The melody comes from a French song called "Et Maintenant" ("And Now"). Carl Sigman, who wrote several hits by putting English lyrics to foreign melodies, was called on to do the same with this one. In The Carl Sigman Songbook
, his son Michael explains:
In 1962, the music world changed forever when Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best as the drummer in a group called the Beatles. The group released "Love Me Do
" and "P.S. I Love You
," and a revolution was born. Spurred by Beatlemania, recording artists started penning their own material the way the Beatles did. The need declined accordingly for Tin Pan Alley writers, who could only thrive by writing songs for others to record. Like his cohorts, Carl felt the effects of this change, but he refused to be left behind. He continued to prove his place in a parallel pop universe, as well as his adeptness with European tunes, including his most important foreign assignment to date. That assignment called for him to write a lyric to French composer Gilbert Becaud's "Et Maintenant" ("And Now"). Normally, because of linguistic differences in accents and meter, the English lyric would bear no relation to Pierre Delano's French words. But this situation was different. Carl quickly came up the English words "What Now My Love," a rough translation of the French title, to go with the opening notes of the melody. But what he did with that "translation" was wholly original. "What Now My Love," a dramatic story of lost love and desperation, was, with "Ebb Tide
" and "It's All In The Game
," one of the songs that, for Carl, transcended craftsmanship into the realm of inspirational art.
Meanwhile, Nelson Riddle, with a group of Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole hits under his belt, was in England scoring the film Lolita
. While there he found the time to arrange Let's Face the Music
, an album by a very young Shirley Bassey. The album yielded a stunning rendition of "What Now My Love," which was released as a single and made it to the top five in the UK. That same year Jane Morgan hit the top thirty in the U.S. with her rendition. Once the world developed a taste for this song, hundreds of cover versions followed. Sonny & Cher did a hip, guitar-based rendition that got to #14 on the pop charts in 1966, and Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, The Temptations,Willie Nelson, Mitch Ryder, The Muppets featuring Miss Piggy, Patricia Kaas, and just about every other solo singer worth his/her salt also weighed in.