Background stories for the Robert Edwin - Legacy album

1) Ave Maria – I was born into a musical family. My father, Edwin Robert Steinfort, was a professional singer-actor and one of the first people to sing the song, “Yes, We Have No Bananas” in the show, Barney Google. My mother, Helena Wilhelmina Monbo, was a well-known singing teacher and coach in New York City. She was my teacher for over fifty years.

This “Ave Maria” written by Franz Schubert was recorded in 1960 when I was thirteen years old. My voice hadn’t changed yet so my parents wanted to document my boy soprano before it was too late. I was less than thrilled to do it which is evident in my less than wonderful performance. You can hear my mother playing the piano and coaching me in the background, especially after my voice cracked on the high note. Later on in the song, I cracked again and delivered a loud expletive in frustration. I didn’t think my audience needed to hear that part.

2) Pleasin’ the People – This song segues nicely from “Ave Maria” since it is semi-autobiographical. My mother did indeed want me to be an operatic singer and my father did indeed play the violin. However, I made up the parts about my sister and brother and other members of my family. I am an only child.

3) It’s a Beautiful Night for a Song – This song sat in my file cabinet partly written for decades only to be rediscovered in 2015. I finished writing it and used it to open a concert I did at the Silver Bay YMCA of the Adirondacks that summer with Erik Kihss on piano. I love Paul Presto Jr.’s horn arrangement!

4) Have I? – I wrote this song as a surprise Christmas present for my wife, Faith, in the fall of 1980. At that time, we had two young kids and not a lot of money, so the song was not only very personal and special, but inexpensive as well. I surprised her again with a professional recording of it in 2009 to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

5) The Cattle Call Song – I taught singing at my mother’s studio in New York City in the 1970s. Many of our students were music theater performers. They were constantly searching for the perfect 16 bar audition song to use at their general auditions which are still called “cattle calls,” in that lots of people show up (a herd) looking for a few jobs. So, I wrote a “16 bar ditty” and handed it out to our students. They all got a laugh out of it and some even used it at auditions. I never recorded it until now.

6) Nature-al Girl – Personally, I prefer down-to-earth, low-maintenance women. I like my made-up hybrid word, nature-al. It seemed to fit the girl I had in mind.

7) Advice on the Day of Your Marriage – When my younger son, Matthew, got married in 2004, I thought I’d write him and his bride Ana a song. I sang it at their reception and recorded it for their third anniversary in 2007.

8) He’s Gotta Be Wanted – In 1967, I was commissioned to write three songs for a health fair in Appalachia that was focusing on health and sex education. This song is about responsible parenting and birth control and became a national PSA radio commercial for Planned Parenthood of America. We rerecorded it 1968 with a full orchestra intending to release it as a single. However, my manager at the time skipped town with the money, so the project died. Ah, show biz!

9) Child of Tragedy – This was to be the “B” side song for the “He’s Gotta Be Wanted” record that wasn’t.

10) Five Miles Closer to Home – I was working clubs as a duo with Jonathan Sargent in 1974. Our agent booked us into a nightclub in Chicago, Illinois during New Year’s Eve week (why not Miami or some other place warm, sir?). The windy city is especially windy and cold in December so I couldn’t wait to get out of town and back home after the gig was over. The song’s verses tell about the trip and the chorus tells about who and what were waiting at the end of the line. At that time, we were living in a log cabin in Rancocas Woods, New Jersey, so I really was “five miles closer to home to my cabin in the woods and the girl I love” on my way back from Chicago. This song and the following three songs were all recorded in 1980 on my now ancient TEAC reel-to-reel tape recorder in my home studio.

11) Marriage ‘Til Death Do Us Part – Our society is still at around a fifty percent success rate (or failure rate, if you prefer) with regard to the institution of marriage. See song #7 for help.

12) Singer in the City – Boy, is this song autobiographical! Please excuse the fairly cheesy drum machine. At the time, it’s all I had.

13) Making Love in the Early Morning Hours – Yet another love song for the ages.

14) Slow Down, World – I have been a card-carrying environmentalist all my adult life. I wrote this poem in 1980 and in 2016 brought it to life as a rap song. In my more pessimistic moments, I don’t hold out much hope for the survival of the human race. We consume without regard to the future and, in the not-too-distant future, perhaps the “Mother-of-us-all” will have “passed her last meal ‘round.”

15) And We Say We Care – This song had to follow “Slow Down, World” because, in my more optimistic moments, I think we still have a chance to become right with the earth and its inhabitants. The song was commissioned in 1970 as the theme song for a national youth conference. I sang it accompanied by just my Guild 12-string guitar for 20,000 people in New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Post Script: I love writing songs, I love singing songs, I love playing songs, and I love recording songs. Creating something from nothing is a joyful, maddening, frustrating, exhilarating, tedious, transcendent, magical process. It’s great to be able to share that process with someone who feels the same way about it as I do. Thanks, Paul Presto, Jr. for being with me on this decades long artistic journey!