The Brill Building


The Brill building
The Brill building

The Golden Age of Rock site talks about a lot of heroes. We’ve written about musicians and bands, political climate, technology, TV shows, concerts, and here we are going to write about a building. It looks like many other New York City buildings built in the 30s. The Brill is eleven stories high and located in downtown Manhattan at 1619 Broadway on 49th just off Times Square. The name came from a haberdashery that occupied the first floor storefront and subsequently purchased the building.
There is no other single building that has a bigger part in the birth of rock as The Brill. It was the epicenter of the music industry during The Golden Years of Rock. Over time it housed hundreds of music businesses including publishers, promoters, and distributors and fostered an atmosphere of sharing. Musicians and promoters could get together with composers in one office, walk downstairs to their lyricist or arranger, then visit their publisher and distributor all in the same building.

Most importantly, it housed many of the creative geniuses who composed and penned Rock lyrics. The Brill building’s charged and competitive atmosphere produced many of the early trends in Rock music. The technology was never imagined during the Goden Age of Rock, but the Brill Building now has it’s own page on Facebook.

Carole King described the atmosphere at the Brill Building:

“Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You’d sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific – because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He’d say: ‘We need a new smash hit’ – and we’d all go back and write a song and the next day we’d each audition for Bobby Vee’s producer.” —quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith (1978, ISBN 0094602204).

Famous Brill talent and residents include:

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller Howard Greenfield
Carole King and Gerry Goffin Billy Joel
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil Kris Kristofferson
Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich Joni Mitchell
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman Neil Sedaka
Hal David and Burt Bacharach Carly Simon
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart Paul Simon
Paul Anka James Taylor
Jim Croce Gene Pitney
Bobby Darin
Hal David
John Denver
Neil Diamond