The legendary co-founder, bassist and singer of Kiss, Gene Simmons had a brilliant career in music but also gained more recognition as a businessman and an actor. He always was a curious person who loved to learn about new things all the time, so he was always paying attention to everything. That helped him in music since he wasn’t stuck only on a few music genres, he was always trying to listen to new things and that resulted in a broad musical taste.
Over the decades the musician talked a lot about songwriting and even revealed which is his favorite song of all time, which curiously, is not a Rock and Roll track.
The song that Gene Simmons said is his favorite of all time
Gene Simmons always paid tribute to the artists who influenced him and were important for Rock and Roll music but he also loves songs from other genres. As he revealed in an interview with Songwriting Magazine in 2018, his favorite song of all time is “Smile”, written by the famous actor and director Charlie Chaplin.
He mentioned the song when he was asked what were the key components of a great song. “You could say lyrics but there are beautiful melodies, like ‘Sleepwalk’ by Santo & Johnny which doesn’t have lyrics. You can say that it’s a certain point of view, but there are love songs and all kinds of songs. My favorite song is ‘Smile’ by Charlie Chaplin, which is not a love song at all. It’s a wonderful idea, and ‘Yesterday’ (The Beatles) is likewise. So it’s difficult to say what it is,” Gene Simmons said.
“Smile” was written as an instrumental piece by Charlie Chaplin in 1934 being featured in his film “Modern Times”. It was in 1954 that John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics and title to the song. They were written inspired by the lines and themes of the original movie. Since then many other artists covered the song, like Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Jimmy Durante.
Chaplin was born in 1889 in London, England and was one of the most important movie directors and actors of all time. He became famous for his funny silent movies like “The Kid” (1921), “Gold Rush” (1925) and “Modern Times” (1936). But is also recalled for post-silent movie features. The most famous one: “The Great Dictator” that was a huge social critic about the World War II.
He thinks that songs like “Smile” have the sign of a great songwriting
“Smile” wasn’t a one-off music composition. He wrote more than two-dozen published songs and composed nearly 900 minutes of music for movies. Although the song is credited only to him, he had a “musical secretary” which was David Raksin. They co-wrote “Smile” and several other scores. He helped Chaplin to translate his ideas into an orchestral score. Raskin was younger than Chaplin and passed away in 2004 at the age of 92. It was a few decades after Chaplin who died in 1977 at the age of 88.
Talking to Goldmine magazine in 2023, Simmons listed some albums that changed his life. One of them was Patsy Cline’s “Greatest Hits”. The musician said that her music hit him like a truck and she had a song called “Crazy” that he compared with tracks like “Smile” and “Yesterday”. According to him, when a song starts off with the word of its title, it is a sign of great songwriting.
“Her music hit me like a truck running you over, and the more I read about her, the more fascinated I became. She had a song called “Crazy” and in country & western culture. You couldn’t say the word crazy. It was supposed to be vulgar. And here was this janitor by the name of Willie Nelson who wrote ‘Crazy.'”
“By the way, the classic songs, like ‘Yesterday’ or ‘Michelle’ or even the Charlie Chaplin-written song ‘Smile,’ start off with the name of the song. Same thing with ‘Crazy’. That is the sign of great, not just good, but great songwriting,” Gene Simmons said.
Simmons is a prolific songwriter and wrote most of the material Kiss released alongside the guitarist and singer Paul Stanley. They are the only original members who were part of all the albums the band recorded.