Jay Livingston working with his partner Ray Evans wrote seven Academy Award nominated songs and won three Oscars. Together they wrote music for 100 movies. Their Oscar winning songs include "Buttons and Bows'', "Mona Lisa'' , and "Que Sera, Sera''. Livingston and Ray also wrote the hit songs "The Cat and the Canary'', "Tammy'', "Almost in Your Arms'', "Dear Heart' and the Christmas class Silver Bells' For television Livingston and Evans wrote the theme songs for "Bonanza'' and "Mr. Ed''. Twenty-six songs written by Livingston and Evans have each sold over a million records or more. Total sales of records with their songs are estimated to exceed 400 million copies. Jay Livingston is an honored member of the Song Writers Hall of Fame.
Jacob Harold Levinson was born in 1915 in McDonald, Pa 15 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. His immigrant parents owned a shoe store. His father, Maurice, immigrated from Russia and his mother, Rose, from Germany. Rose encouraged all three of her children to learn musical instruments. Jacob studied piano with Harry Archer, Harry Archer, a well-known bandleader and 1920s Broadway songwriter. His younger brother Alan studied violin, clarinet, and saxophone. Traveling into Pittsburgh Jay and Alan sat for hours watching movies and live shows at the Stanley Theater that were emceed by William Powell. While in high school the Livingston brothers performed with bands around Pittsburgh. Alan Livingston later became the President of Capitol Records where he created the character Bozo and signed the Beatles. Jay graduated from McDonald High School in 1933.
University of Pennsylvania DaysJay studied journalism at the University of Pennsylvania until his graduation in 1937. He also took courses in composition and orchestration from Harl McDonald. While at Penn Jay played in a college orchestra called the "Continentals" that was led by his brother Alan who also attended Penn. During their college summers the Continental Jay performed on cruise ships that took them to 36 countries. At Penn Jay met fellow student Ray Evens who joined the Continentals as a sax and clarinet player. Ray and Jay began a lifelong song writing collaboration that brought them fame on Broadway, in films, and on television.
Tin Pan Alley and Broadway
Graduating from Penn Jay and Ray moved to New York City to pursue a career on Tin Pan Alley writing songs for Broadway stars. To pay the rent Evens took an accounting job and Jay became a piano accompanist and musical arranger at NBC. Their song writing break came when Jay worked as a rehearsal pianist for Olsen and Johnson's 1938 Broadway revue, "Hellzapoppin." Their song “G’bye Now” was included in the show and became a top 10 hit record for the Horace Heidt's orchestra. In 1941 they wrote songs for the Broadway musical “Son’s O’ Run. Their Broadway work ended when Jay enlisted in the army to serve in World War II from 1942 to 1943. Ray Evans worked in an aircraft factory during the war.
Hollywood Contract Writers
After World War II Jay Livingston and Ray Evans resumed their song writing partnership. Their mentor, song writer Johnny Mercer, summoned them to Hollywood 1944. They signed a ten year contract with Paramont Studios in 1945. In their first year at the studio they were nominated for their first Oscar for ''The Cat and the Canary'.
After their Paramount contract expired in 1955 they freelanced for several Hollywood studios writing songs and film scores. They wrote for the movies until 1966.
Amazing Hit Song
The Livingston and Evans song "To Each His Own" that was the number one song of 1946. The song was so popular that five versions of the song were on the Billboard Top 10 in the same week. The Inks Spots, the Modernaires, Tony Marin, Freddie Martin, and Eddie Howard all were in the top 10
Are You Out of Your Mind....
In 1951 Livingston and Evans were asked to write a Christmas song of the Bob Hope movie "The Lemon Drop Kid". Jay came home a played the song he titled "Tinkle Bells: for his wife. Hearing the title of the song Mrs. Livingston exclaimed ''Are you out of your mind? Do you know what Tinkle means?'' He changed the title to "Silver Bells" the following day before Bob Hope sang it in the movie. It became a huge hit that has been recorded by dozens of artists. Jay referred to Silver Bells as "our annuity". As of 1995 140 million copies had been sold.
Back to Broadway
Livingston and Evans returned to Broadway in 1958 when they they wrote their score for "Oh Captain, a stage adaptation of the film The Captain's Paradise. They scored Let it Ride, a musical adaptation of Three Men On A Horse in 1961..
Television Theme Song Writers
As their movie work lessened er they music and theme songs for several television series. Their best known songs are the themes for ''Bonanza'', ''Mr. Ed", and the Bugs Bunny show theme "This Is It." They also wrote for the Doris Day Show, The Good Guys, Tommy, Lawman, The Bugs Bunny Show, Beetle Baily, and Krazy Kat. Jay sang the Mr. Ed them ''A horse is a horse/of course,f course . . .''
Livingston and Evans final project was the recording "Michael Feinstein Sings the Livingston and Evans Song Book" that was released in 2002.
Jay was honored by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for "the most performed music for film and TV for 1996.'' Jay returned to Pittsburgh in September of 1987 to perform in the show "Purely Pittsburgh" as the Benedem Center. Livingston and Walker received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995. The State of Pennsylvania erected a historical marker in honor of Jay in McDonald, Pa on October 7, 2004.
Jay Livingston passed away at age 86 on October, 19, 2001 in Los Angeles, California