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Ray Evans & Jay Livingston

The hopelessly insecure aspiring songwriters of the world could conceivably create giant mounds of waste paper as they search for the perfect lyrical phrase. This image is a good way of introducing a scrap paper dealer from Salamanca, New York, active at the close of the 19th century. The connection might seem like a parable out of Lao Tzu, but it is still the sort of wisdom that might make songwriting failures feel a little better as they wad up another piece of paper and head out the door for their restaurant jobs. This scrap paper dealer had a son named Ray Evans. The son developed a knack for writing lyrics and became a songwriter. A list of recordings that have subsequently been made of lyrics seriously rivals for sheer bulk the work of any lyricist in music history. Good old "pap" got to quit hauling scrap. Not much of a rhyme; surely Evans could have done better. He also could do much better in specifically describing the success he has achieved, apparently enjoying the tracking of royalty figures as an entertaining hobby. In the late '90s, he supplied biographers with the following details: the team of Evans and Livingston had 26 songs that sold a million or more copies and total sales of their songs are well over 400 million. The success of Evans, whose most famous songs include the ballad "Mona Lisa," the jingle of "Silver Bells" every Christmas, and the philosophical "Que Será, Será," ties handily into the "partner" theory of songwriting. In this scenario, people that have a knack with writing words to songs find a partner that is just as good at creating music, their meeting preordained as if destiny was tied in with publishing and performing rights' empires. For Evans it was Jay Livingston. They were in the same fraternity at the University of Pennsylvania, where they met in 1934. Musically, their collaboration began as sidemen in dance bands. The pair worked together as members of a college band that gigged on cruise ships. In practically every case, their hit records began as songs written for films, their period of greatest success spanning from the '40s through the '60s. They thus concocted their memorable songfare out an endless variety of on-screen activity. One day it might be the blonde beauty Doris Day inspiring them, the next it would be nothing more or less than a talking horse, a good way of neighing in with the fact that the duo wrote the theme for the television hit Mr. Ed. When Evans worked apart from Livingston, he was hardly hanging out in a barn. "Dear Heart," a charming Evans ballad that was a hit for Nat King Cole, featured music by a fellow named Henry Mancini. The city of Salamanca created a venue called the Ray Evans Theater in his honor. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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