George Benson's version of "On Broadway," from his 1978 album Weekend in L.A., hit #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the soul chart. The George Benson version also got substantial adult contemporary and smooth jazz radio airplay ever since. It won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance. The song appeared in the films Big Business and American Beauty. George Benson's performance of the song was used during the opening credits of the 1979 film All That Jazz, which featured dancers on stage auditioning for a musical similar to Chicago. George Benson also performed "On Broadway" with Clifford and The Rhythm Rats for the 1994 Muppet album Kermit Unpigged.
"On Broadway" is a song written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in collaboration with the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
Weil and Mann were based at Aldon Music, located at 1650 Broadway, New York City, and the song as written by Mann/Weil was originally recorded by The Cookies (although The Crystals' version beat them to release) and featured an upbeat lyric in which the protagonist is still on her way to Broadway and sings "I got to get there soon, or I'll just die." Additionally the melody was in compound time and the backing riff modulated between the root and the minor 2nd.
Guitarist George Benson's polished style emerged out of the innovations of Wes Montgomery, and took him from the organ trios of the 1960s to the very top of the pop charts. Benson's albums have consistently showcased his abilities as a singer and entertainer, while never sacrificing his refined jazz sensibilities and technique.
Benson was born on March 22nd, 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in the city's "Hill District," an African-American neighborhood with an active jazz scene, which also gave birth to musicians such as Billy Strayhorn and Kenny Clarke. He started out as a child performing ukelele-inspired vocal numbers with his stepfather, and has stated that his goal from a young age was to learn how to entertain people. As an adolescent, he was given an electric guitar as a gift, and began to play local Pittsburgh clubs. On one occasion he met his hero, Wes Montgomery, who encouraged the young player to continue his efforts.
Benson moved from Pittsburgh to New York in the early 1960s and quickly caught the ear of organist Jack McDuff, who featured him in his group along with saxophonist Red Holloway. Benson's recorded his first album, The New Boss Guitar, for Prestige Records in 1964, which also featured McDuff. Benson was soon signed to Columbia Records by producer John Hammond. With Hammond at the helm, Benson recorded a string of jazz albums for Columbia.