Thomas Durden,79, who wrote the lyrics to one of Elvis...

Deaths Elsewhere

October 22, 1999

Thomas Durden,79, who wrote the lyrics to one of Elvis Presley's early big hits, "Heartbreak Hotel," died Sunday at home in Houghton Lake, Mich. Mr. Durden met Presley as a result of the song. Presley called him "sir" and sent him Christmas cards to show his appreciation, said his stepson, John White.

He co-wrote "Heartbreak Hotel" with Mae Boren Axton of Nashville, Tenn., who died in 1997. For reasons never explained, Presley also was given writing credit even though it was the work of the others.

In 1956, he was single and performing with a band in Jacksonville, Fla., when he came across a newspaper account of a man who had committed suicide, Mr. White said. The man left a note that said, "I walk a lonely street," and Mr. Durden used it as the basis for "Heartbreak Hotel," which begins:

"Well, since my baby left me,

"I found a new place to dwell.

"Down at the end of lonely street

"At Heartbreak Hotel."

In a 1982 interview, he spoke of the impact "Heartbreak Hotel" had on his life.

"I wish I had 12 more songs just like it," he said. "It has paid the rent for more than 20 years, but you can't get rich writing songs unless you have a lot of big ones."

Ann North, 81, mother of Iran-Contra figure Oliver North, died Oct. 8 at her daughter's home in San Bernardino, Calif., of complications from a stroke. Born in Oswego, N.Y., she married Oliver Clay North in 1942 and raised their four children in the Columbia County village of Philmont, N.Y. Their son, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, became well known while serving on the National Security Council staff during the Reagan administration.

Ella Mae Morse,75, whose classic 1942 recording, "Cow Cow Boogie," became Capitol Records' first million-selling single, died Saturday in Bullhead City, Ariz., of respiratory problems after a long illness.

The Texas-born singer blended boogie-woogie, blues, jazz, swing and country influences in the 1940s and 1950s, helping to create a pioneering "pop" sound that would later grow into rock 'n' roll. Elvis Presley praised her for teaching him how to sing. She earned 10 gold records before she stopped recording in 1957, but continued performing until 1987.

Sir Ralph Grey, 89, a former colonial administrator and the last governor of Northern Ireland -- from 1968 until 1973 -- before Britain imposed direct rule on the province, died Sunday of undisclosed causes.

Dr. John G. Clark,73, a Harvard University psychiatrist who raised awareness of the influence of religious sects, died Oct. 7. During the 1970s, he studied newly emerging or unknown groups like the Unification Church, the Church of Scientology and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He also counseled more than 500 former members of the groups and their families. The Church of Scientology objected to some of Dr. Clark's assertions and took him to court. In 1988, Dr. Clark settled with the group for an undisclosed amount and agreed never to talk publicly about it again.

Vernon de Tar,94, an organist regarded as an influential force in American church music, died Oct. 7. As organist and choirmaster at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in New York's Greenwich Village for 42 years, Mr. de Tar helped establish the church's reputation for varied programs of religious music from the Renaissance to the present. He also taught several generations of organists at the Yale University Union Theological Seminary and the Juilliard School.

Jim Moran, 91, a flamboyant press agent whose outrageous publicity stunts in the 1940s and '50s promoted products, Hollywood films and himself, died Monday in Newark, N.J.

He traveled to Alaska for a refrigerator company and sold an icebox to an Eskimo. In the 1944 presidential election, he changed horses in the middle of the Truckee River in Reno, Nev. He also spent 10 days finding a needle in a haystack -- a publicity gimmick for a property sale.

Jim Jensen,73, former WCBS-TV news anchor whose gravelly voice and deliberate demeanor brought three decades of news to millions of New York-area viewers, died Saturday. He apparently suffered a heart attack on Friday, said Carlos Hernandez, a WCBS-TV assignment editor.

Leo Lionni, 89, an artist who devoted his versatile talents to everything from philosophical children's books to high-profile ad campaigns, died Oct. 11 at his home at Radda in Tuscany, Italy.

In 1959, he published his first children's book, "Little Blue and Little Yellow." The idea -- the book's protagonists are a blue dot and a yellow dot whose adventures blend them together into Little Green -- sprung from a story he once improvised for his grandchildren. He went on to write and illustrate another 30 children's books, which have been published in 11 languages.

Glen Payne,72, a gospel singer and lead vocalist of the Cathedrals, died Friday in Franklin, Tenn. He was diagnosed with liver cancer six weeks ago. During his nearly 60 years in gospel music, his group won numerous awards and was nominated for 11 Grammys.

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