Roy C. Bennett, hit songwriter

NEW YORK • Roy C. Bennett, who with his partner, Sid Tepper, wrote songs that were recorded by a wide roster of mid-century pop singers, including the titles Red Roses For A Blue Lady, Kiss Of Fire and The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane, died on July 2 in New York. He was 96.

His son Neil confirmed the death, saying, when asked for the cause, that his father "just ran out of steam".

Bennett and Tepper, who died last April, collaborated on the words and music for their songs, though Bennett, a self-taught pianist, was the sole musician. They turned out catchy melodies and easygoing lyrics.

Red Roses For A Blue Lady, written in the late 1940s and inspired by a fight Tepper had with his new wife, was their first hit and probably their biggest one, and later covered by well-known singers including Dean Martin, Wayne Newton, Pat Boone, Bobby Darin and The Count Basie Orchestra.

Kiss Of Fire, a tune the two men adapted (under the pseudonyms Robert Allen and Lester Hill) from an Argentine tango in 1952 with lyrics about irresistible desire - "Give me your lips, the lips you only let me borrow/Love me tonight and let the devil take tomorrow" - was recorded by Louis Armstrong and Billy Eckstine, as well as Connie Francis, who sang it in Spanish.

Naughty Lady, a tongue-in-cheek portrait of a misbehaving girl (who turns out to be nine days old) was recorded in the 1950s by the Ames Brothers, among others, and in 2007 by The Roches. It was heard recently on TV show Dancing With The Stars.

Bennett and Tepper wrote many songs for Elvis Presley's films, including the title song of G.I. Blues (1960), Stay Away from Stay Away, Joe (1968), Puppet On A String from Girl Happy (1965) and The Lady Loves Me from Viva Las Vegas (1964).

In his 2010 memoir, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones cited Travelin' Light, a country song by Bennett and Tepper that was recorded by Cliff Richard, as a song he listened to as a teenager.

Bennett was born Israel Brodsky in Brooklyn to Jewish immigrant parents. He changed his name as an adult, picking its parts from the telephone book.

He dropped out of college and, in his 40s, earned a bachelor's degree as an example to his children.

He married Ruth Stone in 1948. She survives him, as do his twin sons whose birth inspired the Bennett-Tepper song Twenty Tiny Fingers, which became a hit in Britain in 1955 for a group called the Stargazers.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline 'Roy C. Bennett, hit songwriter'. Print Edition | Subscribe