"Who Can I Turn To?"
Anthony Newley / Leslie Bricusse
As we have seen rather frequently, Sometimes a Song is a work of musical genius. In general, musical talent shows up in early youth, but the direction it takes depends upon how that inherent genius is fostered. The composer of this week’s song was a “jack of all trades” in the field of entertainment who grew up in the most unpropitious circumstances.
Born to an unmarried mother in London during the early part of the Great Depression (called, in the United Kingdom, “the Great Slump”), Anthony Newley had almost no schooling and no formal musical training. He was raised by an uncle and aunt, and was among the many children who were sent away from London for their safety during the Blitz of WWII. After the war, at age 14, he left school and found a job with the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, where as part of his pay he received what little formal theatrical training he ever had. While serving at tea one afternoon at the Conti Academy, young Newley was discovered by a film producer who immediately cast him for the lead in a children’s film series. From there he went straight to the top, acting in a film directed by Peter Ustinov, and shortly afterward being chosen for the role of Artful Dodger in David Lean’s “Oliver Twist.”
Anthony Newley was a rare child actor who shifted seamlessly into adult roles. By the 1950’s, he had a film resume as long as your arm, when a low-budget film called, Idol on Parade, launched his singing career. The film was based loosely on the story of Elvis Presley’s famous stint in the military at the height of his fame, and Anthony Newley, in the lead role again, became an overnight “rock star.” Newley hit the charts with a vocal from this film, and by the 1960’s had become “the toast of Broadway,” both as an actor and as a writer of musicals with Leslie Briscusse, his collaborator on many projects. In 1961, Newley won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, with his and Bricusse’s hit play, “Stop the World — I Want to Get Off.” In 1963 the two won a Grammy Award for their song, “What Kind of Fool and I.” In 1964, Shirley Bassey recorded the Newman/Bricusse song, “Goldfinger,” as the theme for the James Bond film of the same name, and her recording hit the charts around the world. And in 1965, Newley wrote and starred in another Broadway hit with Bricusse called, “The Roar of the Greasepaint — the Smell of the Crowd,” for which the team wrote this week’s song, “Who Can I Turn To?”
Anthony Newley’s career and work are endlessly fascinating. Such music as his is not quite to everyone’s taste, and it sometimes has that vaudeville quality of “schmaltz” about it. But his work has also has found a well-deserved place in The American Songbook, and Newly himself was inducted into The Songwriters Hall of Fame. Here is a wonderful rendition of “Who Can I Turn To?” sung by Tony Bennett, whose audiences loved the song so much that he performed it at every concert subsequent to his hit with it in 1964.
Who can I turn to When nobody needs me? My heart wants to know, And so I must go Where destiny leads me. With no star to guide me And no one beside me I'll go on my way and, after the day The darkness will hide me. And maybe tomorrow I'll find what I'm after. I'll throw off my sorrow, Beg, steal, or borrow My share of laughter. With you I could learn to, With you on a new day, But who can I turn to If you turn away? With you I could learn to With you on a new day, But who can I turn to If you turn away?
Some of you may enjoy seeing Anthony Newley himself, in costume fresh from Broadway, singing “Who Can I Turn To?” on the Ed Sullivan Show. This clip brings together all of Newley’s remarkable talents in one brief performance — writer, producer, singer, actor, entertainer. See what you think.