[Dixielandjazz] Ray Evans Obit - Lyricist

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Feb 17 06:36:19 PST 2007

Ray Evans, Lyricist of Hit Songs From Movies, Dies at 92

NY TIMES - By RICHARD SEVERO -February 17, 2007

Ray Evans, a pop lyricist who teamed up with the composer and lyricist Jay
Livingston to write three Academy Award-winning songs and one of Nat King
Cole¹s best-known classics, as well as the Christmas standard ³Silver
Bells,² died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 92.

Jim Steinblatt, a spokesman for the American Society of Composers, Authors
and Publishers, announced the death.

In their heyday, in the 1940s and ¹50s, the team of Evans and Livingston was
much in demand in Hollywood, turning out songs for film after film that
often became big jukebox hits. The team was formed after Mr. Evans met Mr.
Livingston at the University of Pennsylvania, survived separation during the
war years and enjoyed decades of success until the emergence of rock ¹n¹

Evans and Livingston received their first best- song Oscar for ³Buttons and
Bows,² a bouncy tune from the 1948 comedy-western ³The Paleface.² It was
introduced by Bob Hope, playing the timid dentist ³Painless² Peter Potter,
who sang it to Jane Russell. Dinah Shore had a hit record with it, and the
song spent 19 weeks on the ³Hit Parade² radio program.

³Mona Lisa² was written in 1950 for a forgettable Alan Ladd film called
³Captain Carey, U.S.A.² In the movie, the song is used to send a signal to
Italian partisans during World War II. Originally, it was called ³Prima
Donna,² but Mr. Evans¹s wife, Wyn, preferred ³Mona Lisa.² The songwriting
team agreed.

Before the release of the film, Mr. Livingston and Mr. Evans went to see Nat
King Cole to interest him in recording it. That day, Mr. Cole¹s baby
daughter Natalie was making such a fuss that Mr. Cole had trouble hearing
it, but agreed to record it, even though he was not sure a song about a da
Vinci painting was commercially promising. Capitol Records had so little
faith in the song that it was put on the B side of a single, paired with
something called ³The Greatest Inventor of Them All.²

It became one of Cole¹s greatest and most enduring hits, and Mr. Evans was
especially pleased when Natalie Cole revived it on a hit record of her own.

³Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be²),² which won a third Oscar for
the team, was sung by Doris Day in ³The Man Who Knew Too Much²(1956), Alfred
Hitchcock¹s remake of his own 1934 film. A little improbably, Ms. Day belts
it out to signal to her kidnapped child that she and her husband (James
Stewart) have come to the rescue.

Ms. Day¹s recording was a hit, and it, too, survived in other recordings and
even a television commercial.

Other Livingston-Evans movie songs were nominated for Oscars, among them
³The Cat and the Canary,² from ³Why Girls Leave Home² (1945); ³Tammy,² from
³Tammy and the Bachelor² (1957), which became a best-selling record for
Debbie Reynolds; ³Almost in Your Arms,² from ³Houseboat² (1958); and ³Dear
Heart,² from the 1964 movie of the same name, starring Glenn Ford and
Geraldine Page. Andy Williams had a hit with ³Dear Heart,² singing the
Livingston-Evans lyrics to music by Henry Mancini.

Mr. Livingston and Mr. Evans also wrote the lyrics for a 1947 tune that
Victor Young adapted from a Hungarian folk song to serve as the theme for
the movie ³Golden Earrings.² Sung in the movie by the basso Murvyn Vye, it
became a hit record by Peggy Lee.

³To Each His Own² was a big hit in 1946 for several performers: Eddy Howard,
the Ink Spots, Tony Martin, Freddie Martin and the Modernaires.Perhaps the
team¹s biggest commercial success was a Christmas song they first called
³Tinkle Bell² until Lynne Livingston, Jay¹s wife, objected to the title. The
song became ³Silver Bells,² and it was first sung by Bob Hope in ³The Lemon
Drop Kid² (1951). ³Silver Bells² is one of the most popular Christmas songs
ever written, selling millions of records.

Mr. Evans and Mr. Livingston were both small-town guys, Mr. Livingston from
McDonald, Pa., and Mr. Evans from Salamanca, in the middle of a Seneca
Indian reservation in western New York.

Mr. Evans was born there on Feb. 4, 1915, the son of Philip Evans and
Frances Lipsitz Evans. The elder Evans was a scrap dealer from Latvia.
Neither parent was musical.

Ray Evans learned to play clarinet and saxophone in high school and
organized a dance band there, which he said ³wasn¹t very good.²

While he was at the Wharton School of Business at the University of
Pennsylvania, he met Mr. Livingston, who was studying journalism at the
university and was the organizer of a dance band. Mr. Evans tried out for
the band and made it, and the two became partners for more than 60 years.

After graduation, they moved to New York to try their hand at Tin Pan Alley
songwriting. They had a hit with ³GŒBye Now² in 1941, but World War II
intervened, and Mr. Livingston was inducted into the Army. Mr. Evans took a
bookkeeping job at an aircraft plant on Long Island.

In 1944, they reunited and, after some work in New York, including writing
special material for the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson, they attracted
the attention of Johnny Mercer, who liked their work and opened doors for
them in Hollywood.

In the years that followed, they wrote 600 to 700 songs, of which 300 were
published. They also contributed songs to more than 80 movies, including ³My
Favorite Brunette² (1947); ³Whispering Smith² (1948); ³Sorrowful Jones²
(1949); ; ³Fancy Pants² (1950); ³Here Comes the Groom² (1951); ³Aaron Slick
>From Punkin Crick² (1952); ³That¹s My Boy² (1951); ; ³Lucy Gallant² (1955);
³Istanbul² (1957); ; ³The James Dean Story² (1957); ³This Happy Feeling²
(1958); ; and ³Wait Until Dark² (1967).

For some of these films they worked with the great names in movie music,
like Percy Faith, Max Steiner, Neal Hefti, David Rose, Jimmy McHugh, Franz
Waxman and Sammy Cahn.

The team tried the theater without much success and found little demand in
Hollywood for their kind of music once rock arrived. In later years the pair
turned their attention to television and wrote the theme music for
long-running series like ³Bonanza² and ³Mr. Ed.² Mr. Livingston died in

Mr. Evans, who had no children and is survived by his sister, Doris Feinberg
of Salamanca, was a self-deprecating fellow who liked to call himself a
³sounding board² for his partner. But he was much honored in Salamanca,
which renamed its movie house the Ray Evans Seneca Theater. 

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list