Jack Lawrence, who wrote the lyrics for Frank Sinatra's first hit recording "All or Nothing at All" as well as standards sung by stars such as Dinah Shore and Bobby Darin, has died. He was 96.
Lawrence died Sunday at Danbury Hospital from renal failure and complications from a fall at his house, his son, Richard, said Wednesday.
"He had no musical training at all to speak of," Richard Lawrence said. "He just started writing songs. He just loved what he did."
Jack Lawrence's work reached the stage, the movie screens and even the U.S. Merchant Marine where he served during WWII. He not only wrote songs, he co-produced off-Broadway and Broadway performances, he became an art patron and he wrote a pair of autobiographies. Even at 96, he was collaborating on a new song with Quincy Jones, titled, "Nostalgia."
Lawrence was born Jacob Schwartz on April 7, 1912, in Brooklyn, New York, into an Orthodox Jewish family. He earned a doctorate in podiatry in 1932, the same year he wrote his first hit song, "Play, Fiddle, Play" with Arthur Altman and Emery Deutsch.
Lawrence quickly gave up podiatry for a songwriting career, dropping his last name when he started publishing songs.
He wrote the Ink Spots' 1939 smash recording of "If I Didn't Care," and the song that introduced Shore to the American radio audience, "Yes, My Darling Daughter." Sinatra's first hit recording with Harry James, "All or Nothing at All," had lyrics by Lawrence and music by Arthur Altman.
Other songs included the much-recorded standard, "Tenderly" with music by Walter Gross that helped re-ignite the career of Rosemary Clooney; and "Linda," a major hit for the Ray Noble Orchestra with Buddy Clark in 1947, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. "Linda" was written for entertainment attorney Lee Eastman's young daughter, who grew up to become Paul McCartney's wife.
During World War II, Lawrence served in the U.S. Merchant Marine and wrote that service branch's official theme song, "Heave Ho! My Lads! Heave Ho!" He wrote new lyrics for what became "Beyond the Sea," popularized by Bobby Darin.
Lawrence also wrote "Hold My Hand" the Oscar-nominated theme song for the 1954 comedy, "Susan Slept Here" with music by Richard Myers and the theme song of the 1965 release, "The Pawnbroker" with music by Quincy Jones.
In the 1980s, Lawrence was co-producer of the off-Broadway hit, "Other People's Money" and on Broadway, he co-produced "Lena Horne, The Lady and Her Music" and "Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," which introduced Cher and Kathy Bates to Broadway.
He published two books on his life and career in recent years, "They All Sang My Songs" and "Between the Sheets: The Stories Behind My Songs."
"He had an amazing career that touched a lot of kinds of music," said Jim Steinblatt, assistant vice president special projects with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, an organization that protects the rights of entertainment writers. "He wrote lyrics that meant a lot to people."
Lawrence was a prominent art patron, owning an important collection of American, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Roman, African and Pre-Columbian artifacts which he found on his trips around the world. He served on the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art and had lent his art collection to museums throughout the U.S. and Europe as well as the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Lawrence, who lived in West Redding, is survived by his adopted son, Richard Lawrence, also of West Redding.
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