Mitchell ParishPut words to 'Star Dust'NEW YORK...


April 02, 1993

NEW YORK — Mitchell Parish

Put words to 'Star Dust'

NEW YORK -- Mitchell Parish, who put words to Hoagy Carmichael's "Star Dust" and watched it become the most-recorded song ever written, is dead at 92.

Mr. Parish set words to the tunes of some of the nation's greatest popular musicians, notably Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. Among the enduring standards he produced were "Deep Purple," "Moonlight Serenade," "Sophisticated Lady," "Don't Be That Way," and "Stars Fell On Alabama."

He died Wednesday night at New York Hospital, where he was admitted on March 14 after a stroke, said hospital spokeswoman Kathy Robinson. He also had cancer, she said.

Mr. Parish's best songs transcended changing times and styles.

His first success was "Sweet Lorraine," composed by Cliff Burwell in 1928. It was a hit when Rudy Vallee sang it to flappers and, three decades later, Nat King Cole made it a favorite of the Eisenhower years.

Among the smash versions of "Star Dust" was Willie Nelson's in 1978. When Mr. Nelson sang it at the Austin Opera House in Texas, he recalled, "there was a kind of stunned silence in the crowd for a moment, and then they exploded with cheering and whistling."

The country singer's rendition stayed on the charts more than 2 1/2 years. Artie Shaw's 1940 recording sold 2 million copies and led jukebox polls during World War II.

A Broadway revue, "Stardust," in 1987, paid tribute to Parish and more than 30 of his songs.

Mr. Carmichael, who died in 1981, wrote "Star Dust" in 1927. When the tune came before Mr. Parish in 1929, his reaction was tepid.

"I saw the manuscript and I didn't like it," Mr. Parish told the Associated Press in 1991. "To me it sounded like another swing tune."

But a slow-tempo arrangement inspired him to write a verse that began: "And now the purple dusk of twilight time steals across the meadows of my heart . . ."

Then, for the chorus: "Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely night dreaming of a song . . ."

The song -- written "Stardust," one word, in some versions -- has been recorded some 1,300 times and its lyrics translated into 30 languages, music scholars say.

Mr. Parish's family immigrated from Lithuania when he was months old. He displayed a talent for writing as he grew up on the Lower East Side, but he hoped for a career in medicine when he enrolled at Columbia University.

His plans changed, and so did his first name, from Michael to Mitchell, when Tin Pan Alley publisher Jack Mills offered him $12 a week at age 19 to write songs for Mills Music.

Mr. Parish said the writing at first involved "additional lyrics for a song that was already popular, because in the days of vaudeville, different versions of songs were written for specific performers and occasions."

Thus, he was to recall, was born a Parish song that gets no play these days: "I'm Going to Sleep With One Eye Open So I Can See You in My Dreams."

Over the years, he turned numerous instrumentals into vocals, providing words for such popular Leroy Anderson compositions as "Sleigh Ride," "Blue Tango," "The Syncopated Clock" and "Belle of the Ball."

He completed his interrupted education at New York University, where he received a degree in English literature in 1950.

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