number One reign in the chart's history.[15] With sales of over five million copies,[16] the song ultimately became the biggest hit of the 1970s,[17] and earned Brooks a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, an Academy Award for Best Original Song, a Golden Globe Award and an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) award.[18]

Brooks attempted to follow up his success with a similar romantic drama, If Ever I See You Again (1978), for which Brooks not only co-wrote, produced, directed and scored, but also played the leading role (a successful composer of TV commercial jingles, much like himself in real life), despite having no significant prior acting experience.[3][4][9] Although the title song became a moderate hit for Roberta Flack (peaking at #24 on the Hot 100 chart), the movie received sharply negative reviews and was a box-office bomb.[10] Brooks was subsequently involved in several other films, including directing and scoring Invitation to the Wedding (1983) (in which Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud appeared)[2] and co-producing Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) (which Brooks did not score).[4] In the late 1990s, he began developing (with his then-wife Christina Bone) a film entitled Sara's Life Before It Became a Movie,[19] which was never released.[7]

Brooks also worked on stage productions, composing and writing for the 1989 West End musical adaptation of Metropolis and writing, directing and producing the Broadway musical In My Life (2005), a love story about a female Village Voice personals editor with obsessive-compulsive disorder and a musician with Tourette's syndrome who are brought together by a jingle-singing God.[2][20] Robert Simonson later wrote in Brooks' Playbill obituary that In My Life was "generally regarded as one of the strangest shows ever to have graced a Broadway stage."[21] When In My Life was panned by critics (including Ben Brantley of The New York Times, who called it "jaw-dropping moments of whimsy run amok"[20]), Brooks spent $1.5 million on ads saying that the critics were wrong.[2]

Many sources have described Brooks as an egomaniac.[2][4][7][22] His career was curtailed in 2008 by a stroke.[23]

Sexual assault indictment[edit]

In June 2009, Brooks was arrested on charges of raping or sexually assaulting eleven women lured to his East Side apartment from 2005 to 2008. His female assistant, Shawni Lucier, was charged with helping him.[24] At least four of the women accused him of sexual assault. He allegedly lured the women to his apartment to audition for movie roles.[25] According to Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, the women responded to a notice that Brooks had posted on Craigslist seeking attractive women to star in movie roles, and flew to New York from Pacific Coast states or Florida, usually at Brooks' expense.[26]

He was indicted on June 23, 2009. He was to be tried in the state Supreme Court for Manhattan (a trial-level court) on 91 counts of rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, assault, and other charges.[26] The grand jury heard more evidence on December 17, 2009, because two new witnesses came forward. However, Brooks died before he could be tried.

Shawni Lucier pled guilty to a total of ten counts of criminal facilitation.

Personal life[edit]

Brooks was the older brother of Gilbert Kaplan, the founder of Institutional Investor magazine, aficionado of Gustav Mahler, and amateur conductor.[1][7]

In 2008, Brooks suffered a stroke, which left him unable to play the piano and thus negatively affected his ability to compose.[23] It was reported that he may have had a second stroke shortly before his death.[27]

Brooks was married four times, but was single at the time of his death.[2] A 1978 news article noted that he was married with 7-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.[3] In the late 1970s, Brooks married Susan Paul,[4] an English model and actress who appeared in the films All That Jazz (1979) and Invitation to the Wedding (1983). They had two children during the 1980s and were divorced in the early 1990s.[7] Brooks later married Christina Bone.[19][28]

In the early 1970s, Brooks had a relationship with actress Cindy Williams and originally planned for her to star in You Light Up My Life,[29] but he broke up with Williams before the film was made, and the role went to Didi Conn.[30] In 2009, Brooks sued a 22-year-old ex-fiancée, claiming that he had spent $2 million on her before learning she was already married.[31]

Brooks had four children: Amanda (born 1981) and Nicholas (born 1986) (both from his marriage to Susan Paul),[7] Gabrielle, and Jeffrey.[32] Brooks' daughter Amanda has claimed that Brooks abused her as a child and that she and Nicholas had a difficult relationship with their father.[7] At the time of Brooks' death, Nicholas, a former student at the University of Colorado, was awaiting trial in New York City, charged with the murder of his girlfriend, swimwear designer Sylvie Cachay, in a Soho House hotel room on December 9, 2010.[7] On July 11, 2013, Nicholas was convicted of Cachay's murder.[33] He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in September of that year.[34]


Police reported that on May 22, 2011, Brooks was found dead in his Upper East Side condominium apartment by a friend arriving for a lunch date.[35] Brooks was found with a plastic bag over his head near a hose attached to a helium tank, with a suicide note found nearby.[36] According to a law enforcement source, in the note Brooks claimed he would be exonerated of the charges pending against him, but complained about his failing health and a woman who he claimed had abused him and taken his money.[31]

Shortly before Brooks' death, a former friend had also filed suit to seize his condominium to pay off an outstanding $3.2 million debt, alleging that Brooks had put up his longtime home as collateral for a $2.4 million loan in 2006.[31]

On May 23, 2011, the medical examiner ruled that Brooks had committed suicide, citing asphyxia by helium.[37]

Partial list of credits[edit]



