“Dirty Dancing” Songwriter Franke Previte Returns With the Music of “Taylor Simon King”
As the lead singer for NJ-based Franke and the Knockouts, Franke Previte had a big hit in the 80’s with “Sweetheart.” A writer of “Time of My Life” and “Hungry Eyes” from the movie Dirty Dancing, Franke is back as the co-producer of a new show called Taylor Simon King which is coming to the Carteret Performing Arts Center on August 5.
Jim Monaghan welcomed Franke back to WDHA and “All Mixed Up” to talk about the new show, and some behind-the-scenes details from the movie.
JIM MONAGHAN – Here at 105.5 WDHA, it is my pleasure to welcome back Franke Previte to DHA. Good morning and welcome.
FRANKE PREVITE – Good morning. Long time no talk.
JM – Long time no see either. Franke, in addition to Frankie and the Knockouts, wrote one of the timeless songs of recent years, “The Time of My Life” and is now the co-producer of a new show that we want to talk about, Taylor Simon King, which comes to the Carteret Performing Arts Center on August 5. First of all, Franke, tell me how that show came about.
FP – Actually, my wife, Lisa Sherman, who is a performer for many years, a former Rockette Broadway star, she had her own show for nine years in New Zealand…she had this show before COVID and COVID kind of destroyed all of us as musicians to play out and to communicate with people and so we started doing it via the Internet and streaming and stuff like that. Then things started to lighten up and we really started to refine the show. We thought about three great American troubadours that are connected. You know, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Carole King. So we’re able to tell their story about their connections, their friendships, their love affair and their love affair with music. And so it has an evening of we project stuff on the screen and we talk about it. We show little movies, we sing songs and by the end of the night, all through the night, this actually happens. The audience is singing louder than the band which is a great tribute to their music.
JM – Well, it’s certainly songs that we’ve all grown up with, you know, the soundtrack to our lives. I’ve seen some video of the singer who does James Taylor and he’s dead on. He really captures the essence of James Taylor’s music.
FP – He does. He is a new member. He’s been with us probably three or four months, James Gedeon, and he is from up the Morristown area and I’m sure he listens to DHA all the time. He better, (if he doesn’t) he’s out of the band.
JM – Well, let me ask you because I’ve seen James Taylor perform a number of times, Franke and one of the things that gets me is James doesn’t seem to do a song the same way twice. How daunting is that type of thing when you’re trying to present a show like this?
FP – I love that singers interpret and so I’m then entertained every time I hear it and I’m not bored by them. That goes on in our group. We ask our singers, instead of being a tribute band, celebrate the composer and give them your taste, your touch. And every night, like Mary McCrink, who does a lot of Carole King, I never know where she’s going to go with a song, it’s so surprising. And I go, oh, God, that was great. And the audience will break out in applause because there’ll be a big pause and she’ll start to hold the note and then riff off of it and the audience just gets sucked away with her. It’s really cool.
JM – You think of the music of Carole King. I mean, this has been going on for more than six decades with Carole King going back to 1960 with the song she wrote for the Shirelles” Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” And the legacy of her music alone is just extraordinary, Franke.
FP – I mean, we show that in this little film we play beforehand of her at 16 years old, having a hit record and changing her name and putting an “E” at the end of Carol to differentiate herself from the rest of the people that were in her class. You know, she started very young. And the interviewer said, I guess you could say you’re a prodigy. She goes, no, I guess you said it.
JM – Franke Previte is my guest this morning here at 105.5 WDHA, one of the co-producers of Taylor Simon King referring to James Taylor, Carly Simon and Carole King, August 5 at the Carteret Performing Arts Center, which is a beautiful building. I went there a few months ago for the first time, Franke.I couldn’t get over how nice it is.
FP – Why don’t you be my guest and come?
JM – I would love to. I would love to see this show.
FP – We’re inviting you and a guest. How’s that?
JM – That’s wonderful.
FP – We just played in a really cool place in Pennsylvania. It’s called Bensalem. I guess they have casinos there and people flock there. There were 3000 people there. We played an outside little festival and I was taken back by how many people celebrate this kind of music. It just blew me away.
JM – When you watch the performances, what strikes you the most about these three individuals, the songwriters James, Carly and Carole?
