Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrote some of America's most popular songs and shared Academy Awards for "Buttons and Bows," "Mona Lisa" and "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)."
In a collaboration that began in the late 1930s, Livingston — who provided the melodies — and Evans — who wrote the lyrics — wrote 26 songs that sold more than a million records each. Recordings of their songs, including the holiday-season perennial "Silver Bells," have sold almost 500 million copies.
Livingston and Evans wrote songs for at least 100 movies and earned seven Oscar nominations ("Tammy" and "Dear Heart" among them). Their credits include three Broadway productions and the themes for several TV series, including "Bonanza" and "Mr. Ed."
They met as students at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and played together in bands on cruise ships during school vacations. In 1937, the two young men moved to New York City, where they began their songwriting collaboration.
In 1944, they relocated to Hollywood and scored a hit with Betty Hutton's recording of "Stuff Like That There." Placed under contract to Paramount Studios in 1945, the songwriting team earned the first of their Academy Award nominations for "The Cat and the Canary," which was used in the 1945 film "Why Girls Leave Home."
A year later, they scored a major hit with the title song for "To Each His Own," a 1946 film starring Olivia de Havilland.
"Buttons and Bows," which was introduced by Bob Hope in "The Paleface" in 1948, earned Livingston and Evans their first Oscar and became a hit for Dinah Shore. They received their second Oscar for "Mona Lisa" in 1950 for the film "Captain Carey, U.S.A."
The songwriting team left Paramount in 1955, and while working freelance won their third Oscar for "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," which was sung by Doris Day in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much." (Day later used it as her theme song for her 1960s TV sitcom).
Evans and Livingston earned Oscar nominations for the theme to "Tammy" (1957), "Almost in Your Arms," the love theme from "Houseboat" (1958), and for their lyrics to Henry Mancini's "Dear Hearts" (1964).
The pair, who contributed two songs to the 1979 Broadway musical "Sugar Babies," continued to be fairly active into the 1980s. They wrote special material for their old pal Hope and for charity shows. Livingston also oversaw his music publishing company in Nashville, which was run by his daughter, Travlyn Talmadge.
Meanwhile, royalties for their songs continued to roll in — recordings of "Silver Bells" continued to sell 3 million copies annually. But times — and tastes — had changed.
As Livingston told Billboard in 2000, "We wrote every day until rock came in. If George Gershwin were alive today, he'd be standing on the corner with a tin cup."
Their last project, publicist Frank Liberman told the Times, was "Michael Feinstein Sings the Livingston and Evans Song Book."
Livingston died Oct. 17, 2001, of pneumonia at 86. Evans is still living.
|1945||Best Song||"The Cat and the Canary" from Why Girls Leave Home||Nomination*|
|1948||Best Song||"Buttons and Bows" from The Paleface||Win*|
|1950||Best Song||"Mona Lisa" from Captain Carey, U.S.A.||Win*|
|1956||Best Song||"Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" from The Man Who Knew Too Much||Win*|
|1957||Best Song||"Tammy" from Tammy and the Bachelor||Nomination*|
|1958||Best Song||"Almost in Your Arms" from Houseboat||Nomination*|
|1964||Best Song||"Dear Heart" from Dear Heart||Nomination*|