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Irving Gordon

Songwriter Irving Gordon, who wrote “Unforgettable” and won a Grammy for it four decades later after Natalie Cole recorded it as a duet with her late father, has died at age 81.

Gordon, whose songs also were recorded by such artists as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Patti Page, died of cancer at his home in Los Angeles on Dec. 1, said his son, William Gordon.

Nat King Cole had a hit with “Unforgettable” in 1951. It had a whole new life on the charts in 1992 when Cole’s daughter made a new duet version, using modern recording wizardry to merge her voice with her late father’s. The elder Cole died in 1965.

The Grammy for song, a writer’s prize, went to Gordon.

“It’s nice to have a song come out that doesn’t scream, yell and have a nervous breakdown while it talks about tenderness,” Gordon said when he received the award. “People … want a melody. They want to be able to sing a song.”

Gordon wrote “Prelude to a Kiss” and gave the title and lyrics to Ellington while on a New York subway in the late 1930s.

His other songs include “What Can I Tell My Heart?,” recorded by Bing Crosby; “Me, Myself and I,” recorded by Holiday; “Throw Momma From the Train,” recorded by Patti Page, a song that provided the title of the 1987 Danny De Vito comedy; and “Mr. and Mrs. Mississippi.”

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