FP – That their music is timeless. Each one of them has timeless music. A lot of their songs are evergreen. People say, “Oh, ‘Time of My Life,’ oh, that’s an evergreen song.” Well, they’ve got a catalog of these songs. When I was in Franke and the Knockouts, I thought of myself as a rock and roller. And then when I wrote “Time of My Life,” I became a songwriter.
JM – Tell our listeners about that because it’s a wonderful story of how you came to write some of the songs for that movie Dirty Dancing. Tell them for our listeners who aren’t familiar with it because it’s a great story.
FP – So first of all, Jimmy Ienner, who was the president of Millennium Records, decided he was going to go into the film industry. So I had a two-year window of me trying to get another record deal. And I ran into a guy who had a track that he played for me, just music. And I said, “Can I write something to it?” And that guy was John DeNicola. And that first song we wrote was called “Hungry Eyes.” And so “Hungry Eyes” was in my drawer for almost two years. Nobody liked ‘Hungry Eyes.” Then out of the blue, I get a call from that same Jimmy Ienner and he goes, “Franke, I got this little movie I’m working on. I need you to write a song. There’s been 149 submissions turned down. And I said, and you want me to be the 150th? And he goes, no, this is a good movie. I said, all right, Jimmy, what’s the name of the movie? And when he said Dirty Dancing, I went, oh, jeez, Jimmy’s doing porn. I’m thinking, Jimmy’s doing a porn flick, and he wants me to write a song. He said no…good movie. Johnny meets Baby, and the father doesn’t like the kid. So on the Garden State Parkway, exit 140. John had sent me a track…John DeNicola. I shove it into my dashboard. And how I write a song is I jam to music. And then phonetic sounds come out of me that sometimes create the (idea) of what I’m trying to say. So I’m driving, going and I’m scribbling “time of my life” on an envelope and truly not knowing what this movie was about. The Man Upstairs wrote the song because when I met Patrick (Swayze) at the Academy Awards, he was all over me. Like, “Who sang the demo? Who wrote the lyrics?” I’m going, “Whoa, Pat, what’s up?” I said, “Why is this so important to you?” He goes, “Because we filmed out of sequence. We didn’t have a song. We were getting ready to film to a Lionel Richie track, which was a great song, but it wasn’t an original. And then the director came in and went, whoa, whoa. We got one more cassette. And they played it. And they all looked at each other and went, “Is this great, or are we desperate?” And somebody yelled “BOTH…LET’S GO!”
JM – Franke Previte is my guest here at 105.5 WDHA, August 5, Carteret Performing Arts Center for the Taylor Simon King show. You referenced this a few minutes earlier in the interview talking about “Time of My Life” and a timeless song. And we just lost Tony Bennett a few days ago, and I got thinking of all of the music that he has recorded over the years. Artists like him, artists like Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, this great American songbook that Rod Stewart has done what, five volumes of. You think of all of the traditional rock musicians. I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, artists my parents would put the TV on.I’m watching Jerry Vale and Vic Damone, and they’re wonderful in their own right, but they’re not Frank. They’re not Tony and they’re not Nat. For some reason, those three as a little kid I could take. But you look at the artists who have covered this kind of music and how timeless it is. Franke, 50 years from now, somebody’s going to get married and “Time of My Life” is going to be their wedding song. You wrote that, Franke! That is a timeless song. You did it!
FP – I am blessed. My parents taking voice lessons from the same vocal coach. And so you could say that I have designer genes and so from that genetic pool and them patting me on the back – “Don’t quit. You can do it. Here’s an apartment. Come over and have eat with us at night. And here’s $25 for your voice lesson.” So a lot of this credit goes to my parents for the support and being behind me through all of that. When I thought I should be doing something else, I was actually selling cars out of my driveway.
JM – Wow…just amazing…just amazing. Taylor Simon King, the music of James Taylor, Carly Simon, Carole King. It’s a wonderful show. It’s coming to the Carteret Performing Arts Center on august 5. If you want more information, you can go to taylorsimonking.com. Franke Previte, thank you so much for joining us here on WDHA this morning. Continued success with this show.
FP – I hope you can make it. I’ll put you on the list.