Dave Frishberg - Press Kit

Dave Frishberg - In Memoriam

b. 03.23.33
d. 11.17.21

Grammy Award-nominated songwriter, jazz pianist and singer Dave Frishberg, whose witty and often nostalgic songs won him critical acclaim and a devoted following, died on November 17 in Portland, OR, following a prolonged illness.  He was 88.

Over six decades, many of Frishberg’s songs, such as “Peel Me A Grape,” “I’m Hip,” “My Attorney Bernie,” “You Are There,” and “Heart’s Desire,” became famous in jazz and cabaret circles as recorded and performed by artists as diverse as Bette Midler, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Michael Feinstein, Blossom Dearie and himself.  For his droll, witty lyrics and distinctive melodies, he has been described by the New York Times as “the Stephen Sondheim of jazz songwriting,” and he has been compared to Hoagy Carmichael, Noel Coward and Johnny Mercer.

He was most popularly known, however, as the songwriter responsible for “I’m Just a Bill,” performed by Jack Sheldon as part of ABC-TV’s beloved Schoolhouse Rock! series of animated shorts. Brought on to the project by his friend, musical director and fellow jazz musician Bob Dorough, Frishberg contributed a number of songs to the series, including, “Seven-Fifty Once a Week,” and “Walkin’ On Wall Street.”

After a childhood in St. Paul, MN (the youngest of four children) filled with baseball (a devotion that would carry on into his songwriting career) and piano-playing (encouraged by his older brother Mort, a skilled amateur pianist), Frishberg briefly attended Stanford before returning home, graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Journalism. Frishberg served in the Air Force, eventually moving to New York to pursue a career in music. He quickly became a sought-after sideman in the city’s 1960s jazz scene, performing with such legends as Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Gene Krupa.

In 1971, Frishberg decamped for Los Angeles, working as a studio musician; contributing to the NBC variety series, “The Funny Side,” starring Gene Kelly; and recording his own songs and performing them in clubs around the country and world.

In 1986, he made Portland, OR his home, where he continued to write and record. Until recently, he performed at familiar jazz haunts throughout the city, both in his one-man shows and as an accompanist to some of Portland’s greats, including jazz singers Rebecca Kilgore and Nancy King.

Four of Frishberg’s albums received Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Vocal, and he appeared on NBC’s The Tonight Show, CBS’s Sunday Morning, and NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion and Fresh Air, bringing him wider recognition, greater acclaim and more fans.

Frishberg is survived by his wife, actor April Magnusson, two sons from a prior marriage, and a host of nieces and nephews who adored him.

Donations in Frishberg’s honor can be made to MusiCares, a non-profit organization established by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to provide health, financial and rehabilitation services for music people in times of need. For more information, please visit musicares.org.

Messages to the Frishberg family and remembrances can be left at Dave Frishberg’s Facebook page.


A Compendium of Dave Frishberg Links

Citations collected by Adam Beechen