Under the Chair
New member Tracy Newman, from Los Angeles, was a founder of The Groundlings Improv Theatre, which is one of the main farm companies for Saturday Night Live. She was a TV writer/producer for sixteen years, starting as a staff writer on Cheers. In 1997, she won an Emmy and Peabody Award for co-writing the groundbreaking “coming out” episode of Ellen. Her story of writing the music to Malvina Reynolds song “Under the Chair” is inspirational. Tracy says:
“You know how sometimes we get obsessed with time, and say nutty things like ‘If I don’t have a hit record by the time I’m thirty, I’m done’? Well, Malvina Reynolds wrote a song called ‘Little Boxes’ when she was sixty-two! Malvina didn’t even start writing songs until she was in her forties! If that doesn’t give you hope I don’t know what will.
“I met Malvina in the early 1970s in Los Angeles, through singer/songwriter Marcia Berman. [Read about Marcia in the history of CMN. In 2000, she was the second recipient of the Magic Penny award. Malvina was the first.] Malvina lived in San Francisco, but her rigorous performing schedule brought her to LA often. For some reason, Malvina gave me lyrics to put music to: this one, ‘Under the Chair,’ and another called ‘Deep Water.’ Both terrific.
“Unfortunately, being young and a bit irresponsible and very scattered, I didn’t understand what an honor that was, and even though I did put music to ‘Under the Chair,’ I never bothered to send the finished product to Malvina! I know. I look back on that now and realize it’s a sad comment on the value I placed on my own writing. I put a melody to ‘Deep Water,’ too, but didn’t think it was any good, and had no real understanding of rewriting, so I just tossed the lyrics into a pile of unfinished stuff and forgot about it.
“Cut to 2014. I was seventy-one and recording my first album for children. The CD was almost done when I stumbled across Malvina’s wonderful lyrics for ‘Under the Chair,’ along with the chords I’d added to it long ago. After noodling with it a bit, I remembered my melody! I thought, ‘This is perfect! What was I ever thinking?’”