Obituary:Evelyn Danzig

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The Independent Online
In the annals of Tin Pan Alley, there are many examples of "One- Hit Wonders" - songwriters who only ever managed a single enduring success. Einar A. Swan's was "When Your Lover Has Gone", Edward C. Redding's was "The End of a Love Affair", Brooks Bowman's was "East of the Sun and West of the Moon", Oscar Levant's was "Blame it on My Youth", and Evelyn Danzig's was the affecting folk-style ballad "Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair)".

Born in Texas, Danzig showed early musical promise, and was sent East to study at the Academy of Holy Name Conservatory at Albany, New York. She later studied piano and composition in New York City with the Polish teacher, pianist and composer Sigismund Stojowski. As half of a two-piano team, she played on many radio stations. She composed incidental music for a theatrical adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, but what she really wanted to do was to write songs.

In 1949 Danzig co-wrote "Scarlet Ribbons" with Jack Segal, the future lyricist of "When Sunny Gets Blue". Their ballad was first recorded by Juanita Hall, who was then appearing on Broadway as the original "Bloody Mary" in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Neither Hall's recording, nor those made at about the some time by Dinah Shore for Columbia or Jo Stafford for Decca, had any success.

In 1952 Harry Belafonte signed a contract with RCA Victor. His first recording session, made with an 18-piece orchestra, produced two flops. A second session, made with a five-piece combo, was equally unsuccessful. His third, made with just a male chorus and Millard Thomas on guitar, included "Scarlet Ribbons". It was released shortly before Belafonte began his first important night-club booking, at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas. He featured "Scarlet Ribbons", and it went down so well that he made it an important part of his act. In 1956 RCA Victor, yielding to public pressure, re-issued Belafonte's four-year-old recording, and the song finally became a major success, with other artists rushing to record it.

In 1959 the Browns revived it for RCA, reaching the Top 20. "Scarlet Ribbons" has had well over a hundred separate recordings, by such disparate artists as Doris Day, Cliff Richard, Jim Reeves, Acker Bilk, Roy Orbison, Vera Lynn, Kenneth McKellar, Val Doonican, Jeri Southern, Perry Como, Emil Ford and the Checkmates, Gracie Fields with Jess Yates at the organ, Duane Eddy, the Johnny Mann Singers, the Ray Charles Singers, David and Jonathan, Joe and Eddie, Nina and Frederik, Dick and Deedee, Ken Dodd, Gene Vincent, the Bachelors, Mary O'Hara, Slim Whitman, Nana Mouskouri, Joan Baez, Sinead O'Connor, Frank Ifield, the Band of the Black Watch and the London Welsh Male Voice Choir.

Although her songs "Rippling Stream", "Half a Heart", "Simple, Simple, Simple", "Midnight in Manhattan", "I Miss the Boy" and "We're All Kids at Christmas" failed to achieve popularity, more than 40 years of royalties from "Scarlet Ribbons" were sufficient to keep Evelyn Danzig comfortably until the age of 94.

Dick Vosburgh

Evelyn Danzig, pianist and composer: born Waco, Texas 16 January 1902; died Los Angeles 26 July 1996.