BROOKS, Jack  [1912-1971]

Liverpool has nurtured within its cultured embrace many poets and lyricists whose creative talents have echoed across the ages. But has anyone ever aspired to better such immortal lines as

“When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool”

Those of you who have any memories of the 1950’s will have instantly placed these fine words as part of Dean Martin’s enduring hit That’s Amore.

John Lennon once penned something suggesting that all Paul McCartney ever did was Yesterday. That might have been an undeserved barb from JL, but in the case of That’s Amore lyricist Jack Brooks it wouldn’t be too unkind to say that this song was his one and only claim to fame. Suffice it to say that his second most successful song was Ole Buttermilk Sky, which whilst long since forgotten was co-written with the great Hoagy Carmichael. If his hits were few he could certainly pick excellent collaborators as the co-author of That’s Amore was Harry Warren (You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, September in the Rain, Chattanooga Choo-Choo). That’s Amore has been described as “a parody of popular Neapolitan organ grinder music” so it isn’t a great surprise that Harry Warren’s real name was Salvatore Antonio Guaranga. Brooks also penned a theme tune for the TV Western series Wagon Train and was nominated three times for the Oscar for Best Song.

If we are to believe Dean Martin’s one-time comic duo partner Jerry Lewis, the song came about because after the two split Lewis felt sorry for Martin and gave Brooks and Warren $30,000 to come up with a hit for him.

Jack Brooks was born in Liverpool on 14th February 1912. He emigrated to the USA aged 4 in October 1916 along with his mother Fanny (née Bernstein) and his five brothers and sisters. They sailed on the Red Star Line vessel S.S.Kroonland. (When launched in 1902 it was the largest steamship built in the USA and in 1903 became the first ship to issue a radio distress signal whilst at sea.) The immigration records show the family’s Liverpool address as 19 Clarence Street, Liverpool. The 1911 Gore's Directory shows this address as "Barnett Bernstein, tailor".

He died in Los Angeles on 8th November 1971 aged 59.

Passenger list showing the Brooks family's emigration to the USA in 1916.

SS Kroonland - the vessel on which brooks sailed to America.


The Wikipedia entry gives a basic account of his life and work and the IMDB entry gives a comprehensive listing of his film and TV compositions. There is a good piece from The Guardian (26th July 2007) by Joe Queenan on the origins of That's Amore .