Composer Joseph Brooks, who won an Academy Award for the song “You Light Up My Life,” was found dead today, May 22, in his Upper East Side Manhattan apartment. Brooks, who was awaiting trial for the rape of several women, apparently killed himself using a helium tank hooked up to a dry-cleaning bag placed around his head. He was 73.
His body was discovered by a friend with whom the songwriter had planned to have lunch. A suicide note was found, but police refused to divulge its contents.
The rape charges against Brooks, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2008, stemmed from allegations that he drugged and then sexually assaulted thirteen women who answered an online ad offering auditions for a movie role. Brooks had pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Born on March 11, 1938, in New York City, Brooks wrote the score for the 1974 Brooklyn-set The Lords of Flatbush, one of Sylvester Stallone’s early films, and the song “Save All My Brothers,” from Sarah Kernochan and Howard Smith’s 1972 Oscar-winning documentary feature Marjoe.
Brooks also directed five films: You Light Up My Life (1977), featuring the syrupy and highly popular Oscar-, Grammy-, and Golden Globe-winning title ditty as sang by Debby Boone (Kacey Cicyk sings it in the movie); If I Ever See You Again (1978), in which Brooks also starred opposite Shelley Hack; the musical drama Headin’ for Broadway (1980); Invitation to the Wedding (1983), featuring British veterans Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Leslie French, and John Standing; and, as per the IMDb, the obscure Sara’s Life Before It Became a Movie (1999).
Nicholas Brooks, the songwriter’s son, is being held without bail at the Rikers Island jail complex. He is accused of having murdered his girlfriend, swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay. She was found dead in a bathtub at the Soho House club and hotel last December.
‘You Light Up My Life’ controversy
Joseph Brooks, who killed himself yesterday at his Manhattan apartment, won an Oscar for the bestselling song “You Light Up My Life,” from the movie of the same name which Brooks himself directed.
Accompanied by several young girls, Debby Boone (photo), who reportedly claimed she dedicated the song to God every time she sang it, performed “You Light Up My Life” at the 1978 Academy Awards ceremony. Though nothing compared to the furor following Best Supporting Actress Vanessa Redgrave’s acceptance speech, the wholesome “You Light Up My Life” engendered its own bit of ungodly controversy.
After Boone’s performance, host Bob Hope announced that the singer had been accompanied by eleven girls “affiliated with the John Tracy Clinic for the Deaf.” (Named after the son of two-time Oscar winner Spencer Tracy.) The problem was that the girls were actually students of the Sam Levy Elementary School in the Greater Los Angeles municipality of Torrance, and that their sign language was basically gibberish.
The Academy defended itself. “After all,” a spokesman told the media, “nobody said the children were really deaf. And a doctor at the Tracy Clinic did recruit them.”
“But we’re offended,” rebutted the president of the Alliance for Deaf Artists. “Because we have many, many deaf children who could have done the same thing if only they’d been given the opportunity. What happened on the Oscar show was really the last straw in that it represented the industry’s traditional misrepresentation of the deaf.”
Quotes: Peter H. Brown and Jim Pinkston’s Oscar Dearest
Source for Boone’s dedicating “You Light Up My Life” to God: Mason Wiley and Demian Bona’s Inside Oscar.
“You Light Up My Life” composer Joseph Brooks image: AP.