1964 Robert Maxwell – Shangri-La
Max Rosen grew up in New York City and began playing the harp in junior high school. He displayed talent for the instrument, and he won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music. When he entered the Coast Guard, he served under the command of Rudy Valle, who helped him play the harp in popular music settings. Somewhere along the line, he also began using the name Robert Maxwell.
Robert began writing music. He co-wrote the music for the song Shangri-La with Matty Malneck and Carl Sigman penned the lyrics. A recording by Matty’s orchestra featured Robert on the harp, but does not appear to have charted.
Robert wrote music for the song Ebb Tide. Frank Chacksfield and Vic Damone each recorded the song in 1953, and their singles reached #2 and #10, respectively. The Righteous Brothers also had some success with the song when their version reached #5 in 1966.
Robert also wrote and recorded the record Solfeggio in 1953. Ernie Kovacs used that song in a series of comical television sketches known as The Nairobi Trio that led to the re-recording of the song in 1957 as The Song Of The Nairobi Trio.
The Four Coins had five top forty singles in in the fifties. Their biggest hit came when they recorded a vocal version of Shangri-La, which peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 in 1957. In 1964, two more versions of the song charted. Robert’s instrumental version replaced the vocals with organ solos and reached #15 on the Hot 100. Vic Dana’s vocal version got as high as #27. The song charted one last time in 1969 when the Lettermen replaced the harp solos with horns and took their single up to #64. Jackie Gleason used the tune on his variety show as background music for the character Reginald van Gleason III.
Robert taught the harp to several students who also became professional harpists. Robert died in 2012.
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