Noel Regney, 80, who wrote the lyrics for the Singing Nun's 1963 No. 1 hit "Dominique" and a Cold War plea for peace that became the Christmas classic "Do You Hear What I Hear?" died Nov. 24 in Danbury, Conn.
He had Pick's disease, a degenerative brain illness that causes dementia.
"Dominique," an up-tempo ballad sung to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar, spent five weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. charts in 1963 and turned the guitar-playing Jeanine Deckers, a Belgian nun known as Soeur Sourire (Sister Smile), into an international celebrity.
Mr. Regney co-wrote "Do You Hear What I Hear?" with Gloria Shayne, his wife at the time. Among their other popular songs are "Sweet Little Darlin'," which was recorded by Jo Stafford; "Another Spring, Another Love," which became a standard for Marlene Dietrich; and "What's the Use of Crying," which was recorded by Eddie Fisher.
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" was inspired by seeing two mothers with their smiling babies in strollers on the sidewalks of New York during the tense days of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Its final stanza includes the phrase: "Pray for peace, people everywhere."
A quarter-million copies of the original recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale were released just after Thanksgiving in 1962 and sold out within a week.
A year later, Bing Crosby scored a big hit with his version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Over the years, it has been recorded by Perry Como, Mahalia Jackson and scores of other artists and has appeared on more than 120 albums and in versions ranging from jazz to reggae.
Although Shayne usually wrote the lyrics and Mr. Regney composed the music for their hundreds of songs, Mr. Regney originally wrote the words and music for their popular Christmas tune. When he was done, however, he was unhappy with his own melody and asked Shayne to write music for it.
Mr. Regney, who was born in Strasbourg, France, attended the university and the conservatory in Strasbourg, the Salzburg Mozarteum and the Conservatoire National de Paris.
After serving in the French Resistance during World War II, he became musical director of the Indochinese Service of Radio France and worked as director of the Lido nightclub in Paris. He left France in 1951 to go on a world tour as musical director for French singer Lucienne Boyer.
After settling in New York, he was an arranger, composer and conductor for television shows, wrote music for radio commercial jingles and married Shayne, who was playing piano in a New York hotel when they met. They divorced in the 1970s.