b. 15 December 1911, Lawrence, New York, USA. d. 9 December 2003, New York City, New York, USA. While still at high school in Lawrence, New York, Shelley began submitting poems to various newspapers. She then became a dancer and actress but by the end of the 30s had decided to concentrate on writing song lyrics. Mostly, Shelley wrote lyrics with the music coming from one or another of several collaborators. Among her claimed 300 or so songs ‘How Did He Look?’ (with Abner Silver) is the best known and is a favourite of cabaret singers. First recorded in 1941, by Joan Merrill, it was later sung by Connie Francis, Eydie Gorme and Dakota Staton. With a gender change, to ‘How Did She Look?’, the song was also picked up by male singers, including Vic Damone and Mel Tormé. Other songs include ‘Pavanne’ (Morton Gould) and ‘There Shall Be No Night’ (Silver), a song recorded in 1940 by Herb Jeffries with Duke Ellington’s orchestra. One of few songs for which Shelley also wrote the music was her jingle for Palisades Amusement Park, which was owned by entrepreneur Irving Rosenthal to whom Shelley was married.
The song, ‘Come On Over’ sung by Steve Clayton, was the park’s theme song from 1965 until it closed in 1971 and it became familiar to millions of radio listeners in the New York area. Although she occasionally tried her hand at writing for the theatre, such as the book and lyrics for The Duchess Misbehaves, a 1946 Broadway flop that closed after three performances, and for films, the story for Idea Girl (1946), Shelley’s great love was the popular song. Mostly thereafter, she wrote songs for Tin Pan Alley publishers and for performers on the New York cabaret scene.