Sid Tepper, who co-wrote more than 40 songs specifically for Elvis Presley and hundreds of others performed by Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Dean Martin, Eartha Kitt, Perry Como, Jeff Beck and many more, died April 24 at his home in Miami Beach. He was 96.
His daughter Jackie announced the death but did not cite a specific cause.
Although Mr. Tepper and his songwriting partner Roy C. Bennett wrote extensively for Presley, they never met him. All their songs for him were for his movies, including the title number for “G.I. Blues” (1960) and “The Lady Loves Me,” sung as a poolside duet with Ann-Margret in “Viva Las Vegas” (1964).
By the time they wrote for Presley, Mr. Tepper and Bennett (who also wrote under the name Roy Brodsky) were already established songwriters. Their first big hit, “Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” was recorded by Vaughn Monroe in 1948. Over the years it was covered by Sinatra (on a radio show), Andy Williams, Paul Anka, Wayne Newton and others, including Vic Dana, who got it back on the best-selling charts in 1965.
Presley needed the songwriting duo’s kind of material.
“When Elvis started to make the movies, they needed non-rock-and-roll writers, people who could come up with special material songs and ballads,” Mr. Tepper said in a 2005 interview for the book “Elvis Presley: Writing for the King,” by Ken Sharp.
Mr. Tepper and Bennett were given movie scripts and asked to write for specific scenes. But they were not the only songwriters approached — others were asked to submit songs for the same scenes.
“The way it worked was that it was actually a competition,” Mr. Tepper said in the Sharp interview. “To be honest, it was a little downer feeling that we had to compete with the other writers because Roy and I had a life before Elvis. . . . We wrote songs for all the stars of our generation.”
Mr. Tepper and Bennett, who both wrote music and lyrics, often beat out the competition. On “Blue Hawaii” (1961) alone, they have five credited songs.
They were especially good at writing for specific situations. “The Lady Loves Me” comes at a point in “Viva Las Vegas” where Presley’s flirtations with Ann-Margret are getting him nowhere, though he remains supremely confident.
I’m her ideal, her heart’s desire
Under that ice she’s burning like fire
To which she shoots back:
The gentleman has savoir-faire
As much as an elephant or a bear
Tepper and Bennett never had a big hit with an Elvis song — many of them were novelty numbers. For “Girls! Girls! Girls!” (1962), they wrote “Song of the Shrimp” with lyrics from the point of view of a shrimp.
He said one of his favorite Presley songs that they wrote was from “Kissin’ Cousins” (1964) called “Once Is Enough.”
All you got is one life
Living once can be rough
But if you live every day all the way
Once is enough
Mr. Tepper was born on June 25, 1918, in Brooklyn. He wrote poetry while in school but got involved with music in the Army, where he was assigned to Special Services, the division that entertained troops.
After World War II, he teamed with his childhood friend Bennett. During their career, they wrote more than 300 songs. They had a 1958 hit with “Kewpie Doll,” sung by Perry Como. Their novelty holiday song “Nuttin’ for Christmas” was sung by numerous performers, as wide-ranging as Kitt and Stan Freberg.
In Britain, Cliff Richard had a hit with their “The Young Ones” in 1961. And the Beatles album “30 weeks in 1963” includes Mr. Tepper and Bennett’s “Glad All Over” (not to be confused with the Dave Clark Five hit of the same title), also recorded by Carl Perkins and Jeff Beck.
But Mr. Tepper always had a special place in his heart for their first hit, written after a tiff with his wife, Lillian. “I sent her some red roses and wrote on the card, ‘I’m sorry, red roses for a blue lady,’” he told the Miami Herald in 2008. “And about a week later, I thought, ‘What a great idea for a title.’”
In addition to his daughter Jackie, Mr. Tepper is survived by four other children; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Lillian Tepper died in 2005.