Sammy Cahn was an American lyricist, songwriter and musician. He is best known for his romantic lyrics to films and Broadway songs, as well as stand-alone songs premiered by recording companies in the Greater Los Angeles Area. He and his collaborators began a series of hit recordings with Frank Sinatra during the singer's tenure at Capitol Records, but also enjoyed hits with Dean Martin, Doris Day and many others. He played the piano and violin. He won the Academy Award four times for his songs, including the popular song "Three Coins in the Fountain".
Cahn was born as Samuel Cohen in the Lower East Side of New York City, the only son of Abraham and Elka Riss Cohen, who were Jewish immigrants from Galicia, Poland. His sisters, Sadye, Pearl, Florence, and Evelyn, all studied the piano. His mother did not approve, for she thought the piano was a woman's instrument, so he took violin lessons. After three lessons and his bar mitzvah, he joined a small dixieland band called Pals of Harmony, who would tour the Catskill Mountains in the summer and do private parties. This new dream of Cahn's destroyed the hope that his parents had for him to be a professional man.
Some of the side jobs he had were violinist in a theater-pit orchestra, worked at a meat-packing plant, served as a movie-house usher, tinsmith, freight-elevator operator, restaurant cashier, and porter at a bindery. At age 16, he was watching vaudeville, which he had been a fan since the age of 10, and he witnessed Jack Osterman sing one of his songs. After this, he wrote his first lyric "Like Niagara Falls, I'm Falling for You." Years later he would say "I think a sense of vaudeville is very strong in anything I do, anything I write. They even call it 'a vaudeville finish,' and it comes through in many of my songs. Just sing the end of 'All the Way' or 'Three Coins in the Fountain'--'Make it mine, make it mine, MAKE IT MINE!' If you let people know they should applaud, they will applaud."
Much of Cahn's early work was written in partnership with Saul Chaplin. They first met when Cahn invited Chaplin to audition for him at the Henry Street Settlement. Cahn said "I'd learned a few chords on the piano, maybe two, so I'd already tried to write a song. Something I called 'Shake Your Head from Side to Side.'" Billed simply as "Cahn and Chaplin", they composed witty special material for Warner Brothers' musical short subjects, filmed at Warners' Vitaphone studio in Brooklyn, New York.