CELEBRATING THE LEGACY OF LARRY KUSIK, LYRICIST OF ‘THE GODFATHER’ THEME “SPEAK SOFTLY LOVE”
Larry Kusik was born in 1919 in New York City where his love of music and lyrics first blossomed. Over the course of his prolific career as a lyricist, Kusik co-wrote iconic songs that soundtracked a generation. His most renowned works were featured in blockbuster films released during the 1960s and 1970s like The Godfather, Romeo and Juliet, Rosemary’s Baby, and Murder on the Orient Express, among many others.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of The Godfather, we are looking back in celebration of Kusik’s legacy, the words he brought to life, and his lasting influence on audiences today.
- Kusik penned lyrics to one of the most famous movie themes of all time.
Kusik notably penned the lyrics for “Speak Softly Love,” the lyricized theme from 3x-Academy Award-winning film The Godfather. Released in 1972, the iconic film celebrated its 50th anniversary in March and, to this day, is widely recognized as one of the greatest films of all time. “Speak Softly Love” won Kusik an ASCAP award and was recorded by several artists, with Andy Williams’ version climbing to #34 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
- Kusik and his The Godfather collaborator Nino Rota remained incredibly close over the years.
Nino Rota composed the music for The Godfather theme, as well as for “A Time for Us” from Romeo and Juliet, both of which Kusik wrote the lyrics for. Together, the pair collaborated on several works over the years, and stayed lifelong friends. In fact, Kusik’s son, Thomas Glass, recalls Rota feeling like a member of the family.
- Kusik’s time serving in World War II deeply influenced him and his songwriting.
Kusik credited his wartime experience with teaching him a deep resilience and nurturing his innate curiosity about other cultures, which he felt profoundly influenced his writing and his ability to connect with listeners. Kusik continued writing poetry and lyrics during his time in the U.S. Army. In fact, he was a stenographer and typist who served in North Africa and on the Burma Road during World War II. For his service, Kusik was awarded the American Defense Service Medal, along with several ribbons.
- Kusik comes from a family of musicians.
Music was an important part of Kusik’s young life in New York City. Not only did his family include several professional musicians while he was growing up, but that legacy has continued today. His nephew, Lenny Kaye, is a musician, composer, and producer best known as a member of the Patti Smith Group.
- Even Kusik’s marriage had its foundation in the industry!
Kusik met his wife Maggie in the Brill Building, having stopped in one day at the offices of Famous Music, where she worked at the time. They were married for decades.