Aaron Schroeder, who wrote “It’s Now or Never” for Elvis Presley and thousands of other songs, died Dec. 2 in Englewood, N.J. He was 83 and had battled a rare Alzheimer’s-like form of dementia for many years.
Schroeder was composer, lyricist and/or producer for more than 1,500 recordings, and was also a music publisher and executive. He had 17 songs recorded by Elvis Presley, five of which reached No. 1. “It’s Now or Never” was Presley’s bestselling international single and ranks among Billboard Magazine’s roster of the world’s 100 top pop recordings. Schroeder’s other number one Presley hits were “Stuck on You,” “Good Luck Charm,” “A Big Hunk O’Love” and “I Got Stung.”
As a producer, he mentored young artists and is helped launch the early careers of Randy Newman, Jimi Hendrix, Al Kooper, Barry White and Gene Pitney — for whom he produced “Town Without Pity.” He also teamed Pitney with Burt Bacharach and Hal David to create a string of recordings including “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Only Love Can Break a Heart” and “24 Hours From Tulsa.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Schroeder started songwriting in the late 1940s when “At a Sidewalk Penny Arcade” became one side of Rosemary Clooney’s first record. His songs were recorded by artists including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Pat Boone, Sammy Davis, Jr., Nat King Cole, Roy Orbison, Dionne Warwick, Art Garfunkel, Arlo Guthrie and The Beatles.
He also acted as international music representative for Hanna-Barbera, providing music, singers and songs for “The Banana Splits” and “Scooby Doo Where Are You?” With his wife, Abby, he established overseas offices and several international talent management and music publishing operations which in 1978 were sold to a subsidiary of Bertelsmann. Abby Schroeder became chief executive of a new A. Schroeder International organization based on her husband’s dedication to the artists rights.
A lifelong member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, he served on the ASCAP Elections Board. He was also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and for several years served on its Board of Governors.
Apart from his life in music, he created one of the world’s largest collections of antique American and foreign cast iron and tin mechanical and still banks and toys.
He is survived by his wife, Abby, and a daughter.
Services will be held Monday, Dec. 7 at 11:45 a.m. at Riverside Memorial Chapel, Manhattan.
Donations may be made to The Actors Fund, The Berkshire Theater Festival or New York City’s Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music, Art & Performing Art.