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Alex Kramer

Alex Kramer
10-10-2014

b. 30 May 1903, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, d. 10 February 1998, Westport, Connecticut, USA. A songwriter with a small, but important catalogue, Kramer studied at the McGill Conservatory of Music in Montreal and led orchestras on local radio stations, before moving to the USA in the late 30s. There, he met and married Joan Whitney (b. Zoe Parenteau, 26 June 1914, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 12 July 1990, Westport, Connecticut, USA), who had been making a name for herself, singing in clubs and on radio.

During the 40s and 50s, they wrote a string of popular songs, among which were some of the biggest hits of the day. Their first success came in 1941 with ‘It All Comes Back To Me Now’ and ‘My Sister And I’ (both written with Hy Zaret), and ‘High On A Windy Hill’. Gene Krupa and Hal Kemp made bestselling records of the former, while Jimmy Dorsey And His Orchestra (with vocals by Bob Eberly) took the last two songs to number 1 in the US. In 1944 Whitney and Kramer collaborated with lyricist Mack David on the lively ‘It’s Love-Love-Love’, which was featured in the Larry Parks movie Stars On Parade, and became extremely popular on record for Guy Lombardo. They worked with David again on ‘Candy’, one of their most engaging songs, and another number 1, this time in a duet by Jo Stafford and Johnny Mercer in 1945.

After enjoying further success with the jivey ‘Money Is The Root Of All Evil’ (the Andrews Sisters, and later a big hit for the Viscounts), the couple formed their own publishing company in 1947. From then on the hits continued to flow with such as ‘Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens’ (Louis Jordan), ‘Love Somebody’ (a number 1 for Doris Day with Buddy Clark), ‘Comme Ci, Comme Ca’ (English words by Kramer and Whitney, music by Bruno Coquatrix), ‘Far Away Places (with Strange Sounding Names)’ (popular for Bing Crosby and Margaret Whiting in 1949, and for Perry Como), ‘You’ll Never Get Away’ (with Zaret), and ‘No Other Arms, No Other Lips’ (with Zaret). The Chordettes’ version of the latter song was Whitney and Kramer’s last US Top 40 hit (to date) in 1959. Between 1954 and 1959 Kramer was the director of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. He also wrote scores for several films including The Second Greatest Sex, Meet Miss Bobby Socks, Far Away Places and Come With Me My Honey. In 1991, the Canadian Broadcasting Company paid tribute to Whitney and Kramer in an interview which was illustrated by some of their best-known songs. One of the featured numbers, ‘Candy’, was also used in the same year on the soundtrack of the hit movie Bugsy, sung as it was originally, more than 45 years ago, by Jo Stafford and Johnny Mercer.

Lyricist Hy Zaret (b. 21 August 1907, New York, USA, d. 2 July 2007, Westport, Connecticut, USA), sometime collaborator of Whitney and Kramer, practised as a lawyer before concentrating on writing songs. His varied output has included numbers such as ‘Young, Warm and Wonderful’, ‘The Lass With The Delicate Air’, ‘What Makes A Good American?’, ‘So Long For A While’, ‘Song Of The Army Nurses Corps’, as well as a radio operetta and an opera. In 1945, his novelty, ‘One Meat Ball’ (with Lou Singer), became popular for Josh White and the Andrews Sisters, and 10 years later his dramatic ballad, ‘Unchained Melody’ (music by Alex North), was an international hit for Les Baxter and Al Hibbler, and gave British balladeer Jimmy Young his first UK chart-topper. The Righteous Brothers revived ‘Unchained Melody’ in 1964, and their version became enormously popular all over again in 1990 after it was extensively featured in the Patrick Swayze movie Ghost. Five years later the song returned to number 1 in the UK in a version by Robson And Jerome, two actors from the popular UK television series Soldier, Soldier.