Artie Butler

By Russ:

Do you remember the signature piano intro to Joe Cocker’s “Feeling Alright“?

That was played by Artie Butler – one of the most respected “behind the scenes” composers and arrangers in the music business.

Artie has been involved in every phase of the music industry: conducting, producing, supervising and playing. He has arranged over one hundred hit records and played on hundreds of other recordings. He has been awarded over 60 gold and platinum albums.Artie traveled as arranger and musical conductor for Neil Sedaka, Peggy Lee and Joe Williams. He also conducted at the White House for presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and George H. Bush as well as for the Royal Family in London with Peggy Lee.

He is also well known for his wonderful sense of humor. Like many musical talents from New York, Artie started in the famous Brill Building. He has made some of the most significant contributions to that fabled and historic time in American pop music.

His arrangement and featured piano work on the hit record “Feelin’ Alright by Joe Cocker remains a true Classic in American pop music and rock & roll:

Artie Butler with Neil Sedaka

“Artie Butler is one of the most gifted arrangers in the music business. I had the pleasure of working with him many times. You can hear his beautiful arrangements on my recordings of ‘Laughter In The Rain,’ ‘The Immigrant,’   ‘The Hungry Years’ and many more. We remain close friends to this day. He is also one of the funniest people I know.”Neil Sedaka

Artie Butler with Dionne Warwick

“What else can be said about Artie Butler? Artie and I go back to my very first recording sessions. He is without a doubt, one of the most musical people that I know, and one of the nicest human beings as well. I think of Artie as an artist, but what I hold dearest to my heart, is I think of Artie as a “friend.”   If you have the opportunity to work with him, you are definitely in for a musical treat.” Dionne Warwick

Artie Butler with Barry Manilow

“Artie Butler has been making my music sound great for over 30 years. Honestly, I don’t know where his great talent comes from because I’ve never, ever seen or been with anyone like him. His composing and arranging are unmatched. Working with Artie has been an honor and a privilege for me. I know I would not have the music career I have today without him.”Barry Manilow

Artie with Peggy Lee

“Artie Butler … where have you been hiding? I love you. What a magnificent arrangement.” Peggy Lee

Arthur Butler (born December 2, 1942) is an American popular music arranger, songwriter, and pianist. In a long career, he has been involved in numerous hit records and other recordings, and has been awarded over 60 gold and platinum albums.

Life and career

Butler was born in Brooklyn, New York. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn he taught himself as a child to play instruments like the piano, clarinet, drums and vibes and he used to dream about one day being a famous jazz or classical musician, even going so far as to paste his face in magazines like Downbeat and Metronome over those of greats like Buddy RichBenny GoodmanErrol Garner and Arthur Rubenstein

Some of Artie’s early childhood photos:

Artie talking about the Art Butler photo of the vibes…

I would have given anything to play the vibes like Lionel Hampton or Terry Gibbs. Believe it or not, I took my own picture of me playing the vibes (above). First I moved all of the furniture out of the way in my living room so that I could use the drapes as a background. Then I moved the ironing board and placed the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens telephone books on top of it. Then I put the camera on top of the phone books and set the focus. I took a quick shower and put on my tuxedo and combed my hair. Back then I had a lot of it. I set the camera for automatic and ran back to the vibes and waited the twenty seconds for it to flash automatically and take the picture.

In retrospect this just might have been one of the first “selfies” … or at least mine. You might be interested in knowing that I no longer have the ironing board, the vibes.. and all of that hair.

Butler attended Erasmus Hall High School. 

At the age of 13, he auditioned for Henry Glover of King Records, who offered him a contract as a result. His single, “Lock, Stock and Barrel“, credited to Arthur Butler, was issued on the DeLuxe label in 1957, but was not successful.

By the early 1960s as a teenager he was working as an assistant at Bell Sound Studios in New York City. Then one fateful day he got hired as a keyboardist for a session in the old Brill Building by the legendary R&B songwriters and record producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, 1996

“If you want to hear beautiful music – and laugh your ass off at the same time call Artie Butler” Leiber & Stoller

Suddenly the world of pop, rock and R&B revealed itself to him as he’d never viewed it before.  And soon Butler found himself starting to get work with producers in New York, in part because he was so multi-talented and so able to play just about any musical style imaginable, but in part because he was such a nice kid.

He contributed to records by The Drifters and several other artists before, in 1964, arranging his first significant hit:  “Sally Go ‘Round the Roses” by The Jaynetts, on which he claims to have played all the instruments except guitar.

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Butler co-wrote Alvin Robinson‘s “Down Home Girl” with Jerry Leiber (quickly covered in 1965 by The Rolling Stones).

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Later in 1964 Artie joined the team working with songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. He arranged and contributed keyboards to several hits on Red Bird Records, including The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack” and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)“, The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love,” and The Ad Libs’ “The Boy from New York City.”

Leader Of The Pack / The Shangri-Las

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Chapel Of Love / The Dixie Cups

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The Boy From New York City / The Ad Libs

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Listen to Artie Butler’s note-perfect arrangement of what is, perhaps, one of the greatest and certainly most underrated recordings in the history of rock and roll, Neil Diamond’s stunning version of his very first hit, Solitary Man

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Butler arranged Janis Ian‘s “Society’s Child“.

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In 1967 Butler left the Brill Building and moved to Los Angeles. The following year he started work for A&M Records, where he worked with jazz musicians including Herbie Hancock, and contributed keyboards on Joe Cocker‘s hit “Feelin’ Alright“.

