Roy C. Bennett, a songwriter who, with Sid Tepper, wrote songs for an extraordinarily wide range of artists including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beatles, died July 2 in Queens, New York. He was 97.
The duo wrote 45 songs for Elvis alone, including most of the songs in the film “Blue Hawaii.” In 2002, Bennett and Tepper were honored in Memphis for their part in Presley’s career.
Many of the songs they penned – most notably, “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” – are what the industry calls “evergreens.” One of their songs, “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane,” from 1954, was recently featured on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
Bennett began his career writing songs at the age of 11 — with Tepper, who was to become his decades-long partner. Tepper died in April at the age of 96.
In his autobiography Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones fame makes note of one of their songs (“Travelin’ Light,” recorded by both Cliff Richard and Herman’s Hermits). It was among the records that influenced Richards early on and was an important part of what he and others referred to as “the Awakening – the birth of rock and roll on U.K. shores.”
In addition to Armstrong, Ellington, Charles, Sinatra, the Beatles and Presley, Tepper and Bennett also wrote songs for Carl Perkins, Jeff Beck, Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Ray Charles, Cliff Richard, Eddie Arnold, Marty Robbins, Slim Whitman, Bert Kaempfert, Wayne Newton, Robert Goulet, Dean Martin, Dinah Shore, Nancy Wilson, Connie Francis, Sarah Vaughn, Guy Lombardo, Eartha Kitt, the Ink Spots, Louis Prima, Arthur Godfrey, Tommy Dorsey and Lawrence Welk.
Among the songwriters’ hits were “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane,” “Kiss of Fire,” “Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart,” “Kewpie Doll,” “G.I. Blues,” “Suzy Snowflake,” “Puppet on a String,” “Stairway of Love,” “Nuttin’ for Christmas,” “The Woodchuck Song,” “Glad All Over,” Don’t Come Running Back to Me,” “New Orleans” and the Elvis-Ann-Margret duet “The Lady Loves Me.”
Bennett was born Israel Brodsky – known as Izzy — to a poor family in Brooklyn. He was a quiet boy, but his singing ability was evident at an early age, and early on, he was torn between his two major talents, singing and writing. His vocation was songwriting, but his avocation, to which he was passionately dedicated for decades, was choral singing. In the 1970s he published a book on the art of choral singing.
He went to City College in New York but returned in his mid 40s to graduate, making that final push because he thought it was important to set an example for his children.
They won a BMI Award for 1 million plays of “Kiss of Fire”and a Country Music Award for Eddie Arnold’s rendition of “Red Roses for a Blue Lady.”
His creativity did not diminish in his old age. Not that long ago, he finished a new composition – a love song entitled “Cuando” (or “When”), put to the melody of “La Paloma.”
Bennett is survived by his wife, Ruth Bennett; two sons, Keith and Neil Bennett; and three grandchildren.