Doris Fisher

Writer of 'That Ole Devil Called Love'

Saturday 15 February 2003 01:00

Doris Fisher, songwriter: born New York 2 May 1915; married 1947 Charles Gershenson (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved); died Los Angeles 15 January 2003.

Doris Fisher was a member of a remarkable songwriting family. She wrote "You Always Hurt the One You Love" and "That Ole Devil Called Love"; her father, Fred Fisher, wrote "Your Feet's Too Big" and "Chicago", and her brothers, Dan and Marvin, wrote, respectively, "Good Morning Heartache" and "When Sunny Gets Blue".

Her father, a German national born in 1875, arrived in New York in 1900 and, despite his faltering English, set about writing songs in the newly established Tin Pan Alley. In 1913 he had a major success instead with the popular song "Peg o' My Heart". His daughter Doris was born in 1915 and she was intrigued by her father's career. At first, she saw herself as a singer and she worked in clubs and on the radio as Penny Wise and the Wise Guys.

In 1938 she wrote the music for "Tutti Frutti", a novelty song about chopped fruit for Slim Gaillard, who recorded it as part of Slim and Slam. During the Second World War, the tune acquired crude lyrics. In 1955 Little Richard, who only knew the dirty version, cleaned it up for a hit single and claimed the songwriting credit.

Fred Fisher lost interest in songwriting in his sixties, but in 1940 Doris encouraged him to try again and the result was their joint composition "Whispering Grass", which became a hit for the Ink Spots.

Doris Fisher's regular songwriting partner was the lyricist Allan Roberts, although she often contributed to the lyric as well. In 1944 alone they wrote "Angelina" (Louis Prima), "Good, Good, Good" (Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters), "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall" (Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots), "Invitation to the Blues" (Ella Mae Morse) and "You Always Hurt the One You Love" (Mills Brothers). Other hits included "Tampico" (June Christy), "That Ole Devil Called Love" (Billie Holiday) and "Tired" (Pearl Bailey).

Fisher composed the music for several films, including Gilda (1946), which is famous for Rita Hayworth's removal of her elbow-length black gloves during "Put the Blame on Mame", and The Lady from Shanghai (1948), starring Hayworth and her then husband Orson Welles. She also scored the horse opera The Strawberry Roan (1948) for Gene Autry and assisted with a film biography of her father, Oh You Beautiful Doll (1949).

In 1949 Fisher left the music industry to marry and raise a family, but her songs continued to attract a steady income. A comic version of "Whispering Grass" by Windsor Davies and Don Estelle topped the UK charts in 1975, and, in 1985, the torch song "That Ole Devil Called Love" gave Alison Moyet her highest chart placing. In 2000, Doris Fisher put her best-known songs into a folio called You Always Hurt the One You Love.

Spencer Leigh

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