  • Metropolis (1989), West End musical — Composer, co-lyricist
  • In My Life (2005), Broadway musical — Director, writer, composer and lyricist[20][38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Rowes, Barbara (1983-04-25). "What Do You Tell a Millionaire Publisher With Only One Symphony to Conduct? 'Play It Again, Gil'". People. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Martin, Douglas (2011-05-23). "Joseph Brooks, a Maker of Jingles, Songs and Films, Dies at 73". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  3. ^ a b c Buckley, Tom (1978-06-08). "Paramount Picks Up Tab For Rights to New Musical". The Sun-Telegram (San Bernardino County, California). Retrieved 2015-11-15 – via (subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Lifton, Robert K. (2012-11-16). An Entrepreneur's Journey: Stories from a Life in Business and Personal Diplomacy. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse. pp. 194–200. ISBN 978-1-4772-7931-1. 
  5. ^ U.S. Copyright Office (1960). Catalog of Copyright Entries, Music, January-June 1959. 3rd. 13, Part 5 (1). Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. p. 213. 
  6. ^ Global Dog Productions (2005). "45 Discography for Canadian-American Records". Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Verini, James (2011-02-05). "The Curious Case of Joseph and Nicholas Brooks". New York (New York City). Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  8. ^ "Joseph Brooks, Composer of 'Metropolis'". Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  9. ^ a b c Lichtenstein, Grace (1977-12-25). "These Days, Movies Light Up His Life". The New York Times. p. 63. Retrieved 2015-11-17 – via (subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ a b Talbot, Paul (December 2011). "If Ever I See You Again (1978)". Shock Cinema (41). 
  11. ^ "Lee Holdridge - Jeremy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  12. ^ "AFI Catalog of Feature Films: Jeremy". American Film Institute. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-04-03. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  13. ^ Greenspun, Roger (1973-08-02). "Jeremy (1973): Very Young Love Story, 'Jeremy', Is On Screen: The Cast". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-17. 
  14. ^ Kimmel, Bruce (2010-04-12). There's Mel, There's Woody, and There's You: My Life in the Slow Lane. Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-4520-1116-5. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  15. ^ Bronson, Fred (1 October 2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.). New York: Billboard Books. p. 939. ISBN 978-0823076772. 
  16. ^ Cohen, Rick (1978-11-20). "Pube Rock: Kiddie Music is Big Business". New York (New York City): 66, 69. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  17. ^ "Readers' Poll: The 10 Worst Songs of the 1970s: 4 – Debby Boone – 'You Light Up My Life'". New York City: Rolling Stone. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-06-24. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  18. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 136. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  19. ^ a b Wood, Ben (1998-10-10). "Wood Craft: Ex-Isle Woman's Film Is Under Way". Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii). Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  20. ^ a b c Brantley, Ben (2005-10-21). "Where an Angel Fearlessly Treads". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  21. ^ Simonson, Robert (2011-05-22). "'In My Life' Composer Joseph Brooks Commits Suicide". Playbill (New York City). Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  22. ^ Smith, Liz (1978-06-10). "The Impossible Years". Gazette-Telegraph (Colorado Springs, Colorado). p. 2-D. Retrieved 2011-11-18 – via (subscription required (help)). 
  23. ^ a b Goldstein, Joseph (2011-05-22). "Songwriter, an Oscar winner, is found dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  24. ^ Blumenthal, Ralph (2009-06-23). "Director Joseph Brooks Accused of Raping Actresses". The New York Times. 
  25. ^ "NY director accused of attacking wannabe actresses", Associated Press / Huffington Post, January 13, 2009
  26. ^ a b "Oscar-winning composer, 71, 'raped 11 women using Craigslist to lure victims with promise of film role'". Daily Mail. 2009-06-24. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  27. ^ Johnston, Garth (2011-05-23). "Oscar Winner's Suicide Note Denied Sex Assault Allegations". Gothamist. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  28. ^ Carroll, Rick (2013-10-21). "Dead Man's Song: A Spooky Tale From Molokai". Maui Time Weekly. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  29. ^ Kimmel, p. 172.
  30. ^ Kimmel, p. 183.
  31. ^ a b c Kappstatter, Bob; Kapp, Trevor; Kennedy, Helen (2011-05-23). "Oscar-winning 'You Light Up My Life' Composer Joseph Brooks, An Accused Rapist, Commits Suicide". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  32. ^ Mangan, Dan (2011-06-23). "Joseph Brooks Leaves $250K to Personal Trainer, Nothing to Four Kids". New York Post. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  33. ^ "Boyfriend convicted of swimsuit designer's murder". CNN. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  34. ^ Iaboni, Rande; Kristina Sgueglia (2013-09-23). "Boyfriend gets maximum sentence in swimsuit designer's murder". CNN. 
  35. ^ "Songwriter 'Commits Suicide' While Awaiting Rape Trial — Months After Son Was Arrested For Murder of Swimsuit Designer Girlfriend". Daily Mail. 2011-05-23. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  36. ^ Candiotti, Susan; Johnson, Craig (May 22, 2011). "'You Light Up My Life' songwriter found dead in suicide, police say". CNN. Retrieved May 22, 2011. 
  37. ^ Long, Colleen (2011-05-24). "Joseph Brooks Suicide: Medical Examiner Rules Songwriter Killed Himself". The Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-11-15. 
  38. ^ "IBDb profile for In My Life". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 


  • Press, Jaques Cattell (Ed.). ASCAP Biographical Dictionary of Composers, Authors and Publishers, fourth edition, R. R. Bowker, 1980.

External links[edit]