Oscar-Winning Songwriter of “The Morning After,” Al Kasha, Dies at 83
By Cooper Dowd, Staff Writer
Al Kasha, who partnered with Joel Hirschhorn to write Oscar-winning songs such as “The Morning After,” a hit ballad for the disaster epic THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, died Monday, Sept. 14, at a hospice center in Los Angeles. He was 83. No cause of death was immediately reported.
Kasha struggled with Parkinson’s disease for many years.
While partnered with Hirschhorn, Kasha also received two Tony nominations, four Golden Globe nods, a People’s Choice award, and two additional Oscar nominations for Disney’s 1977 movie PETE’S DRAGON.
Diane Warren, who succeeded Kasha in songwriting prominence, tweeted “Write in Power.” Warren added that Kasha was a “great songwriter and a lovely man.”
“The Morning After,” from Irwin Allen’s 1972 movie THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, is still remembered as one of the landmark movie themes in history and only grew in popularity after Maureen McGovern covered the song. McGovern’s cover reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Kasha and Hirschhorn teamed up with McGovern again to write “We May Never Love Like This Again” for Allen’s 1974 disaster flick, THE TOWERING INFERNO, which landed the 1975 Oscar for Best Song. Kasha immediately became one of the most recognizable names in the movie-theme genre and is recognized for almost inventing a subgenre of gentle ballads that contrasted the big-budget disaster movies.
Their Tony nominations rewarded their work on the Broadway musicals “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Copperfield.” Hirschhorn died in 2005.
Kasha co-wrote three books: If They Ask, You Can Write A Song, Notes On Broadway and Reaching The Morning After. He was said to have been at work on a fourth, The Ultimate Book on Songwriting.
The songwriter was born in New York City on January 22, 1937. After attending NYU, he became “the youngest producer at Columbia Records at 22 years old,” he told an interviewer. Kasha went on to become a Brill Building denizen, crafting material for some of the most renowned artists in pop in the 1960s. Kasha considered his first big break to be having Bobby Darin record “Irresistible You.” But, his most longstanding association was with Jackie Wilson; their songs together included “I’m Coming on Back to You,” “My Empty Arms,” “Forever and a Day,” “Each Night I Dream of You,” “Lonely Life,” and “Sing and Tell the Blues So Long.” Others who recorded his material included Aretha Franklin (“Operation Heartbreak”), Charles Aznavour (“Dance in the Old Fashioned Way”) and, in 2008, Donna Summer’s No. 1 dance chart hit “I’m A Fire.”
Later in his career, Kasha became an advocate for writing family-friendly content full of faith, something he said he did not have the opportunity to experience during his troubled childhood.
The Washington Post reported:
In turning to musicals, Mr. Kasha said he was responding to “tremendous complaints” from parents in search of family-friendly productions.
“I believe there’s a great need for that kind of entertainment,” he told the Deseret News in 1993.
By his own account, his childhood was sorely lacking in the kind of warmth and generosity that he wanted to bring to the stage. Born in Brooklyn on Jan. 22, 1937, he was raised by a barber father, “a violent alcoholic” who would lock him in a closet and once went after him with a knife, and a beautician mother whom he dubbed “the East Coast distributor of guilt.”
Mr. Kasha worked at times as a producer and screenwriter, including as a co-writer of “Old Faithful” (1973), a TV movie starring Zero Mostel as a park ranger. But, he rarely strayed from songwriting for too long, contributing music to the animated movie “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1998) and the musical “In a Booth at Chasen’s” (2018), which chronicled the Hollywood romance of Nancy Davis and Ronald Reagan.
“Being a songwriter is a great, great blessing in life,” he once told Life After 50, a California magazine. “So when I get down on myself, like all human beings do, I say, ‘I’m bringing someone joy in some town, some city, some high school.’. . . I take all my music very seriously because I know how it can change a person’s life. I really believe that.”
Although Kasha was born into a Jewish family, in the early 1970s, Kasha converted to Christianity. After becoming an ordained minister, Kasha and his wife, Ceil, founded the Oasis Christian Fellowship church. According to Kasha, his ministry began with a Bible study in his house. He invited actors, dancers, and other people within the entertainment industry, including Donna Summer and Bob Dylan, whom Al led to Jesus Christ.
MOVIEGUIDE® honored Kasha with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2011 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Gala.
Dr. Ted Baehr notes:
“Al and his incredible wife Ceil were two of my best friends in the Entertainment Industry and great supporters of MOVIEGUIDE®. When my eldest son, as a teenager, played in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS at the Thousand Oaks Civic Center, Al and Ceil came and spoke to the young cast, which was a great gracious gift. Al and Ceil were always available to be a blessing. Al spoke at several of our events and had the best understanding of how to write great popular music. I am sure he is rejoicing as he talks with Jesus Christ at the Heavenly Banquet, but his graduation to Glory is sad for those he left behind.”
Kasha is survived by his wife, Ceil Kasha; a daughter, Dana Kasha-Cohen, and her husband, Randy Cohen; and a grandson, Dean Cohen.
Join us in lifting up Kasha’s family in your prayers.
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This morning my Father in law Al Kasha passed away. He had a long bout with Parkinson’s and Dementia. He was a Great Song Writer, a 2 time Oscar winner for best songs 72 & 74, a Producer, Record exec. A brill building song writer, who came up in music bus in a very exciting time. Wrote songs for Jackie Wilson, Bobby Darin, etc..worked with Aretha, Neil Diamond scored the music for David Copperfield and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on Broadway etc… He loved Ceil and Dana and Dean and me! He will be greatly missed. He lived a full life always loved his family loved 🎼. R.I.P. Al Kasha We ❤️ you!!🙌🏻🎼👊💔🖖🏼✌️🕊💪😢
Rest in Paradise, Al Kasha. Eternally grateful to have worked with you on so many songs and called you our friend. One of the most talented and kindest souls we’ve ever met. ♥️ Music mourns your loss. 💔🎼 #alkasha #oscarwinner #bestsong pic.twitter.com/sbfxnr07I3
— Virgo Phillips (@virgophillips) September 15, 2020
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