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Irving Gordon (2/14/1915 - 12/01/1996)

Lyricist, Composer

Irving Gordon was one of the lyricists who worked for the agency of Irving Mills, who was Duke Ellington’s manager. He and Mills wrote the lyrics for two Ellington tunes, including “Prelude to a Kiss” (1938). Gordon is credited with several songs for which he wrote both words and music: “Be Anything (But Be Mine)” (1952), “Sinner or Saint” (1952) (both recorded by Sarah Vaughan), “What Will I Tell My Heart” which was a hit for Bing Crosby in 1937, and “Unforgettable,” made famous by Nat “King” Cole in 1931.

Frank Sinatra recorded his collaboration with Lee Lester, “Christmas Dreaming” (1947), and “Unbelievable” (1954), which he wrote with Jerry Livingston, became another Cole recording.

Gordon was born in Brooklyn, where he studied violin as a child. It was while he was working at a resort in the Catskills, writing parodies, that he began writing lyrics. Fortunately, he lived long enough to see the 1991 Unforgettable album of Cole’s daughter, Natalie, win multiple Grammys. The tribute album featured her singing with her father’s recorded version of the song.

-- Sandra Burlingame

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