Matt Dennis, a composer, singer and pianist who wrote many memorable songs during the Big Band era and collaborated with Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra, died of pneumonia June 21 at Riverside Community Hospital. He was 88.
A stint with Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers as the group’s accompanist paved the way for Dorsey’s hiring of Dennis in the 1940s. In his first years with Dorsey, Dennis composed Connie Haines’ and Stafford’s solos “Will You Still be Mine?” and “Little Man with a Candy Cigar,” respectively.
A Seattle native, Dennis also composed a few of Sinatra’s early hits when he sang for Dorsey including “Everything Happens to Me,” “Violets for Your Furs” and “The Night We Called it a Day.”
Following his involvement with Dorsey, Dennis enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II working as a singer and arranger and entertaining troops.
In the late ’40s he composed “Angel Eyes,” which would later be widely recorded by many artists including Sinatra, who featured the song on several of his records.
Dennis was called on to sing his melodies in a few 1950s films, including “The Bigamist” and “Jennifer.”
Dennis met his future wife Ginny during the recording of his first LP in 1953. They would later tour the country performing Dennis melodies.
Most recently, Dennis continued to arrange music while publishing piano books, teaching and touring.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Ginny, three children, stepson, four grandchildren, and his brother.