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Almost the Same Name, Plus Video Links

Matt Schudel

By sheer coincidence, the last two bylined obituaries I've written have been of two people with almost identical names: Jack Lorenz and Jack Lawrence. The two men were near opposites in every respect except their names.

Jack Lorenz (pronounced lo-RENZ) was the executive director of the Izaak Walton League, one of the nation's oldest environmental organizations, and helped popularize the idea of catch-and-release fishing. His idea of outdoor ethics is a remarkably simple but far-reaching idea that has influenced a generation of environmentalists: "We must leave our woods, waters and wildlife better than we found them, and we must dedicate ourselves to inspiring others to do the same."

But what Jack Lorenz really loved to do was fish. Friends told me he'd stay out on the water until midnight, and he ended up accomplishing his life's goal of fishing in all 50 states, plus all 10 provinces of Canada. He didn't use any fancy equipment or anything -- just a leaky boat or, sometimes, a tractor tire innter tube, fixed up with a lawn chair.

Jack Lawrence, on the other hand, moved in very different circles. He was a songwriter who wrote the lyrics for "All or Nothing at All" (Frank Sinatra's first big hit), Bobby Darin's "Beyond the Sea," the Ink Spots' "If I Didn't Care" and, perhaps most notably, "Tenderly," which has been recorded by at least 150 people.

Lawrence was a terrific lyricist, which is a much more difficult art than people might imagine. He wrote music from time to time (he wrote both words and music for "If I Didn't Care" and his 1947 hit, "Linda" -- about his lawyer's daughter, Linda Eastman, the future Mrs. Paul McCartney), but he was best known for his well-chosen words.

Lawrence knew everyone in music and show business, it seems, and he had some interesting collaborators. He wrote the lyrics (and title) of Mary Lou Williams's "What's Your Story, Morning Glory?" and worked with Quincy Jones on the theme from the film "The Pawnbroker" in 1965. At the time of his death, the 96-year-old Lawrence was writing lyrics for a new song by Jones.

There were some interesting things about Lawrence that we didn't have room to include in the obit. He was a noted art collector and lent support to a museum in Israel. (He was born Jacob Louis Schwartz and grew up in an Orthodox family in Brooklyn, N.Y.) And he was unapologetically gay throughout his life. His memoirs (two volumes, "They All Sang My Songs" and "Between the Sheets: The Stories Behind My Songs") explore some little-known avenues in gay Hollywood history, as well as his career as a songwriter.

Here are a few links to people singing his songs:
Frank Sinatra, singing "All or Nothing at All"

Bobby Darin singing "Beyond the Sea"

Nat "King" Cole and Oscar Peterson performing "Tenderly"

Ella Fitzgerald singing "Tenderly" in 1960

The Ink Spots singing "If I Didn't Care"

Vanessa Williams singing "What Will I Tell My Heart?"

Finally, here's a rare video of Billie Holiday singing "Foolin' Myself," with a group that includes Mary Osborne, I believe, on guitar. I'd guess this video is from 1957 or 1958 or possibly early '59, since Mal Waldron is on piano. Holiday frist recorded this tune in 1937 with Teddy Wilson.

By Matt Schudel  |  March 18, 2009; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel , Musicians  
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