MUSIC : Songs of the Soaps : A housewife has turned her time at home into a career of writing love melodies for television.
Her husband was in law school. Her two young children were taking naps. It was the late 1960s when--as other suburban housewives did--Gloria Sklerov asked herself: “Is this all there is?”
Rather than spend her days watching soap operas, Sklerov picked up a guitar and started composing melodies. These days, if she turns on the soaps, it’s probably to hear one of her songs.
“Sometimes I’m sitting at the kitchen table when one of those soaps comes on,” Sklerov says, “and it hits me that millions of people are listening to this right now.”
Sitting at that table, or in her small den-turned-studio, Sklerov writes the material that has kept her working as a songwriter for almost 30 years. Popular music styles have taken drastic turns, but she always has managed to find an outlet for her love songs, be it on country albums or movie soundtracks.
After three previous nominations, Sklerov won this year’s Daytime Emmy Award for best original song, “I Never Believed in Love,” the theme for Morgan and Brett on “Another World.”
Soap-opera music is a genre unto itself. The songs tend to be “positive love songs with conflict,” Sklerov explains. “Sort of ‘I love you and you love me, but I’ve been hurt before so I’m not going to jump right into this.’ . . . The kind of thing where you’re acknowledging that love is wonderful, but not always perfect.”
The lyrics have to tie into characters’ situations, yet make sense outside the context of the show. Sklerov achieves this by basing her songs on emotions, says Susan-Beth Markowitz, the music director for “Another World.”
The show has been using some of Sklerov’s music for three years. Markowitz says, “It’s her adaptability and her ability to take a song and rewrite it or rework it to fit your specific needs that makes the relationship work so well.”
Sklerov wrote “I Never Believed in Love” with A.J. Gundell, who has been writing music for daytime TV for 10 years and is now music director for “All My Children.” The two met at a convention after the 1992 Daytime Emmys, where Gundell’s song beat Sklerov’s for the award.
“She came over and said, ‘My name is Gloria Sklerov. Your song beat my song.’ I didn’t know how to take it,” Gundell recalls. “And then she said, ‘I figure if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ ”
The two collaborated on several songs, meeting in person to do the primary writing. But since Gundell lives in Connecticut, they polished the songs by phone and sent audiocassettes by Federal Express.
“The thing I like most about her is her sense of melody and insistence on getting just the right notes in the right place, especially in trying to get that great marriage of lyric and melody together. That’s one of the things that makes a great song,” Gundell says.
The craft of songwriting is one that Sklerov allowed herself years to learn. After she started composing on the guitar, she took a UCLA Extension workshop in lyric-writing. She re-enrolled three more times. By then, the instructor was sufficiently impressed to introduce her to people in the music industry.
One of those people was producer Snuff Garrett, who hired her as a staff writer for Garrett Music. Starting in the early 1970s, Sklerov wrote songs for the artists whose records Garrett produced, including Cher.
Sklerov recites a list of Cher’s hits from the time: “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Half Breed,” “Dark Lady”. . .
“I had the B side of all those records,” she says.
Glory can be hard to come by in the songwriting biz. Singers may like a song, but not record it. Even if they record it, they may not put it on the album. And just because it’s on the album doesn’t mean it will be released as a single.
“Probably 99 out of 100 times nothing happens. It’s like casting seeds upon the wind,” Sklerov says.
Those harsh realities are ones that Sklerov got a chance to warn other students about when she taught songwriting at UCLA Extension--the same class she’d taken over and over. But she also tempts them with unexpected successes. She wrote “I Just Fall in Love Again” with classmate Harry Lloyd. It was unnoticed when recorded by two artists, but Anne Murray’s simple version soared to the top of the country charts in 1979 and was a crossover Top-10 pop hit.
While her recent success in daytime drama has proven satisfying, Sklerov is still pushing other songs into other markets. On her kitchen table is a short stack of faxes with a list of singers looking for material. Lines, check marks and notes indicate where cassettes have been sent and where they still need to go.
Next to the faxes is a stack of large, blue mailing envelopes--more seeds to cast.
“Every once in while,” she says, “a flower starts to grow someplace.”