Before he was a center-stage crooner, Steve Tyrell had more than 25 years of producing major song hits for popular artists and several movie soundtracks to his name, including collaborations with Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross and Ray Charles. The Grammy Award-winning producer’s behind-the-scenes music career could have taken him right into retirement.
His life was changed forever in 1990, however, when the “Father of the Bride” film director Charles Shyer and producer Nancy Meyer asked Tyrell to produce Dorothy Fields’ standard song “The Way You Look Tonight” into a less high-tempo, jazzy melody than Frank Sinatra’s version. So, just as he did with B.J. Thomas with the Bacharach-David song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” for the 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” he revised and recorded the song on a demo, slowing it down and making it more of a sentimental tune.
When the producers of the hit film, which stars Steve Martin and Diane Keaton, heard the demo, they fell instantly for Tyrell’s vocals, using the original demo as the movie’s central song.
“I played the demo for the producing team and they were asking, ‘Who is that guy singing?’ It looked like they liked it, so I said it was me. If they looked like they weren’t into it, I probably would have stayed quiet,” said Tyrell with a laugh.
“It was a total accident, but that song has led me to making 12 albums, playing all over the world, singing for four of the last five presidents, and playing for Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. That song has taken me everywhere.”
At 72, Tyrell takes the stage as a vocalist, performing live concerts throughout the world, including the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 27, through Saturday, April 29. Nine of his 10 “American Standard” albums have reached the top five on Billboard’s Jazz charts, including the albums “This Guy’s in Love,” “I’ll Take Romance,” “Standard Times” and “A New Standard.”
Backed by a full band, Tyrell’s concert “A New Standard” will present a selection of classics from the Great American Songbook, including songs by the songwriting teams of Burt Bacharach and Hal David and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. He will also perform classic pop standards that he is best known for from the “Father of the Bride” and its sequel, as well as the movie “It’s Complicated.”
Tyrell calls the songbook “America’s contribution to earth,” but his go-to music to listen to has always been jazz and rhythm and blues, so he naturally adds those genres into the songs he performs and produces.
“The songbook was actually my parents’ music. I’m Italian, so there was God and Frank Sinatra in my life, and not necessarily in that order,” said Tyrell, “The more I learn about this music, the more I appreciate it.”
The Texas native said he sang for bands in high school, but when he moved to New York City at age 18, he pursued…