Triple Academy Award-winner Ray Evans has died. The songwriting partner of the late Jay Livingston suffered a heart attack and died Thursday, 10:30 p.m. at UCLA emergency hospital. He was 92.
His longtime friend, financial advisor and executor Fred Nicholas told me Evans was still planning personal singing appearances with Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman. They had recently appeared at Feinstein’s in N.Y., were planning a return and Michael Feinstein and Evans were writing new songs together as well.
Evans was indefatigable and enthusiastic about music, showbiz and — sports. He played tennis and softball well into his 80s. He was omnipresent at music and industry events. He was on hand this past Monday night at the Salon at the Taper tribute to Jimmy McHugh at which one of the Livingston and Evans tunes with McHugh was featured.
Host Feinstein had Evans take a bow from a front row. And later at the reception, Evans told me of yet another tune that he and Livingston had written with McHugh. (Jay Livingston died in 2001.)
I had first met Evans and Livingston when they were contract songwriters at Paramount and I was in the studio mail room. I’d stop by their office — which boasted an upright piano — and they’d try out their new tunes on me. Our friendships lasted over 60 years.
They won Oscars for “Mona Lisa,” “Que Sera Sera,” and “Buttons and Bows.” “Silver Bells” is their biggest hit and still brings in an annual royalty of $600,000 Evans once told me.
In addition to Bob Hope, friends of Evans (and Livingston) included Betty Hutton for whom they wrote “A Square in the Social Circle,” Doris Day for “Que Sera Sera” Debbie Reynolds, “Tammy.” They also wrote the theme songs for TV shows including “Mr. Ed” and “Bonanza,” and the Broadway show “Oh Captain.”
He is survived by his sister, Doris Feinberg, a niece, Lisa Duckett and her son Raymond Evan Duckett.
There will be no services. His ashes will be alongside those of his late wife Wynn at Westwood Memorial Park. The Wynn and Ray Evans Foundation will support several charities, and the memorabilia-filled Evans’ home will remain headquarters for the Foundation says Nicholas, executor, who also notes a memorial tribute will be planned.
Yes, the songs are ended, but the melodies — and memories — linger on.