It must have taken some bold combination of musical chops and professional hutzpah to arrange Feelin’ Alright as he did, because if you listen to it closely he plays the entire first verse all by himself; just him and his piano.  No one else there that day was invited to join him until the chorus.

1971 / “Indian Reservation” / Paul Revere and The Raiders / Columbia Records

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Artie went on to freelance, and suggested to Louis Armstrong that he should record the song “What a Wonderful World“.  Armstrong agreed, and Butler arranged and recorded the song with Armstrong despite the opposition of ABC Records President Larry Newton.

From the 1970s onwards, Butler arranged many commercially successful records:

1974 / Neil Sedaka / “Laughter in the Rain

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Barry Manilow /”Copacabana

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Dionne Warwick / “I’ll Never Love This Way Again

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In the 1970s he began working on films, creating the lush score for The Love Machine (1971).

Here’s one of the tracks from that movie, The White Fox

Many other movie scores followed:  What’s Up Doc? (1972), The Harrad Experiment (1973), the TV movie Wonder Woman (1974), For Pete’s Sake (1974), Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (1975), the Disney film The Rescuers (1977), Sextette (1978), and O’Hara’s Wife (1982).

In 1992, he was nominated for an Emmy award for the CBS miniseries Sinatra.

In 2002, to his great surprise and delight, Artie was an “answer” in the NY TIMES crossword puzzle.

In 2004 Butler worked with Mike Stoller on a stage musical, Laughing Matters, which premiered in New York in 2006. Then in 2011 he worked again with Stoller and lyricist Iris Rainer Dart on the musical The People in the Picture.

Other Artie Butler productions (not included in Wikipedia)

Alice In Wonderland

Artie Butler / Have You Met Miss Jones / NOT the jazz version / 32 minutes of lush instrumentals

Artie Butler meets Tommy Tedesco / The Wrecking Crew

In 1990 he co-wrote, with lyricist Phyllis Molinary, the gorgeous ballad “Here’s to Life“, recorded by Shirley Horn and later by Barbra Streisand

Shirley Horn / Here’s To Life

“In my lifetime I am glad there is an Artie Butler. He has enriched my musical world extensively.” Shirley Horn

Barbra Streisand / Here’s To Life

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Artie has been awarded over 60 gold and platinum albums during his career.

The arranging of Joe Cocker’s “Felling All Right”

by M.C. ANTIL on NOVEMBER 30, 2012

References:

Artie Butler’s Website: https://artiebutler.com/

Credits

Butler’s credits are literally and figuratively too numerous to mention.

A small sampling includes:

Records

“What A Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong
“Copacabana” – Barry Manilow
“I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again”– Dionne Warwick
“Neither One Of Us Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye” – Gladys Knight & The Pips
“Feelin’ Alright” – Joe Cocker
“Indian Reservation” – Paul Revere And The Raiders – featuring Mark Lindsay
“Laughter In The Rain” – Neil Sedaka
“Cherry Cherry” – Neil Diamond
“Sally Go ‘Round The Roses”– The Jaynets
“Even Now” – Barry Manilow
“The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” – Vicki Lawrence
“Up On The Roof” – The Drifters
“Solitary Man” – Neil Diamond
“Arizona” – Mark Lindsay
“On Broadway” – The Drifters
“Can’t Smile Without You” – Barry Manilow
“Society’s Child” – Janis Ian
“The Boy From New York City” – The Ad-Libs
“Chapel Of Love” – The Dixie Cups
“You And Me Against The World” – Helen Reddy
“Midnight Train To Georgia” – Gladys Knight and The Pips
“Hang On Sloopy”– The McCoys
“Here’s To Life” – Barbra Streisand

Movies

“What’s Up Doc?” – Barbra Streisand – Warner Bros.
“For Pete’s Sake” – Barbra Streisand – Columbia
“The Rescuers” – Animated Feature – Walt Disney
“Rafferty And The Goldust Twins” – Warner Bros.
“The Love Machine” – Columbia
“At Long Last Love” – 20th Century Fox
“The Harrad Experiment” – Cinerama Releasing

Awards

EMMY NOMINATIONS

Outstanding Music Direction for “SINATRA” CBS MINI – SERIES

Outstanding Music Direction for “THE BARRY MANILOW SPECIAL IV”

Outstanding Music & Lyrics for “SUZANNE SOMERS & 10,000 GI’S”

GRAMMY NOMINATIONS

“HERE’S TO LIFE” – Shirley Horn

Best Arrangement accompanying a vocal
“I KNOW I’LL NEVER LOVE THIS WAY AGAIN” – Dionne Warwick

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL AWARD

Outstanding Music For “EASTMAN KODAK” 1973

SONGS WRITTEN BY ARTIE BUTLER

TitleWritten byOriginally byDateCovered by
Down Home GirlJerry Leiber, Artie ButlerAlvin RobinsonAug 1964Covered by (22 artists)
Feel the WarmArtie Butler, Jerry FullerJimmy WalkerJun 1970Covered by (5 artists)
Here’s to LifeArtie Butler, Phyllis MolinaryShirley Horn with Strings1992Covered by (88 artists)
How Do I Stop Loving You?Artie Butler, Norman MartinEngelbertDec 1987Covered by (4 artists)
I Didn’t Mean to Love YouArtie Butler, Karen PhilippHelen ReddyNov 1972Covered by (4 artists)
I’m Never Gonna Say GoodbyeArtie ButlerBilly Preston1982Covered by Martin Nievera

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