Irving Gordon was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 14, 1915 and as a child, studied violin. After attending public schools in New York City, he went to work in the Catskill Mountains at some of the resort hotels in the area. While working the resorts, he took to writing parody lyrics to some of the popular songs of the day. He has been credited with writing “Who’s On First” made famous by Abbott and Costello, according to his son William.
In the 1930s, he took a job with the music-publishing firm headed by talent agent Irving Mills, at first writing only lyrics but subsequently writing music as well. Together they wrote two songs for Duke Ellington – Please Forgive Me and Prelude To A Kiss and co-wrote Blue Prelude with Ellington.
After writing Mister and Mississippi, a Patti Page hit, Irving decided he enjoyed puns on state names, and some years later wrote Delaware, a Perry Como hit. He also went on to write for Bing Crosby, Eddy Arnold and Billie Holiday. But he is perhaps best known for his song, “Unforgettable” recorded by Nat King Cole in 1951 and then three Grammys in 1992 by his daughter Natalie Cole, in which Gordon himself received a Grammy. Nat’s version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000.
In the 1940’s he moved to Los Angeles where he spent the rest of his life continually writing and composing and is noted for his contribution in music and lyrics of the Americana genre. Songwriter Irving Gordon passed away in his home of cancer on December 1, 1996.
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